Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May vs. Baker

Lynn County District Courtroom
Lynn County Courthouse, built 1912
Tahoka, Texas

Yesterday the Lynn County court held a hearing in the case of May vs. Baker Et Al, a civil case regarding the mineral rights of Tahoka Lake Pasture. The district judge rescheduled the hearing for June 16th in order that other interested parties might be found and notified so that this matter would not inevitably come before the Court again. Until that date or until the parties can come to an agreement, she ruled that no mining action may take place. The Court thanked the many observers for their attendance and civic interest.

Did that sound like a objective court beat reporter? Let me tell you the story as a subjective blogger.

I went to Tahoka yesterday to show support for Mrs. May and the destiny of Tahoka Lake Pasture in a court hearing. Mrs. May asked people to attend the hearing in order to show the wide interest in the outcome of this case. I would say there was about 50 of us, including at least three Ph D's of science, an elementary school teacher and his class of 8th graders, a Tahoka History Commission member, citizens of Lynn County, and at least two nature photographers (Donna and me).

The issue at hand is an 82 year old cousin to Mrs. May's deceased husband who has mineral rights to Tahoka Lake Pasture. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the world, but in Texas and other parts of the U.S. ownership is divided between the surface land and the minerals such as oil, gas, etc. that might be within it. Baker is contending that beyond the typical mineral rights, he also has rights to mine for caliche on the property, which means dynamiting, laying roads into the property, heavy trucks coming in and out, not to mention the big piles of earth and deep pits.

You likely -- and luckily -- don't know about caliche. Caliche is used in construction. In Texas it is a common a base material for roads and to make cement. Caliche is as common and is as ubiquitous in the landscape of West Texas as mesquite. Which is to say, for anyone who has tried to dig a hole out here and has hit caliche, a pain-in-the ass kind of common.

Yesterday was just a hearing, and even it was postponed. Thank God the judge did order that between now and the next date, June 16th, nothing can be done there, and specifically no mining. She did take notice of the unusually large number of attendees to this civil case, but reminded us -- as any good judge should -- her ruling will be on the basis of law, not popular opinion.

I'll continue to pray for a ruling the same way that I and others see it: how, in this case, mountains of caliche brought forth from below are at odds with the Rights of the surface of the land.



The Gossamer Woman said...

That sounds pretty straight forward to me and it sounds like someone is being awfully greedy there at the cost of the environment. I hope the judge gives the ruling you all hope for in the end. Money can't always be the motivating factor. Especially not when it is just one person who wants to gain a lot by it and Mother Nature looses so much.

jomamma said...

Excellent post, only one thing missing... a picture of a caliche pit. Caliche pits are a scar on the land. The only thing they can be used for after the caliche is dug out is a target range, or maybe trash pits. I don't even think they can use them for that, the walls are too unstable. They are horrible eyesores. I too hope this all works out in Ms. May's favor. It would be a huge loss to future generations if it doesn't. Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

As a former resident and son of Lynn County Pioneers, I, for one, hope this remaining part of Lynn County history remains entact. My grandfather homesteaded on this lake in 1898 and lived in a dugout just south of the spring for several years. My family actually went on an outing to the lake, located the site of the dugout and found some old rusted cans, complete with leaded seams. About right for the period. There are just some things that need to stay the same.

Debi said...

Anonymous: I would love to hear more about your memories and family history of Tahoka Lake. You can email me at debimailbox-blog2007@yahoo.com.

Gossamer: it's true about how much there is to lose for the sake of a few temporary dollars. Let's hope the judge and the law can see it the same way we do.

Jomamma: you are so right about the hideous scar caliche pits are. And the hideousness last for decades. I know that the attorney has collected photos for the case; perhaps a picture of a caliche pit would be in order as well.