Returning to Austin

Crockett Grabbe, Ph.D.

published in Armadillo Literary Gazette, 2/11

Many are fond of the phrase "stupid criminals". It conjures up images like the bumbling terrorist, or crimes committed with a dead-giveaway to the police. However, stupidity in crimes can hurt more than those who commit them.

A case in point is the burglar who stole a large computer of mine in April while I was in Iowa finalizing my business there. He/she may have gotten $50 on the street for that hardware. Unfortunately that computer had several databases of years of my research work, articles written, and speech material written over years. The one suffering from that stupidity was me, losing very valuable data. An estimate of the cost of creating all that research and writing data (not counting what I had backed up on another computer in Iowa) is over $100,000.

Recently Austin was listed a one of the safest places in the nation, but I had just arrived and had a burglar break into my house, steal 2 printers, a FAX/scanner, keyboard, monitor and my computer tower. He/she had also picked up my guitar to take, but abandoned that, probably in favor of the computer. I was in fact a victim of a felony because of years of creative value I lost, and do not see a low crime rate here.

I am physicist, speaker, and writer who, after living in Iowa for 30 years as a Research Scientist at University of Iowa, returned to Texas last November to pursue my own business in those areas, to the state I lived in for the first 22 years of my life. I recall with great clarity many of the events that occurred up in the Texas panhandle when I was growing up. We lived in an old farmhouse, having no telephone or television and a broken-down outhouse. Hard work on the farm was our way of life.

However, there were plenty of books around, and I fell in love with intellectual pursuits, seeing that as eventually the way out of the farm-ranch environment when I graduated from high school. My pursuits led me to state championships in Number Sense and state medals in Science, which resulted in a 4-year college scholarship that I used to earn my Bachelor's and Master's at the University of Texas. I really liked Austin as a place to live, but I finally left Texas over 30 years ago to pursue my Ph.D.

An unwelcome gift I got along with my Ph.D. was a major medical trauma and the first of 7 surgeries I have undergone. I have not let these surgeries stop me from publishing prolificly, but the originals of several of these books and articles (including ones I was working on for future publication) are gone with my stolen computer. This burglar ripped out a piece of my gut for a piece of hardware that is worth much less to him.

I had no intention of returning to Texas until I started perusing that possibility by coming down to the 2005 Austin Mensa RG. I finally completed the exploration of the idea when I closed on a house here in Austin last just over a year ago while living in Iowa. Little did I realize that I would soon be the victim of crime here.

When growing up in the early sixties, an intriguing song made the rock & roll charts called "Ferry Cross the Mersey". My interest in that song has stayed with me. I can never forget the lines "Ferry, cross the Mersey, cause this land's the place I love, and here I'll stay." Despite having actually lived at many locations, I can very fondly remember Austin from my days as a student years ago. Can Austin possibly become the land I love, despite a local burglar tearing these irreplaceable data away from me shortly after I arrived?

The encroachment of crime in this great city cannot be ignored, even though the crime rate is quite low. Austin is a very unique city, but is growing rapidly. Maintaining that character (according to the city slogan "Keep[ing] Austin Weird") will not be easy. Dealing with the consequences of rapid growth is of great priority in doing that.

If Austin can vigilantly maintain its unique character, it could well become "the place I love", despite this robbery of my years of creative work. It might even come to me concluding "and here I will stay". But do not count on the last one -- there are just too many places left to explore.

NOTE: My stolen computer was Dell GX270 Optiplex MiniTower (off-white tower), serial # 1P1N441. Please report any info you might happen to discover on it to