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Boerne Needs More Gym Space

As young kids, my sister and I received handbook-sized daily diaries from our mother. The books had straps and small locks on them to keep one’s sibling from prying. Never mind that the locks and keys were identical on both.

I didn’t write much in mine. Years later I flipped through it and noticed only a handful of entries.

One entry, however, recalled a time when some high schoolers invited me to play in their pickup basketball game at the local YMCA. They must have needed a player. I was a frail seventh grader framed only by a love of the game.

According to Diary, I drained a three-point shot to win the game. Over the years that followed I played hundreds of spontaneous games at that YMCA.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of pickup basketball in Boerne.

Basketball is a remarkable sport. It requires minimal equipment once goals are in place. It’s good exercise. It’s a team game that’s both physical and fluid.

And we have one of the world’s finest prototypes in our own backyard to mimic. Blue bloods will cringe at this, but there’s not much difference between the San Antonio Spurs and the San Antonio Symphony.

Here’s the problem: Boerne doesn’t have enough gym space. Court infrastructure has fallen behind population growth. Even when using school and church gyms, the Boerne YMCA still sends some youth teams to play in Helotes.

The matter was exacerbated last year when the Boerne YMCA moved locations. Its previous location at least had some hardwood flooring and four basketball goals.

The YMCA is still a $5 million donation away from constructing a gymnasium at its new location on Adler Road.

The City of Boerne Parks & Recreation Master Plan was released last year. It quotes data provided by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

According to ESRI, more city residents participated in basketball in 2016 than any other field sport, 39 per cent more than the second most popular sport, football. Presumably, these residents are shooting a lot of hoops on their driveways given the dearth of gym space mentioned above.

The parks and rec master plan also states that for a city Boerne’s size, the National Recreation and Parks Association recommends three full-size basketball courts.

The city claims it offers two courts, but one of those is a set of stand alone goals in the City Park parking lot which is often filled with cars.

The only full-length basketball court provided by the city is in Northrup Park. It is a covered pavilion with only two goals. It was built in 2000 but feels much older.

The parks master plan includes a concept to construct a full-court basketball pavilion at the Northside Community Park. The court is part of an unfunded $8 – $10 million build out of softball fields, soccer fields, a dog park and a volleyball court.

I propose this near-term solution: A “bubble” tent similar to what college and professional sports teams use to cover their practice fields. There’s adequate land space either at the YMCA or the Northside Park property. Other expenses such as flooring and hoops don’t seem exorbitant.

Pickup basketball is an exercise-invoking, community-building activity for kids and adults. We need to figure out how to hoop it up more.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at



Boerne Chamber goes wild for awards party

The Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual gala Saturday night at the Cana Ballroom. I have long referred to our local business organization as the chamber that never sleeps. Saturday night was another example why.

Three hundred thirty attendees filled the St. Peter Catholic Church event center that overlooks the hill country. Plenty of leopard prints and Crocodile Dundee wannabes maximized the 1920s era safari-themed night.

Boerne Chamber Events Director Barbara Hooks has breathed new life into the annual tradition.

“We want all our events to deliver a ‘WOW factor’ that will keep people talking,” Hooks said. “We wanted the awards party to be interactive and engaging. I think we accomplished that.”

A ten per cent attendance increase over last year was driven by twenty-eight corporate tables, up from twenty last year. Seats sold out two weeks prior to the event.

Partygoers enjoyed non-traditional entertainment including acrobats from San Antonio-based Aerial Horizon, as well as live exotic animals. An African porcupine, a python, a lemur, a kinkajou and a coatimundi roamed the cocktail hour with escorts from Happy Tails of Pipe Creek.

Even the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, made an appearance. If you’ve never seen one, it’s worth a web search.

The Flower Shoppe provided table centerpieces and crafted a near-life-sized paper mache elephant.

Chamber member chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria and Burgerteca fame catered the dinner through his True Flavors entity. A vertical poached pear salad and Akaushi beef pan-seared medallions exceeded expectations.

“We intentionally did a stand up dessert bar to get people up and mingling,” Hooks noted.

By the time San Antonio band Gunpowder Soup took the after-dinner stage, couples took to the dance floor, complete with karaoke mic.

As for the hardware, the evening’s corporate awards went to long-established entities while relative newcomers took home individual awards.

Frost Bank secured large business of the year while All County Home Health and Hospice won small business of the year. Non-profit of the year went to Cibolo Nature Center and Farm.

Businesswoman of the year went to insurance agent Lorelei Helmke. After fourteen years in the wine industry, Helmke purchased a Farmers Insurance shop in 2015.

Matt Nelson of Prime Capital Investment Advisors took home businessman of the year. Nelson moved his operation to Boerne in 2016.

Other award winners included Tommy Mathews of Westward Environmental (Mike Coyle Innovator Award) and Mike and Diane Arthur (Kendall County Air Community Award).

Outgoing Chamber board chair Baron Houser selected Misty Mayo for the Chairman’s Award. Mayo runs the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation.

“Some people say Boerne, Texas, is gone forever,” Houser bellowed. “I say it’s Boerne, Texas, better than ever!”

Ms. Hooks credited a host of sponsors for a night that went off without a hitch: Bandera Electric Cooperative, Broadway Bank, Centennial Bank, Habagallo Foods, Jefferson Bank and Journey School.

“We had very few hiccups,” Hooks recalled. “Everyone showed up on time; the food came out right. The most challenging part was finding seats for everyone who wanted to come.”

That’s like telling a job interviewer that perfectionism is your greatest weakness!

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star and serves on the Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He can be reached at

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign


In its 1971 hit “Signs,” Canadian rock band Five Man Electrical Band sang, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

It’s political season in Kendall County and the lyric applies. You know people are running, but it’s hard to tell for what and against whom.

Between the start of every even-numbered year (no savvy politician obscures Christmas decor with a political sign) and the primary election on the first Tuesday in March, it’s a mad dash for Republican candidates to get their messages out.

This year is especially frantic with a thirty-year Congressional incumbent, Lamar Smith (R – San Antonio), not seeking re-election. Twenty-two candidates have filed for his seat including eighteen Republicans.

Smith’s District 21 includes swaths of San Antonio and Austin, and the entireties of Kendall, Blanco, Gillespie, Kerr, Bandera, and Real Counties.

“It’s stressful,” four-term Texas state representative Jason Isaac (R – Dripping Springs) said about the time crunch and geographic expanse. He was in Kendall County over the weekend for a youth livestock show and door knocking.

Isaac’s “Make America Like Texas” slogan surfs atop both Lone Star pride and President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 message.

Boerne resident Matt McCall has tossed his name into the ring for a third time. McCall was first runner-up to Smith in 2016 garnering nearly thirty-four thousand votes.

McCall hopes to bring America to financial solvency and “slash” the size and role of the federal government, among other strict constructionist hot points.

Kendall County’s state legislators have drawn primary opponents. Hays County attorney Shannon McClendon is challenging State Senator Donna Campbell (R – San Antonio).

State Rep. Kyle Biederman (R – Fredericksburg) will face off against Dave Campbell, also of Fredericksburg, though not the high school football guru. Campbell owns a machine parts manufacturer and has chaired the Fredericksburg chamber of commerce and school board.

The status quo could shift in the newly created 451st District Court which serves Kendall County exclusively. In 2015, the Texas Legislature carved the court out of a larger district court which included Kerr and Gillespie Counties.

In 2016, Governor Greg Abbott appointed long-time county court-at-law judge, Bill Palmer, and assistant county attorney, Nicole Bishop, as judge and district attorney, respectively. Both appointees’ terms expire later this year. Both are running to keep their seats.

And both engaged in a round of he-said, she-said last year over a burgeoning court docket. Bishop claimed Palmer didn’t offer enough criminal court dates. Palmer claimed Bishop didn’t use all the dates offered.

Palmer faces eight-year Boerne city attorney Kirsten Cohoon. Cohoon hopes to get to cases faster.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Cohoon said.

Bishop, a Boerne native and Ole Miss law grad, has drawn Dave Parent, a former police officer and homebuilder, and Nick Socias, a former Harris County felony prosecutor.

Incumbents are running unopposed for district clerk (Susan Jackson), county judge (Darrel Lux), county clerk (Darlene Herrin), county treasurer (Sheryl D’Spain) and county surveyor (Wes Rexrode).

Kendall County Commissioner Richard Elkins (Precinct 2 – southeast Kendall County) faces a challenge from Boerne City Councilman Ron Cisneros. Precinct 3 (northeast Kendall County) Peace Justice Debby Hudson will try to ward off Jon Tipton.

Options are a good thing in a constitutional republic. We have plenty in Kendall County at this point.


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Dinner helps The Dienger turn a corner

En route to a concert in San Antonio, my wife and I noticed lights on at the fully decorated Dienger Trading Company next to Boerne’s Main Plaza.

“The Dienger,” as it’s known by locals, has served breakfast and lunch since opening in 2015. I recalled it recently started serving dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. So, we “went local” and gave it a shot.

We were escorted to the dining room that pays tribute to The Dienger’s days as a public library. Bookshelves stock a variety of titles for sale or perusing.

For a time we had the room to ourselves, save for a graceful harpist strumming Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and other seasonal pieces.

Chef Joseph Moreno has built an “accessible” dinner menu that bridges nicely from the bistro’s daytime options. It’s full of comfort foods with a fresher, lighter, more gourmet feel.

The dinner bread melted in our mouths alongside a reliable tomato basil soup. The cornmeal crusted salmon had just enough curry to pique interest but not enough to smell up the room.

Crabmeat interwove the mac & cheese for a differentiated approach to a classic carb. Flavorful brussel sprouts rounded our meal. Everything we tried was as good as anything we’ve had down Interstate 10.

A pork chop, a shepherd’s pie, and an herb crusted chicken breast filled the entree menu. Black eyed peas, honey carrots and roasted vegetables were among other sides offered.

The veggies remain purposely vague. Their contents is dependent on what the fresh produce farmer brings in his bushel that week.

Moreno sources as much as he can locally. Many of The Dienger’s meats come from Klein’s Smokehouse across Main Street.

Moreno has been in the hill country for four years and at The Dienger for one. The El Paso native was trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary college in Austin. Once a food truck owner, he particularly enjoys cooking outdoors, but not necessarily Texas barbecue.

“I love the open flame,” he clarified.

Dienger owner Raymond Lunsford is pleased with Moreno’s progress.

“Every month is better than a year ago,” Lunsford said. “The bistro makes up sixty per cent of our revenues.”

He hopes to soon land at a 50/50 split with the boutique before long.

“You’ll find things in the boutique that you won’t at the mall,” Lunsford pointed out. “We’re not a Magnolia, but maybe we’re a mini-Magnolia.”

Lunsford gives credit to chief buyer Michelle Ernst for sourcing inventory from unique brands. My globetrotting sister-in-law attests that what she see at The Dienger is usually reserved for shops in LA, New York, London.

“We got lucky,” Boerne Chamber President Joe Granados noted about Lunsford’s efforts with the 133-year-old landmark. “It could have been office space.”

An Oklahoma-based oil & gas company actually purchased the building from the City of Boerne in 2012 but never occupied it. Together with his wife, Lisa, Lunsford acquired the property in 2014.

Ironically, Lunsford is an oil man himself. The Olney, Texas, native still has interests in west Texas.

“The oil business helped fund what we’ve done here, but the Good Lord put it together,” said Lunsford like he meant it. “I’m not smart enough to do all this.”

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There’s more abundance than you think

Most mental health professionals agree: It is difficult for a psychopathology – or any negative emotion – to coexist with gratitude.

Want to be happy? Be thankful. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.

We are not born thankful. We are born self-centered and appropriately so given that a child is completely vulnerable.

But as we age, we begin to understand what it takes to move us from completely vulnerable to warm, safe and well-fed. Triggers of thankfulness then prick our consciences.

“I didn’t do much to put these shoes on my feet or to put my bottom in this school chair,” the epiphany might go. “I should recognize the people who did.”

This is a generous serving of pumpkin-pie-in-the-sky. Children, much less teenagers, aren’t predisposed toward gratefulness.

At some point, though, most of realize we stand on the shoulders of others. We sit under the shade of trees we did not plant. We may bring home the bacon, but a butcher likely slaughtered it.

Life is too complex and lives are too interconnected to think we do anything alone. Thinking so turns isolation into loneliness. Loneliness turns to sadness and the other negative emotions: anger, fear, guilt, shame.

All of which can be helped by gratitude.

Show me a person who writes down three things each morning she is thankful for, and I’ll show you a person who weathers well the storms of life.

Her list may include:

A purple cloud

A fully stocked grocery

A check engine light that is not on

A friend’s smile

A healthy child

A faithful spouse

A door of opportunity

Indoor plumbing

Outdoor adventures

Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler are likely thankful people. Several years ago they wrote a book called “Abundance: The future is better than you think.” Its premise: media and information networks capitalize on gloom and doom news as a way to keep our attention and sell advertising.

According to the authors, the world is actually improving at a much faster rate than we realize. Artificial intelligence, robotics, technology networks, biotechnology and synthetic biology are driving advances that lift standards of living including among the world’s poorest people, the “bottom billion.”

Through the World Wide Web the poorest person in America today has access to more information than the President of the United States had just three decades ago. This access is driving a democratization of tools, Diamandis and Kotler assert.

An “explosion of connectedness” will have an Internet-enabled device in the hands of five billion people by 2020. A DIY (“do it yourself”) ethic is spreading. Exponential technologies have created a “techno-philanthropic” class that is attempting to outlive itself.

These factors work together to improve access to energy, water, nutrition, education and health.

Like pilgrims before us, we are living in an age of abundance – if we have eyes to see it. And the gratitude to appreciate it.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Read more at


New dog breathes life and death

“She’s an ‘alpha female,’” the shelter director told us.

I had never heard the term before. I assumed it was similar to “queen bee” or “prima donna.”

Our kids, particularly a six-year-old boy, had hounded me for months for a new dog, pun definitely intended. He was too young to remember when we adopted Hank, our five-year-old lab mutt.

He was also too young to remember the thousands of dollars of property damage Hank inflicted upon my estate.

Okay, it may have been in the hundreds, but it was certainly more costly than any damage Pumpkin the cat has perpetrated.

So, naturally, the term “alpha female” sent chills up my spine. Just when Hank finally quit gnawing on furniture, toys and shoes, here comes a bitch.

“We got a new puppy,” I told a friend a few days after she arrived.

“You mean YOU got a new puppy,” he corrected as my head dropped under reality’s weight.

While the kids have struggled to take responsibility for her care and feeding, they did take ownership of her name. She’s “Lucy,” and, given the feistiness of Lucille Ball, that’s about right.

She’s only a foot high and two and a half feet long, but she can leap vertically to where her nose hits the knob of our back porch door. She can’t yet turn it, but give her a few months. She’s still only a puppy.

She actually shouldn’t get much bigger – her body, anyway. Her ears are another story.

She was sold to us as a red heeler, but we’re seeing more and more chihuahua in her, especially in her ears. They’re starting to pick up TV stations in Austin.

What they’re not picking up are my instructions to stop biting legs, jumping on houseguests, barking before dawn and urinating on freshly-cleaned carpets.

While I have wanted to return her multiple times, my wife sees redeeming qualities in hard-to-love mammals, yours truly included.

Whereas you can’t take Hank on a walk that includes the crossing of a bridge of any size (he must have been abused under a bridge before we adopted him), Lucy is a decent walking companion. I can see how heelers really do heel.

I can also see how Lucy could drag me into an oncoming Ford F350. Thank God for the parachute ears to slow her down.
Lucy has breathed life into Hank, the old eunuch. She nips on his neck and slips under his hind legs. He climbs on her back and wrestles her in the yard.

She eats his food. He doesn’t mind.

On the other paw, Lucy has breathed death into Pumpkin. She traps him under cars and runs him up trees. He sleeps on the front porch now.

As I’ve written in this space before, city ordinance says pets must be licensed. Hank and Pumpkin both have their $4 tags of approval. Lucy is unsanctioned.

I wonder what Pumpkin had on his mind when I saw him in front of animal services the other day. That tattle tail.

I have no idea who put him up to it. I love Lucy.

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A Halloween Treat-giving Guide

Holiday gift guides have started hitting mailboxes. Sausages, cheeses, pies, steaks. Technology gadgets, leather goods, popcorn. There’s no shortage of treat ideas for people you know.

But what about treat ideas for kids you don’t know?

Before you get carried away with Thanksgiving pie ordering and Christmas gift buying, let’s get Halloween right.

Greeting card companies have driven the prominence of conjured holidays. Similarly, candy companies have driven the modern Halloween custom of throwing handfuls of high fructose corn syrup at any kid that comes on your property.

Starting tonight – no, this afternoon – kids of all ages will begin filling pillowcases with candy. Throw a stick over their shoulders, tie on the bags and the teenagers will look like bona fide carpetbaggers.

The candy thing has gone off the insulin charts. We need to get back to a saner trick-or-treating time because there’s nothing more normal than knocking on strange doors seeking handouts.

Given the extreme swing our culture has taken toward sugar consumption, I recommend a new tack for trick-or-treat participation. Consider the following items in lieu of the customary diabetes-inducing fare:

1. Raisins – You have options here, but all will be good for post-Halloween digestion. You can purchase individual one-inch raisin boxes or you can buy in bulk and create your own Ziploc baggie-fulls.

Best yet, you can give a single raisin to each child who darkens your doorway. Any of the above will freak out your visitors which is the point, correct?

2. Pennies – Most kids these days have never seen a penny unless they’ve participated in the “share a penny” program at your neighborhood quick mart. Throw a few pennies in your visitors’ buckets to create a mysterious jingle effect. The bell tolls…

Feel free to add a story about the pennies’ origin: decomposed eyelids at the city cemetery.

3. Work – Here’s your chance to reform the lackluster work ethic of a generation of kids. Order ten yards of cedar mulch and have it dumped in your front yard.

When kids knock, hand them a shovel and tell them to start spreading. When they ask for payment, reinforce that the work is the gift.

4. Apples – It’s ridiculous that people stopped giving out whole fruit because of a few bad apples. The chances of finding a razor blade in your Halloween apples back in the day were actually, well, razor-thin.

A Fuji apple is sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. Plus, apples are like a virtual teeth brushing after stops at homes of unreformed treat-givers.

5. Toothbrushes – This handout is the trick-or-treat equivalent of tough love. Kids may see it as party-pooping, but years from now they’ll remember you as the one with perspective.

Throw in a travel size tube of toothpaste and your wisdom will become legendary. You may even get some eggs out of it.


I admit this list may be too much too soon. If so, and if you haven’t made a candy aisle run, consider your junk drawer as a source of giveaways: pencils, stickers, trinkets, coupons.

Just stay away from the razor blades.

Kevin Thompson can be reached at

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