Pop A Top, again

I’m very excited because, according to the deep research (i.e. one Wikipedia article, a fabulous article in Western Digs, listening to iTunes, and a stroll down memory lane) I conducted this week, Gordon Lake in Iowa Park, Texas, has a shot at being eligible for protection under state and federal laws.

Why? Beer tabs.

Specifically pull rings from beer cans that were manufactured between 1965 and 1975.

This exciting news began with lunch at the lake, as it sometimes does.

About once a week I spend my lunch hour at Gordon Lake. Some days I eat in my car – a pimento cheese sandwich from K&K Foods or egg rolls from Scobee’s – whatever covers my food groups. Sometimes I walk along the shore.

Last week, I made my way down to the shore and found, in rapid succession, two aluminum pull tabs on the dry shoreline, but where water certainly used to be. To say I was excited was an understatement.

I envisioned a couple of old fishermen sitting on the shore in the 60’s, smelling of stink bait and exchanging fish tales with raucous laughter and a couple of cold ones.

So these things are possibly 50 years old, and they’ve been hanging out lakeside just waiting to be found.

Still covered in dirt, I took these pictures of the aluminum ring pulls next to the closest thing I could find, for scale.  Here ya’ go. 

They stopped making ring pulls in the mid-seventies because of two things: 1) Litter, and,  2) People who put them back in the can before they drank were choking on them. The pop-top industry evolved to something we recognize today.

They were highly popularized in 1967 by the Jim Ed Brown hit “Pop a Top”, followed by the lesser known but equally emotional song, “I almost cut off my middle finger opening Daddy’s beer”, written by me in 1974.

The article I read in Western Digs said those beer pull tabs are now considered historic-era artifacts, “a designation that bestows new significance on the old aluminum cans and their distinctive tabs that are still found across the country.”

“Once an artifact attains the 50-year threshold, it is eligible to be recorded as an archaeological site or an isolated find in most states,” said William Schroeder, an archaeologist with the firm Reiss-Landreau Research in Yakima, Washington.

“This means that even beverage-can pull tabs are eligible for protection under state and federal laws.”

I don’t know if I should read that and respond, “WOO-HOO!”, or check to see if I’ve broken the law by leaving the shore with those beer tabs.

There you have it. Alert the media. Iowa Park is possibly eligible for state and federal protection  because, beer tabs.

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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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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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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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I wrote this just before a 4 day nap

I just spent a gloriously exhausting week with my daughter and grandson.

They flew back home to South Carolina Wednesday, so if you need me, I am taking a nap that should last somewhere around four days.

During the week, there was lots of food, love, and remembering going on.

And exhaustion, which is what brought about the remembering.

They say you forget, and you do. But there is no replacement for a toddler in the house to make me think, “Holy crap. I lived through that … twice.”

My almost two-year-old grandson  climbs like a mountain goat and runs like a Weeble with a track star’s legs. In addition he has the quiet determination of Jaws, and the mind of an engineer.

I don’t know how his mother is still standing, as I now need some assistance. But admirably, she is.

In retrospect, I probably should have been training for American Ninja, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want the responsibility of getting a grandma ready for the toddler olympics. “Too much, too soon,” they would say. And they would be right.

A lot has changed in the 30 years since I’ve been completely in charge of keeping a tiny human out of harm’s way. Food has changed, rules have changed and my ability to read a toddler’s mind has wavered more than a little

There’s now a thing called “Almond Milk,” and I didn’t even know you could milk an almond. But you can, and I have a half gallon of the stuff in my frig.

As a matter of fact, from what I can tell so far, almost every single thing I did with my kids should have rained certain death upon them, from letting them sleep on their stomachs as infants to never, ever feeding them green peas.

My children should never have survived me.

We had front-facing car seats, for God’s sake, but at least we had car seats.

In retrospect, I do remember my own mother driving around Littlefield, Texas, while three-year-old me stood in the front seat of her Country Squire station wagon wearing only panties and singing Downtown by Petula Clark. In the event of a sudden stop, her arm was my seatbelt. Every generation has it’s shame.

We’ve gone from free-range tots roaming in the front seat (1960’s) to sort of strapping them in the front seat (1980’s) to a four-point rear-facing seating system that faces backward in the back seat, today.

And yet we all survived.

Now they are home safe, and I am finding sad reminders that they were here – Cheerios in the couch cushions, a back that may never be straight again and that feeling in my heart that I cannot wait to be this exhausted again.

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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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