Passersby save man, child from fiery wreck

Passersby save man, child from fiery wreck

HEROIC RESCUE - Two passersby to a wreck on U.S. 287 Thursday stopped to render aid and ended up pulling a 4-year-old boy and his trapped 28-year-old father from a pickup truck that rolled over and caught fire. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Quick, selfless actions by witnesses to a wreck saved the life of a 28-year-old man and his 4-year-old boy.

Saul Arevalo de los Reyes of New Fairview was flown from the scene by LifeTeam 68 after he rolled a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer on U.S. 81/287 several miles south of Decatur about 7 Thursday night.

“He was headed north on U.S. 81/287 and the horse trailer started acting squirrely, going from side to side, causing the driver to lose control,” said Department of Public Safety State Trooper Adolfo Patterson. “He ran off the road and flipped over.”

The truck then caught fire leaving the driver, Reyes, trapped inside. Amazingly the boy, strapped into a car seat in the center seat of the pickup, was uninjured. No horses were in the trailer.

One of the first on the scene was Steve Hilton of Wichita Falls. He stopped after he saw the crash and freed the boy from the crushed, enflamed truck, pulling him out of the broken rear window.

“The boy had unstrapped himself from the car seat and was moving frantically back and forth, trying to help his dad,” Patterson said.

Hilton, afraid the burning truck might explode, told the boy to run down the bar ditch where his wife grabbed and comforted the boy until emergency personnel arrived.

He was humble about his efforts.

“It’s just the thing you’re supposed to do,” Hilton said. “You stop and try to help people when you see something like that.”

Hilton then tried to free Reyes from the truck, but the fire had already made the truck too hot. He ran up to the highway and attempted to flag down an 18-wheeler in the hopes of getting a fire extinguisher. At this point, a second witness had pulled over to help.

Miguel Anvures of Cleburne braved the flames and proceeded to pull the man out of the passenger side of the truck.

“I was headed the opposite direction, and all I could see was the horse trailer flipped up,” Anvures said. “I pulled over and ran down there, and the truck was on fire. (Reyes) couldn’t move at all. He kept screaming, ‘Let me out! I don’t want to die!’”

Reyes couldn’t move because the accident had severed his spine. He also had several internal injuries.

“If they hadn’t pulled him out, he would have suffered severe burns, too and probably would of died,” Patterson said.

Anvures was also humble about his actions.

“I just tried to do what I thought was right,” he said. “If that ever happens to me, I hope somebody will do the same for me.”

Reyes was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He was scheduled to undergo back surgery on Friday. Decatur and East Wise fire departments, DPS, Wise County medics, Decatur police and sheriff’s deputies responded.

The northbound lanes were closed for more than half an hour.

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Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. today at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

NO SERVICE is scheduled for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

SERVICE for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is pending at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

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Boy loses leg: Father credits grandfather, first responders with saving son’s life

Boy loses leg: Father credits grandfather, first responders with saving son’s life

CRUCIAL RESPONSE - The father of a four-year-old New Fairview boy who lost his leg as a result of lawn mower accident said the actions of the boy's grandfather and first responders saved his son's life. Pictured from left are Wise County medics Nate Mara, Brandon Sutter and Jerry Taylor. Not pictured are medic Derek Pellizzari and members of the East Wise Fire Rescue, who was first on scene. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A 4-year-old boy from New Fairview who was horribly injured after being run over by a riding lawn mower in a tragic accident Friday, March 23, has lost his leg.

His father, Jason Carter, confirmed that the boy’s left leg had to be amputated the same day he was admitted to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. It was a 12-hour procedure. He’s had to go through multiple surgeries, but he has been moved out of intensive care.

The boy had been riding on the mower with his grandfather, Louis W. Carter, 57, just one of the many things they’ve done together for years. The boy hopped down. At that point it’s unclear what happened. They’re not sure if the boy stopped to pick something up or just look at something, but when the grandfather spun around a moment later on the zero-turn mower, his grandson was right there behind him. He couldn’t see him, and the boy was pulled underneath the mower and into the spinning blades.

The grandfather called 911 and attempted to heave the mower off the child. He injured his back severely in the process.

“My dad might never walk again,” Carter said. “He blew out two lower discs and crushed five vertebrae trying to pick the mower up.”

After blowing out his back, the grandfather then crawled to the neighbor’s door for help.

“My dad crawled all the way around the house on his belly and started banging on the front door of the neighbor he was mowing grass for to get help,” Carter said. “If it wasn’t for my dad, he would not be alive.”

It was actually a blessing he was not able to lift the mower.

“An artery in the leg was completely severed,” Carter said. “If dad had gotten the mower off of him he would of bled to death before the ambulance got there.”

It took three emergency responders to lift the mower off the trapped and bleeding boy.

Efforts by the boy’s grandfather and first responders, including paramedics and firefighters, are the only reason his son survived, Carter said.

His son has shown tremendous strength throughout the ordeal, and he’s thankful for everyone’s prayers.

He added that the boy’s grandfather, his father, also needs prayers as he is overcome with grief over the accident.

Carter said his father and his son have always been inseparable. Since the child’s mother lives elsewhere, the grandfather is with the child every day.

“Since he was six months old there hasn’t been a day go by they haven’t spent together,” Carter said. “They get up at 7 a.m. and eat breakfast, and then they go running all day. My dad’s life revolves around my son.

“From when I go to work until I get home, he’s with my dad. He’s his best friend. I couldn’t of dreamed of my dad and my son having such a great relationship.”

Shriners Hospital has informed the family they will help provide the boy with a prosthetic leg. Shriners Hospitals for Children has designed and provided thousands of prosthetics to children. The hospital regularly replaces them as children grow.

FIRST RESPONDERS PLAY CRUCIAL ROLE

Carter said he couldn’t be more impressed with the professionalism and the compassion employed by the first responders at the accident, including Wise County medics and volunteers with East Wise Fire Rescue.

“They went above and beyond,” Carter said.

“Anytime we have a patient, no matter the severity, I try to treat the patient like I would want one of my family members treated,” said paramedic Nate Mara. “We’re just one link in the chain, with the firefighters and the helicopter crew.”

The medics and firefighters have been keeping up with the condition of the boy.

“Anytime you have to go to a severe call, especially with a child, you want to follow up and find out how they are doing,” said Wise County paramedic Brandon Sutter. “One of the nice things about working out here is that you are able to. I’ve worked in big cities and for big systems, and you’re not able to do that as easily.”

EMT Jerry Taylor said despite the severity of the situation, the teams couldn’t have handled it much better.

“There was such a calm demeanor when we got there,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t have worked it out much better if it was being drawn up in a training room.”

Lawn mower injuries near epidemic levels

Although the tragedy sounds like it should be a rare accident, it’s a lot more common than people might think.

“The statistics on childhood amputations caused by lawn mower accidents are shocking,” said Kendra Calhoun, president and CEO of Amputee Coalition.

She said more than 600 children undergo mower-related amputations each year, and that major limb loss for children under the age of 10 is most commonly caused by lawn mowers.

The Amputee Coalition reports lawn mower-related injuries account for more than 51 percent of traumatic amputations among children.

“Lawn mower accidents where a child loses a limb are not uncommon,” said Sue Stout, Public Policy Director with the Amputee Coalition. “These are such tragic accidents because it almost always is a parent or grandparent, and the kid thinks it will be fun to ride with them. And it is until something happens.”

The coalition encourages that children under 12 never be allowed to ride or even be near a mower, even if it is turned off.

“Although these accidents are so awful and tragic, they also provide an opportunity to prevent other accidents like this from happening,” Stout added.

The Amputee Coalition offers several safety guidelines:

  • Never allow children to play on a lawn mower, even if it is turned off;
  • Never allow a child to ride on a riding lawn mower with you;
  • Keep your children indoors and do not allow other children to play nearby while you are mowing; and
  • Children should be 12 years of age or older before operating any lawn mower and at least 16 years old to operate a riding mower.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010. Almost 17,000 of those occurred to children 18 years old and younger. Lawn mower-related injuries are up 3 percent since 2009.

The coalition reports there are 2 million people living with limb loss in the United States. Main causes for loss are vascular disease (54 percent), trauma (45 percent) and cancer (less than 2 percent). Approximately 185,000 amputations occur in the United States every year.

April happens to be National Limb Loss Awareness Month, and there are numerous resources where people dealing with limb loss can find support. There are hundreds of amputee support groups across the nation, including one in Decatur. Amputees in Motion (AIM) meets at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the board room of Fit-N-Wise in Wise Regional Health System located in Decatur. For more information on AIM, call Tammy Myers at (903) 746-5091.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 235,000: People treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010
  • 17,000: Number of children 18 and under treated for lawn mower injuries in 2010
  • 600: Number of children who undergo a lawn mower-related amputation every year
  • 51: Percentage of amputations for children under the age of 10 that are caused by lawn mower injuries
  • 185,000: Amputations that occur in the United States every year
  • 45: Percent that are trauma related
  • 2,000,000: People living with limb loss in the United States

WEBSITE AND FACEBOOK COMMENTS:

It speaks to a person’s character as to how they speak of their parents. It is wonderful how this man speaks of his father, and the love his father has for his son and grandson. I know that this family is going to have a tough row to hoe, but they will be fine. That’s character. Please let us, as a community, know if we can do anything to help. Bless you.
Lisa Peyton

tragic accident :(
Katy Tompkins

Praying for the little boy and his grandfather. This story breaks my heart.
Karen Mitchum Faulkner

Lots of love, prayers and wishes for recovery sent to this family. My nephew is 4 and fascinated with the lawn mower. It could have happened to any of us. I am truly moved by this and so want everything to work in their favor from here on!
Alicia Reasoner

What a traffic accident. Our prayers are with the family and with the grandfather; he did a heroic act
Connie Maldonado-Robledo

I only ask to have future accidents like this from happening. Poor thing! What a tough little boy. Prayers for the family and him.
Mary Frizzell

Tragic. God bless that little boy. An accident can happen to anyone.
Frank Espinosa

Prayers for the little boy & his grandpa (and family) for strength and healing. God bless them both!
Missy Kennemer Stephens

Heartbreaking tragedy
Kim Cordell Harris

I hope the little boy is going to be OK and I know the grandfather has got to be sick over the ordeal. Prayers to all!!
Ronda Wofford Marshall

Praying for healing for the boy, but also praying for that grandfather! Can’t imagine the horror he’s going through!
Diane Sumner Barnes

Dang, that’s really horrible. Nightmare for everyone involved.
Frank Espinosa

Posted in Features, News1 Comment

Boy injured in lawn mower accident

Boy injured in lawn mower accident

CRITICAL LIFTOFF - Medics wheel a 4-year-old boy critically injured in a lawn mower accident to a CareFlite helicopter waiting to carry him to Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth. The boy suffered serious lacerations to his left leg and stomach. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A 4-year-old boy was critically injured when he was run over by a riding lawn mower in an accident about noon Friday in New Fairview. He might lose his left leg.

”The boy was walking behind his grandfather as he was mowing the yard,” said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Investigator Josh Reynolds. “As he turned the mower, he didn’t see the boy, and he ran right over him.”

When paramedics arrived, the child was conscious but trapped under the mower from the chest down. The boy had severe lacerations to his stomach and leg. Paramedics said the injuries don’t appear life threatening.

“He’s very lucky,” Reynolds said. “I’m surprised he’s not dead.”

GRIEF STRICKEN - A man was overcome with grief after he accidentally ran over his grandson with a riding lawn mower Friday afternoon in New Fairview. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A CareFlite helicopter landed in the backyard, just yards from the red mower, and flew the child to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.

The grandfather was so distressed he could not stand after the accident. He sat on the front steps of the home and buried his head in his hands. He was mowing the lawn for someone else and had taken his grandchild along.

“He wanted to go with grandpa today,” Reynolds said.

“The grandpa is torn all to pieces,” said neighbor Mike Page.

Page was in the kitchen at the back of his house when he heard screaming outside.

“I heard a bunch of hollering,” Page said. “I looked outside, and all I saw was a man standing next to a lawn mower.”

Not sure what had happened, Page grabbed his neighbor and headed across the street. They helped the East Wise Fire Department and Wise County medics who had responded.

“We lifted up the lawn mower as they cut the clothes loose and pulled the child out from under it,” Page said. “It looked like he lost three-fourths of his leg.

“It makes me tremble,” Page added, “especially knowing it was such a young child.”

Reynolds said it appears to be an accident at this point in the investigation. As of Friday afternoon, investigators did not want to release the names of those involved.

The accident occurred outside a home located in the 300 block of Latham Lane.

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Baby saved after near drowning

Medics and firefighters responded to a call Monday night that a 1-year-old baby girl had drowned in a bathtub.

The call came in at 8 p.m. from a home located in the 100 block of Private Road 4439, just north of New Fairview near County Road 4421.

The parents, Cody and Lecresha White, were giving the baby a bath when they stepped away for just a moment, they told investigators.

“They stepped back into the bathroom, and the baby was floating face down in the water,” said Captain Kevin Benton with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. “She wasn’t breathing.”

While waiting for medics to arrive, the father started CPR and was able to get the baby breathing again. The medics took over CPR once they arrived several minutes later.

About a half-hour later, the baby was flown from the scene by a LifeTeam helicopter to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the baby was still hospitalized. It’s unknown if any long-term damage will result from the near drowning.

“We’re all monitoring the situation very closely,” Benton said. “We’re all hoping she’s going to be OK. This was very unfortunate.”

The Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the incident.

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City ordinances not enforced

This is in reply to the letters sent in by Lou Moran and Joe Max Wilson in the Dec. 17 issue.

Mr. Moran, you say the city has laws and ordinances. I agree, but they are not enforced. And what right does it give the city attorney to call me on something I wrote in a complaint to go to court on? The city has not set a court date and said it would be after the first of the year before one would be set. This was back on Nov. 7.

He let me know the guy with the dogs would not be getting rid of the dogs that howl 24/7, and he was also told this by the city’s part-time code enforcer. I thought this was up to the judge. As a citizen of this fine city, what are my rights? None, as I see it.

Mr. Wilson, the complaints that I have turned in are on the neighbor (not neighbors) about the (pets, as you call them) howling dogs that are kept in dirty, trashy and bad-smelling dog pens. As you said, Wise County Animal Control, the Wise County sheriff’s deputies that work with New Fairview and the inspectors that work part-time with New Fairview can’t find actions or evidence to back up my complaints against my neighbor. Maybe you and Mr. Moran should take a five-minute drive by this place with the dogs as these other law-obeying people do. These dogs howl (not bark) 24/7. And this is my home, and I should have the same rights as the neighbors and their pets, as you call them. I am sure you or Mr. Moran or other law-obeying people would not want to be woke up three or four times a night by these howling dogs.

There will be peace on my street and in the neighborhood when you can get someone to enforce the laws and ordinances.

Gerald Upchurch
New Fairview

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Fires destroy home, damage another

Fire Escape

FIRE ESCAPE - Homeowner Joe Bishop was able to escape from his home Friday before firefighters arrived to put out the blaze. Messenger photo by Andrew May

A man awoke to find his house on fire early Friday afternoon in New Fairview.

Joe Bishop works nights and was asleep when his home started filling up with smoke.

“I woke up, and there was smoke all inside the home,” Bishop said.

East Wise, Rhome and Decatur fire departments responded at noon Friday to the modular home located in the 200 block of Latham Lane. Firefighters responded quickly, but it appeared to be a total loss.

While rushing from his home, Latham left the keys to his pickup inside. Even though it was only parked several feet from a front porch covered in flames, firefighters were able to protect it from damage.

Black smoke poured from the windows of the home. Bishop was sitting in a nearby ambulance. He suffers from asthma and inhaled some smoke.

“I don’t know what to do,” Bishop said. “I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before.”

Bishop thinks the fire started beneath the house. He doesn’t know what caused it.


Fire escaped burn barrels south of Boyd Friday afternoon burning a travel trailer, a vehicle and damaging a mobile home.

Fire departments were dispatched at 3:30 p.m. to the property on County Road 4860.

“The evidence indicates the physical origin of the fire was the burn barrel,” said Fire Marshal Marc Dodd.

The mobile home’s occupant, Cindy Cheek, was issued two citations by Dodd for violating the burn ban and reckless damage because the fire crossed property lines. The Class C tickets each have a $500 fine.

“We’re lucky there was no wind. Otherwise, there were a lot of homes that would have been threatened,” said Dodd.

He explained that an arson charge would not be filed because the fire did not damage structures other than those on the property where it originated.

Rhome and Boyd fire departments responded from Wise County, and La Junta and Azle fire departments responded from Parker County.

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Arson suspected in 2 fires

Arson suspected in 2 fires

Finishing Flurry

FINISHING FLURRY - Firefighters Andy Torres and Dustin Hood of East Wise Fire Rescue attack "hot spots" from Sunday night's fire at 176 Prairie Trail in New Fairview. It was one of two mobile home fires on the street Sunday night. Messenger photo by Dave Rogers

Wise County Fire Marshal Marc Dodd said that while firefighters were putting out one suspicious mobile home fire Sunday night in New Fairview “it would appear” someone torched a second mobile home down the street.

Both fires to unoccupied, double-wide manufactured houses on Prairie Trail, south of County Road 4421 near New Fairview, were cases of arson, he said.

They were not the first suspicious fires in the area recently, Dodd said, but he said neighborhood homeowners shouldn’t panic.

”We’ve had a couple of fires in that area at unoccupied houses,” he said. “I think that’s (unoccupied homes) the target. I don’t think people who are living in occupied houses have to worry.”

The investigator declined to say how Sunday night’s fires were started or where in the houses the fires originated.

Members of the North Central Texas Arson Task Force were called to assist Dodd, because “I had two scenes to process in the middle of the night by myself,” he said.

The second blaze, at 227 Prairie Trail, was primarily confined to the attic because of the quick response of firefighters who were already on the first scene, up a hill 200 yards away.

Regardless, it made for a long night for neighbor Jamie Copen and her husband, Robert, who live next door to the second fire scene.

At around 11 p.m. Sunday, neighbors knocked on their door to tell them there was a fire up the street.

“We got woke up and told that the house is on fire over there,” Copen said. “We came out and checked it out, then went back to bed.

“Thirty minutes later, somebody’s banging on the door again to tell us the house next door is on fire now. Thankfully, somebody was here to put that one (next door) out.”

There was no meandering grass fire to link these two house fires. Further, there appeared little chance that a burning ember sparked the blaze at the house next to Copen’s, because Copen’s end of the street was upwind from the scene of the first fire.

A cool southern breeze blew across the 176 Prairie Trail lot as firemen pulled down what was left of the walls at around 1 a.m. and checked for hot spots. That fire was called in at 10:41 p.m. by a neighbor. The structure was fully involved when firefighters arrived, said Chief David Plankey of East Wise Fire Rescue.

“It was lit from one end to the other,” Plankey said. “We had to worry about fire extension (spreading to other lots), so we staged a couple of brush trucks downwind. But that’s not unusual.”

The second fire, about four lots down and across the street at 227 Prairie Trail, was called in by firefighters battling the first blaze at about 11:40 p.m.

“We were up there fighting that one and looked down here and saw a glow,” Rhome Fire Chief Robert Pratt said at the scene of the second blaze.

“We thought it was a grass fire, but it turned out to be a structure fire. We got here and there was heavy fire through the roof on the back and all in the attic. We did a good stop on it.”

Two dozen firefighters responded to the two fires from six departments – Boyd, Decatur, East Wise, Justin, Newark, Rhome – along with Wise County Emergency Services.

Still, there were almost more law enforcement vehicles than fire trucks on the scene, with state troopers and Wise County Sheriff deputies assisting the fire marshal and arson task force members.

Reports of a suspicious man around the site of the second fire had something to do with the heavy law-enforcement presence. However, that man was later determined not to be a suspect, Dodd said.

Both fires were extinguished by about 1 a.m., as the arson investigators were just getting started with their work.

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Fire in the hall

The East Wise volunteer firefighters are accustomed to putting out house fires, but it was their own house that needed attention Monday night.

That was because a firework struck the building and caused a small fire.

Wise County Fire Marshal Marc Dodd said a neighbor launched a rocket that ended up in the wrong place.

”He (the neighbor) said it went up, came down and then flew at a 90-degree angle when it hit an exterior wall of the fire hall,” Dodd said.

The firework struck just above a wall-mounted air conditioning unit and became lodged between the unit and the wall, setting the interior wall on fire.

The fire was extinguished in a matter of minutes because firefighters were in the hall at the time, having returned from fighting a hay bale fire earlier in the day.

Dodd said the neighbor confessed to causing the fire, and he was issued a citation for reckless damage.

Local firefighters were busy Sunday night and particularly Monday night as residents were free to shoot fireworks. However, Dodd said it appears that the number of grass fire calls this fireworks season (June 24-July 4) appeared to be right at the average for recent years. The average number of grass fires is 84.4, and Dodd said 84 grass fires had been reported this year.

The citation issued at the East Wise Fire Hall on County Road 4421 was the only one issued Monday, Dodd said. Although fireworks caused numerous grass fires, Dodd said he had not received reports that any fire had spread to someone else’s property.

Wise County was under a burn ban this year, but fireworks were allowed. The burn ban is in effect during days when red flag warnings are issued. There was no red flag warning this past weekend.

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Remember those who died to protect our home

The colors of the American flag ripple above as the winds toss and snap it, demanding my attention. I gaze at it in awe as it waves proudly against the cobalt sky. Mesmerizing colors melt and swirl together until they are one. They quickly reform with the next breeze.

My mind journeys back in time as I watch it. Red might be the blood lost in battle so we could have our freedom. Blue could be the blue-eyed soldier standing on the battlefield ready to give his life for ours. White may be the color of angels who ultimately guide our nation’s heroes to the next and final frontier. A frontier where there are no battles.

Highways and bi-ways moan and groan under the weight of thousands of motorists as they journey home in a never ending rhythm of gleaming steel and metal. Malls full of shoppers haggling over goods and rushing to sales. The farmer plowing a field in endless rows, praying for rain. The roar of the buses and trains and planes. Tiny windows glittering amber light within the towering skyscrapers overlooking it all. Our land. Our freedom. Our country.

Home after home I passed, as I commuted to my destination. Maybe someone in that endless row lost a father or brother or son or even a daughter. A life given so I could have mine. A century of lives given so we could have futures.

Thousands of soldiers who now lie forgotten in cemeteries washed away by time. Granite markers long gone, their names crumbled away by the winds and the sun and the rains. The once dotted hillside no longer carries the scars of their fight for ours. Wounds of battle long gone, only rolling fields of meadow grass dotted with the occasional wildflower, rippling in the silent winds. The same winds that whip the flag above me.

I gaze at the flag as people hustle by. They rush back and forth, reminding me of a million ants in an ant farm. One day a year set aside to remember them. One day. A day off work which has become a day for many to lie in the sun at the beach, or indulge in an enormous meal of barbecue and beers with family and friends. Laughing the day away, with nary a thought of what may well lie below their polished shoes.

Day after day they fought for us, year after year. Battle after battle was won, so we’d have a home to come home to, and food to sup. So we could have malls and trains and buses and planes. So we could indulge in the frivolities of existence.

The rip of a bullet meets flesh in a faraway country. A heart is broken stateside. A life forever changed. A child without a father, a father without a son.

I shed a tear to the beat of drums in the distance, as the majestic flag is lowered. It is carefully folded by two misty-eyed soldiers while dozens of watery eyes watch in hushed melancholy. They slowly march to the grieving widow and solemnly present it to her in unison. Her dark glasses hide her misery. Another life forever changed. Another life given so we could have ours.

The sun is setting on my meager home when I return. Golden hues gently light the familiar weathered wood and sagging sills. But today, somehow, it looks different. It looks better. It is a home that the soldiers built. Maybe not by hand, but definitely by spirit. A home within a city, within a state, within a great country. A country the eagle proudly soars over, an icon of remembrance of the sacrifices made for our land, for our homes, for our freedom, for our very existence.

I will make it a pact to remember the soldiers and thank them for what they have given us, every day.

Madden is an author who resides in New Fairview with her son, Dustin, along with her ponies, poultry, dogs and cats. She enjoys writing, fishing, shooting her pink guns and falling off her horse, Diamond. She dedicated this column to the soldiers, both past and present, who have fought for our freedom.

Posted in Opinion Columns0 Comments

Pray for the firefighter

The mighty hawk raced down from the heavens, soaring high above the Texas plain, his keen eye overlooking the vast prairie. His feathers glistened gold in the afternoon sun as he circled above the parched grasses. Gusting southern winds tossed him upward; he was thrown off course and came crashing toward the hardened earth in a downward spiral.

Shelly Madden

A moment before certain doom, he righted himself and alit on a nearby mesquite, waiting in silence for the whipping winds to subside. He had come to watch, and wait.

He gazed patiently from his bramble throne at the prairie grasses as they rocked to and fro. The winds whipped and churned them into waves of silken threads.

He caught the scent of smoke. He watched silently as a newly born flame began to crackle against the distant sky. Soon, embers floated on the angry winds. A story-high wall of fire quickly rose in his grassland. It hungrily marched northward, consuming everything in its path.

Smoldering, charred grasses lay in its wake. He rose into the sky once more, watching the scene beneath him unfold.

On a path of destruction, the raging wildfire was soon on course with nearby homes as they cradled their unsuspecting broods. Fueled by the relentless winds, it was now a force intimidated by none. It stretched as far as the eye could see. Trees in its path were quickly consumed, left behind were silenced ashes of their former majesty. Nothing would stop it.

Nothing, except the firefighters.

The mighty hawk could hear sirens wail their warning in the distance.

But the blaze marched on, it would stop for no one. Fiery tornadoes were spawned, and they spun out of control as the roaring winds coaxed them to greater heights. The sky burned orange as the hawk soared higher to escape the searing heat. His earth was on fire.

His wings cast silvered shadows over the brotherhood as they fought the hellish entity. Burning smoke wrapped them in cocoons of ash. The behemoth fought back, slashing them with tentacles of blackened soot. It had the winds to its back. It would not be quenched without a fight, it had the power, it had the fury. The war of eternity had begun once more.

The firefighters powered on, relentless in their pursuit. A human barricade formed along its path, a chain of living flesh stood armed and ready to risk their lives to save others. Camaraderie prevailed as they joined forces and bravely fought the maddened devil.

The monster would not live to see nightfall; it would not feed on homes or humans this day. Cascades of water fell on the flames, searing heat sizzled, sending plumes of superheated vapors heavenward. The serpent had met its match; it finally lay in ruin on the blackened plain. The battle was won, No casualties were claimed. The firefighters would go home to their families when dusk beckoned.

The mighty hawk circled the charred frontier once more, watching keenly from the clearing skies as the brigade soon disappeared, in pursuit of a flame newly erupted on the distant horizon.

A gust of wind whipped him upward into the clouds again, from where he had come. The Heavens parted, the gates of pearl opened to welcome his majestic re-entry. He was a bird no more. He sat on His throne in Heaven, smiling down in everlasting glory at the firefighters below.


This story is dedicated in gratitude to the men and women of the Rhome Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding counties who came to our aid; and to firefighters nationwide.

Shelley Madden is an author who resides in New Fairview with her son, Dustin, along with her ponies, poultry, dogs and cats. She enjoys writing, fishing, shooting her pink guns and falling off her horse, Diamond. She writes a weekly column for an entertainment magazine and is a frequent contributor to Heartwarmers and Petwarmers. Her short stories have also been published in newsprint and on numerous websites and e-zines across the nation. She aspires one day to learn how to change the lightbulb in her gun cabinet.

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Sarah Pond

SERVICE for Sarah Pond, 50, of New Fairview is 11 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Decatur with burial at 3 p.m. at Oak Grove Memorial Gardens in Irving. Family visitation is 5-7 p.m. Sunday at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

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Leonard Hatten

Service for Leonard Hatten, 66, of New Fairview is pending at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

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Leonard Hatten

Service for Leonard Hatten, 66, of New Fairview is pending at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

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