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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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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Look for the helpers

With all eyes seemingly on the coast of Texas and Louisiana, I have been no different, keeping close watch on several good friends from high school who now live in Houston or the greater Houston area.

The historic hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday in Corpus Christi, and the result since has been record-breaking rainfall on United States soil, most of it in Houston and the surrounding areas.

News and social media coverage has made it much easier to get accurate news, and check on friends and family. Luckily, most of those I know have escaped injury and a significant loss of property.

Some have even been able (and more importantly, willing) to leave their homes and neighborhoods and help others deal with their losses.

We got word at the newspaper yesterday that several residents from Iowa Park left for the coast to aid in the rescue efforts. Some were sent with their jobs, and some went as private citizens and took boats with them. One of our locally-owned gas stations donated the fuel for the trip.

A locally-owned pizza restaurant, Ken’s Pizza, raised in one day $7,100 for the Red Cross to aid victims. Even more have begun collecting necessary items to truck south.

At tragic times like this it is important to look for the helpers, because it is far too easy to find the problems. There is still more good than bad, my friends.

One of my friends who lives in Port Arthur used humor to make it through the worst days, sending me a picture taken in her back yard of a croc … Seriously, a shoe – that Croc – that had ended up in her back yard,  and said, “some people might not find this funny, but …”

Finding a bright spot, something to smile inside about, in tragic times is a healthy coping mechanism, I think.

And because it is my lifelong vocation and passion, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the local media who are covering their respective communities, many of whom I’ve known most of my life.

Not only have several had significant personal and business losses, but they are also charged with accurately covering the damage as it is occurring. And they are doing it in many cases with no electricity and with their staff scattered all over the state, helping remotely. Their own homes will have to wait, but the newspaper will be printed for the good of the community.

With national rhetoric as of late tearing down this honorable profession, it’s important I think to cast a light on the importance of what they are doing.

It’s important to send prayers and love and thoughts to these people on the Texas coast, but if you can, send more.

Many reputable news organizations are publishing lists of what is needed by the victims – and what is not needed – with organizations all over Texas taking donations and getting them to the proper place. Check that out and do what you can, even if it is only $10, a box of diapers or some feminine hygiene products.

And to my friends and family who live there, or who have travelled there to help out, stay safe and keep making sure that love bats last. Your spirit is healing in many ways.

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The nostalgic streets of a small town

I’m a huge fan of music, and its many genres.

And because music affects my moods – or maybe it’s vice versa  – I tend to binge on an artist for days at a time.

The first time I heard Beyonce’s Lemonade album, I was hard to be around for a couple weeks because I wanted to get in Formation and talk about Becky with the good hair.

I act like I’m Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers if I listen to too much Maroon 5; and I am the most empathetic being on the planet after a day with Adele.

Last week, after meeting Lynyrd Skynyrd and Carlo, I was feeling a particular amount of southern pride and gorged myself on their music, with T for Texas hitting me in  feels.

Of course it did.

This week began my in-car relationship with John Mellencamp, which has made me nostalgic, particularly about my early days in Iowa Park.

I made out to many of his songs when I was in high school, because that’s about all there was to do in small town, USA, on non-football game nights. But that is both a different and highly-edited column.

Coincidentally, his song Small Town is what made me think of Iowa Park – both how it was when I was growing up, and now – in that our town can be incredibly simple and charming.

My friend, Gary, was talking  to me this week about growing up in the 1970s on Kathleen Street, just off the access road.

He said the place to be back then was the ditch between his street and Louisa. It was where he and several others I know spent vast amounts of time swimming after a rain; building forts when it was dry;  and reading girlie magazines and committing  other nefarious acts undetected.

They are likely the reason parents  today are worried their kid will end up in a ditch.

I don’t see kids in ditches here so much these days. Probably because we have a top-notch water park and beautiful lake with a walking track, playground, basketball court and pavilion in our town now. Our city is literally keeping kids out of the ditches, in my opinion … good work, city and taxpayers.

But back in those days, without video games, cable TV or computers, our version of Facetime was showing up at a friend’s house  in the morning while their parents were at work to eat burritos and watch Green Acres before the swimming pool opened. That’s what I was doing, anyhow.

We played on our neighborhood streets  in the evening like small, harmless gangs organizing pickup football and baseball, until just past dusk when our parents forced us back inside.

Things are different now, only not so different.

We have nicer public offerings for our youth, for sure. Also, technology, social media and summer sports camps have changed what summer looks like in communities like ours, at least on the outside.

But our youth still need contact, fun and room to grow, which they still get even if they aren’t getting it in a ditch or from watching Green Acres.

The same, but different.

Thank you, John Mellencamp, for the reminder of my years on earth, and particularly in this small town.

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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.

Seriously.

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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Seriously, Frank, I’m almost over it. Almost.

 

I almost had closure.

Iwasthisclose.

Then I was robbed by those contagious allergies I wrote about last week.

It was about this time of year in 1973 in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade classroom at Kidwell Elementary School that Frank Johnson and I had an impossibly long and intense week-long romance that involved going steady and seeing each other at school.

Frank Johnson was my very first boyfriend.

I cannot remember how that romance began, but I can definitely remember how it ended. I got over it, and eventually recovered enough to get married to another man … but I remember.

Frank’s best friend, third grade wingman and apparent Texas Longhorn fan Kent Roberts sat in front of me in class.

At some point, Kent turned around and broke up with me on behalf of Frank. Then, he gave Frank the “Hook ‘em Horns” signal to indicate that the deed was done.

Like I didn’t notice.

I was sad for a number of reasons. We had never skated at Sand Beach Skating Rink because we weren’t in junior high yet; he had never been my homecoming date; I had never even ridden on the back of his bike.

I asked Kent, who is now an attorney in Arkansas, about it this week and he didn’t specifically remember the incident, but did not deny it. In fact he said, “I was kind of a sensitive kid, and I hated hurting anyone’s feelings. I was probably so relieved to have discharged my friendship responsibilities, I gave the ‘all clear’ sign without, um, full awareness of context. This is why I’m not a litigator.”

He added, “I was just a third grader, but guys really don’t get much better at some of this stuff.”

I got my chance at closure last week when I found out that Frank, who is now Athletic Director and head football coach at Holliday High School, had picked Iowa Park to play for their Homecoming.

Holliday is only 20 minutes away from Iowa Park, which some would say is within stalking distance. I developed a plan for closure with the help of friends.

In an act of platonic love that should never specifically be compared to stalking, two of my best friends and I ordered Frank a garter mum and had it sent to him at school last Thursday.

frank

Coach Johnson, y’all.

Coach Johnson’s Homecoming dates for 2016 were no doubt his wife, myself, Darla Flick Inglish and Shawnee Henderson Raines, as well as the entire IPHS Class of 1983. The streamers on his garter mum confirmed that.

In the interest of full disclosure and to prove that none of us are tarts, we did this with the full awareness and permission of Frank’s stunning wife, Tammy.

I was fully prepared to go to the game Friday night and scream, “something bad is about to happen!” if any of Holliday’s play calls involved the “Hook ‘em Horns” sign.

But it didn’t happen.

This time I was robbed by contagious allergies gifted me by my sister, who is suspiciously a University of Texas fan, and spent Friday night listening to the game on the radio while floating in a sea of Kleenex, nose spray and Lysol fumes.

Frank told me the next day that he waited to see all of his dates after the game, and was stood up. He was a little hurt and I was resisting the urge to chuck up a double-handed “Hook ‘em Horns” in support. I’m sure this won’t still be haunting him in 45 years, but you never know.

I’m not going to say anything about the football game because my momma always said it was rude to talk about another person’s religion, but you can read about it on page 2B of this week’s Iowa Park Leader.

Obviously, I don’t give up hope so easy – there’s always next year if Iowa Park chooses Holliday for our Homecoming.

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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.

citylimits

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.

crowd2

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.
wilcox

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.

3generations

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.

flagsoverstadium

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:

massiveconcession

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:

friedcorn

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

cornfixins

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)

kk

My favorite picture of the night.

I call it young love meet homecoming meets cell phones.

romance

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.

balls_edited-1

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.

ahawk

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!

touchdown

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.

iphscheerleaders-com

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.

hawkflags_edited-1

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.

hcqueen

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.

crownbearer

 

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Homecoming time in Texas

It’s homecoming time in Texas, the time of year where you should be wearing a sweater and drinking pumpkin spice lattes, but instead it’s so hot you have to wear fanny shorts and suck on frozen pickle juice to avoid a heat stroke.

It’s the time of year for class reunions where there will be a certain awkwardness because Facebook has outed all the liberals and serious Candy Crush addicts, and everyone there will know who you are.

It’s the time of year when navigating your way around Hawk Stadium requires an absolute lack of personal boundaries or aversion to the sound of bells, specifically those attached to homecoming mums. It’s so crowded at the homecoming games that I understand it’s possible for children to be conceived with less physical contact than you will accidentally receive on your way to the fried corn on the cob wagon.

But even more noteworthy, it is a time of tradition; and rekindling of friendships; and of understanding change and reliving memories that shaped our lives.

You might notice the fact that the school you walked a mile to get to each day – uphill and in blizzard conditions – has changed.

Yes, the kids have it good these days, with a beautiful updated campus and a brand-new auditorium, gym, stadiums and more. They now carry their schoolbooks inside of a freakin’ iPad and enjoy stadium seating on the home side at basketball and volleyball games.

That mile is getting longer and the snow deeper, isn’t it?

But before you start shaking your fist like the old codger you swore to never become, think about this:

When the lever is thrown Friday night to turn on the lights at Hawk Stadium, you will be home.

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You will hear the familiar voice of Robert Wilcox, who has announced Hawk football games more than 65 years. You will hear your fight song and your school song; and you will not remember way too many names of people who have fond memories with you, but you will nod and smile like you do remember.

You may see turf in the place of the real grass you remember from your glory days, but there is a player on the field with the same drive and love for the game you had when you played.

Like me, you may remember sitting in those stands as a student . . . then a parent of a player, cheerleader or band member, and now as a nice return to all the goodness about small towns, including the fried corn on the cob the FFA sells at the home games. Mostly because it is home, but also because it gives us a human contact social media will never replace, and shouldn’t.

I fully expect it to be scientifically proven someday that the only cure for Facebook will be Texas homecoming games, which will give us a rather cool tourist industry. Mums would make great souvenirs and hot canned cheese poured over nacho chips from Sam’s  and sprinkled with  jalapeño slices grown in hell will be a destination favorite for people who still actually want to talk to other people face-to-face.

And that’s not all. There will be the annual bonfire Thursday night, Homecoming parade Friday afternoon; and Saturday promises a Whoop-T-Do, alumni activities and reunions. Add to that the many great restaurants and shops in town, and I smell the perfect weekend.

We will all be at the largest community gathering of the year where politics, religion and Candy Crush don’t matter. What matters is tradition and respect, and it’s already here.

Welcome home

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Iowa Park’s defacto community center

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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See?

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!

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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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