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, 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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My future may not have hair, but it has hope

Between the general foul moods of my countrymen and discovering recently that female pattern baldness is a thing, I needed a break. I needed unicorns and rainbows; and cotton candy and kittens.

Disappearing hair notwithstanding, national and global news seems to have everyone on edge this  week.

With no unicorns, rainbows, cotton candy or kittens handy, my relief came in a phone call about a little girl whose actions remind me that good always bats last.

The feature picture on  the front page of this week’s issue of the Iowa Park Leader is a result of the phone call that pulled me out of that funk.

Little McKyla turned seven years old last week and the only gifts she wanted for her birthday were those that could feed people who are hungry.

This week, she gathered up all the canned goods and non-perishable items she received for her big day and took them to the Iowa Park Food Pantry for distribution in emergency food boxes.

McKyla gets it.

Her mother tells us she has been volunteering her time to help distribute commodities to local families. She is a little girl with a big heart as it says in the photo caption on page 1.

And I pray she represents the future of our community and nation.

Only seven years into her stint of being human, she understands that other people sometimes need a hand up; and that other kids might not have the abundance of food in their home that she enjoys.

A little girl after my own heart, McKyla reminds me that good remains in the world and the best part is it is coming from her young generation.

It reminded me of last year when a young man named Tanner asked for money for his 10th birthday. While that’s not uncommon, what Tanner wanted to do with the money was.

Tanner took his birthday money to church and gave it as an offering so “other people learn more about Jesus.”

We need to learn how to act again, folks. These innocent, generous minds haven’t been taught to only take care of their own; or to judge the why of someone’s circumstance.

They each understood a need and filled it in the purist way they know. By giving, by sharing.

There is a book out there by Robert Fulghum titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The first thing on the list is to share everything. The last thing on the list is to be aware of wonder, which is what I’m doing here because it is indeed a wonder to see that degree of selflessness.

We all need to read that book, twice.

If we took the book seriously, Facebook and Twitter would look different; our country would look different; and if we took the lessons to heart, we would look different.

I hear a lot of people griping about the millennials these days, and to be quite honest, the millennials are the people raising these children who are so generous in spirit. They must be doing a lot of somethings right.

If this is the case, we should all just act like children again, because these kids seem to have their act together, and they also still have their hair.

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Iowa Park really does rock, y’all

Plainview has the cows. Wichita Falls, the horses.

But, Iowa Park?

Iowa Park Rocks.

If you are one of my out of town/state readers, in Plainview and Wichita Falls, Texas, part of the art culture is the existence of  life-size cows and horses at businesses around town – all painted by local artists.

Personally, I love them.

But the rocks? They were new to me, and I love them also.

The rocks have captured a lot of people’s attention, including mine, and I have a notoriously short attention span.

But this phenomenon has people all over town looking up, at least for a while. It also has people interacting in person  by doing something called art. It’s all kinds of amazing.

A woman named Julie started this unlikely madness last week when she and her equally artistic family painted a bunch of rocks and put them all over town for people to find, and rehide. Or, keep and make another to put out.

It seems a lot of people are getting involved – local stores are running out of paint and smooth rocks have become the hottest commodity around town.

Local families are now communicating in person, instead of by text, and they are putting down their cell phones to paint.


Then they’re leaving their homes and hiding the rocks to bring somebody else a little happiness and spread their art.

Julie started something that matters.

It’s kind of a really cool “pay it forward” that jars us into the present, where most of us forget to live.

As someone who is genuinely surprised when a newly-constructed house pops up on a route I drive daily, I’m very bad at paying close attention, so this is good therapy.

Monday, Leader reporter Sherrie Williams and I found one of the painted rocks – a bumble bee! – hidden in a tree next to our office. I felt like I won the lottery, I got so much happiness out of that.

The rocks come with instructions, written in Sharpie on the back, to take a picture of your rock and post it on the Facebook page Iowa Park Rocks. We re-hid the bumble bee, by the way.

It’s a thing, and I’m feeling participatory. So much so, that my little masterpieces took four days to conceptualize. That’s a very long time for me considering I list instant gratification on my resume as a skill.

My rocks will be hidden as soon as they dry.

If you find a rock and feel the spirit move you, take a picture and post it on Facebook. If not, take it home and thank Julie for the gift.

Thanks, Julie. This has been a breath of fresh air the first week of Spring.

Iowa Park really does rock. Keep paying it forward, y’all. We need your art.

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Give Love This December

What you will read below is a column I ran in my hometown’s newspaper this week, the Iowa Park Leader, and speaks specifically to giving locally to worthy causes. Since my readers are from all over the United States and the world, I urge you to give locally, particularly if you live in a small town.

In larger cities, many corporations take on food banks and children’s Christmas funds as a project and this is wonderful. But in small towns, it is up to the residents to help people out for the most part. So, please give what you can of your time and money locally, and if you still want to give some more, the causes I wrote about below would love to receive your help. Write me and I’ll tell you where to send the checks!

Have a blessed and generous Christmas season from all of us at One Funny Broad.

Kari Lynn

If November was about the act of giving thanks, then surely December should be about the act of giving love.

That’s what I’m going with, anyway.

The Christmas season looks a lot different to me than it used to, and this is a good thing.

I spend a lot more time these days at the end of the year thinking about people who have made this year beautiful, and that even when it felt like 2016 has been the worst year ever, they always remind me that pity parties are the worst kind to throw. Nobody gets pumped up for those parties.

It’s time to throw a love party.

It’s my turn to remind you that no matter how crappy your year has been, many people would trade with you in a heartbeat.

So I’m asking you to give something to someone with less than you have this month, with love in your heart and no expectation of any return.

It can be money, it can be time and it can be a shoulder, but it can be done.

Locally, I would ask that you give what you can to our families who are in need, by donating to the Iowa Park Food Pantry and to the Kidz Christmas Program.

Or, if furry friends are your passion, the Iowa Park Animal Control can always use help keeping the animals safe that come into their care.

Food Pantry

As shocking as it may seem that in a country where there is plenty of everything, there are still hungry people in this world – in this town. You can help by donating canned or boxed foods to the Iowa Park Food Pantry organized through First United Methodist Church.

As part of our community mission, the Iowa Park Leader is giving free new subscriptions to anyone who renews and brings in at least 10 cans of food during the month of December. This means you can give two gifts at Christmas – food for people who are hungry and keeping people informed.

Kidz Christmas

The Iowa Park Volunteer Fire Department is continuing their Kidz Christmas, which has been providing Christmas gifts to needy children for close to three decades.

Due to inclement weather last Saturday, the IPVFD was unable to have their major fundraiser, which was a “fill-the-boot” in order to raise cash to fill the wishes of the children on their list.

If you have it in your heart and bank account, consider writing a check to them for this worthy project, or drop a new toy by the fire department.

Animal Reclaim Center

The Iowa Park Animal Reclaim Center is always in need of items to help care for animals in their care, including food, blankets, collars, treats and cash donations.

All kinds of other things

This month is the perfect time to visit our nursing home residents, deliver Meals on Wheels for the Iowa Park Friendly Door Senior Citizens Center, or volunteer at our amazing Tom Burnett Memorial Library.

The best Christmas gift you can give, or receive, this year is doing something for someone else. It’s called love, and Iowa Park has lots of it.

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Burn the keyboard and pass the Kleenex

I had to lay down my tissue, my antihistamines, nose spray and pride to write this week.

I can only hope the maid I don’t have will remember to disinfect my keyboard, or burn it, whichever. It matters not to me at this point.

It’s been a confusing week, at best, for me as I wasn’t sure if I have been afflicted with allergies ,a cold, or my most recent self-diagnosis: death by head implosion and snot.

Again, it makes no difference at this point, because I’ve resigned myself to sit in a sea of Kleenex, and let my clients believe that I am bringing small horses to see them.

I had talked to my pharmacist, Joe,  about it Monday, who told me allergies really have been bad in the past week, so I loaded up on antihistamines. I took his advice because the last time I thought I was dying I went to the doctor.

I paid $150 that time to find out that I was not dying, but in fact had the worst kind of cold….the common kind. The kind nothing can be done for, except paying $150 to find out you have it.

This time, I started treating allergies that I believed had the ability to kill me, but would opt not to because I had a lot to do this week. My allergies, I like to believe, have a heart.

By Tuesday, I was suspecting I had a cold because I was sneezing, coughing, blowing and walking around begging for a 24-hour long nap in a string of words that were unintelligible. That last thing is not unusual and the reason nobody took me seriously.

The same day, I was talking to a client on the phone to let her know I was on my way with a photographer to do a photo shoot for an ad. I said, “I may be bringing my cold with me.” She heard, “I may be bringing my colt with me,” and prepared to accomodate me and a small horse.

She was relieved when I showed up in my car with no pony in sight.

I arrived at work Wednesday to find out I had spread my allergies to my boss, the publisher, who also suspected she was dying.

My sweet husband, who is more afraid of my germs than my cooking, has been air-kissing me from two feet away all week. My dog doesn’t even want to give me sugars. It hurts.

So, as I write this I am in an office that sounds like the tuberculosis ward in a duck-call factory, and looks like a cannon shot used Kleenex into my work area. Kevin and Sherrie, my co-workers, won’t come near me and have begun flying their copy to my desk via the “paper airplane” method, and taking cover when I blow my nose.

beautiful sick woman in bed taking medicine

My boss is just glaring at me from behind a Kleenex.

Good times at the Leader.

Update: September 22, 2016. I arrived at work this morning bearing gifts of wellness and cold medicine to a boss (who is also my mother) who now hates me. A lot. She is ill, very ill. I crammed the medicine down her throat; then found out my other two co-workers who were just fine yesterday are also sick today. So, I crammed the medicine down their throats. I’m sick. I’m unpopular. And, I’m ready to go home.

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Friday Night Lights & Texas Homecomings

It was brought to my attention this year while talking to a marketing rep out of Washington State that not everybody ‘gets’ homecoming and football in Texas. He needed something from me – specifically time on the phone – in the last two weeks, and I didn’t have it to give. When he didn’t understand the words “homecoming has thrown up all over my desk,” I asked him if he’d ever seen the show Friday Night Lights. 

He had.

Then I said, “so you understand that football is close to its own religion in Texas, right?”

“Riiiiggghhht,” he answered, but I could tell he still didn’t understand that preparing for homecoming week is like preparing for the Pope to pop into town for the weekend once a year every year.

What this market rep does know is that he won’t get to talk to me until next week because, Homecoming in Iowa Park.

I never really considered that everyone didn’t grow up with Homecoming and bon fires and parades because it’s all I’ve ever known. I suppose all small towns have multiple generations graduate from the schools and have Friday night community reunions at the stadium.

It’s really easy to take that for granted, I think. I totally forgave myself when I realized this was my 47th consecutive homecoming in Iowa Park, so it is kind of like breathing.

This year, I decided at the last minute to take pictures at the game and really pay attention like I had never seen it before. Of course, I got distracted … a lot … by talking to people I hadn’t seen in 35 years (Shout out to Richie Haschke and Jeff Dietrichson!) and of course, by the FFA Corn on the Cob Stand.

This is for anyone who has never lived this charming spectacle called homecoming, unique in its own ever-evolving tradition and what it looks like to each generation. Absorb the glory, y’all.

Last week, I wrote about what I anticipated the weekend would hold. I think I hit the nail on the head on several counts but nothing was better than when my mother said, “I have never seen so many fanny shorts.” Also, pickle pops were 2 for $1 at the concession stand.


A couple of disclaimers. All I had was my iPhone, so you get what you get. I played with filters. More accurately, I took liberties with those filters. I never said I was a photographer … enjoy.



The Town

Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas, Population 6,355.

Itinerant merchants should consider themselves warned.


Every year, Iowa Park has a Homecoming weekend in which reunions are held; alumni meet; and there are parades with fire trucks and floats, and bon fires and pep rallies, and a football game and a fabulous southern festival we Iowa Parkans call Whoop-T-Do. This is in a three-day period, and working at the newspaper it makes me tired and I need many naps.

The Crowd

The Homecoming Crowd (second disclaimer of the the post, and most likely not the last: Our stadium is not shaped like this. It seems that the iPhone panoramic shot can manipulate time and space) I have no idea what the capacity is, but rest assured it was full.


The Tradition

Robert Wilcox, Iowa Park Hawk announcer for more than 65 years and considered by many to be the cornerstone of Hawk tradition around these parts.

He has the best announcer’s voice, and has never missed a game.

This picture is what I meant when I was talking about generations. I know these fine people and that sweet baby boy is a third generation (maybe fourth) Hawk and the grandfather who is holding him played on the state champion football team the year my family moved to Iowa Park in 1969.


The Mum

I’m going to be blunt here, and most likely indelicate. But in the words of my grandmother, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without seeing  mums. I could have taken pictures of mums forever. (Disclaimer: The Iowa Park Hawks beat the Bobcats 37-24, and there was no pun intended. I swear.) I’m sure you’re going to see glimpses of  mums in pictures to come, but the one below is the only full-on mum picture I took, for a few reasons.

wes_edited-1Wes and Kelsie of Chicago came home for Wes’ 10th class reunion at IPHS, which is so cool. Kelsie, is from Lubbock and had never had a mum because it was a large school. This was Kelsie’s very first mum, and the fact that Wes is wearing his high school football t-shirt, and Kelsie is wearing his Mom’s football pin of him from high school dead center in the flower is freaking amazing and so creative. For those who don’t know about mums, here are few fun fact:

  • Names of you and your beloved are on the streamers.
  • There are bells. Lots of them. If you hate casinos because of the noise, you will be allergic to homecoming.
  • You will see all kinds of things on mums these days, including feathers, tiny little helmets, and my personal favorite and seen for the first time this year … lights. Like little LED lights. If I ever get to luge in my life, I want to do it with waterproof and shock-proof LED lighting, for effect.

(Yet another disclaimer. Wes is not only one of my very best friend’s son, he was also one of my son’s roommates at Texas Tech. Am I playing favoritism? Absolutely not. I don’t think so. I like to think of it as serendipity. I made a mental note to be on the lookout for interesting mums and I happened to run into them in the parking lot before the game. If that’s not serendipity, I don’t know what is. )

Pre-kickoff Star-Spangled Banner by the Iowa Park Mean Green Marching Machine.


This is the view of Hawk Stadium from the concession stand about 10 minutes before game time. The band plays their beautiful rendition of the National Anthem; folks stop what they’re doing and place the nachos they just purchased between their knees and place their hands over their hearts. The sun may not set in the West (just kidding, it will) but this will always be what the start of a home Hawk Football game looks like.

And while we’re on the subject . . .

The Food

Oh Lort. The food.

The concession stand in Iowa Park is run by the Iowa Park Band Boosters, and really has a big variety – the largest I’ve seen in all my years of attending games. However, Homecoming night, if you only want popcorn and a coke, it takes about 30 minutes and that is not during peak time.

Smart people plan ahead:


Corn on the Cob by the Iowa Park FFA … ’cause it’s roasted in the husk then dipped in butter. Also, it is ridiculously good. Like this one:


And, because in Texas one must season with wild abandon …


The Selfie

I don’t normally do selfies, but the irony in this did not escape me. I’m taking dinky pictures with my phone (and I will admit I shamed the family with my selfie stick), and this guy sitting next to me is one of the best photographers I know. Seriously. He’s my brother, Kevin, but he’s also one of the best photographers in the state of Texas (and has hardware to prove it). He and my dad before him (newspaper family thing) have walked these sidelines almost 50 years documenting the Hawks as a passion and vocation. In Iowa Park, the two of them would be considered a tradition.

 Kev also played football on this field when he went to IPHS.

(Disclaimer: I think he hated this)


My favorite picture of the night.

I call it young love meet homecoming meets cell phones.


The Game

I use to shoot football for the paper and know full well that getting a really good live action football shot with an iPhone is as likely as me eating a Brussels sprout. So please, if you’re expecting to be wowed by my mad action football photography skills, lower your standards.


This is really the best I could do, which was get a good, sharp picture of a duffel bag of footballs. Only it was accidental  the footballs alone turned out that good. I kind of was going for the many elements of a football game in one picture  –player action, crowd, referee, coach, trainer and bag of balls – proving you can never have too many.

Apparently everyone in the picture below was being relatively still since they don’t look like they’re in the witness protection program. Much. Some of them, anyway.


I took this picture of the referee coming out onto the field at the beginning of the third quarter. I felt of sudden pang of empathy for him, realizing that both sides equally cuss the referees. So, hats off to you guys….don’t know why you do it, but thanks. (Disclaimer: I’m not real sure that holding call in the first quarter was legit, but I am letting it go. )

refIt appears my iPhone chose to focus on the Hawk instead of the  man in stripes because he is moving waaay too fast for an iPhone to focus. I’m fine, I tell myself. It’s artsy.

No, it’s not.  But remember, I didn’t promise you a rose garden.

However, things are about to improve.

Because, yay touchdowns!


The Spirit

Although I was never a cheerleader after having early problems with confusing claps and stomps , I have mad respect for the these ladies and athletes. These are the 2016 Hawk Cheerleaders.


I got worried early in the night when the flag corp (students that run with flags that spell H-A-W-K-S after every touchdown), when the K and the S were missing. However, K and S found their way back and helped announce the last four touchdowns.


The band. This one took me back because until the end of my freshman year in high school I played bass drum. I only quit because I had to march sideways with it, and at 90 pounds, a strong wind could blow me and my bass drum into the visitor’s parking lot.

Truly, no homecoming or football game is complete without the band. Iowa Park’s Mean Green Marching Machine is as much a part of the tradition as the game.

bandThe Queen

What we’ve all been waiting for. The announcement of the Homecoming Queen. This year was incredibly special as Alex Van Natta was voted the 2016 Iowa Park High School Homecoming Queen.


This photo was provided by Iowa Park Leader photographer and this blogger’s brother, Kevin Hamilton. I told you he was good. Also, even my iPhone knew this moment was too special for it’s limited skills. Not one photo I took of Alex came out. Thanks Kevin; congratulations Alex; and I hope each of you enjoyed spending Homecoming in Iowa Park even it was through this blog.

One more, because

This was one of my more favorite shots because, the look on this little guy’s face says it all.



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Monkey McBites enable my avoidance issues

That’s right . . . I have avoidance issues, and it’s been a weird couple of weeks.

I walked into my office after lunch a couple weeks ago to the news that the artist formerly known as Prince and now known as Prince again had died.

Immediately I picked up the phone to share the news with my husband, who said, “You called to tell me that?”

“I did,” I responded as if it weren’t already fairly obvious since that’s the only thing I had said. “I thought you would be as upset as I am. I mean, Prince helped kill disco.”

When that didn’t help, I began ticking off a frantic list of my favorite Prince songs: Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain and all those songs that butchered the English language by replacing words with letters and numbers. Am I right? I was not, according to my man, and I love him regardless.

Following a 24-hour news cycle of all things Prince – like I needed to be reminded – it was back to all politics, all day.

Like I needed to be reminded.

Because of this, I entered the avoidance phase of that news.  I’ve started looking for anything but those things, as well as anything to do with the Kardashians or reminders that swimsuit season is “just around the corner.”

And let me tell you, avoidance can be a slippery slope, my friend – it catapulted me into my own version of a Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom-esque trip down memory lane.

During my avoidance journey I first  learned about Inky, an octopus being held in National Aquarium of New Zealand. Inky made what is being called a daring escape from his tank through a small gap at the top, then scampering eight feet across the floor and sliding down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke’s Bay and freedom.

It’s not often I can write a story about the liberation of wild sea life that doesn’t involve a child running down the beach pumping her fist.

Nope, Inky the Octopus freed himself with no pomp or circumstance and slipped quietly back into the sea in New Zealand. I have mad respect for Inky and the way he escaped while quietly saying, “you don’t own me.”


Go, Inky, go.

What followed could not be made up.

I was proof-reading the police story for last week’s Iowa Park Leader – you remember, the one that had a report about a monkey bite at a local drive-through restaurant? Yes . . .  that one.

Well, nobody said a word to me about it. It was just handed to me to read with no warning whatsoever like this kind of stuff happens all the time in Iowa Park (a town that made it on Hee Haw several years ago, by the way).

As I hope you can imagine, this stirred up all kinds of questions and horrible ideas on my part, not the least of which was asking for the headline “Monkey McBite in Iowa Park!” in the largest type possible on the front page and above the fold. I did not win that fight, which I am calling our biggest editorial flub since we misnamed “disc golf” a couple years back in our paper.

Of course, this is why I don’t call the shots here.

But I found out quite a bit about it and found that the person bitten is really doing well considering he or she did not see it coming when they put on their work clothes that morning, and actually sustained very minor injuries.

The monkey was described to me as a Capuchin monkey that resembles an angry old man. Since I have met several who matched this description, I immediately wanted to meet the monkey.


My inner monkey.

I’m not defending the monkey, but I have felt like biting no one in particular for no good reason on several occasions in my life so we have a little bit in common.

Anyway, it sounds like everyone is fine and the monkey is being quarantined to check for monkey fever or whatever they’re checking for, and I’m sure they’ll find out he was just having a bad day and send him home. Then all will be well.

Except for the scar the employee at the drive-through will probably carry through life that is similar to a finger scar I got after being bitten on the finger by a hamster at the local TG&Y many, many years ago.

The memories came flooding back to the day that I stuck my inquisitive 6-year-old finger between the bars of the tiny cage and the hamster asked me to leave in the only language he spoke – with his teeth. If the verbiage sounds dramatic, it should. Hamsters have abnormally large bottom  front teeth.



To my knowledge the hamster wasn’t quarantined afterward, but probably sold to another six-year-old whose mother fed it until its life came to a natural conclusion a couple weeks later.

This week, I found myself talking to a great life-long friend who now owns The Community  News in Aledo, and whose father happened to be manager of the Iowa Park TG&Y at the time.

While I wasn’t calling him to help me work through the psychological wounds I suffered as the result of a hamster bite over 40 years ago, the topic did manage to come up.

He told me before their family moved to Iowa Park, his dad managed the TG&Y in Lubbock. In addition to hamsters,  Randy told me, TG&Y also sold live monkeys.

I am not joking, because monkeys are something we rarely joke about in North Texas.

You could, in the 1960’s and 70’s, purchase a monkey at a TG&Y, which I understand is a moniker for Toys, Games and YoYo’s (with a side of monkeys).

Randy said that while in Lubbock, his brother Steve was bitten by one the monkeys in the store after sticking his hand in the cage, or “pulling a Kari” as my family now calls it.

While the monkey was not quarantined, it did die shortly after. Steve, who was also not quarantined, is alive and well and living in the metroplex without a pet monkey, I’m told.

I say all of that to say this: Rest in Peace to  Prince, disco, the monkey who bit Steve,and all news political and Kardashian. Also – Godspeed, Inky.

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Some sweet puppies in Iowa Park need your help

Quick Note: Apparently, this is the year of the dog. The following is a column I penned that ran this week in the newspaper I work for, the Iowa Park Leader, asking for donations to our animal reclaim center after close to 50 animals that were neglected  were seized by the city. Most were Italian Greyhounds, but there were Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Dachshunds, as well as other lost and abandoned animals that were already being held looking for new homes. This created an unexpected and huge need for supplies to care for the animals. Read on, and if you can, donations are being accepted. Also, I’m going to ask to you share this one . . . Thanks to my readers throughout the world – y’all are the best!

italian greyhound

Last week, Iowa Park experienced a situation that isn’t often experienced, and one I hope is never repeated.

The city took custody of close to 50 dogs, most suspected to be neglected and part of a working puppy mill here.

The purpose of this column is to give credit to our city and citizens in times like this, and to underscore a need that still exists to take care of these animals.

Our city of 6,400 has been working to expand our animal control reclaim center for a while now, and has asked Iowa Park’s 4B for funds to help with that expansion. The 4B committee has generously agreed to help, and plans are in the works for that new facility.

Still, when the city took custody of the dogs over the last week, our animal reclaim center did not have adequate facilities to house them, and were not prepared.

These are the times Iowa Park shines.

By the first evening when 34 of those dogs had been seized, dozens of volunteers had come to help build a safe shelter for these dogs, some of whom city officials don’t believe had seen daylight or felt grass on their paws in their lives. People also donated hundreds of pounds of dog food, blankets and dog houses, as well as giving the little guys baths.

I also know many people who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the animal reclaim center to insure a safe and healthy environment for these dogs, and all animals without homes in Iowa Park.

I have personally seen people donate food, collars, blankets and other needed items to the local animal reclaim center because they do their best to get animals back to their original owners or into new homes before they have to be euthanized.

With that said, the city has specific needs in regards to adequarely caring for these dogs, and they include specific items, gifts cards, cash donations and volunteer help.

They will continue to need blankets, towels, cedar chip bedding, dog food (both hard and soft), dry soft puppy chow for the weaning puppies, dog toys, a metal trash can with a lid, spray nozzle, and gift cards to PetSmart, Petco or Atwoods.

Any donations may be dropped off at the Iowa Park Police Department, or be mailed to P.O. Box 190, Iowa Park, Texas 76367.

Volunteers are still needed, mostly in the morning. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help with the dogs should contact the Iowa Park Police Department, 592-2181, to sign up.

While the city has been overwhelmed and appreciative of the interest in the welfare of these dogs, the animal reclaim center has been closed to the public and only authorized personel will be permitted on site, so it is imperitive that those wishing to volunteer call.

Since 34 of the 50 dogs received last week remain part of ongoing judicial proceedings, they may not be adopted out yet. However, there are several dogs available for adoption. Anyone wishing to adopt may submit an adoption application at the Iowa Park Police Department.

Many of you reading this may not know that this community came together 45 years ago and built Hawk stadium, all with donations and volunteer labor. And I’ve seen it dozens of times since then, when there is a need.

It’s what our community does. It is at the heart of what makes this community so special.

Many thanks to the people in Iowa Park for your willingness to help those in our community who don’t have a voice.

You are all helping to turn  something bad into something good.

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Old Dog, New Tricks

I went back to school last week.

And for those of you who admire – at my age – that I went back to school, I should tell you it was only a two-day school. But it was an intense two-day school, so you can admire me if you want. I’ll take it.

The school I went to was in Arlington, and it was a school to learn the health and life side of the insurance industry.

And I’m doing this for the best of reasons.

Because I’m nothing if not a team player, I’m going to help my husband out with his business. He opened his insurance company several years ago, and has been a solo act since. A little more than two years ago, we found out he had kidney cancer. Lucky for us, they were able to remove the tumor along with his kidney, and he is now cancer-free.

However, things like that make you reassess what you need to be doing.

It was a few days after his surgery that Bobby looked at me and said, “you really need to get your license.”

Of course, I hoped it was the Vicodin talking.

It was not, I found out when he mentioned it well past that time in his recovery.

Since I’ve always been a crastinator that eventually went pro, It took me two years to actually take the first steps toward getting my license.

His annuity business has been growing in the past two years, leaving his medicare supplement business a little neglected. Although I am going to work with him on annuities, I will be effectively taking over his medicare supplement business.

But I’m not leaving the newspaper, I’ll be working with my husband when I’m not at work at the newspaper.

And that is only if I pass the test.

Teaching an old dog (me) new tricks (insurance) has been a little distracting for me, and I hope you will forgive that.

weimaraner puppy

I have crammed a lot of stuff into my brain over the last 30 years. So this school made it necessary for me to dump a tremendous amount of knowledge in order to fit in all of the new stuff.

So, if I forget your birthday, I am really sorry. But I can tell you the definition of a contract.  If I can’t put your name with your face (sorry Mom), it’s because I can now tell you what happens if you take a draw from your qualified money before you are 59 and a half years old. Even if I can’t remember how many children I gave birth to, I can remember the the open enrollment period for Medicare Supplements.

Or at least I hope I can when I take the test Monday.

Wish me all kinds of luck.

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Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas

Many of you know that for the money, I work at a weekly newspaper in Iowa Park, Texas. During my hours toiling at the newspaper office, I write a weekly column, sell advertising and utilitize my skills as a graphics artist. I often share my column on this blog, as I am today. The topic of it this week is welcoming Iowa Park High School alumni home for the biggest weekend of the year, Homecoming and our famous Whoop-T-Do festival.

Being a lifelong Texan, I sometimes take it for grantedthat all smaller towns consider high school football a religion, with services held each Friday night.

This is not necessarily the case.

It occurred to me that many of my blog readers and subscribers are not from around these parts, and never have been. It also occurred to me that many of you don’t even know where Iowa Park, Texas, is. (Shout out to Brazil, where I have my highest number of international readers!)

This is my introduction and welcome to Iowa Park, my hometown.


I moved to Iowa Park when I was four years old and my parents started the newspaper here.

My first Homecoming memory in Iowa Park was the homecoming parade that year. I remember being so blown away that they had real horses in the parade. And those horses pooped on the streets, which further blew my four-year-old mind. I mentioned it to several contemporaries at my pre-school the following Monday and that was the first time (of many) I got in trouble at school.

(Fun fact: my favorite curse word is horseshit, which may or may not be related to that incident.)

But I digress.

We moved to a community that continues to have fall festivals, is proud of it’s home-owned businesses, and will help people out in need whether they are sick with mounting bills, or hungry. Iowa Park is my hometown, and I have a great love for the community and her people, although I moved to Wichita Falls four years ago, and commute back every day.

2015 marks my 46th Iowa Park Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, which is to say I have probably eaten the collective body weight of the Green Bay Packers in sausage on a stick, funnel cakes and deep fried corn since I’ve been here. With it, of course, comes parades, homecoming queens, football games and bonfires.

……and great memories.

A newspaper is a recorder of a community’s history, in real time.

In the perfect world, community newspapers mirror the ebb and flow of life in the town they serve – births and deaths;  laws made and laws broken; meetings and dissenting opinions; victories and losses; and ultimately, the good and the bad.

We always hope for more good than bad, for the record.

A big part of Iowa Park’s tradition and history is the annual Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, so it is a big part of our year here at the Iowa Park Leader.

And it’s here …. so welcome home to all of you who don’t live here anymore. We are truly glad you came back.

I’ve never lived far enough away from Iowa Park to have to actually “come home” for homecoming. I live in Wichita Falls now, so I drive 30 miles round trip to my hometown almost every day.

Even if you come to Iowa Park fairly often, you probably don’t notice the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, changes over time.

This week I was thinking about what it would be like to look at Iowa Park with new eyes, so to speak.

So I tried to look at what life is like in Iowa Park on my way to work from Wichita Falls this week with those new eyes.

I’m here every day but somehow the changes don’t register because they are a part of the daily grind while they occur.

But when you come back after not being here a while, you notice those things.

A new housing addition. You can buy a beer or margarita in town for the first time since actual saloons were a thing and we had one in downtown Iowa Park. A growing mountain (lovingly referred to as Mount Trashmore, since it is our landfill) on the main highway. How beautiful Gordon Lake has become. Iowa Park has a McDonald’s? All of these things and more.


Gordon Lake

Our school campuses and Hawk stadium have changed in some fairly remarkable ways.

So look around and enjoy remembering the way things use to be.

Also, embrace the changes. Even with the changes you don’t like so much, it shows that Iowa Park is not in a rut – we are moving.

Of course, some things have not changed. Iowa Park still lives up to it’s name as “The Town of Friendly Living.” The spirit of giving and helping is still a cornerstone in this community. Our school pride and Hawk tradition remain as strong as ever. We are one of the few towns that has a full-service gas station and a home-owned newspaper, and our school cafeterias still serve hamburgers every single Wednesday.


Ray Copening, owner of City Cafe, and my Mom and owner of the Iowa Park Leader, Dolores Hamilton, sitting in front of City Cafe

After 46 years, the Iowa Park Leader still covers the history of Iowa Park as it happens, something we are proud of. With computers, social media and advanced technology, the method of covering the news has changed, but our dedication to reporting it has not.


Welcome to Iowa Park, IPHS alumni. We are glad you are a part of this week’s history.


The oldest building in Iowa Park, and office of my sweet husband, Bobby, BMC Retirement Planning


This is on the corner of that building, where I cut my name (with a heart over the i) when I was in junior high.

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