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E. J. Pugh Mysteries: Don't Drink the Water by Susan Rogers Cooper (2000, Paperback)

Kristin and Kyle grew up with the same kids from the time they were 5 and 2 years old until each went to college, she at Baylor and he at Houston Baptist. She also dipped her toes into small-scale catering ventures, where her business acumen and skills in the kitchen led to a successful diversion from time to time.

A few years after the Niblings set up residence in Katy, Ken was recruited to become Vice President of HR and Administration for Tuboscope, an international company with operations in more than 50 countries around the world. After an oh-so-brief retirement in , Ken was lured back to work when the former president of Varco convinced him to join the executive team of a new private company, Complete Production Services, or CPX. But their visit to Cordillera Ranch changed that. So the pair returned to Cordillera Ranch the next day, and then again for a third time.

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On their third trip, they saw their Cordillera Ranch agent, Gary Peterson, showing the property — their property, as they realized they had come to see it — to another couple. We truly believe it was providential. God was setting this whole thing up — letting us look at that other property so that when we saw this one the differences would be highlighted and we would know this was the right place for us.

Within days, the opinion had been posted on the Internet and had traveled the globe, even earning mention in a London newspaper. Kent reportedly was mortified at the publicity and apologized to the lawyers involved. How long it took the site to degenerate to its present state -- at the intersection of two abandoned roads to nowhere, scattered with illegally dumped trash, no sign at all of a cement plant -- is anyone's guess, but still the monument stands, too heavy to move, in silent remembrance to those few special years when no one got crushed in the machinery.

E. J. Pugh Mysteries: Don't Drink the Water by Susan Rogers Cooper (2000, Paperback)

Four mammoth branches dangle to the ground like elephant trunks. They snake along the grass like knee-bound penitents scraping to a pilgrimage's end, only to rise again to the height of small trees to drink in the sun. The live oak at Elizabeth Baldwin Park is one twisted granddaddy of a tree. Despite relatively weak ordinances to protect local flora, Houston has a splendid mix of sycamores, maples, magnolias and countless others. But it is the stately live oak that defines the region.

Some, like the venerable giant at Glenwood Cemetery and the strapping specimen that is Baytown's emblem, are woven into the fabric of local lore. Entire lanes around Rice University and elsewhere are graced with gnarled canopies.

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For its grand dimensions and gravity-defying posture, the live oak at Elizabeth Baldwin Park is truly unique. It stands amid a cluster of hoary, green old-timers whose delicious shade invites squirrels, blue jays and people looking for reprieve. The park dates back to Chances are the tree was there long before that. It remains an august presence amid new construction on Chenevert, Crawford and other surrounding streets. Chido Nwangwu decries mainstream news coverage of Africa that depicts "a continent of natives who are sentenced and cursed to face bestial cycles of ethnic wars, genocidal slaughters and more wars.

From an office off the Southwest Freeway, USAfrica crusades against government corruption in Africa and touts economic development, while dutifully covering the weddings and other celebrations of the roughly , Nigerians in Harris County. The paper has reporters in Houston, Washington, D. Founded as a magazine in August , USAfrica has since evolved into its present form of a biweekly newspaper, which also appears on-line.

The Web site receives thousands of hits each day, which prompted Nwangwu to launch two new on-line publications: Nigeria Central and The Black Business Journal. We don't know who he or she is, but he's earned the moniker "Mad Faxer" around the Houston Press offices. Over the last two years, he has sent the editorial staff hand-drawn cartoons a fish eating hippopotamus turds , possible tips "Ask Ron J. Where is the cave?