It’s spooky when two of my worlds collide

My passion is writing. My vocation is advertising. My hobby is ghost hunting.

Two of those worlds collided this week when I got the opportunity to write a story about a haunting in Iowa Park for the newspaper. I hope it’s not my last to write, either.

It’s difficult in a town this size to talk about something that could cause people, for whatever reason, to make fun of you or think you are a hole short of a donut. I get that.

Since I talk a big game about my love of  ghost hunting, I figure I should probably tell a story in appreciation of what Deanna Yeakley was willing to share with me for the story I wrote this week.

Every year, five of my most insane friends and I leave town for a ‘girls’ weekend. No boys or children are invited or allowed, only the five of us doing what we call “our thing.”

Sometimes, we go to Medicine Park in Oklahoma and sit around in our underwear with no makeup for three days, and sometimes we go ghost hunting.

And by “ghost hunting” I mean we go to Jefferson, Texas and see if the bars and antique stores are haunted.

Jefferson, located just 30 miles from the Louisiana border, is billed as Texas’ Most Haunted Town. That made our ears perk up, so we go there often. We have stayed in a hotel that is on the legendary list of the town’s most haunted, The Jefferson Hotel, several times.

This hotel is the setting for the story I’m going to tell.

The Jefferson Hotel is small with only about 24 rooms, I believe. It also houses a fabulous Italian restaurant, Lamache’s.  Our room was at the back of the ground floor of the hotel and was large, with two beds and a rollaway, because what’s a girl’s weekend for if not to laugh into the wee hours of the morning.

Part of the camping gear for our trips is a cooler on wheels, which we roll into the room. This particular trip, it held adult beverages as well as a large bag of limes that were not for an impromptu Key Lime Pie bake off.

One night, we went to Lamache’s for dinner just down the hallway, at about 5 in the afternoon. Maids had been in and gone for the day by then, and the only staff there was front desk, right next to the restaurant.

We returned to our room a little after six and sat on the beds, resting before the night’s real adventures would begin.

Two of the girls sat on one of the beds and both of them felt something “lumpy” beneath  their bums.

After unmaking the entire bed, our bag of limes was found spread out under the fitted sheet.

Feeling brave, we collected our limes and went out for the night. When we returned to the room, I couldn’t sleep and I could hear something scratching the other side of the wall at my headboard. I figured that person couldn’t sleep either, so I turned on the TV real low and sat right in front of it at the foot of the bed. Everyone else was asleep.

At some point, my bladder yelled “UNCLE” and I went to the bathroom alone, only to return less than a minute later and find a purse was sitting right where I had been sitting.

I finally went back to bed, and when I woke up, rose potpourri had been sprinkled around my bed, although there was none in the room. It was a weird night, y’all.

I told the story to the front desk clerk the next morning, and found out that nobody was in the room behind us because it was the kitchen for Lamache’s, and no one was in there in the middle of the night.

I’m not crazy much, and I’m definitely more skeptical than I am gullible. And I have no idea how all of that happened, but it did.

I’d love to tell your story in the paper if you want to tell it. Let me know….

 

For those who wish to read it, I’ve included the story about the haunted house in Iowa Park below. Enjoy!

 

Iowa Park woman recalls decade in haunted house

by Kari Lynn Collins

Many things are spoken of in hushed tones in small towns like Iowa Park.

Was there really a full-blown saloon in Iowa Park before prohibition? Yes, there was.

Did Iowa Park used to be home to a house of ill repute? All indications are that this is true, as well.

Then there are the things that cannot be so easily proven, because usually the only proof is someone’s word.

Like ghosts, for instance.

For years rumors have gone around Iowa Park about the places whose residents departed this world many years ago, and yet they remain. The beautiful Tom Burnett Memorial Library that was once the mansion of oil man Tom Burnett; the Iowa Park Junior High (W.F. George Middle School) campus, a church or two and several houses in Iowa Park have been spoken of privately for years.

Most people who have experienced things that cannot be explained are hesitant to talk about them for fear people will think they are crazy, or – maybe even worse – spot on.

Deanna Yeakley is one person in Iowa Park who is willing to tell the story of a home she lived in for 10 haunted years.

“When this happened, I went to the shop and talked about it. I didn’t care if they thought I was crazy. I was scared,” said Deanna, owner of Family Hair Styles and a firm believer that a house she and her husband, Alton, lived in for more than 10 years was most definitely haunted.

The house in the center of town is a beautiful home, and showed up on deed records in Iowa Park in 1950. Dr. Gordon Clark, well known physician in Iowa Park, was listed as the original owner.

When Alton and Deanna bought the home in 2000, they were certain it would be their forever home. By 2010, Deanna said she could not take it anymore.

The first inkling that the occupants of the house outnumbered Alton, Deanna and Deanna’s two sons Kendall and Clayton, came after living there three months. Footsteps.

Alton heard them first, then Deanna, then the kids.

Deanna said she regularly heard footsteps coming toward her, then stopping in a doorway, and only when she was alone. Finally, she asked Alton if she ever heard the same thing, and he had but played it off as noises an old house makes.

“It (the footsteps) was always coming toward you and and would stop in the doorway. If I ignored it, it would do it again,” Deanna said. “It was like it wanted to make sure you noticed it.”

Eventually, things escalated.

Alton stepped into the shower one night and said he felt a burning on the inside of his thigh . Deanna looked at the area that was about the size of a quarter, which appeared to have a “circle of pin pricks” on it with blood coming out of them.

She said over the 10 years they lived there, this type thing happened to Alton five times and patterns of needle pricks would appear around his ankles, on his thighs and back and behind his knee.

The years were full of moments that had become predictable, but many still had the ability to scare and confound them both.

One day Deanna had come home for lunch and was by herself when she heard glass breaking.

She searched around and found nothing broken on the floor in the direction the noise came from. In the hallway, a hallway that always gave Deanna the creeps, she found that a picture hanging on the wall had the glass shattered like someone had punched it. “Two weeks before, we had found it on the floor. It wasn’t broken,” Deanna said

About two years before they finally moved, Deanna said she was standing in the dining room one night and when she turned to look in the office, she saw a man standing in the middle of the room eight to ten feet away. She said he was thin, had graying hair and wore old-timey round silver glasses. She noted he was not a tall man then saw the the man she was looking at had no legs …  she could just see him from his chest up. She screamed.

“He was looking right at me, with a very serious look on his face,” Deanna offered.

After that, a friend of hers found a photo with several people, including Dr. Clark, pictured, and Deanna said she picked out Dr. Clark as the man in her office without hesitation.

“When I saw him that night I heard the words, ‘Here we are,’”Deanna said. “Kind of like, ‘you’ve been trying to ignore us but here we are.”

Deanna’s sons had their own experiences, one of which led to the couple finally selling the house.

Clayton woke up in the middle of the night to see a little boy, about eight years old, sitting in a massage chair in his room, his swinging legs too short to reach the ground. Although the closet light and TV were on (he slept with those on every night) When he turned on the his bedside lamp, the boy disappeared. When he turned the light back off, the boy came back.

Kendall called Deanna one day while she was at work and asked if Alton was supposed to come home. Kendall had heard the door open and screen door slam shut followed by footsteps in the house. Nobody else was in the house.

Deanna said she and Kendall were able to sense when something was about to happen. In Deanna’s case, her heart would race and she could hear a high-pitched sound. Sometimes, she said, she could feel a presence. Kendall says he heard the high-pitched noise previous to an incident.

One night while she and Alton were in bed, she woke up with that “feeling.” She said she saw a blue light radiating from the corner of the room that expanded to the ceiling. “It lasted a long time, like 20 seconds,” Deanna said, “and the next night, the same thing happen in the hallway right outside the doorway.”

A few days later, Alton was the one who saw the blue light.

Deanna laughingly said she loves a midnight snack, and when she would get one she always made Alton go with her and go first. He stopped unexpectedly at the dining room and looked at the ceiling without saying a word for about 15 seconds. It took  him 30 minutes to tell Deanna that the ceiling was engulfed with blue light.

Another afternoon, Deanna was home cleaning the upstairs bathroom. She heard the familiar footsteps up to the bathroom door and they stopped. When she turned around to see who it was, she said all she could see was a hazy mist in the doorway. She ignored it, and continued scrubbing the tub and it happened again. When she turned and saw the same mist, she said, “Get out of here and leave me alone!” It went away. “It left, and you could feel the difference.”

Over the years, TVs turned on by themselves. Random things went missing for months, only to turn up in plain sight, or in a place no one would have put them.

A two-year-old who was at their home with her parents once walked into the living room, looked in the corner and told Deanna, “There’s a ghost in here.”

After living in the house five years, Deanna and Alton enlisted a minister to pray over and through the house. “They (the ghosts) stayed gone five months.”

Then, one night while she and Alton were in bed watching TV and reading, Deanna said she and Alton both saw what she described as a ‘sheer, beige sheet cloud’ that fell over the bed. “I thought, ‘They’re back,’” and they were.

The house, according to those who live in the area, is known for not being lived in very long by the same family.

The breaking point, Deanna said, came when Clayton was leaving for school one day and she noticed a deep scratch in his neck. “Only it wasn’t a ‘scratch’, it was a deep gouge,” Deanna noted. She asked him about it and he said he guessed he did it in his sleep then went on to tell her It had happened on his legs, too, in his sleep and he had started sleeping in sweatpants.

That was it.

Within the year, Deanna and Alton had moved into their new forever home, one that was newly-built with no haunted history.

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P.S.: It’s not my year for paper plates

I see a lot of people these days practicing gratitude – some as a daily practice and some for the month of November on Facebook.

Daily gratitude posts, along with the occasional puppy video and pictures of my grandson are the only things that have kept social media from morphing into the seventh circle of hell this year.

And since I don’t apparently feel thankful enough on a daily basis to make those posts I will do my whole month of gratitude right here, right now.

It is more important than ever, I believe, to turn toward acknowledging what is currently making our lives good.

Times like this – holidays like this – are specifically designed to make us stop and look up and find the victories in our beautiful lives and acknowledge them … with gratitude. And it’s probably even more important to do this if your life doesn’t feel so beautiful. Either way, remember the reason for the season, and that is giving gratitude.

Even if your family ain’t right.

I am thankful for a family that developed a tradition we have trademarked the “Annual Paper Plate Walk of Shame.” We are nothing if not tradition-filled as a family.

The big tradition is, if you jack up a dish you bring to Thanksgiving, the next year you will be the bearer of paper goods for the celebration.  It’s a beautiful and passive-aggressive tradition my entire family appreciates. It’s kind of like our less medieval version of the Scarlet Letter, only with way less pearl clutching and the letter is “C” for Chinet.

The precipitating event for this punishment of culinary indiscretion was exacted by a member of my own family who shall remain nameless … for now. This person (they know who they are) was in charge of one of our family’s Thanksgiving necessities – rolls, many and hot and with a lot of butter.

The suspect over-kneaded the rolls that year and what resulted was an impromptu war with tiny flying bread missiles after dinner. Later, the neighborhood kids used the rolls for a pickup game of street hockey.

That was the year paper shaming became a valued and time-honored tradition.

Since then, we’ve had cherry cream cheese pie with imaginary cherries; deviled eggs with questionable lineage; the near-disaster with the rolls of 2016;  and dryer-sheet fresh broccoli rice casserole. You read that right – somehow a dryer sheet ended up in a casserole a few years ago. It’s a mystery to this day, and now part of the legend of the tradition.

Everyone in our family pulled together last year when in an unheard of move where nobody was assigned the rolls and nobody noticed it until Thanksgiving Eve. Then we ALL noticed it and went shopping again and ended up with like 200 rolls. It was seriously like all our secret decoder rings went off and we sprung into action like the bread fiends we are.

In other words, we may not even have paper goods this year. But we better have rolls.

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A little love for the farmers and firefighters

It’s been a hot minute since I was called on to cover a story, photographically or otherwise.

Mostly, I handle the advertising and write this deep well of wisdom every week.

Last Thursday, though, it was reported that some cotton was on fire north of town and I was “It” as they say in the newspaper business, as well as a proper game of tag.

One of the Leader’s real photographers, Kevin, arrived as I was heading out so he hopped in the car with me and we followed the fire trucks out to the middle of a field I doubt would register on GPS.

We arrived at a cotton field that was already half-stripped, Kevin in cargo shorts because it was 89 degrees (on November 2nd), and I was in jeans because it is No Shave November and I’ve been in training.

I was willing to walk out a ways because it wasn’t my first rodeo in a cotton patch, and my legs were protected. But one of Iowa Park’s fire trucks gave me a ride to where the cotton was burning and even more firefighters were on hand continuing to spray it to keep it from spreading to the unstripped cotton.

As I write this, I have no idea if any of those pictures are even good enough to make it into the paper.  That won’t happen until Tuesday or Wednesday when the photo review takes place each week.

The cotton farmer and friend Kenneth McAllister told me the cotton first caught fire in the header of the stripper when a rock caused a spark. They were unaware of the fire until it was dumped into the boll buggy and stoked by a strong north wind. They quickly dumped the load into an already stripped part of the field so there was minimal damage to the equipment, and besides the one load didn’t lose any more cotton.

In the midst of all of this, it’s like a town reunion in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere – chatting up local farmers and firemen while they all stand in their natural habitat.

When it was time, Kenneth had another of his hands kindly drive me back to the road.

I want to remind people to thank a volunteer fireman when you get the chance. These guys were fully decked out in head-to-toe-fire gear and it was hot outside even without a huge mound of cotton ablaze. Also, they gave me a ride on the back of the truck and I felt like I was in a homecoming parade for a minute.

Also, if you’re a fan of underwear, towels and sheets (and food!) like myself, thank a farmer. In fact, if you see Ken out and about this week buy the good man lunch. He’s had a rough week.

Even if you aren’t from around Iowa Park, this is an invitation to do something good for your favorite farmer and volunteer firefighters.

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Help me go to the movies again

It had been five years since I reluctantly stepped into a movie theatre.

In 2012, my Mom and I watched the movie  Lincoln in one theatre, while my husband and brother watched something featuring Tom Cruise in another.

Lincoln was a good movie – an excellent one, even – but I still spent as much time in the lobby as the theatre because movies give me anxiety.

People don’t ask me to go to movies, because the answer is always no, usually preceded with me looking like I have smelled something horrible.

Only my mother continues to ask. About once a quarter she says, “you wanna go see (insert name of movie I don’t want to see here)?” The answer is no, always no.

I’m not a conflict person. The first sign of conflict in a movie has me leaving for an unscheduled bathroom break or a $15 package of Milk Duds. I’ve even hung out in the arcade in the lobby. I don’t fare well.

At my first viewing of the Wizard of Oz  and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang some 50 years ago, my bathroom break never ended and I would not come back into the theatre, beginning a life-long habit of avoidance.

Last week, a well-meaning friend who didn’t know of my allergy to actual movies told me about a movie that he thought I  must see.

On this rare occasion, I didn’t ask him if he understood who he was talking to. I didn’t make a face, start humming “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” in my head or run in the other direction screaming, “NO, NO, NOOOOO!”.

I listened politely. Then  I went home and looked up the movie and watched the trailer, which gave me goosebumps. That’s never happened before so I shocked my husband, my mother and our two friends Shane and Kelly and said possibly for the first time in over two decades, “I want to go to the movies.”

Saturday afternoon, we hit the matinee at Cinemark to see the movie,  Same Kind of Different as Me. Given the fact it wasn’t about war, the mafia or flying monkeys I didn’t even need a Xanax to go into the parking lot. It was going to be a banner day, l sensed it. Little Kari was growing up.

Cradling my super-sized popcorn like a toddler with my husband carrying my bucket of Coke, we carefully selected seats for maximum viewing pleasure, as well as a quick exit for me should war or any discomfort break out.

Just before the movie began a woman sat right behind us although there were plenty of other places to sit – plenty of secluded and private places.

I’ve only been to a couple  movies in the last 20 years, and never stayed in the theatre long enough to know, or even care, if anyone was talking.

That’s how good this particular movie was – I never moved, except to crane my neck to give this woman behind us the stink eye.

She set the tone at the beginning of the movie by engaging with the scene, “You gave me this painting for free. Now it’s worth a million dollars.” The lady, who lacked what we self-aware folks call an indoor voice, said, “Well, I’d ask for it back.” She was indignant and aghast.

The rest of the movie was spent with my husband’s patented and time-tested you have got to be kidding me look, Shane actually  muttering “you’ve got to be kidding me!,” and Kelly  saying “seriously?” – All in reaction to Chatty Cathy behind us.  I continued to crane my head in her direction and shake it in a slow, but firm, “no” direction.

To no avail. The lady continued to play out her internal dialogue for our row to consider, free with the cost of the movie.

I expected a cell phone to ring, not a play-by-play of Harry Carey’s private thoughts. A cell phone never did ring, not that I would have heard it.

Since I haven’t been to the movie in literally years, I need to know if this is the new normal?

I honestly don’t think she had a clue that everyone within earshot of her was plotting her demise. And by demise, I mean removal from the theatre – I hate violence, remember?

I seriously want to know how to kindly handle that situation by somebody who actually goes to a movie every once in a while, because I saw a trailer for a really good one about Charles Dickens  that I want to see.

And it’s probably illegal to carry a chlorophormed-soaked rag into a theatre anyway nowadays. But I’m thinking about it.

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Travelling B.O.B.s : A Halloween Bedtime Story

When I said I had stories for years, I meant it.

In the 16 years we’ve been travelling as a pack, Jefferson, Texas, made it into our top three B.O.B. Girl’s Weekend destinations.

With the official title of the ‘Most Haunted Town in Texas’, Jefferson stole our ghost-hunting hearts years ago when we learned they also have an annual Mardi Gras celebration every year.

So, most years we went there twice – once for the ghosts and once for the beads.

The first time we travelled the five hours (10 hours if you are us) to Jefferson, we stayed in the famously haunted Jefferson Hotel.

We pulled into the town of 2,000 people with two goals: to hunt for ghosts, and to find the legendary Murder Alley where a murder had presumably happened, sometime in history. Nobody seems to know for sure, and anyone who might have is probably dead.

We accomplished one of those things. Murder Alley wasn’t the one, but we stand firm by the notion that we found the hounds that guard it.

It was about a month before Halloween on a full moon night when we went on our first guided ghost tour throughout the town, and it really was scary. In fact, by the end of the tour, we could have been the official spokeswomen for a Depends commercial.

Already primed by the stories surrounding some of the best stops on the tour – the Jefferson Hotel,  the Grove and the Schluter Home, to name a few – it was a natural that we decided in the middle of the night it was time to try and find this Murder Alley without the benefit of a guide, or even anyone who had been to the town before.

What could possibly go wrong?

So, so much.

We set out, all giggles and carrying flashlights and our Bubba mugs filled with liquid nutrition.

After finding some seriously fascinating historical tidbits – a 200-year-old church with a tree growing out of the baptismal pool in the back; an historical ghost giggling in Shawnee’s ear and some natural and very woodsy restrooms, we sensed we were close to finding Murder Alley.

We approached the suspected area which was marked by old stone fences on each side, and body fluids of ghost hunters before us. It was ominously dead quiet.

But that didn’t last long.

Out of nowhere came the words, “you are about to die.” Only it was spoken in loud, menacing barks from the frothing mouths of the hounds of hell that we could not see.

Without speaking a word, all five of us turned around and began running, the ice in our Bubba mugs sounding like festive maracas.

Lynda, the only B.O.B. who regularly works out, passed all of us high-stepping in a way that would make any marching band hire her as a consultant. She beat us all handily, mostly because the rest of us were laying on the ground winded from our first 10-yard sprint in 20 years. But we survived.

Happy Halloween. When you go out there this year, arm yourself with a workout plan, a flashlight, a Bubba mug, and a slow friend … just in case.

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In honor of women, specifically funny women, I want to share with my readers my favorite blog of the week.

Click here, y’all! —->True Confessions of a Soccer Mom

This week’s funny woman is Kathryn Mayer, whose hysterical and socially-aware blog is entitled Writing Out Loud.

I met Kathy, a native and resident of Newtown, Connecticut, at an Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference a few years ago. I am obsessed with her humor, her humanity and her grit. I encourage you to check out her piece on soccer moms, because really, there’s a soccer mom in all of us.

To support these writers, I ask you to share their work on social media, your own blog, email or here in the comments.

I’d love to hear your favorites, because we all need more funny in our lives.

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Traveling B.O.B.s: That time we babysat a horse

Well, it’s that time of the week again.

The time where I bang my head against stationary objects until I think of something remotely entertaining to write. Sometimes I even bang it on stationery objects, like a pen.

That is just the first phase of the process for a writer like myself. Eventually I move on to sitting down at a keyboard and typing, crying optional.

It’s not that I lack subject matter – my life is usually highly entertaining, just not reportable to the masses.

Still, I am surrounded by the most amazing women – every one of them – and I have stories for days, maybe years. With that in mind, I gave the stationary objects a break.

I have a group of friends I travel with every year, and we just returned from our 16th annual weekend away.

We call ourselves the B.O.B. Club, pay dues every month and use that money to fund the weekend trips.

In the past 16 years we’ve travelled through Texas and Oklahoma. We have seen and done things that prove real life is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

One of those trip was to the Fort Worth Stockyards a few years ago. We stayed at a hotel in the the middle of the stockyards, all five of us in one room.

For some reason, there was no hot water that morning for showers, which was noted by a shrill scream of the first one in and followed by four more.

We left the hotel around noon, looking like we hadn’t seen daylight since 1642.

After lunch, we parked ourselves on a large picnic bench in front of the famous White Elephant Saloon armed with a Michael Jackson t-shirt we bought on a clearance rack for $2 and a fresh Sharpie. We then proceeded to ask strangers to sign the shirt as their favorite celebrity with plans to give it to somebody really gullible or list it on Ebay next to the Virgin Mary cheese toast.


One of our celebrities

B.O.B. Lynda pets the dog of another celebrity

We had more takers than anyone could believe, and thought we were going to get Wyatt Earp for sure when a cowboy rode up on his horse and dismounted in front of our picnic bench.

Shawnee, the clairvoyant of our group, said, “I hope he doesn’t ask me to babysit his horse.”

So, he did.

A reasonable facsimile of the horse we cared for

We babysat a horse in the Fort Worth Stockyards while his chaps and spurs wearing owner went into the White Elephant Saloon for a cold one. I guess we technically horsesat.

While Shawnee charged a fee for people to pet the strange horse, the rest of us continued asking strangers to sign the t-shirt that was eventually lost anyway.

Things like this are why we keep doing it year after year.

These memories, and so many more, are the tapestry my highly entertaining life is made of.

B.O.B.s Shawnee and Janice during one of our more serious discussions

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We don’t have to agree, but we do need to talk

I had begun a blog this week on a fabulous Geico TV commercial featuring the rarely-acknowledged triangle soloist.

And it would have been good, but my heart wasn’t in it.

The commercial features a concert with a triangle soloist putting his heart and soul into his moment in the spotlight.

Granted, it’s a commercial selling insurance, but in my humble opinion, triangle guy should be nominated for an Emmy for his acting, a Grammy for the musical performance and whatever award exists for the comedic value – it’s the trifecta that made for one of the best commercials I may ever see in my life.

Then Las Vegas happened. Another mass shooting in our country, and I could not concentrate any longer on triangle guy.

As a nation, we can and must do better. It is well past time to talk about it and find solutions.

Call me naive, but I’m sure an answer exists that will be suitable to most everyone, and more importantly, save lives.

I alone don’t have those answers, and neither do you. But together … it’s possible.

I want to be very clear: I have been a gun owner since I was 18 years old. I am, I humbly offer, a really good shot. Further, I have had two members of my family murdered with guns. I get both sides of the issue better than most.

But fundamental human rights will always win with me.

My grandson is two years and four months old. In his short life, the United States has seen 19 mass shootings with the first one of his life happening in his home state of South Carolina. four days after he was born.

Killed in these mass shootings have been 194 of our neighbors, with several hundred more injured.

I recognize I’m not in a good geographical location for this conversation, but a conversation needs to be had. This isn’t about politics, it is about human lives, the safety of which should be our utmost priority.

Like everyone else, I don’t have the answers, but I have ideas.

Some things I think are worth looking at include requiring liability insurance for gun owners; requiring the buyer’s medical information bureau file before selling a gun; banning the sale of an apparatus that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully-automatic one. Those are just a few.

There are those who would say these things infringe upon their constitutional rights, but I can’t think of a greater infringment of my rights than laying on the ground with a bullet in me.

I’ve heard great ideas from many people who are looking for solutions, and who are not bolted into their way of thinking no matter what. It’s going to take a lot of compromise to get this done, but now is the time to start.

To fix this, everyone is going to have to give up something, but it is doable.

I’m sure discussions about how to prevent this from happening again have been had all over the United States this week, just like in our office.

We don’t necessarily agree on all of the solutions, but each of us brought some good ones to the table. It was a starting point, and if we can do it in our office, it can be done on a national scale.

More than 10 years ago, one person – ONE – tried to get on a plane with a bomb in their shoe. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful. Because of that, today we all have to take our shoes off to get on a plane.

Nobody says that is an infringement on our civil rights because it worked.

Do not let the bad guys win. Do good because it’s good. Act out of love, not fear. Be kind.

We all want the same thing, really, and as my favorite poet Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”

Show up at the table with that in mind. Show up on Facebook and Twitter with that in mind.

So do your good because you know it’s good. Don’t grab the bait on social media that encourages hatefulness and discourse among the people you live among. It’s not worth it.

I want to find answers because I think life shouldn’t look like this for my grandson. So, do it for your grandchild, your grandparents or your third cousin, twice-removed. But, please, let’s talk and stop this madness.

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Iowa Park – 48 years in our hometown

It was 48 years ago this week that my family moved to Iowa Park and started this newspaper, the Iowa Park Leader.

I was four.

You could say I grew up in the midst of all things journalism and  Iowa Park, and both are part of who I am.

In these 48 years, we as a family and staff,  have been honored to serve this beautiful, quirky and proud town – what we call our hometown – through some bright and beautiful times, as well as a few dark and desperate ones. The latter is always hard, but history has a right to have honest record of those as well.

In this almost half-century, we have made, and a few times sadly, lost, life-long friends. We have been inside almost every business in town, attended close to every public meeting, and have served on councils and boards to do our part to inform and be a part of the fabric of  Iowa Park. We have recorded Iowa Park’s history as it has heppened and is happening, and it makes us proud.

Like most newspapers, we’ve have had death threats – luckily, few – and we have seen people at their worst. That makes us sober and I think, pragmatic.

More often, we catch people at their best – this is what keeps us in the newsroom, and around the community. The generosity and spirit of our students; the outpouring of love, time and resources I have personally witnessed consistently in my time here when someone local or not needs a helping hand. Iowa Park has quite a heart, we are happy to report.

Both are what keep the balance, I’m just glad the good side of the scales are always heavier.

 

Because this is my space, I get to brag on our staff just a little.

The publisher, Dolores Hamilton, has been at the helm the entirety of our existence. As she is my mother, I have seen her during this time not only raise five extreeeemely well-behaved children, but also work the tremendously long hours required to keep a budding newspaper afloat and feed a family. I am proud of her for this. She has, in her career, done every single job in this newspaper and done them well.

Some other things most people don’t know, but I do, make me even prouder than this. When I was young, in the middle of all of this, Mom also took painting and piano lessons for herself. She planted the seed that made the Gordon Lake Walking Track project grow, and then continued to water it. I know because she made me help. I don’t know if she has ever known how much those things impacted my life.

Kevin Hamilton, editor, sports editor, photographer and another heir apparent of many hats, is always the guy in the background with a camera. But never in a creepy way. He captures the best moments Iowa Park has to offer and records them here, each week. He is, I say with great confidence, one of the best photographers in the state of Texas and has the hardware to prove it. During his time here, Kevin has covered meetings, banquets, assemblies and spent thousands of hours at sporting events covering our athletes all the way to state competition, much of that in his personal time. In addition, he is a helluva writer.

Also, he’s my brother and he didn’t pay me to say any of that. Seriously, Iowa Park, you are lucky to have him.

Last but not least is reporter and feature writer, Sherrie Williams. She is also a photographer and circulation manager. We have a small office with many jobs, and she has managed to be worth five times her weight in gold.

Sherrie has worked with us for 20 years and covers events, writes features, serves on the city council and some state boards. Over the years I regularly see her work all day at the paper, then work several evenings a week either for the newspaper, or for civic organizations to raise money to help other people. She has headed up 9/11 ceremonies, July Fourth events, and worked more Whoop-T-Do’s than anyone I know. She truly loves Iowa Park. She also has the best memory of anyone I know – it’s scary.

This week also happens to be my 33rd anniversary at the paper.  For those wondering, I got a brand new iMac on my desk.

But, so did Kevin, so … I’m still working out what that means.

I also publish these columns on my blog, www.onefunnybroad.com. I encourage you to check it out.

I mention this because I was looking at my stats for the year this weekend, and I noticed that I have readers from literally all over the world.

I’m not bragging, though. It was cool because some of my most-read blogs are those about Iowa Park, which means people from around the United States and  dozens of countries around the world have heard of Iowa Park, Texas.

My hometown.

Our hometown.

Thank you for a fun and heartfelt 48 years with you. It is a pleasure to be a voice for our community.

 

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It’s not what you ask, it’s who you ask

I try, I really do. But I am ‘that mom’.

Last week after Hurricane Irma hit Florida and continued on a northwestern bend, I was talking to my daughter on FaceTime. She told me about how they were expecting high winds in South Carolina, a lot of rain and probably a tornado or two because there were “on the tornado side of the hurricane.”

The fact that a hurricane is a all-you-can-eat buffet of natural disasters did not escape me, which caused me to say the words no mother should probably utter.

“Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tornado?,” I asked my daughter as I caught a glance of my two-year-old grandson sprinting behind her with an apple he appeared to have just stolen in an effort to not starve in the aftermath of the tornado.

She gave me this look, one that lay steadily in the space between exasperation and anger management in action. One that I have had on my face before when I felt someone had underestimated my immeasurable skills.

“I’m 31. I have a plan,” she managed to say without opening her teeth.

In my defense, I contacted every friend and family member I had on both coasts to make sure they had a plan. I just can’t help myself.

Also, my son lived in Boston during historic snowfalls, so I eat worry for breakfast. This time, to her brother’s relief, it was my daughter’s turn.

I didn’t ask her to send me bullet points of her plan. Instead, I went over her house plan in my head and surmised the hall closet was the best place to go. I never told her because I’m sure she already thought of it, Plus … that look.

I just hope she remembers to move the bowling ball she keeps in there for posterity – to California or somewhere equally as far away from a tornado.

When I talked to her the next day, businesses in South Carolina had shut down, so her husband was home from work and taking a nap with their tiny force of nature and his emergency apple.

My daughter was calmly decorating cookies in this rare peace, except the wind was blowing like a gazillion miles an hour outside. Still, she talked to me on FaceTime using zen-like motions to decorate cookies, the bowling ball clearly not in her thoughts.

She was on top of her cookie game, so I assumed she would wake up her crew and calmly herd them toward the bowling ball-free closet in the event that a tornado meandered through their part of South Carolina. She was never called to do that, and I will never know about the bowling ball.

Two hurricanes of massive proportion within two weeks of each other is insanity. I am certain I’m not the only mother this month who asked their child if they were prepared in the event of  hurricane-related shenanigans.

And I won’t be the last, I’ll just ask my son-in-law next time.

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Welcome to Iowa, Park in Texas (where commas are important)

Although I moved to the fair community of Iowa Park, Texas when I was a worldly four years old, I consider it my hometown.

For some people reading this, it will be preaching to the choir to lay out the logistical nightmare of ordering something on the phone when the town you’re from has the name of a state in it, just not the state you reside in.

When the early settlers from Iowa arrived in what is now known as Iowa Park, Texas, their first inclination was to name the town Daggett Switch, which had something to do with the railroad but sounds suspiciously in the same neighborhood as Possum Holler.

Ultimately, it was decided that a nod to their home state was warranted, and tacked “Park” onto the end because the original city plat boasted nine. Iowa Park today officially has 8.

The year all that took place was 1888, and how were they to know that more than a century later it would cause people like … us … massive confusion any time you have to order something over the phone and have it shipped.

My experience while ordering things to be shipped to our office in the past month has been:

Order Taker: City, please?

Me: Iowa …

Order Taker: No, city first please.

Me: The city is Iowa Park.

OT: Iowa Park?

Me: Yes.

OT: (Deep sigh) Zip Code?

Me: 76367

OT: But, that’s in Texas. I thought you were in Iowa?

That my friends, is why commas are important. As are patience and forgiveness for our town fathers and mothers, in my experience.

For instance, I want to scream my zip code right after I give the company name but decorum prevents that. They also won’t let you give your zip code first and work backward. I’ve tried.

I thought one time about pitching the current city council a few different ideas for memorable, yet un-confusing names. My favorite, yet unsustainable, name was “I’m From.” That way you can answer anyone who asks you where you live with “I’m From, Texas”. It’s efficient, right in your face and equally confusing.

It just won’t work because the next question will always be “Where in Texas?” It would be like Abbott and Costello’s* Who’s on First routine, only with a heavy drawl and weaponry. I’m getting old and I don’t have any more time for that than I do the original problem.

So, Iowa Park it is.

Salute!

Seriously though, we love visitors. Our official slogan is truly “The Town of Friendly Living.”

We don’t care where you park – Welcome to Iowa Park, in Texas.

In the spirit of give what you’ve got, your prayers, love and thoughts are sought and needed by those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the coast of Texas and Louisiana, as well as Puerto Rico, Haiti and Florida which is expected to bear the brunt of Hurricane Irma this week..

I have friends and family affected by both, and it is heart-breaking and life-changing. In that spirit, please give what you can of things people need. Lately when I’ve been shopping I’ve been asked if I want to give a dollar of my purchase to hurricane relief. I do, and I do. It’s not much, but if enough people do it, it adds up. And the need is great, and about to be greater.

Give what you can, when you can. It is showing me the good in this country in the midst of political discord. No questions are asked because people need help.

In that vein, I want to thank the people from Iowa Park who have worked to help people – some they might know, most they do not – in a time of dire need. There are far too many to name, and I would leave out a name (I know me), and they don’t do it for a pat on the back anyway.

Our city has given money, and generously. They have filled a semi-truck and more, and they have offered their homes for refuge, all of which is the primary spirit of this country.

Many communities are doing this, thankfully. But I don’t come from most communities,

I come from Iowa Park, Texas, The Town of Friendly Living. A town that is not in Iowa.

 

**** For six hours, everyone who read this knew that I don’t know my comedy acts from days of yore. My hero was Gilda Radner. Thanks to my now editor-at-large Richard for  setting me straight that it was not, in fact, the Three Stooges who did that brilliant bit. This isn’t the first time he has saved me from myself.

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