Friday, December 26, 2008


This last Tuesday in the early afternoon of that December 23, 2008 I received a telephone call while at work from Brother Coby with the terrible news that his Mother, my Step Mother, Ellen Werner Buxton Salander, in her 82nd year (1926-2008) had passed in her home that morning in Englewood, Florida. For me the fabric of the universe was torn open and a ghastly void had been created that would never be filled. My visceral reaction was immediate with the devastating news so shocking and an awful contradiction to the true spirit of this promising Christmas season. The Matriarch of the Buxton Family had joined her ancestors and we have been left to fend for ourselves. Well, maybe only for a short while (more later).

Though she always signed her cards and letters and was known to most as Ellie, I persisted in calling her Ellen. Always erring on the more stern and serious side, I guess that it was for me a more respectful and appropriate tone for my Stepmother. I talked with Ellen the Sunday before she died and she was her usual supportive self and extolling the virtues of the holiday season and a bright future, reflecting on a recent communication with my son Geb and her best wishes for he, wife Dona and their two kids, Quinton and Cameron.

She was anticipating and looking forward to her Christmas dinner with daughter Susanna where they were going to do Chinese, again, enjoying her favorite food and the convenience of it all in a usually hectic holiday season full of too many turkeys and hams. Ellen recently sent me the photographic proof of her last Tex-Mex sortie with Susanna - a photo that I shall always prize…

Well, Ellen never made it to Christmas 2008, the celebration of not only the birth of Jesus but as an added and loving bonus, the natal day of her eldest son, Coburn Allen Buxton, Jr. (aka Coby).

Ellen was looking forward to her weekly bridge match but didn’t respond either on the phone or at her door when her ride and bridge partner called. They found her sitting in her favorite chair appropriately clutching a pen in one hand. She had joined Dad and Bernie on that heavenly plane where Brother Coby and I have assured ourselves, they are appropriately waiting on her, hand and foot.

Please know that my always positive recollections of Ellen cannot be construed as her memorial, rather what will most assuredly be an inadequate attempt to capture the living essence of a singularly great Lady. This will be a remembrance and work in progress where I will supplement, tweak and modify as the pleasant and significant memories of many years come flowing back to me. I can’t apologize for all the superlatives I engage as they are totally appropriate to describe Ellen. Her approach to life was a complicated though simple formula that was ultimately punctuated by thousands of acts of incredible kindness directed at Family, Friends and the Community at Large, most of which we will never be able to document as she never looked or sought recognition. Ellen understood all the incredibly subtle nuances of human relationships and through her great communication skills was able to help us mere mortals successfully negotiate this great maze we call life. She made life bearable, richer and rewarding for all she touched.

We will always remember this daughter of Judge Herman Werner of Akron, Ohio who found her way to the heart of one Coburn Allen Buxton while on holiday with sister Ann and where in the Sazarac Bar in the old Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans, she met Dad. She had a profound positive affect on all she touched. She was first and foremost, a loving Mother not only to daughter Susanna, and sons Coby and Ricky but also to her stepsons Ned, John and David Seabury who she treated as blood. She told me once that it always seemed that Ned, John and David always, “belonged to me' a very nice way!”

Ellen held high the mantle of the Buxton Family and well celebrated our history and heritage. She was the consummate cheerleader constantly reminding all of us of our roots and the pedigree that we all enjoy. She motivated, prodded and cajoled so as to take each of us to that next level…

On a personal note we shared a love of the ancients and of anthropology in general and she prompted my seemingly unending quest for knowledge about our Buxton/Littlefield ancestors and of Man in general. She demonstrated an uncommon, extraordinary high intellect and understanding of a wide variety of subjects and an enthusiastic willingness to share that knowledge which she demonstrated so ably for many years as a Docent at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) in Dallas, Texas.

Her efforts in her capacity as Docent was instrumental in organizing and scheduling the now iconic AD 79 exhibition on her beloved Pompeii appropriately in 1979 at the then Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (DMFA) facility at Fair Park in Dallas and helped spark the spirit of what is now one of the more important museums in our country. In part because of this success a city of Dallas bond election passed with voters pledging almost $25 million dollars towards the construction of the facility they currently occupy in downtown Dallas. The DMFA was later renamed the Dallas Museum of Art in 1984 when they officially occupied their new home. Ellen’s legacy is all those exhibitions that now flow so smoothly due to the outstanding efforts of her extraordinary and very able successors. The 1984 date is not without significance as this also marked the passing of Coburn Allen Buxton, Ellen’s significant other and our Father.

Ellen was a strong personality and fiercely independent. When sure of her environment she could hunker down with the best. I would fight back-to-back with her against any foe and be well assured of victory. Despite the best attempts of this writer and other Family members, Ellen never evacuated through the terrible 2004 Florida hurricane season that saw four major storms slam through Englewood. Ellen admitted and then proved that all she needed was some candles, a few bottles of wine and some good books to successfully weather the storms.

In recent years Ellen devoted much of her time to the Friends of Elsie Quirk Library in Englewood, Florida where as a member of their Board of Directors she served so ably as a long term Treasurer and most recently as vice-President and Membership Chairperson. Ellen was also a proud Benefactor of the Elsie Quirk Library. Seems fitting as she appears to have been there much of her waking hours serving on one committee or another participating in their Great Books Discussion Groups or coordinating/moderating the Library’s Great Decisions forums. Last March 31st Ellen moderated a lively discussion on US Defense/Security Policy. Her effort prompted a positive community response assuring many that she had a hell of a lot more working knowledge of world dynamics and US politics than most including one recent hockey mom governor…

Ellen and "special Gal Pal" Angie Zerad, a well known speaker and musician (piano & organ) teamed up and were known as the Eighties Ladies. Ellen was a talented singer and one time actress who felt right at home on stage. Wearing an old timey plains bonnet and hamming it up for audiences at the River Oaks retirement community in Englewood, Ellen lead sing-a-longs of mostly American music from the Stephen Foster era through World War II. Their twice monthly programs with Alzheimer’s patients and seniors allowed a greater quality of life for this group. In a recent letter to the Buxton "Boys" Angie expressed her condolences on the loss of her best Friend and dedicated every song she plays henceforth as a tribute to, "this wonderful and special Lady."

In this time of great need in our economically challenging times Ellen supported the effort to curtail the usual and very generous Buxton Family gift giving tradition and help provide for those less fortunate in our society. In mid December Ellen wrote to all Buxtons:
Just a card with Joy a’plenty
Within perhaps a single twenty”!
Which I will give (with several more)
To Helping Hand Salvation Store

Right here in quiet Englewood
Can you imagine all the good
Your gifts will bring to those in need?
I’ll sign your name so they can read

That though afar, you care to give…
And made the Christmas Spirit live!
That was Ellen. She always thought about others first to especially include her Family and Friends which were legion. Whether she was mentoring Family and Friends, adopting manatees and sea turtles or engaging yet another philanthropic or humanitarian effort, Ellen was always giving of herself. Indeed, she was one of those animated thousand points of light. Her life is the legacy that will continue to motivate us to make a difference in our respective communities. Ellen’s caring and loving persona and hands-on leadership will continue to provide a positive example so long as we who remember hold high her life as an example of a life well lived.

Yes, like the Buxton Family motto which she often quoted and used to motivate Family and Friends, Ellen always did it, with all her might. Well done, Ellen. Sleep well.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The turmoil ongoing with the Dallas Cowboys is well documented and is nothing more than the predictable machinations of some very talented players frustrated at not winning every game. The intrigue appears to be part of the Dallas Cowboys Package especially when you have the likes of Terrell Owens and Adam “Pac Man” Jones on the roster. Owner Jerry Jones, either innocently but more than likely deliberately, keeps the pot stirred. But, that’s not the topic of this post. The turmoil we reference is caused by the incredible traffic jams ongoing at Texas Stadium and the seeming inability and unwillingness of the Dallas Cowboys organization to do anything about it. It looks like this same scenario is going to carry over to the Cowboys new stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboy's on field antics may just well pale beside their parking headaches - the supposed price of success.

Last Sunday Brother Coby and I attended the very important Cowboys-Giants tip that turned out to be one hell of a game. I wished that fellow Ole Miss Alum Eli Manning would have had a better game, though if he had, the Cowboys would have lost like the last time these two teams met.

What was really significant was the two hours it took to get to a Blue parking space (time mostly spent around the stadium) and the additional two plus hours it took to get out of (OK escape) the Texas Stadium parking lot.

I could almost understand the maelstrom before the game, but the confusion after the game was unforgiveable where it was literally everyone for themselves. Most drivers didn’t acknowledge the difference between parking spaces and lanes and it was like a whirlpool in reverse that would only allow cars to escape the lots until they had achieved the perimeter when the equally, very frustrated Irving, Texas police took over. Until that point it was pure confusion. The Cowboys impressive 20-8 victory may have been the only counter to a parking lot rage that could have understandably washed over many folks. Many season ticket holders including Brother Coby stated that it was the worst they had seen in twenty years.

What made it so bad were the parking attendants who seemed totally impotent with most just standing or sitting and just doing - nothing! When you tried to engage a parking attendant the response was a deliberate failure to make eye to eye contact, silence and a total failure to recognize your presence. They were in the eye of the hurricane - in their zone and they miserably failed the test. That happened over and over again much to the chagrin of Cowboys fans who had paid a hell of a lot of money to attend the game and park their transport. Many attendants didn’t attempt to direct traffic or bring rhyme and reason to the chaos and disorder. They just flat gave up! Shame on them!

I have attended Cowboys games since 1960, from Cotton Bowl days to the ascendency of the Cowboys in Texas Stadium in 1971 to the shut down of the stadium in 2008. Brother Coby, inheritor of the Buxton Cowboy heritage, again offered me a ticket to the Cowboy’s last game in Texas Stadium this Saturday, December 20, 2008 where they play the highly regarded Baltimore Ravens. I declined Coby’s very generous invitation for a couple of reasons. First, I had already committed to attend another function and secondly, I had no willingness to endure what will undoubtedly be another traffic nightmare. Brother John has declined invitations to attend Cowboy games because of the traffic bottlenecks and attendant confusion.

Mind, you, the Cowboys are bringing in their top 100 players to be present at the event and, no doubt, it’s going to be a media madhouse, not to mention the manic Dallas Cowboy fans that will travel from far and wide to just be in the same vicinity with and/or see the likes of Bob Lilly, Emmitt Smith, Don Meredith, Bob Hayes, Cliff Harris, DD Lewis, Tony Dorsett, Danny White, Rayfield Wright, Don Perkins, Craig Morton, Lance Alworth, Lee Roy Jordan, Herb Adderley, Chuck Howley, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Troy Aikman, Drew Pearson, Dan Reeves, Roger Staubach and Michael Irvin among many others.

It is no rumor that the late. great Coach Tom Landry will take the field with his players, at least in spirit. Landry with his dignity and class, twenty straight winning seasons, 19 playoff appearances, 13 division titles, 5 Super Bowl appearances and 2 victories was the reason so many of us prevailed with the Cowboys. He was and remains the essence of this great team.

The frustrating thing is that all that august history and winning tradition doesn’t appear to offer hope for more and easier parking at the new $1.3 billion dollar (US) Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys. Local Arlington residents are already frustrated since it takes over an hour to get out of their neighborhoods when the Texas Rangers play. It would seem that they are in for a more garish nightmare when the Cowboys start playing in 2009.
The Cowboys sent the city of Arlington an impressive looking traffic management plan about how they'll get fans to the new stadium smoothly. It appears to be a pie in the sky plan which will be a work in progress for many years to come.

The new stadium will have a seating capacity of 80,000 with a probable expansion of up to 100,000. Texas Stadium has a capacity of 65,595 and with much fewer problems though the potential for fewer parking options.

Surprisingly, no rapid rail was ever planned for Arlington though the Cowboys reflect that they are talking with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority? Since, Arlington, Texas has no local transit the future seems to hold little or no prospect of a rail line or mass transit to the new stadium. It would appear, then, that the greater majority of Cowboy fans will continue to arrive by car. In a green mindset the Cowboys speculate that the average per vehicle occupancy will be three people requiring a minimum of 26,675 parking spaces. The Cowboys are hopeful that they will have access to 30,000 parking spaces all within a mile of the new stadium. The Cowboys will have to rely on their neighbors that include Six Flags Over Texas, the Texas Rangers, privately owned office parks and shopping centers and a herculean cadre of parking entrepreneurs to reach that figure.

The Cowboys concede that some ticket holders will still have to walk nearly a mile from their parking spaces to the new Arlington stadium, but also point out that the back-row parking at Texas Stadium requires about the same trek. It would appear that the numbers of trekkers will increase substantially.

This plan will require very aggressive traffic management strategies via reversible and reassigned lanes, parking restrictions in residential neighborhoods and access control. Some folks including a lot of Cowboy fans have stated that the plan is just flat - not manageable.

The bottom line is that all those Cowboy legend luminaries whether they show up at Texas Stadium or in the future at the new Arlington Stadium probably wouldn’t be enough to entice me to attend another Cowboy’s game.

Well, OK, I’d attend if Landry came…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I grew up in Cathedral School at St. Matthew’s and eventually attended St. Marks also in Dallas, Texas and then on to St. Dunstan’s School in Providence, RI and Lenox School in Lenox, Massachusetts. They were all Episcopal schools so I was literally raised in the church. It became a part of my DNA. I was an active participant in the church singing in church choirs and glee clubs as an accomplished a capella soprano soloist all the way to my evolution into a mediocre, burned out baritone which was proved again at the annual company Christmas party. I went on to become Sexton of Trinity Church in Lenox. My confirmation by Bishop John Seville Higgins at St. Martin’s in Providence was one of the high points of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday… Was I a willing and compliant child doing my catechism? Well, probably not as I was sometimes incorrigible and hard to handle. I questioned everything including the color of the sky and made other provocative and now potentially embarrassing inquiries.

I even thought about going into the Episcopal/Anglican priesthood given the influence of one Dr. Robert L. Curry, DDS, etc the headmaster at Lenox, an incredible, positive influence in my life. I was his, “Miracle of Lenox School.”

At Lenox and ultimately at Ole Miss I was taught to question everything, to be inquisitive and come to my own conclusions about all matters. That’s what impressed me most about the Episcopal Church – it allowed for the option of original thought, not a blind rush towards and acceptance of what was to me some opaque doctrine. I was taught to think.

And so it comes to the subject of this post – the concept of Hell. No, I’m not going anywhere near the deliberation of the existence of Heaven and I don’t believe that the existence of one begets the other. We’ll save that one for later.

I heard reports most recently on National Public Radio (NPR) where parishioners of the Reverend Carlton Pearson’s New Dimension Church in Tulsa being literally stopped on the street and in a very public inquisition questioned by strangers about their supposed heretical lack of belief in Hell. I pray that someday someone has the temerity to so question me. They will regret their imposition on my privacy though they will be treated with respect. Why do these people refuse to let others worship and believe as they see fit? Yes, that news made me mad as..... well, Hell!

While this Christmas season might seem an inappropriate time to so deliberate, I see these kinds of behaviors occurring at an alarming and increasing rate, especially here in the South and Southwest. We are the home of the Pentecostals and the conservative Christian Right and what’s left of the right wing of Republican Party (they are still legion) and one of the reasons the GOP failed so miserably in representing The People. If you don’t believe what we believe, they say, then you are doomed to eternal damnation and Hell. If that’s the case, then Hell has to exist for their belief system to survive. Ka-ching! It’s mostly this mind set that bothers me, not the existence of Hell.

As a child my parents never threatened me with the fiery pit if I misbehaved or “sinned” though some righteously motivated school masters insinuated that may be my ultimate fate if I didn’t toe their line. I have been intrigued with my ultimate fate since then with one Episcopal priest even righteously praying for the disposition of my soul (for another reason).

Most Christians are taught and believe that there is an underground domain – an endless, irreversible, infinite abyss - an actual physical place of eternal fire, damnation and torment called Hell. They believe that when they die their souls will either go to Heaven and forever enjoy the rewards of a sin free life with God in some cumulus firmament or descend into Satan’s sulphurous realm, Hell, where they will painfully and excruciatingly burn and be tormented until the end of time. Then there’s Purgatory which we will discuss at a later time along with Heaven.

Of course, a stagnant and corrupt Catholic Church was want to keep their mostly illiterate, ignorant and disobedient fold compliant and in line. The way to do that was to unfurl the banner of intimidation, superstition, fable and ultimately persecution to hold them in check. It mostly worked. We have apparently forgotten that The Catholic Church viciously persecuted and executed those that disagreed with or contradicted the church’s belief system (Galileo is but one example). That was one of the reasons so many ultimately immigrated to America, including many of my ain folk. I am pleased and honored to uphold their tradition. I will also concede that unlike other denominations the Catholics amid great controversy now appear to be trying to right their ship.

Yes, like many other aspects of Christianity, the concept of Hell, eternal damnation and torment wasn’t original to Judaism/Christianity or part of the early teachings and message of Jesus. The reality is that the concept of Hell predates Christianity by a thousand years (Zoroastrianism). Distinguished historians and theologians have long corroborated (using the historical record) that the early so called references to Hell are mistranslations that have no basis in reality. Just because people (sincerely or in an agenda driven angst) were/are taught that it was/is truth doesn’t make it so. Some folks feel that it has devolved to the level of pernicious propaganda that further degrades our students committing them to the bottomless pit of ignorance.

The early development of the Jewish State and later the Christian Church was predicated on the Roman occupation of the Jewish Homeland and how they were going to free themselves from tyranny (their Salvation). Theologians state that we have mistranslated, embellished and reinvented the early Christian religion so as to ultimately embrace the concept of Hell in a more modern context. It needs to be said that for the early religion and even now the penalty for sinning was and is purely and simply – death – an easy out as we all (good or bad) will ultimately embrace that outcome. This is not a eureka conclusion, rocket science or magic.

The Protestant concept of Hell has most recently been an effective tool of fire and brimstone Elmer Gantry evangelists intended to save “sinners” and absolutely frighten church members into what they deem righteous behavior. Their premise is that if you don’t believe in Hell then you don’t need to believe in Jesus and you will become, “exceedingly sinful.”

Though some will protest, many believe that it is irrefutable that there is no physical domain of Hell or eternal damnation. All many hear are the empty threats of an overbearing, ethnocentric literalist religious mafia trying to impress their beliefs on those who don’t share their beliefs. On a personal note, I am positive that those inclined to believe in Hell (whatever I believe) don’t care about me personally or surely the ultimate repository of my soul. They appear scared to death that those who question the existence of Hell such as the parishioners of the New Dimension Church in Tulsa may threaten their status quo and system of checks and balances. Maybe, just maybe, their Mafioso tactics will prompt some folks to start thinking about their own environment and belief systems. Needless to say, all people need to become more tolerant and appreciative of differing belief systems. Now, that’s a good Christmas message!

Today, even the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations are withdrawing from the myth of Hell, conceding there has never been a Biblical basis for that supposed physical realm. Witness Pope John Paul II in 1999 when he stated that, “Hell is not a place of fire and eternal suffering.” John Paul referred to the descriptions of eternal torment and damnation as, "improper use of Biblical images." Well, maybe we will eventually get it right though some in Tulsa seem to be embracing and fomenting the old ways.

The reality is that we appear to have a few loud, narrow minded folks in our midst that embrace a short-sighted religious dogma-driven agenda and folly intended to impress their views upon the general populous. The rest of the world is wrong and they are right. You don’t believe? You are going to Hell.

So, many now concede that a physical domain called Hell is not real, never has been and does not reflect the sentiment/heart of the God that they worship. Most believe and I concur that Hell is at least that metaphorical separation from the presence, influence and love of God. It would appear that Hell is right here on this planet in the personages of those who would voraciously and wantonly feed on the weak in our society. Ironically, it is our critical responsibility to respect, protect and support the right of everybody to include the Reverend Carlton Pearson of the New Dimension Church in Tulsa to practice their faith as they deem fit. I pledge myself to that effort.

Yea, I am still trying to figure it all out…

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (KJV).


Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Today President-elect Barack Obama announced his commitment to engage a public works construction program not so subtly reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), both originally established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal in the 1930’s.

The WPA and the CCC employed millions of people and positively affected most every segment of the population of the United States. Obama’s intent is to resuscitate our ailing economy and put as many as two million folks back to work - actually a small amount compared to FDR’s WPA.

The ultimate success of Roosevelt’s New Deal CCC and WPA which, by the way, still survives in myriad forms in many state and federal programs, would appear to be part of the answer to our very complicated economic plight.

The first thing everybody needs to acknowledge is that the infrastructure of our country, whether we highlight bridges, highways or other critical structures, is in abysmal shape. I am reminded immediately of Atlanta that only resurrected its infrastructure to its current state because of the preparation effort prompted by their highly successful 1996 Summer Olympics (same song, different verse).

The catastrophic collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 1, 2007 which killed thirteen and injured many more is a tragic reminder of the sorry state of our bridges. I saw a Department of Transportation report several years ago which declared that of the 591,707 bridges then in the US inventory, 162,869 were classified as deficient (27.5 percent), either for structural or functional causes. Federal officials cited this as an improved figure though that would appear to be the tip of the iceberg. A more recent report confidently reflects that the situation has improved and that only 12% of our bridges remain deficient? Again, I question whether in three years our bridges have been brought to that secure level. Since bridges are only inspected every two years we could have a strategic lag time here.

When you factor in that there are over 60,000 bridges over water with unknown foundations which require an aggressive risk analysis and probably mitigation, the problem would appear much greater than admitted by our government. This figure will also validate that our bridges require constant maintenance to stay ahead of the safety curve.

While I question government statistics and certainly their assertion of overall improvements, their admission would appear to still leave many Americans exposed to a repeat of the Minneapolis collapse. Yes, Minneapolis could happen again and hangs like the threat of another Al Qaeda attack. It’s that real. Let’s get our bridges and roads fixed and solve another problem…

While some economists and politicians argue that this strategy is only “illusory” prompting a “Peter to pay Paul” scenario and only a shift in spending (and borrowing), Mr. Obama and others appear ready to argue that President Eisenhower’s ultra successful federal Interstate program is a more recent example how folks can be put back to work for the ultimate good of our country.

This sure appears to be a win-win situation. Why the nay sayers (hence this comment) keep coming out of the woodwork and politicizing such constructive programs is beyond me. A loyal and aggressive minority which can offer constructive criticism and viable options is a noble and critical component of our society. Where are they?

Perhaps like the WPA of old they are scared folks will find out that they are just moving piles of leaves from one part of the park to another.


Ned Buxton