First baby: It took a few miracles, but little Winslow is finally home

First baby: It took a few miracles, but little Winslow is finally home

Wise County’s first baby of 2014 didn’t get a big party, bunches of balloons, truckloads of presents or a houseful of happy relatives.

She got a helicopter ride.

Winslow Brooks Ogle was born at 5:14 the afternoon of Jan. 1, a Wednesday, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

Early Fathers Day Present

EARLY FATHER’S DAY PRESENT – David Ogle holds his baby daughter, Winslow Brooks, at their home in Wise County. Although she’s nearly six months old, Winslow has just been home since April. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It didn’t take long for the medical staff to recognize something was wrong. The newborn, who weighed a healthy 7 pounds, 3 ounces, was pale.

After 20 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, Shelly Ogle got to see and touch her baby for just a few moments before the little girl was whisked away.

TENDER MOMENT – While mom Shelly holds her, dad David leans down to plant a kiss on little Winslow Ogle’s head. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“She was an average-size baby, and she was breathing and everything – but she wasn’t the bright red color they like to see,” Shelly’s husband, David, said.

Within 15 minutes, Wise Regional personnel had called the “Teddy Bear Crew” at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. A helicopter was on its way to take little Winslow to the neonatal intensive care unit.

It would be April 2 before she got home, after two major surgeries to correct a dizzying array of internal birth defects.

Twice in April, the family was back at Cook Children’s after infections threatened the child’s fragile hold on life, and it’s likely she’ll have more medical procedures as she grows up.

But since April 26, she’s been home with her mom and dad, in rural Wise County northeast of Bridgeport.

It’s finally time to celebrate the first baby of 2014, a chubby-cheeked cherub who is the apple of their eyes.

Touch of Love

TOUCH OF LOVE – Winslow’s finger still looks tiny compared to her dad’s. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

LONG-AWAITED PREGNANCY

The Ogles, who only moved to Wise County last August, waited until they were in their early 40s to start a family. David, a big bear of a man who served on nuclear submarines in the Navy, is facilities manager for Amazon in Haslet.

Shelly, by her own description an obsessive multi-tasker, used to work for Cisco Systems.

CHUBBY CHERUB – Nothing about baby Winslow’s appearance indicates the ordeal she’s been through in her short life. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I was the geek on the computer, working from home,” she laughs. “I’d put my coffee mug away and put my jacket over my Superman PJs for conference calls.

“Basically, I’m wired a little tight. I was working 10 and 14 hours a day, so I quit to get pregnant. It worked, but it took us a little while.”

Their ages made it a high-risk pregnancy, but batteries of tests revealed no issues. Shelly obsessed about her health, took extra vitamins, drank only distilled bottled water, and she and David did all kinds of research about parenthood. She planned to have a natural childbirth with no medication.

“We were feeling really good, and we got to New Year’s time. We were excited, flying high, ready to be parents,” David said.

Shelly went into labor at around 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve. After that, nothing went the way they had expected.

“The problem (Winslow)had was called transposition of the great arteries,” David said. “Instead of circulating the freshly-oxygenated blood from her lungs to her body, her heart was plumbed backwards. It was pumping good, oxygenated blood back to her lungs, and the non-oxygenated blood was going back to her body.”

He said babies, in the womb, have a valve that allows the blood to mix, since the lungs aren’t in use yet.

“Normally, as soon as they breathe air that valve closes,” David said. “So the helicopter crew gave her a drug that keeps that valve open and allows the continued mixing of the blood in her heart.”

A side effect is that the drug can also make the baby stop breathing – and that’s why Winslow’s dad and uncle, Jonas Scarbrough, beat the helicopter to the hospital.

“That’s what delayed the trip,” David said. “They had to intubate her, put her on a respirator.”

When David and Jonas got to the Fort Worth hospital they called Shelly, back in Decatur. While they were on the phone, she heard the helicopter taking off.

“I started crying because I knew that was my baby going to Cook’s,” she said.

Winslow had open-heart surgery five days later – but the heart defect was not the only problem. A month later she had another operation, called the Kasai procedure, to repair a liver condition known as biliary artresia.

During that surgery, doctors also re-routed several major blood vessels and corrected the placement of her stomach and intestines – a condition called heterotaxy syndrome. Her gallbladder and appendix were removed, and a “G-button” feeding tube was installed.

She also suffers from asplenia, which may be an indication of SCIDS – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Doctors won’t be able to make that diagnosis for several more months, but if it’s confirmed she may have to live as a “bubble-baby” in an ultra-clean environment for a time.

It’s probably a blessing that the Ogles didn’t learn all of this right away.

“The heart surgery went really well and she was recovering really well, but we were on pins and needles wondering what other problems she might have,” David said. “The hospital was very kid-gloves with us. They weren’t telling us everything.”

Shelly said they wanted to attack one hurdle at a time.

“It can blow a parent’s mind if they overwhelm them with the possibilities,” she said.

MEDICAL MIRACLES

Dr. Vincent Tam at Cook Children’s is one of the world’s foremost pediatric cardiovascular surgeons, and Dr. James Miller, chief of surgery at Cook’s, has probably done more Kasai procedures than anyone in the world, David said.

The Ogles are still in awe at the artistry of the surgeons who work with such tiny infants, the caring and competence of the staffs at Cook Children’s and Wise Regional, and the caring of neighbors – many of whom they don’t even know – who prayed for their baby.

Despite continuing issues, there is much hope for Winslow’s future.

“They say she could potentially play collegiate sports,” her dad said. “Her heart should be fine.”

And while doctors said it would likely be three to four months before her bilirubin numbers – an indicator of the liver’s health – returned to normal, it was actually less than two weeks.

“Dr. Miller said he’d never seen that in his career, a baby doing as well she is that had the Kasai procedure,” David said. “The statistics are that 93 percent of children who have this procedure eventually need a liver transplant – but there are 7 percent that don’t.”

Infections sent them back to the ER in April, but since coming home April 26, the baby has done well – and her parents have calmed down considerably.

“We were terrified when we came home,” Shelly said. “I’m a little OCD when it comes to cleanliness, but now that I have this baby I’m like, ‘My house isn’t clean enough! She’s going to get sick!’”

Nervousness and sleep-deprivation are a way of life for first-time parents. But the Ogles had a little more to deal with than bottles and diapers.

“I know every mother goes through it – I’m not trying to single myself out – but I don’t think people understand how much you have to do,” Shelly said. “I did not think I was going to be able to stay on top of it. There’s so much …

“I tell you what, though – a couple of weeks into it and you’ve got it down.”

Winslow had to learn how to breastfeed and get weaned off morphine, which she was given for all the surgeries. It was a big deal when she began to do normal-baby business in diapers.

“I was dancing with joy when I saw beautiful poop,” Shelly laughed. “It was gorgeous.”

STORIES FROM THE STORM

Much like survivors of a war, the stories David and Shelly hang onto are the funny moments during those first few, stressful months.

“We went through all this, and finally we’re stable, we’re going to go home soon, so I bought her a massage – a nice, two-hour massage,” David said. “She wouldn’t even go eat in a restaurant. She lived at the hospital.

“So I finally convinced her, and she goes there, and the massage therapist wouldn’t do a massage because she’s had a C-section. He said he wanted a letter from the doctor.”

Shelly picks up the story.

“I just started crying right there,” she laughs. “They didn’t know what to do with me. I melted down, right there in the waiting room, crying, ‘I didn’t even want to come here! I left my baby for this!’”

Another excursion, for dinner, turned out better.

David had talked Shelly into leaving the hospital for dinner and picked out an Italian restaurant.

“I used this application called Urban Spoon,” David said. “I was looking for a wine and pizza place, so I plug that in and guess what comes up to the top of the list? Winslow’s Wine Cafe.”

The choice was obvious.

Their Winslow is named after a small town in Ark. where David’s mother was born, one of 23 siblings. At dinner, they met the owner of the restaurant and learned that he named the place after his dog.

“But the reason his dog is named Winslow is that he’s from Winslow, Arkansas,” David said. “This town has like 400 people in it. He knows all kinds of people in my family.”

But the most arresting moment came when they were about to take their baby home. They were taking a class at Cook Children’s, along with several other couples, on how to properly use a car seat.

As David and Shelly walked in, a young lady in front of them kept looking their way. Finally they spoke and quickly figured out how they new each other.

Cortni Campbell, an R.N. at Wise Regional, was pregnant when she was Shelly’s labor-and-delivery nurse. Unbeknownst to Shelly, she had traded shifts with another nurse so she could stay with her through the C-section.

She had since had her baby, who was born prematurely and also had to be hospitalized at Cook Children’s. They were both about to take their little ones home.

Shelly immediately asked Cortni to help her find the nurse who spotted Winslow’s problem and made the call for further tests.

“‘That was me,’ she said. ‘I switched shifts.’ So I got to hug her neck and thank her personally,” Shelly said. “I just thought that was amazing.”

EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER

The range of emotions during those first few months was huge, but it has since settled down a great deal.

“I’m sure there’s still some things in the future that we’ll be going through with little Winslow – but I keep telling everybody, there’s always someone better and worse off,” Shelly said. “Even what she’s been through, after spending just a month at Cook Children’s, you realize there’s worse.”

As far as they know, everything that was wrong with Winslow was internal. Her limbs are fully formed and functional and her mental development does not seem to be impaired in the least. She’s alert, developmentally sharp and has a healthy appetite.

“I tell people we won the baby lottery,” Shelly said.

David said everything wrong with Winslow was something that could be fixed.

“It’s amazing,” he noted. “She’s like one in a billion chance that a child would have these multiple issues, and genetically, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just like lightning striking.”

The Ogles are bright people, and it’s obvious they’ve had a crash-course in pediatric medicine over the past five months.

“You kind of need to know why at first, and then after awhile you kind of don’t need to know why anymore,” Shelly said. “You realize it doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t have changed anything. You wouldn’t have done anything different.”

David said the pressure and responsibility of his job, even dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, does not compare to fatherhood.

“It’s indescribable,” he said, then fell silent, looking at his daughter.

“I’ve never seen David broken from any situation,” Shelly said. “I’ve always kind of looked up to him as my rock. David is one of the strongest people, mentally, I’ve ever been around. But this guy broke.

“This situation humbles … it really humbles you,” she said. “You are dependent upon other people for the life of your child. There’s nothing you can do. Control is an illusion anyway, but you have nothing.”

But as she talks, her husband looks down at the chubby baby cradled in his arm and appears to have everything.

Little Winslow dozes off, her tiny hand reaching up toward her father’s goatee, and smiles.

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District Clerk Records filed May 2014

ACCOUNTS, CONTRACTS, NOTES

Curtis Rhine vs. Brandfx LLC DBA Brand FX Body Co.

American Express Bank, FSB vs. Darlene Hudson

FORECLOSURE

U.S. Bank National Association v. Timothy W. Livingston and Lori B. Livingston

652 County Road 3855 in Poolville, Roger G. Smith

2368 County Road 4790 in Boyd, Woody Leonard

INJURY OR DAMAGE – MOTOR VEHICLE

Lillian Silva vs. Jack in the Box

Brenda Hoang vs. Cleofos Armando Gonzalez and Weatherford Artificial Lift Systems LLC

Tamara Porras Green vs. Rosa Aguero and Crispin Aguero

Christopher Spangler vs. Mary Shepard

Southern County Mutual Insurance Co., as subrogee of Steven Leon Farley and Barbara Collins Farley vs. Kallie Michelle Tyner and Tonya Michelle Watson

INJURY OR DAMAGE – OTHER

Vickie Holmes vs. Tonya Brisco and Decatur Unique Boutique Inc. DBA The Unique Boutique

Jimmy Nivens vs. Lowe’s Co. Inc. Keith Stone vs. Devon Energy Corp., et al

TAX CASES

Bridgeport ISD, et al vs. Bruce A. Jones

Boyd ISD, et al vs. Blackwood Family Trust

DIVORCES FILED

Christopher Scott Coan and Aleisa Marie Sulkowski Coan

Bruce Alan Light and Gloria Jean Light

Shawnee Glenn Sweeney and Carrie Rachelle Sweeney

Ashleigh Renee Portales and Terry Orlando Portales

Jasmine Lacy Sanders and Kerry Dean Sanders

Rogena Kay Duncan and Jeffrey Brent Duncan

Susan Ann Schmidt and Timothy Michael Schmidt

Tobias Herrera and Luinda Diane Herrera

Susan Angela Lunsford and James Anthony Lunsford

Jessica Lauren Brothers and Jesse Tyler Brothers

Amanda Marie McCaa and Timothy Paul McCaa

Chase Tanner Fluhman and Elfy Anslow

Betty Katherine Milligan and Joseph Reed Milligan

Shaunda Gay Keller and Nikki Shannon Keller

Nicole Michele Okubo-Hoover and Bert Fitzgerald Hoover

Garrett Alexander Kirk and Britney Joan Kirk

Connie Lynn Perry and Russell Shawn Parker

Daniel Kris Olson and Maria Elaine Olson

Jason Travis Poynter and Stacy Michelle Poynter

Terence Stanley Smith and Catharina Smith

Rhonda Leann Wilson and Rickey Dale Wilson

Matthew Ryan Bagwell and Stephanie Louise Baggerly

Jessica Lynn Wall and John Thomas Wall

Tommie Lee Gilley and Mary Jane Hewitt Gilley

Leslie Jean Markgraf and Josephn Don Markgraf

Amber Nicole Couch and Mark Allen Couch

Joanna Lee Castro and Hector Castro III

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County Clerk Records filed May 2014

RECORDED MARRIAGE LICENSES

Jimmy Doyal Ford and Lora Marie Landers, both of Rhome

Jeffrey Neil Plumlee amd Ashley Nikcole Carter, both of Bridgeport

Edward Brent Erskine and Michelle Kay Clanton, both of Boyd

Ronnie Jack Pruett Jr. and Ruth Sanchez Martinez, both of Decatur

David William Burkett and Morgan Nicole Panizza, both of Decatur

Douglas Michael Campbell and Gwendolyn Gale Wood, both of Chico

Christopher Allen Bradford and Teresha Ann Lamb, both of Bridgeport

Chip A. Corbett of Haslet and Leticia Espino Linares of Bedford

Warren Dylan Vincent of Bridgeport and Bryn Kelley Davis of Chico

Gerardo Nunez Perez and Aliusky Duran Dominguez, both of Dallas

Johnny Joseph Acker Jr. of Sunset and Helen Cherene Collins of Poolville

Shaun Douglas Swindell and Makayla Rashelle Clark, both of Decatur

George Elmer Wells of Harrisburg, Mo., and Brendalee Marie Crouch of Albuquerque, N.M.

Dustin Lynn Sampson of Rhome and Dalana Renee Johnson of Fort Worth

Alden Lee Cress and Caycee Jo Marty, both of Rhome

Stanley Alan Hatchett amd Debra Sue Grammer, both of Boyd

Jake Edward Rademacher and Julie Helen Jones, both of Bridgeport

Christopher Dylan McBride of Graham and Mikel Sai Alvis of Jacksboro

Owen Taylor Northcutt Jr. and Rhonda Gay Leingang, both of Sunset

Caleb Bruce Hansen and Macey Brooke Ayres, both of Wichita Falls

Terry Lynn Price and Kristin Nicole Hicks, both of Runaway Bay

Larry Dewayne Luttrull of Rhome and Brandi Sheree Robinson of Andrews

Dennis Lee Lawson of Boyd and Kimberly Leeann Boozer of Weatherford

Jimmy Robert Miller of Bridgeport and Jacquelyn Bridgette Hammond of Boyd

Timothy Joseph White and Monica Lyn Bernard, both of Decatur

David William Routon Jr. and Barbara Jean Johnson, both of Boyd

James Henry Bohanan and Linda Jo Bennett, both of Slidell

Jason Lou Proffitt of Alvord and Angelia Kaye Morgan of Hurst

Michael Angel Garcia and Chelsea Denee Hughes, both of San Antonio

Adam Brian Whitton of Rhome and Kellie Elaine Doss of Fort Worth

Allen Edward Donald and Kelley Dawn Ross, both of Paradise

Sean Lawrence Kehoe and Nicole Kay Boomgarden, both of Huntington Beach, Calif.

Robert Elmer Carter III and Stacy Lynn Stone, both of Alvord

Juan Carlos Alvarez Lucio of Decatur and Whittnie Dawn Noe of Rhome

Jason Lynn Logue and Kristi Jo Hays, both of Rhome

Justin Claud Hearne of Newcastle and Marla Michelle Kuehne of Haslet

Robert Paul Burkett and Deborah Shawn Faris, both of Bridgeport

Charles Lewis Parker and Wanda Michelle Gonzalez, both of Boyd

Michael Wayne Frazier and Shauna Ann Scarborough, both of Decatur

Saul Ascencion Herrera and Adriana Martinez Lopez, both of Bridgeport

Mark Allen King of Boyd and Heather Leann Evans of Azle

Tyler Ryan Olson and Nicole Lyn Simmons, both of Haslet

Michael Brandon Smith and Christi Dawn Holley, both of Bridgeport

William Jewell Arnn of Decatur and Julie Ann Johnson-Landon of San Antonio

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‘Snow White’ poised to dance across Decatur High School stage

Almost 200 young dancers will bring “Snow White” to life on stage in Decatur next weekend.

Non Stop Rehearsals

NON-STOP REHEARSALS – McKenzie May (left), who is Snow White in this year’s ballet, warms up with other advanced dancers at Wise Dance Center Wednesday afternoon. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Wise Performing Arts Guild is poised to present its annual ballet featuring the students from Wise Dance Center and the talents of artistic director and choreographer Karen Brown and assistant director Jessica Browning.

Performances at the Decatur High School theater are 7 p.m. Friday, June 13, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15.

Advanced dancers audition competitively for the lead roles and dedicate nine months of class and rehearsal time to the performance. In addition to 180 dancers, the performance also includes the work of 125 volunteers and 25 tech and crew members.

This season the guild contracted for original music scores, written solely for “Snow White.” Like always, the choreography is original, interpreted by Smith and Browning and created in consideration of specific dancers’ strengths and the mood of each scene.

A third performance was added this year, and for the first time, the guild is offering a Senior Care Resident Attendance Program and have given complimentary tickets to some residents from local nursing facilities. Guild members said it was a way to give back to the community and reach out to people who previously supported fine arts but are no longer able to do so.

To purchase tickets, email wpagticketcenter@gmail.com or stop by Wise County Title Co., 405 W. Park St., in Decatur. For the first time, live streaming tickets are also available for purchase.

WPAG board members include President Cindy Wood, Vice President Lynette Winters Shaw, secretary Vicki Niblett, vice president of finance Annette Wiley and board member Carol Creswell. Officers are volunteer coordinator Rachel Lowry, historian Lauren Cox and treasurer Summer Johnson.

The guild was also recently honored by the Texas Commission on the Arts with a matching grant in the rural arts category.

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That’s no bull: Lee wins big, but charities are real champions  at Hart PBR Challenge

That’s no bull: Lee wins big, but charities are real champions at Hart PBR Challenge

Bull rider Mike Lee stole the show Saturday night, winning more than $10,000 at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge.

LOCAL RIDER WINS – Mike Lee of Decatur rode Bruiser for 91 points and first place in Saturday’s J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The 30-year-old from Decatur, currently ranked fifth in the world, toughed it out for the hometown crowd, riding Bruiser in the opening round for 91 points and David’s Dream for 88 points. Those were the two highest scores of the night.

“We all think this year’s event, start to finish, top to bottom, was the best one yet,” said Andrew Rottner with WC Challenger Charities, which puts on the event with bull rider J.W. Hart.

A standing room-only crowd was not only treated to remarkable rides by Lee, but also a showdown between PBR world champion J.B. Mauney and PRCA bull riding champion J.W. Harris – plus a celebrity steer riding event featuring six local men.

In the most hyped event of the night, Mauney and Harris faced off in a winner-take-all $25,000 challenge, but both left empty-handed.

The 27-year-old Mauney, who became the PBR’s champion last year by riding 47 of his 90 bulls at 26 events and winning $1.81 million, climbed on Asteroid. He was thrown off in 2 seconds flat.

Faceoff

FACEOFF – PRCA bull riding champion J.W. Harris (left) and PBR world champion J.B. Mauney prepare for a $25,000 winner-takes-all challenge atop two of the toughest PBR bulls. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Harris, also 27, is making the transition to the PBR after capturing the PRCA title last year. He held on to Shepherd Hills Tested for 6.17 seconds – after breaking his nose riding Crazy Trip earlier in the night.

The local celebrities fared a bit better in the steer riding competition, reporting only one injury. J.D. Clark of Chico dislocated his shoulder.

Champion Comes to Town

CHAMPION COMES TO TOWN – PBR World Champion J.B. Mauney hangs on tight for a ride early in the night Saturday at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Clark, Wade Watson, Beau Bell, Fernando Escobar, Jeff Sicking and Joe Neil Henderson, all took to the ring to win $500 for their charity of choice and were surprised to learn that enough money had been raised to award them each $500.

Henderson, who won the steer riding, said that was the best part of the night.

“It was just a neat fraternity of guys to get to do this with,” he said. “We hammed it up and gave each other a hard time … but above all else, the fact that we got to give a donation to all of our charities – that was fantastic!”

Winner

WINNER – Champion celebrity steer rider Joe Neil Henderson gives the crowd a “guns up” Saturday night. The Texas Tech alum managed to hang on longer than fellow celebrities, including Jeff Sicking (far left) and Wade Watson (center). Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Henderson, 46, claimed to have been training with P90X, but he said workouts hadn’t gone as well as he hoped. He attributed his success to prayer.

HARD FALL – Joe Neil Henderson of Decatur braces for a hard fall in the steer riding Saturday night. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“(Marianne and I) prayed it out that day, and we just felt confident going into it.

“I had done it 33 years ago and thought maybe one or two of those skills I had learned as a kid would come through that night,” he said with a laugh.

Henderson said each rider had his own cheering section, which made it even more fun.

Clark earned an additional $500 from a local business owner, who wanted to match his “earnings” since he was injured.

Charities benefiting from the celebrity steer riding included Wise Regional Health Foundation, Wise Hope/Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force, Wise County Meals on Wheels, Wise County Christian Counseling and Decatur Cares.

During the event, 1,000 Miles Till Home, in partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, gave away homes to two veterans. Recipients were 1st Lt. John Elkins, U.S. Army, and Retired Cpl. Steven Sanchez, U.S. Marine Corps.

Elkins, his wife, Megan, and 2-year-old son Jack received a home in San Antonio while Sanchez, who is currently living in San Antonio, received a home in Tucson, Ariz. His family includes wife Christina and children Cayla, 10; Christopher, 7; Emree, 5; Gloria “Sable,” 4; and Shelby, 1.

Homes for Heroes

HOMES FOR HEROES – Retired Cpl. Steven Sanchez, U.S. Marine Corps, and 1st Lt. John Elkins, U.S. Army, receive keys representing homes being presented to them by 1,000 Miles Till Home, in partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

There was also a moment of silence for WC Challenger founder Roy Young and Dane Lancaster, a Montague County boy who seriously injured in a roping accident the week before.

Rottner said plans are already underway for next year, and he and co-organizers Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions look forward to planning an even more spectacular event.

“Physically, with the facility we currently have, we’ve maxed it out,” he said.

He expressed appreciation to the county’s public works department for support and maintenance of the grounds.

“It’s the best it’s ever looked in the 11 years we’ve been doing this,” he said. “There’s a lot of great people in this community that are making this event happen year after year, and when you look at the return to the charities, the community and the exposure it gives Decatur, that’s why you keep doing it.”

BBQ CHALLENGE DRAWS 98 TEAMS

The first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge may have set an IBCA record, drawing 98 teams.

Trimming Up

TRIMMING UP – James Dodson cuts away excess fat from ribs, preparing them for the smoker. He competed along with 98 other entrants in the first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge Saturday. The competition featured ribs, beans, chicken and brisket. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Organizer Randy Burkhart of Decatur said Saturday’s cookoff may have been the largest ever first-time IBCA Texas State Championship event, and it’s definitely the biggest first-time event this calendar year.

“We were more than surprised,” he said. “We were thinking 60 to 70 tops … 98 … we never dreamed of that.”

Grand champion was awarded to Jamie Geer, Jambo Pits; and reserve champion went to Kevin Riley, Circle R Cookers.

Grand Champion

GRAND CHAMPION – Jamie Geer (left) with Jambo Pits won grand champion at the first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge. Also pictured is one of the event organizers, Randy Burkhart. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Other winners included Mary Caraway, beans; Jeff Hall, Peacemaker BBQ, chicken; Riley, ribs; and Blake Stolz, Blast Pit BBQ, brisket. The top 10 places in each category received payouts.

The cookoff was planned just a few months ago, and Burkhart said he thought word-of-mouth, in addition to the unique payout structure, drew many of the cookers to the Reunion Grounds for the contest. Two hundred people volunteered to judge.

Burkhart cooks competitively and has passed out fliers at every event he’s attended since March.

“We reached out pretty good,” he said.

Burkhart said the cookoff will become an annual event, and he anticipates it will grow.

“We’re just going to try to make it bigger and better next year – add to it, not take away from it,” he said. “If we can do something like that on a whim, I’m sure we can handle whatever they throw at us next year.”

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County faces big bill

Wise County is faced with paying back more than half a million dollars in sales tax to the state comptroller’s office, but a 15-year payment plan is in the works.

The county was notified in January that it would be required to pay the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts $639,000 due to an overpayment of taxes by a business from July of 2005 until 2008.

County Attorney James Stainton told commissioners Monday the big bill came as a surprise.

“So what I did was start researching why we got this bill,” he said.

He explained that the county receives a half-cent for every sales tax dollar paid in Wise County.

“We had a taxpayer, and don’t ask me who because I’m covered by a confidentiality agreement and so is Ann [McCuiston, county auditor] and so is everybody else in the county,” he said. “But we had a very large taxpayer that spent a lot of money in the county, and we got the benefit of the comptroller’s refunds, but (the company) overpaid a substantial amount of taxes. They submitted a refund, the comptroller audited the refund and sent us a bill.”

The company submitted the refund request in 2009, and according to Stainton, “due to the nature and size, it took that long to get it back to us, and that’s why we’re here. The comptroller has already refunded the money to the business, and now the county must pay back the comptroller.

“The question was, ‘How do we pay this back?’ he said. “It took us nine years (from the first overpayment), and we didn’t get any notice.”

In researching the issue, Stainton was also told the same business has submitted three other refund requests, which could total $930,000, but he told the Messenger last week that the amount could change upon completion of the audit.

He said the business’ original request was for a $1 million refund, but the state lowered it to $639,000 after conducting the audit.

The final three bills will likely be received sometime between November 2014 and February 2015.

In the meantime, Stainton will finalize, with the approval of county commissioners, a 15-year payment plan with the comptroller’s office. He said the agency’s proposal includes monthly payments of $9,000, the first of which would be due in October 2014. They would be interest-free.

Between 2010 and 2013, the county averaged $357,000 per month in sales tax collections. The “payment” will be taken off the top of the county’s monthly receipts.

Leon Johnson with Southwest Securities, who also serves as the county’s financial adviser, said he felt like this was the best approach.

“(Stainton) has gotten you an option to where you can pay this off over 15 years,” he said. “If we pay it off over time, we know how much it impacts our taxes. If we continue and can get growth, the additional revenue will cover this.

“… we can’t think why it wouldn’t be best to let them take it out,” he said. “Our thought would be to let them take it out based on an agreed upon schedule.”

Johnson complimented the county on working to improve its bond rating and said bond attorneys have confirmed that this will not impact the rating.

McCuiston mentioned that if the county had been notified of the audit when it started in 2009, they could have been making financial plans for the payback.

“It’s the notification process that needs to be fixed,” she said.

Stainton said 65 jurisdictions were affected by this business’ refund request and none of them were notified prior to receiving the first bill.

“There’s no provision for it in the law,” he said.

Stainton said Rep. Phil King has indicated that he plans to propose legislation that would require entities be notified of large, pending paybacks.

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Firefighters discuss fertilizer storage facilities here

It’s been 14 months since an explosion at a fertilizer plant rocked the small town of West, killing 15 people.

In the year since, state and federal investigators have issued a series of reports. Their findings vary, but most indicate a similar trend – firefighters in West did not know enough about what they faced at the plant.

To avoid another similar catastrophe, State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy has been tasked with holding a public forum in every county that has facilities that store ammonium nitrate – the common fertilizer involved in the West explosion.

Last Wednesday, Connealy made stop No. 36 – of 96 – in Wise County. Hosted in conjunction with the Wise County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bridgeport Fire Department, the meeting at Bridgeport Community Center drew about 75 people, mostly local volunteer firefighters.

“It was a very good turnout,” Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said. “[Connealy] shared information on what happened in West and the lessons that can be learned. We talked about the best practices for storing ammonium nitrate and how to handle it.

“We don’t want to make the same mistakes. More than anything, the discussion would be about a firefighter safety issue.”

In Wise County, there are three facilities that store more than 70,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Although Beard didn’t specify the exact locations, he said that each are located in remote parts of the northwest corner of the county and are closely monitored.

“I’ve been here for a year, and we’ve gone to these storage facilities at least three times,” he said. “They are very safe. They go above and beyond what’s needed to be done to be safe. They pass the inspections with sparkling reviews.”

In addition to visits from the state and county fire marshal, the locations also abide by “strict guidelines” imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The ammonium nitrate is stored in overhead storage bins, which are isolated on location,” Beard said. “That’s the best way. These are three good facilities. Plus the places are so isolated that if something happened, not a lot of people would be immediately affected.

“There would be some evacuations, but it’s a limited number.”

But Beard hopes that safety meetings, like the one held last week, will prepare personnel in the event that a fire did break out at any of the facilities.

“We emphasize the importance of backing off and not getting in the middle of it,” he said. “If it’s on fire, evacuate a half-mile to mile radius. Back off, and preserve and protect … There’s nothing people can do. It happens so quickly.”

However Beard was quick to clarify that ammonium nitrate itself does not explode.

“It’s an oxidizer, which means it produces its own oxygen so it can burn and burn and burn,” he said. “To have an explosion, there myst be some kind of detonation – a lightening strike, the roof caving in (which is likely what happened in West). There must be a blasting agent. [Ammonium nitrate] will burn pretty rapidly, but it’s not going to explode without something.”

Making sure all departments are aware of what can happen is imperative, Beard added.

“If you don’t have enough water and manpower, it’s best to just secure the area, keep everyone away and let the fire burn itself out,” he said. “Locally we are making strides to make sure our guys are informed and as prepared as possible, should anything like the explosion in West happen here.”

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2014 Relay raises more than $60K

The 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County may have been held in April, but this year’s campaign isn’t quite over.

Participants raised $52,430 while committee members obtained $6,900 in sponsorships for a total of $59,330 – but money has continued to trickle in.

Those successes were celebrated at a wrap-up meeting Monday.

Going into the meeting, Carolyn’s Cookie Monsters led all teams, raising $6,197 for the 2014 event. However, Deborah Castorena, captain of the Friends team, turned in $2,000 at the meeting to increase her team’s original total of $5,709 to more than $7,000.

Both were recognized as gold teams for raising more than $5,000.

The third top team, Decatur Fire Department, collected $3,746 and received the silver seal for raising more than $3,500.

Amy’s Angels, led by team captain Amy Climer, also earned that designation.

Bronze level teams raising $2,500 or more included Paradise High School (team captain, Stephanie Kott), Survivors & Friends (team captain Brenda Scott) and Wise N’ Teal (team captain Ashlee Bohn).

Bohn led all individual fundraisers, collecting $1,430.

Other top individuals included Lannie Noble of Decatur Rotary’s Raiders ($1,075) and Gina Tackett of Healing Hearts ($1,010).

Randa Taylor of the Paradise High School team led all youth participants with a total of $805.

Of the 35 teams that registered for this year’s event, 17 stayed overnight. They include:

  • Decatur Fire Relay Team;
  • Paradise High School Team;
  • Soles of Angels;
  • Fighting Fern ndez Fuerte;
  • Two Coop Chicks and a Rooster;
  • Healing Hearts;
  • Survivors & Friends;
  • Carolyn’s Cookie Monsters;
  • Confirming the Cure;
  • Bridgeport High School;
  • AHS … “The Fight in the Dog;”
  • Qu pasa, amigo? Club;
  • Decatur Rotary’s Raiders;
  • Campin’ for a Cure;
  • Walkers for Tomorrow;
  • Wise N’ Teal; and
  • Weatherford College Wise County Coyotes.

“That’s over half of the teams,” said Stephanie Kott, 2014 event chair. “We had to have set a new record.”

Although the event has passed, teams can turn in money for this year’s campaign through August.

To do so, email Nanette Stockstill of the American Cancer Society at nanette.stockstill@cancer.org.

Top Participant

TOP PARTICIPANT – Stephanie Kott (left), chair of the 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County, recognized Ashlee Bohn (right), captain of the Wise N’ Teal team, as the top participant in this year’s event. She raised $1,430. Submitted photo

Top Youth

TOP YOUTH – Randa Taylor (right) of the Paradise High School team raised $805, earning the honor of Top Fundraising Youth for the 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County. Her team captain, Stephanie Kott (left), said she raised the money on Facebook and emails in one night. Submitted photo

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Child abuse trial goes to jury Wednesday

A Wise County jury began deliberations Wednesday in a felony child abuse case that could send a Rhome man to prison for up to 10 years.

Testimony started and ended Tuesday in the trial of Shaun Ray Mullinax, 33. Mullinax is charged with injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury – a third-degree felony – in connection with an incident that occurred Nov. 7, 2012.

That’s when he allegedly cornered his then-12-year-old son in the kitchen of their home in the Shale Creek subdivision, hitting him on the arm and head with a closed fist after the boy reportedly forgot to do the dishes.

The youngster, who testified Tuesday but is not being named by the Messenger because he is still a minor, went to his counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School the next day and said he was afraid to go home that evening. The counselor called Child Protective Services and the boy called his mother, who lives in Floresville, south of San Antonio.

She drove up that day, picked him up at a friend’s house and took him to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, where they met with an officer and filed a report.

Mullinax was arrested a few days later, and indicted in January, 2013.

After jury selection Tuesday morning in 271st Judicial District Court, assistant district attorney Jay Lapham and defense attorney Jerry Cobb began calling witnesses at 1:30 p.m. Testimony concluded at about 4:30, and after being charged by District Judge John Fostel not to discuss the case, the jurors were dismissed for the day.

They returned Wednesday morning and, after closing arguments and the judge’s charge, began working to arrive at a verdict.

Witnesses’ accounts differ

Lapham called Stephen Bates, the counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School, to testify on what he observed when the youngster came to his office the morning of Nov. 8.

“He was visibly upset, to the point of tears,” Bates said. “He was very scared, very nervous.”

Bates said he observed bruises on the boy’s left arm and a bump on his head. It was enough, he said, to compel him to call CPS, and to allow the boy to call his mother.

“He was very nervous about going home,” Bates said. “He did not want to go home.”

Bates also testified that Shaun Mullinax called his office a few days later and thanked him for “being there” for his son.

“He thanked me for taking the action I had taken, to stop it from happening.”

When Mullinax testified later, he said that is not what he told the counselor.

“I did thank Mr. Bates for being there for [him],” he said. “I don’t believe I said, ‘I’m glad he went to you so this would stop.’”

The boy, who just finished the eighth grade in Floresville, where he lives with his mom, her husband and three siblings, testified that on the day of the alleged assault, he had not done the chores his father had asked him to do.

He said his dad was very angry and hit him multiple times.

He also said this was not the only time his father hit him – and said one time his father placed his hands around his neck and threatened to strangle him for lying.

In cross-examination, Cobb brought out that the boy had not told anyone about the alleged abuse until after the Nov. 7, 2012, incident – including his mother, during a two-month stay at her house the previous summer, and his grandfather, with whom he often went fishing and had a close relationship.

In his testimony, Mullinax denied ever hitting his son with a closed fist, but said he had disciplined him with a belt three or four times over the course of a year.

“He needed to be taught that lying is not acceptable,” Mullinax said.

On the evening of Nov. 7, 2012, he said he had told his son to do his homework and some chores when he picked him up from football practice. If he did, he said, the boy could go over to a friend’s house and play video games.

Mullinax said he went to Denton for dinner and when he got home, not only were the chores not done, but when he checked his son’s backpack he found homework had not been done, either. He said his son had called him, lied about that and gone to the friend’s house.

When the boy returned home, Mullinax said he confronted him about the work not being done, “but mostly about why he lied to me.”

“He said he just wanted to go play the video game,” Mullinax said. After that, he said he took a break before attempting to spank his son, with an open hand, on the backside.

“I decided he needed physical discipline,” Mullinax said. “I decided to pop his butt a couple of times, to get his head in the right spot.”

By testifying, Mullinax allowed Lapham an opening to bring out in cross-examination his criminal history. That includes seven months in prison in 2004-05 after he violated the terms of his probation on an arson conviction.

The arson, he admitted, was for setting his truck on fire in Smith County so he would not have to make payments.

The probation violation involved the use of marijuana, he said.

The boy’s mother, Sarah Anne Novak, also testified, as did Wise County Sheriff’s Officer Pat Golden and Mullinax’s dad, Ronald G. Mullinax, of Athens.

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So long, Mr. Clark; Teacher, students grew up together

So long, Mr. Clark; Teacher, students grew up together

A boisterous, energetic group of boys invades J.D. Clark’s classroom at Bowie High School, lunch bags in hand.

Some begin scarfing down food, while others crack jokes and give their buddies a hard time. Although their enthusiasm is contagious, it’s a commotion of energy that’s hard to corral.

The door swings wide.

“Hey, Clark! Do you know what day it is?” Spenser Meekins shouts as he enters the room.

J.D. is talking with another student and glances in Meekins’ direction, grinning. About a minute later he replies.

“No, Spenser. What day is it?” he asks, playing along.

“It’s 50-cent corn dog day!” the freshman shouts, shaking a bag of Sonic corn dogs.

The room erupts in laughter.

Fond Farewell

FOND FAREWELL – Bowie High School students give a group hug to teacher J.D. Clark, who will not be returning to BHS next year. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Lunch with Clark is a “thing” at BHS. Some of these boys have been eating lunch with him every day since they were 12 years old. His classroom has become a safe place for them to ask questions, express themselves or just horse around, but as the school year draws to a close, the boys are left to wonder where they’ll eat lunch next year.

Clark is not coming back to BHS.

The teacher, who is also mayor of Chico and the Republican nominee for Wise County judge, said it’s a new season in his life. Although it was a difficult decision, he’s decided to step away from the classroom to pursue other opportunities, win or lose in November.

“I’m going to miss these guys,” he said. “I wish there was a way to do it all, and I just can’t.”

He’s leaving behind more than a classroom; he’s leaving young men he considers brothers.

Just the Guys

JUST THE GUYS – A group of Bowie High School boys eat lunch with teacher J.D. Clark every day. Some of them include (from left) Chandler Dean, Lane Shields, Spenser Meekins (in the back), Trace Hardee, Dylan Slade, Cooper Cantwell and Zeke Vaughan. Clark is second from right. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

‘GUY TALK’

Clark, 28, and “the guys” as he calls them, have grown up together.

On Aug. 8, 2008, he graduated from the University of North Texas. Just 10 days later he found himself at the helm of a junior high classroom.

“I told them the first day, ‘You be cool, and I’ll be cool,’ and we’ve just kind of stuck with that in every situation,” he said.

In his second year at Bowie Junior High, the principal asked teachers to provide an activity for students once a week during the lunch hour, and after some careful consideration and discussions with administration, Clark decided to start Guy Talk – in addition to interacting with the boys in English, journalism and guitar classes.

Clark said that he felt boys of this age were underserved as far as programs to help them deal with this sometimes tumulutous time in their lives.

BHS Principal Kelly Shackelford, who was junior high principal at the time, said the idea took away from Clark’s personal time, but it was something he felt strongly about.

“They can ask him anything they want, talk about whatever, or just watch a movie and eat lunch,” said Shackelford, whose son, Carter, is one of Clark’s students. “They’ll ask him all kinds of stuff. They ask him all the questions they won’t ask their parents.”

Clark said it started out just talking about whatever was on the boys’ minds.

“Within reason,” he said, “which gets pretty sketchy with seventh-grade boys.”

Over time he became a trusted confidante, and the boys would come to him outside of Guy Talk to ask a question, vent frustrations or lament a lost love. They started coming for lunch every day.

“We just clicked,” Clark said. “Me and a different group of boys, it might not have worked. I think I was put exactly where I needed to be, and I think I was put where they needed me to be as well.”

In the fall of 2012, Clark moved to the high school, along with his boys, and the daily lunch tradition continued.

Junior Cooper Cantwell, who first had Clark in seventh grade, said they think of him as an older brother.

“He’s young, so we can relate,” he said. “And he actually talked to us, he didn’t treat us like we were kids.”

Junior Lane Shields said Clark has taught them “a lot of things” and not just about world history and theater arts, the classes he was currently teaching.

“We’ve had him since seventh grade, and he’s really cared for the students,” he said. “He’s more than a teacher. He’s a mentor. He’s also taught me a lot about how to be a good person, setting goals and what it takes to achieve them.”

Junior Dylan Slade, who takes an interest in world events, said Clark has helped him learn how to think independently and form his own opinions on issues instead of simply accepting what’s presented to him.

“He can inspire you pretty good,” another boy called out.

“He taught me how to be a good man,” said another.

The boys show an uncanny ability, at 15, 16 and 17 years old, to express themselves and talk about their emotions.

But it’s not long before they throw in a few wisecracks.

“He’s not athletic … at all!” they said, as Slade recounted a dodgeball game in which Clark did not fare well.

Clark said when they found out he was going to ride a steer at this year’s PBR event in Wise County, they were worried.

“‘You broke two ribs playing donkey basketball,’” he recalled them saying. “‘This may not be a good idea!’”

He said spending time with these boys is humbling.

“They’re bluntly honest, and they’ll call me out on things,” he said. “There’s no ego-stroking.

“I never guessed when I was 22 that we’d be sitting here having this conversation, and I’d be so sad about leaving these kids.”

Words to Live By

WORDS TO LIVE BY – Students marked their favorite Bible verses and gave the book to Clark the night of the March primary election. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

LETTING GO

Clark’s students have always known he had a passion for public service. In fact, he was first elected mayor during his second year at Bowie ISD, and he said that generated many questions and discussions about people working within their communities.

He said as he has campaigned for county judge and become active in other civic groups, he’s discussed the process every step of the way.

They’ve been quick to offer “advice” and have taken a genuine interest in his pursuits.

Slade, Cantwell and a third student, senior Levi Wallace, attended Clark’s election watch party the night of the primaries in March. Although it wasn’t a typical night out for teens, it was one they wouldn’t have missed.

“He’s always there for us in everything, so we wanted to do the same for him,” Cantwell said.

That night a friend and fellow teacher also presented him with a gift that was to be opened at the end of the evening. To Clark’s surprise, it was filled with heartfelt notes from students and their parents. They shared things they wanted him to know – win or lose.

Also inside the box was a Bible, flagged with dozens of Post-It notes marking students’ favorite verses and those they hope he will keep close to his heart.

Although the boys say he teaches them what it means to be a good person and a good citizen, Clark said he feels he became more aware of those qualities by coming to know them.

“I feel like I learned that by working with them,” he said. “I’m always trying to be the kind of guy they expect me to be, and they inspire me. They push me, and seeing the world through their eyes and knowing all their situations and about some of their home lives, it’s just a constant reminder that we need to do a better job building a better world.

“I’ll miss that,” he said. “There’s a pureness about them about how people should be. Even though they’re in high school and make stupid decisions, most of them still think that people should just be good.”

Clark said this week was bittersweet.

The students from his first year of teaching graduated from Bowie High School Friday night. The seniors recognized Clark at an awards ceremony two weeks ago, and Friday morning “the guys” – students from all classifications – presented him with a guitar each of them had signed.

“You were my first kids, and you’ll be my last group,” he told the seniors at the awards ceremony last week. “You were 12, and I was 22 when we started this, and I think we’ve all held together pretty well. And we’re all better looking, too!,” he joked.

“I love you.”

The junior boys are sad that he’ll miss their senior year, but also seem genuinely happy for whatever pursuit he takes on next.

“It stinks, but this is his dream,” Cantwell said. “This is what he’s always wanted to do.”

Slade agreed that it would be strange not to have him on campus for their senior year.

“You never know what you have ’til it’s gone,” he said. “I know that’s overused and clich , but I think that’s how it will feel next year.”

Other students had a harder time expressing themselves.

“Ehhh … he’s good to have around,” Kevin Stallcup said. In Clark’s words, he and Stallcup have butted heads through the years but have a mutual respect for each other and are actually quite close.

Stallcup joked around for a while longer before gathering his backpack to leave.

Shortly thereafter, government and economics teacher Candice Mercer popped her head in the room.

“Kevin wanted me to come say nice things about you, J.D.,” she said. “He had some nice things … he just couldn’t say them.”

Before Clark had even started packing up his classroom, students were laying claim to posters on the wall, books on the shelves and even one-act play props, all seeking a keepsake – a reminder down the road of this teacher, this time in their lives.

This summer, Clark is taking a group of students to Italy, and he and the guys are already planning to meet for lunch once in awhile. Although the boys are left wondering where they’ll be without him, Clark is pondering the same thing.

“However our stars lined up, me and that group of guys – I think we were both what the other side needed at that time in our lives,” he said. “They’ve wondered out loud to me what they would be like if we hadn’t been together.

“I wonder the same thing about myself.”

For the Boys

FOR THE BOYS – J.D. Clark sings “What Makes a Man,” a song inspired by his students and their lunchtime conversations. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

SONG FOR HIS STUDENTS

Inspired by his students, J.D. Clark wrote the following song in 2011 as a group of his junior high students prepared to enter high school.

“What Makes a Man”

Verse 1

They have so many questions
So much they want to know
They come to me for answers
To show them where to go
When was your first kiss?
When did you start shaving?
What was your very first car?
Why do bad things
Happen to good people and
Do you still wish on stars?

Chorus:

What makes a man who people will remember?
What makes a man who people call great?
What makes a man who people will remember?
What makes a man who people call great?

Verse 2

I do my best to tell them
The few things I do know
I share my tales of glory
I share mistakes of my own
I watch them grow
Watch them run
Watch them trip and fall
I watch them do the best they can
Through their struggles, through their triumphs
They’re inspiring me
To try and be a better man

Chorus

Verse 3

Someday they’re gonna leave here
Start journeys of their own
I’ll tell them that I love them
And send them down the road
And years from now
They’ll be up thinking late at night
And they’ll start to look back on their youth
I hope they realize not only how they needed me but
How much I needed them, too

Repeat chorus twice

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TAPS awarded Medicaid contract

Medicaid patients who need a ride to their doctor’s office could soon see improved service after a local public transportation provider was tentatively awarded a contract by the state.

TAPS (Texoma Area Paratransit System) was recently notified that its application to provide non-emergency medical transportation services was approved by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, pending final contract negotiations.

For local residents, that will mean no longer having to call an out-of-town call center for transportation.

“That is going to be no more,” said TAPS CEO Brad Underwood in an informational video published on the TAPS website. “They are going to pick up the phone and they are going to call their local transportation provider, which is TAPS, and we are going to end up scheduling the trip for them, walking them through the eligibility process, determine the best mode of transportation for them and ultimately give them the ride that they need back and forth of the doctor’s office.”

TAPS has provided Medicaid transport in the past, but this is the first time the service has been directly awarded a Medicaid contract. In previous years, those contracts have gone to private transportation companies, leading to complaints about poor service and possible Medicaid fraud.

Thanks to those complaints, Senate Bill 8 was passed in the last session of the Texas Legislature aimed at reducing Medicaid fraud.

Underwood said he worked closely with legislators who were crafting the bill, and even testified a couple of times before house subcommittees. The final bill included language that would allow TAPS to be eligible to apply for the Medicaid contract.

“If you’ve ever had problems in service from a Medicaid transportation service provider, this is a good day for you,” said Dan Acree, communications and marketing manager for TAPS. “TAPS is not a private company, it’s public. It has different service standards.”

The award was given for Region 4, which includes the seven counties currently served by TAPS – Wise, Collin, Fannin, Grayson, Cooke, Montague and Clay – as well as Archer, Baylor, Cottle, Foard, Hardeman, Jack, Wilbarger, Wichita and Young counties. Underwood said TAPS currently employs 250, but the expansion will require hiring about 150 more to serve the new “super region.”

Approximately 55,000 Medicaid-eligible recipients live in the 16-county region.

Underwood said TAPS will begin Medicaid transportation service by Sept. 1.

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Thursday crash injures 1

Thursday crash injures 1

A Boyd man was injured in a wreck late Thursday night in south Wise County.

Christian Smith, 21, was flown to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth following a one-car rollover on County Road 4698 about a mile east of Farm Road 51 in southern Wise County.

Springtown Area Wreck

SPRINGTOWN AREA WRECK – A Boyd man was injured when he crashed his car near Springtown Thursday night. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Department of Public Safety Trooper Carson Bening said Smith was westbound on the narrow county road around 10:30 when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer in the roadway. His vehicle rolled at least once before landing upright.

CareFlite was called to transport Smith to the hospital.

Another accident was reported at nearly the same time on U.S. 81/287 near County Road 4421.

The call originally was reported as a driver of a passenger car going southbound in the northbound lane of U.S. 81/287. The car driver hit an sports utility vehicle, but the SUV driver was not injured.

The car went off the road and the driver attempted to flee officers on foot, but he was detained by officers and later taken to Wise Regional Health System with minor injuries.

His name and any charges were not available as of press time Friday.

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Few voters choose winners in runoff races

The winner of Tuesday’s primary runoff elections was … apathy, apparently.

That goes for both Wise County and the state as a whole.

Of the 35,775 eligible voters in Wise County, 2,154 cast ballots in either the Republican primary runoff (1,939) or the Democratic runoff (215). That amounts to a 6 percent voter turnout rate.

Statewide, voter turnout was around 7 percent.

There were no local races on the runoff ballot.

Wise County results of the individual races mirrored those across the state. In perhaps the highest-profile Republican race, for lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick defeated incumbent David Dewhurst by a 65 to 35 percent margin in statewide results. Patrick’s win was even more lopsided in Wise County, where 76 percent of voters chose Patrick compared to 24 percent for Dewhurst. Patrick won every voting precinct in Wise County.

In the Republican race for attorney general, Ken Paxton cruised to victory with a 64 to 36 percent margin of victory statewide over Dan Branch. In Wise County, Paxton won by a 69 to 31 percent margin. Like Patrick, Paxton won every local voting precinct.

In the closest race on the Republican ballot, Sid Miller defeated Tommy Merritt by a 53 to 47 percent margin. That was almost exactly the same margin Wise County voters delivered for Miller – 54 to 46 percent. Miller won 17 of 25 precincts in Wise County.

In the final Republican runoff race, Ryan Sitton defeated Wayne Christian for railroad commissioner by a 57 to 43 percent margin of victory. In Wise County, 58 percent voted for Sitton compared to 42 for Christian.

Sitton won 22 Wise County precincts, and the candidates received the same number of votes in one precinct.

Two Democratic races were on local ballots. For U.S. senator, Democrats statewide chose David Alameel over Kesha Rogers 72 to 28 percent. Locally, Alameel earned 61 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Kesha Rogers.

Alameel was the choice in 14 local precincts. Rogers led in 4 while the candidates tied in the other 7 precincts.

Jim Hogan was the Democrats’ choice for commissioner of agriculture as he defeated Richard “Kinky” Friedman by a 54 to 46 percent margin. Local Democrats also chose Hogan over Friedman by a 57 to 43 percent margin.

Hogan won 14 Wise County precincts compared to 6 for Friedman with split votes in the other 5 precincts.

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Bond refinance to save hospital $4 million-plus

Wise Regional Health System is about to save more than $4 million in interest.

The hospital system’s management team visited Boston May 20, presenting its case for a $98.2 million deal to refinance just over $87 million in 2004 bonds and issue another $10 million for future capital projects.

Bond adviser Chris Janning, senior vice president at First Southwest, was at Tuesday’s Decatur Hospital Authority board meeting to report on how that visit went, and what Wise Regional can expect when the bonds are sold next Wednesday, June 4.

“Your management team did a great job,” he said. “The underwriters are getting fabulous feedback. There’s a lot of interest and a lot of demand.”

He said 14 bond firms attended the presentation in Boston and eight more were on a live teleconference. One firm, in fact, was planning on visiting Decatur to look at the hospital and community prior to the bond sale.

The bonds were recently rated BB+ by Wall Street bond firms Standard & Poors and Fitch.

“We see all that as very encouraging,” Janning said.

The next step is to see how the bond markets close on Tuesday evening, June 3. After a conference call with Janning, two underwriters and Wise Regional’s management, everyone will have an idea of what rate the hospital can expect to get.

The following morning, the bonds will be sold – probably by around 11 Decatur time. That evening, Janning will come back to the board in a 6 p.m. meeting to present the results of the sale for the board’s approval or disapproval.

In the current market, the interest rate should be around 6 percent, well below the original 7.15 percent rate when the bonds were sold in 2004.

“Right now we see the savings, the current cash benefit of refinancing, at just over $4 million,” Janning said Tuesday.

But, he noted, “every 1-100th of a percent is about $100,000 of savings” – meaning even a slight movement could alter that.

“Bond markets have improved since we put this together,” he said. “The best-case, they gave me a set of numbers including savings up to about $5.3 million.”

The hospital board approved publication of a bond resolution and distribution of a preliminary official statement on the bond sale. They will meet again 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, to consider final approval of the bond refinancing.

MORE EQUIPMENT FOR PARKWAY

The board also approved the purchase of seven more Arthrex orthopedic sets for Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital, which just opened May 5.

That $140,740 expenditure, which was unbudgeted, is prompted by higher-than-expected volume at the facility, which is located on Interstate 35 at North Tarrant Parkway in Fort Worth.

The initial projection called for around 15 such surgeries per month at Parkway. After only a few weeks, the facility now expects to serve 50 to 60 orthopedic patients per month.

CFO Jim Eaton said the Parkway hospital was projected to net about $150,000 above expenses for this year but should show a profit of around $2 million next year and be up to around a $5 to $7 million profit by its fifth year.

“The May financials should look a lot better,” he said.

The board also:

  • approved six new appointments to the medical staff – including three hospitalists – and accepted six reappointments and eight first-year reviews.
  • heard from Eaton that the hospital system overall had an increase in net assets of $616,000 for the month of April on gross patient charges and other revenues of $46.6 million – a strong month for both inpatient and outpatient services.
  • heard that surgery volumes at the Bridgeport campus had picked up in April, but the campus still showed a loss of $236,000.
  • voted to continue negotiations with Skilled Healthcare, a national nursing home and rehabilitation organization, for control of their two Fort Worth service locations.

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Water situation shaky going into summer

Although North Texas has enjoyed some cool, rainy weather lately, the blazing summer days that lie ahead are still on everyone’s mind.

Water is sure to remain a precious commodity.

Recent rain has, at best, slowed the drop in Lake Bridgeport’s water level – and unless they’re on a well, Lake Bridgeport is where most Wise County residents get their water.

As of Thursday, May 29, the lake was 22.23 feet below its normal conservation pool level – nearly five feet lower than a year ago. The lake is 41.6 percent full.

“Of course we do not like to see Lake Bridgeport this low,” Mark Olson, conservation and creative manager for the Tarrant Regional Water District, said this week. “It’s one of the lowest levels we’ve seen, going into the summer. It’s definitely a major concern.”

TRWD, which sells the lake water to cities and utility districts, imposed Stage 1 watering restrictions June 3 last year. Those restrictions are still in place.

Basically, they require:

  • no outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.;
  • landscape watering no more than 2 times a week;
  • repair leaks and drips quickly;
  • no hosing off of buildings or paved areas;
  • home vehicle washing only with a hand-held bucket and a hose with a positive shutoff nozzle;
  • reduce the frequency of draining and refilling swimming pools.

In Decatur, the city restricts watering to the hours between midnight and 8 a.m., and specifies that customers with addresses ending in an even number may water only on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday while those with addresses ending in an odd number may water on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.

In Bridgeport, landscape watering is limited to twice a week, and outdoor watering with sprinklers or irrigation systems is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Water customers with even-numbered addresses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, while those with odd-numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays. Apartment complexes, businesses, parks, etc. may water only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

CONSERVATION DOES HELP

Olson said conservation efforts throughout TRWD’s service area have had a significant impact on water use over the past several years as the drought has deepened.

“Last year, the water savings [through conservation] was close to 100,000 acre-feet,” he said. “That’s about the amount we pull from the West Fork watershed on an annual basis.

“We’re talking about conserving enough water that it’s about like we’ve added another reservoir. We’re using water conservation as a water supply strategy.”

Olson put together a model that projects water demand based on several factors including average soil moisture, the number of 100-plus degree days, summer rainfall amounts – even employment.

“We are able to predict demand with a high degree of accuracy, based on historical water use, then build a model going forward to project what demands would be, and compare that with actual demand,” he said. “The difference is attributed to conservation.”

Water savings in 2007 was 9.78 percent compared to projected demand. For the next four years, it stayed under 10 percent.

But in 2011 – as drought conditions worsened but the economy began to pick back up – water savings jumped to 13.8 percent. The next year it rose to 21.6 percent and last year, the savings was a whopping 32.3 percent.

That means in 2013, water use in the TRWD service area was 32.4 billion gallons less than projected, due to conservation measures.

“It’s a huge impact,” Olson said.

Conservation is impacting Lake Bridgeport, too – slowing the rate at which the lake is falling. But only runoff from significant rain will refill the lake.

“Based on what people are seeing on Lake Bridgeport, they think there’s probably not much conserving going on, but that’s not really the case,” Olson said. “In reality, we’re seeing water use go down.

“We’re just not getting the rainfall in that watershed that we need for that reservoir to recover.”

WATER CONSERVATION TIPS

Cities, TRWD and other organizations like the Texas Water Smart Coalition have plenty of tips to help people conserve water.

The water district created the character, “The Lawn Whisperer” for a multi-media campaign to advise people not to over-water their lawns. Olson said as a general rule, you can water twice a week or less and your lawn will be fine.

“We encourage people to put their irrigation system on manual control,” he said. “Keep them off unless they’re needed.”

TRWD offers weekly watering advice on their Facebook page, taking into consideration water conditions during the previous week – things like transpiration loss and rainfall. It advises people on whether or not they need to water, how much and how long.

“It’s based on climate conditions,” Olson said. “This week, for instance, people’s systems should be off, because of the rain.”

In general, he added, two 12-minute water cycles a week will deliver a quarter-inch of rain for those who have rotor-type sprinklers. For those with sprayers, the cycles need to be only six minutes to deliver adequate water.

Stage 1 watering restrictions are fairly moderate and should still allow for green yards, but Stage 2 restrictions could very well be on the way this summer if there’s no significant rainfall.

Stage 2 – which limits landscape watering to once a week and limits water use for dust control, pools and fountains – kicks in if water storage in the TRWD system gets down to 60 percent of capacity.

Right now the system is at 70 percent overall, with the East Texas reservoirs at 75 percent and the West Fork reservoirs at 51 percent.

WATER SMART TIPS FOR YOUR LAWN

Follow these simple tips to help conserve water at your home or business:

  • Water in the morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler, to minimize evaporation.
  • Check outdoor faucets, sprinklers and hoses for leaks periodically.
  • Adjust your lawn mower up at least one notch. A taller lawn holds moisture better.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk.
  • Keep grass nourished with fertilizer so it is better able to recover from drought stress.
  • Keep weeds out of your green spaces. Weeds are notorious for stealing water from other plants, so if you’ll keep their population in check, you won’t have to water as often.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal weather conditions.
  • Set a kitchen timer when watering your lawn or garden to remind you when to stop.
  • Wash your car on the lawn, and you’ll water your lawn at the same time.
  • Recognize signs of dry grass. Avoid watering until you can see footprints left in the lawn as you walk across it.
  • Install a rain sensor on your irrigation system so it won’t run when it’s raining.
  • Aerate your lawn at least once a year so water can reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • Use a licensed irrigator annually to check your sprinkler system for leaks and keep sprinkler heads in good shape.
  • Retro-fit your existing irrigation system with new water-saving technology like bubblers, low-angle or other water conservation options.

(See more at: wcmess.com/lawntips)

WATER SMART TIPS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Follow these simple tips to help conserve water at your home or business:

  • Use a layer of mulch on the surface of your planting beds to minimize evaporation of moisture and suppress weed growth that competes with water.
  • Water only when plants look like they need it. Most plants die from over-watering, not under-watering.
  • Water your plants deeply, but less frequently, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
  • Use watering cans, whenever possible, especially when watering just a few patio plants.
  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses for shrubs and trees to reduce evaporation and apply water directly to roots where it’s needed.
  • Next time you add or replace a flower or shrub, choose water-conscious plants adapted to your area.
  • Use a rain barrel or buckets to capture rainwater from your downspouts for use in watering your garden.
  • Keep plants nourished with plant food so they’re better able to survive drought stress.
  • Choose shrubs and groundcovers for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up or runs. Use this water to water plants.
  • Re-route gray water (from your clothes washer or dishwasher for example) to outdoor areas to use for irrigation.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to help eliminate water overflow.
  • Use a trowel, shovel or soil probe to examine soil moisture depth. If the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.

(See more at: wcmess.com/gardentips)

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VOICES names directors

VOICES Youth and Family Services has new leadership.

At its meeting May 19, the board named Michael Smith its president. Smith replaces Sharon Riels, who has served on the board since the organization’s inception in 2008. The last three years, she has been president.

“Sharon works hard and pays great attention to detail,” board treasurer Kerry Wilde said. “She has been involved in everything the organization has done since the beginning. We wish her well.”

Other incoming directors include Randall Watson, vice president; and Terry Thomas, secretary.

VOICES Youth and Family Services is a local non-profit, volunteer program dedicated to serving at-risk families and children of Wise and Jack Counties through family-based safety services, juvenile probation, supervised visitations and as an emergency shelter.

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Wise Regional aims to reduce readmissions

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government places a heavy emphasis on forming alliances to avoid return hospitalizations as a means to improve the quality of patient care and lower Medicare program spending.

Improving transitions of care, reducing readmission, and improving patient outcomes are the cornerstones of the initiative that Wise Regional looks to address to better meet the needs of the communities we serve.

Wise Regional Health System is continuing discussions with Skilled Healthcare, a national nursing home organization with two facilities in Fort Worth, to lease their two Fort Worth facilities and establish operating licenses for the services provided there.

In return, Wise Regional would contract with Skilled Healthcare to continue managing the day-to-day operations. Wise Regional will also proceed with a “due diligence” review of the facilities in Fort Worth.

In the event that this relationship is brought to completion, it would enable Wise Regional to work directly with other major hospitals located in the hospital district of Fort Worth to develop systems to improve the continuum of patient care from one facility to another.

“A health system problem in today’s environment is that hospitals are often isolated providers of care,” said Steve Summers, CEO, Wise Regional Health System. “Long-term care facilities play a vital role in building an effective continuum of care for Wise Regional patients. Our goal is to develop relationships that support positive clinical integration with nursing homes and other organizations addressing care after discharge from the hospital.

Summers said Wise Regional wants to build alliances.

“Similar agreements between other organizations have shown positive outcomes,” he said, “such as fewer patient hospital readmissions, shorter hospital length of stay for patients transferred to nursing homes and fewer cancellations of tests and surgeries for patients transferred from long-term care.

“We need to establish greater coordination of resources of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, hospices, home health agencies and other providers to meet the needs of our patients. This is one of the steps in that process.”

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In Memory

In Memory

All for One

ALL FOR ONE – Veterans share a bond that can’t be broken. Many gathered at Wise County Memorial Day ceremonies Saturday and Monday to honor their fallen comrades. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Old Glory

OLD GLORY – David Wilson raises the U.S. flag at Rhome’s Memorial Day ceremony Saturday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Patiently Waiting

PATIENTLY WAITING – Riddik Davis, 6, leans against his dad, Army Capt. Brandon Davis of Rhome, likely wondering when the solemn ceremony will end. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Words in Rememberance

WORDS IN REMEMBRANCE – Chico Mayor J.D. Clark addresses the crowd in Rhome Saturday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In Honor

IN HONOR – Veteran Charlie Robertson of Rhome sports a U.S. flag in his cap during a Memorial Day ceremony Saturday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Remembering Heroes

REMEMBERING HEROES – From left, Abby Pennington, 7; JoJo Adams, 5; Jase Adams, 3; Jayla Adams, 7; and Ainslie Allen, 7, hold flags they passed out to the crowd at Saturday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Rhome. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Storytelling

STORYTELLING – Tom Thompson (left) and B.J. Shepherd share stories with a man attending the Memorial Day ceremony in Decatur Monday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Solemn Tribute

SOLEMN TRIBUTE – A veteran holds a bugle before playing taps. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Veterans Park

VETERANS PARK – Citizens gather Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Paradise for a special ceremony. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Ervin given 10-year sentence for evading

A Springtown man found guilty of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon while leading officers on a 30-minute, high-speed chase across Wise County last September was given the maximum sentence Tuesday.

Chad Everett Ervin, 27, was found guilty of evading arrest with a vehicle by a Wise County jury on May 7. Prior to the trial, Everett elected to have 271st District Judge John Fostel issue the sentence.

Ervin was back in court Tuesday morning for the brief sentencing portion of the trial. Fostel sentenced Ervin to 10 years in prison.

Since the jury also found that Ervin used his vehicle as a deadly weapon during the pursuit last Labor Day, he must serve at least half of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

Ervin’s attorneys, David Singleton and Paul Belew, called only one witness – Ervin’s mother, Twila Ervin. She testified that her son’s actions on that day were unusual for him.

“He’s usually more careful than that,” she said.

She also said she was aware of his history of drug abuse and prescription medication, and she said he was “like night and day” different when he was off his medication.

Ervin also faces a felony drug charge in Parker County. According to 43rd District Court records, he was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in the amount of 4 to 200 grams – a second-degree felony – in September of 2009 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, probated for seven years.

Last summer, a warrant was issued for Ervin’s arrest for violating his probation.

During the trial May 7, jurors watched the entire chase as captured by dash-cam video. Two of the passengers in Ervin’s truck testified that he attempted to flee from an officer who tried to pull him over near the roadside park on U.S. 81/287 north of Decatur.

They testified that Ervin ignored their pleas to stop the truck, and the chase continued down Farm Road 51, then onto rural roads in south Wise County before heading back northwest on Texas 114 near Bridgeport. The chase eventually ended when Ervin ran out of gas.

Officer George Mundo testified that Ervin briefly swerved into his lane at one point during the pursuit. Prosecutors had sought a conviction on aggravated assault of a public official, but the jury found Ervin not guilty on that charge.

Ervin has been in the Wise County Jail since his arrest last September.

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Coast-to-coast trek leads man through Wise

Working with stone is hard, physical labor – but there’s one thing those who do it can pretty much count on.

It will be here long after they’re gone.

This week a 33-year-old stonemason from upstate New York passed through Decatur on a 2,800-mile trek from Charleston, S.C., to San Francisco. He’s walking to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, a national foundation that helps injured service members as they return home.

Heading Out

HEADING OUT – Josh Lydell got to sleep in a bed Monday night in Decatur before traveling toward Wichita Falls Tuesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Joshua Lydell hopes the impact of this journey will resonate when the stones he’s set have been reduced to rubble.

“I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m capable of doing things, and there are a lot of people out there who are not. They’ve been through things I couldn’t imagine being faced with, day-in and day-out.

“You don’t get a day off from not having a leg, you don’t get a day off from not having an arm, you don’t get a day off from PTSD.

“So I’m giving up six or eight months of my life to try and help these guys, these men and women, out – to make a little difference in the world if I can.”

Lydell spent Monday night at Decatur’s Hampton Inn, on the house, after Manager Sonny Wimberley took him for dinner at Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes. He said Texas is the most hospitable state he’s been through so far.

“Up until this point I just camped out 90 percent of the time – hiding in the woods,” he said. “I’d set up a little one-man tent, hope it didn’t rain too much and fight off the bugs and dirt.”

Lydell grew up in Jamestown, N.Y., – Lucille Ball’s hometown – and has a degree in art. The last eight years he has built a business in stone in Charleston. Before that, he fought mixed martial arts professionally, and prior to that he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Since March 3, he’s been walking.

He started by the Atlantic at Mount Pleasant, S.C., and trekked through Augusta, Athens and Atlanta, Ga., then Birmingham, Ala.

“Mississippi was pretty good to me,” he said. “Their television stations all came out and talked to me.”

All he remembers about Arkansas is a “really nice Sonic Drive-in,” but once he got to Texas, he began to get more attention. He was on television Monday evening after CBS 11 sent someone to interview him on Memorial Day.

From here, he was headed to Wichita Falls, Amarillo and Albuquerque – looking to get up to higher ground before summer heat.

The Marine training definitely helps.

“I really did not have a good work ethic until I joined the Marine Corps,” he said. “Then somebody pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of.”

Aside from his military service and “the fighting stuff,” Lydell said he doesn’t come from an athletic background.

“That’s not my thing,” he said. “If somebody had told me a year ago that I’d be able to go 37.6 miles in one day and then get up the next day and do 33 miles, I’d have slapped them in the face and said, ‘You’re a liar! Get out of here with that. That’s nonsense!’

“But here I am, doing that. I never expected it to be something I would do.”

His guiding principles are: stay hydrated, eat well and “take care of your feet from the ground up.”

Food-wise, his staple has been the cuisine available along the highways of America: McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Sonic, Burger King and Whataburger. At the halfway point, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fat on him as he chugs along, pushing a baby jogger that carries all his worldly goods. He could definitely go faster without the stroller, but he’s not looking for speed.

“Sometimes somebody will ask me, ‘What time do you expect to be there?’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, I’m walking.’ It’s not like hoppin’ in the car, and I’ll be there in 20 minutes. It depends if I get a flat tire, how my feet are feeling, what the traffic’s like, what the heat’s like, what my water situation’s like.”

Generally, he said, he covers 15 to 20 miles a day – although he’s done 37.6, and he’d like to log a 40-mile day somewhere along the way. But he’s not trying to set any records.

“I just try to stop and talk to a lot of people, raise a lot of awareness,” he said. He hopes to be in San Francisco by mid-September and keeps the route and schedule as flexible as possible.

“I plan for about 150 to 200 miles at a time,” he said. “That keeps my route a little more fresh, so if someone comes along the way and says, ‘Hey, there’s going to be this festival on this date’ I can plan my route around that, rather than saying, ‘I planned this out six months ago.’ I like to have a little flexibility in the plan.”

He’s worn out two pairs of shoes, and the third is just about gone. When they are, he’ll get on the phone with Amazon and have them shipped to a post office along his route.

Close calls on the road have come mostly at the hands of people wandering onto the shoulder while talking on their phones, although he did get surrounded in Denmark, S.C., by three guys who had heard he was raising money.

“They’d seen it on the news,” he said. “They didn’t ask me how much money I’d raised – they said, ‘How much money you got?’ I said, ‘Not enough for anybody to get hurt over.’ That was about the end of that. Other than that, I’ve had zero issues, smooth sailing.”

Lydell isn’t looking for people to hand him cash. He’d prefer they go online with pledges to the Wounded Warrior Project at http://wcmess.com/woundedwarrior.

“I just hand this flier out, get on the news, raise a little bit of awareness about the cause in general and refer people to that donation link,” he said. “Obviously that’s kind of a roundabout way of doing things, but personally I don’t like carrying cash.

“Even if they don’t donate through my event towards the Wounded Warrior Project, if they donate toward the Wounded Warrior Project, I’ll feel like I’ve kind of done my job.”

When he’s done, Lydell will undoubtedly rest his feet for a while. He’s not sure he’ll go back into the stone business.

“One of my employees is running the business right now, and I may just let him take over,” he said. “This might have been a segue into charitable type events for me, to work more in that regard.

“Stonemasonry – I make a fair amount of money at that and do a lot of good work, but at the same time, I’m not sure what impact I’m having on the world besides making somebody a fireplace, making somebody a retaining wall. I’d like to do a little bit more than that.”

As Lydell headed up U.S. 81/287 Tuesday morning, the sky threatened rain, but his steps were firm and confident.

The stride of a man doing something he knows will last.

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