Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins is an investigative journalist based in Abilene. The Wichita Falls native graduated from Midwestern State University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication. He previously has worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News and the Wichita Falls Times Record News, along with running a freelance reporting business. At the Observer, he writes about rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:


Amid Record Youth Suicide Attempts, Texas Lags in Prevention Training for Teachers

Despite a 2015 law requiring suicide prevention training for teachers, state officials say they do not monitor or enforce the requirement.

Pretty much everyone at Fairfield High School liked Jonathan Childers, a 15-year-old with kind brown eyes and a wide smile. The freshman played football, lifted weights for the school team and raised animals in the FFA. He had lots of … Read More


Texas Farmers are Fed Up With Trump’s Trade War, but Most Stop Short of Blaming Him

The state’s dominant ag products, valued at $18 billion, are in the crosshairs of retaliatory tariffs. Still, most farmers here are hesitant to criticize Trump.

Russell Boening, a Texas farmer and rancher who’s also president of the Texas Farm Bureau, is starting to feel the effects of escalating trade conflicts between the United States and its trading partners, namely China. In response to tariffs on … Read More

air pollution

Report: Oil and Gas Production Is Making People Sick in Rural Texas

“The price of living near oil and gas shouldn't be giving up your health.”

Sue and Jim Franklin’s double-wide mobile home at the foot of the Davis Mountains in far West Texas is usually sealed up tight with the air conditioner blasting. One reason is because they live in Reeves County, a crown-shaped section … Read More

school, class, students, education

Cash-Strapped Rural Texas Schools Look to Universities for Help

From East Texas to the Rio Grande Valley, universities are helping struggling schools train staff, start enrichment programs and expand space for district activities.

On June 20, a few weeks after Commerce ISD released students for the summer, about 10 fifth-grade students gather in teacher Cari Aaron’s classroom, playing math games on computers. Sitting cross-legged at a low table in the middle of the … Read More

democratic convention

Texas Democrats Want to Turn Out Rural Voters, but What’s Their Plan?

Dem party leaders like to talk about “energizing rural voters,” but what they’ve delivered so far is a vague, anemic message.

You’ve gotta give it to them — they have energy. But if the first two days of the Texas Democratic Convention are any indication, that may be all Democrats have to offer, especially in rural parts of the state. In … Read More


Industrial Wood Processor Accused of Making East Texans Sick May Get to Pollute Even More

Residents near German Pellets facilities in Woodville and Port Arthur allege that air pollution and fires have made them sick, but the state regulatory agency has done little to help, the Sierra Club says.

In late 2014, Lisa Sanchez and her husband, Tony, sold their 13-acre ranchette in The Woodlands, where they lived in a single-wide trailer and raised rescue horses, and moved into their dream home near Woodville, a rural community in Deep … Read More


Texas Congressmen Plow Billions into Agribusiness While Proposing to Cut Food Stamps

Mike Conaway and Jodey Arrington are pushing for stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients while helping big commodity farmers rake in billions in government cheese.

The Republican congressmen charged with writing the nation’s Farm Bill like to jabber about how people on food stamps need to get back to work. But those same lawmakers have helped secure billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies for big … Read More

last cowboys

‘The Last Cowboys’ is a Wild Ride All the Way Home

Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch takes a fascinating dive into what it's like to make a living by horseback, both on the range and at the rodeo.

Confession: I’ve never ridden a horse. I’ve never baled hay or branded a steer or helped a cow give birth. Perhaps you think this should disqualify me from writing about rural Texas for the Observer, and perhaps you’re right. But … Read More


Trump’s Trade Disputes with NAFTA Partners Imperil Texas Ag Exports

The president has levied tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada and Mexico, and they’ve responded in kind. Texas farmers and ranchers worry the dust-up could endanger ag exports to the NAFTA partners.

Update: The Mexican government officially struck back at the United States on Tuesday afternoon by imposing 20 percent duties on imports of certain American pork, apples and potatoes, along with up to 25 percent tariffs on certain cheeses and bourbon. The … Read More