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“Unbelievable Warriors” of June 6, 1944

DDay

D-day survivors are few and far between today as 75 years has
now slowly marched by since the June 6, 1944. 
If you have seen one, then you’ve seen a rare sight that keeps getting rarer
by the day.   Soon, and likely one day
very soon, we will have nothing left of the generation that stormed the beaches
in the name of freedom with a mission to save the world.  They stormed those beaches to stop the
greatest evil the world had ever known.  The
current generation has seen these men as old, feeble, weak, and sometimes
confined to wheelchairs or assisted by walkers. 
Generations today seeing these men have seen the final years as the old
soldiers have been gradually fading away. 
Maybe you’ve looked at a reunion picture, or a picture of a grandparent
and you’ve thought, “How did this old man save the world?  How did this old man break across those
bloody beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944?” 
Well, for one thing, they were not always old and feeble.  Just like you, they were once young, full of
life, laughter, hopes and dreams.  But
those dreams were set aside for the call to arms.  That call would end some lives as young as 17
and 18, give some permanent disabilities, and leave others scared emotionally
and mentally for years to come.  But take
a moment and step back to June 6, 1944, and I’ll share with you how that old
man took those beaches that day…

That old man loaded up his pack, gathered his supplies and
sent what could be his final letters home. 
Perhaps he told a girlfriend of his love, a wife of his devotion, a
mother not to worry, or a father to be proud. 
He wrote out his letters and sent them home.  He loaded up, placed pictures close to his
heart in many cases, and joked nervously with buddies and fellow soldiers as
they prepared.  When the time came to
cross the waters, he may have puked, he may have been sick, he may have cried,
or he may have prayed, but he went forward. 
In the boats as they rocked through the waters, he heard the shells
landing around him, he heard the sound of bullets zipping through the air, and
maybe he saw the glow of tracer bullets guiding the German fire as it tore down
into his friends.  He saw men ripped
apart, he saw friends die, he saw men jump into the water too soon and
disappear beneath the tide as the weight of their gear pulled them down to
death.  As he reached the shore, he worked
his way through the blood soaked sand from men wounded and dead.  He learned quickly that to stay on the beach
was to die, so he moved forward. 

Shells landed around that old man as he made his way across
the beaches.  Friends who had shared cigarettes,
exploded like bombs in front of him, the air was thick with smoke, and the
sound of men screaming.  Some called for
their loved ones and others simply cried out to God.  Still, through it all when that old man
thought he could not go any further, he pushed on toward the goal.  Eventually, through it all, that old man and
his fellow soldiers took the ground, they pushed out the Germans, and they
achieved what nobody had been able to do in that war in Europe  before…they beat back the Germans. The old man who had leaped out of the plane behind the lines floated like a target through the air.  He watched as his friends were shot while still seeking the ground below.  Eventually, he landed and fought the enemy all around.  That old man and his friends then dug in, watched the bullets fly, and fought as best they could with the hope that the beachhead would be taken and friendly troops would come in sight.   

So if you see that rare sight these days of the D-Day soldier or you glance at an old picture of some old man in a hospital bed wearing a D-Day hat, or with the history of having been there on June 6, 1944, do not see him as you see him today.  The man you see today or even in the photographs of recent years, is only the old solider that once was in 1944.  Remember him while he’s here and remember him when he’s gone as what and who he was on that day.  Remember him like the young Marine once said when meeting a group of D-Day warriors many years ago.  They were old, crippled and aged, but the Marine had read their stories, he had heard about how their fellow dead soldiers had fought and he had heard how they pushed on to secure freedom for the world in the grasp of Nazi fear.  The Marine did not see simply a group of old men. When looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, all the Marine could say through misty eyes was, “My God, what unbelievable warriors these men once were.” 

Friends, do not see those of D-Day as old, worn out, or even gone.  No, see those of D-Day as the Marine once saw them, and remember that those “Unbelievable Warriors” set in motion on June 6, 1944, the day that would save the world for you and for me.   
Continue Reading →

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City and County Comes Together…Finally

Texarkana, Arkansas donates fire truck to Miller County

Texarkana, Arkansas donated fire truck for Miller County

For years citizens have been frustrated by the lack of
cooperation and willingness to work together between Miller County, Arkansas
and Texarkana, Arkansas.  Both city
officials and county officials have promised time and again to work together to
help promote a unified area.  Until yesterday,
those promises always seemed to be preached during campaign seasons and soon
forgotten after the elections. 
Fortunately the city and the county now has officials prepared and dedicated
to fulfilling the “work together” promises. 

When Cathy Hardin-Harrison ran for County Judge, one of the
things she promised was to work closer with the city.  Allen Brown had similar visions when he
decided to run for Mayor of Texarkana.  Once
elected, these two did not waste time in looking for ways that both Texarkana
and the county could benefit from working together.  Yesterday citizens of the county and the city
saw some of the fruits of a partnership that may well help push the entire area
ahead. Texarkana, Arkansas was able to donate a fire truck to the
county.  As a result of the donation, the
area of Doddridge will have access to a newer model truck for the needs of
everyone in that area.  Judge Cathy Hardin-Harrison
was on social media yesterday afternoon thanking Mayor Brown, City Manager
Haskins, and Chief Fletcher for the truck. 
The judge noted that this was one example of the county and city working
together. When any two entities start off to work together, it can be
difficult in the beginning; however, both Texarkana, Arkansas and Miller
County, Arkansas, with the leadership of Mayor Brown and Judge Hardin-Harrison,
have proven it can be done.  If this
partnership can continue and thrive, there will be no limit to the potential
jobs, growth, and enhancements that we can see in the city and county.  Naturally, we all know that whenever Bowie,
Miller or either of the two Texarkanas benefit from something, the benefit can
be felt in the entire region.  This
evidence of the promise being kept is certainly a huge positive for our entire
area. Continue Reading →

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Saying Goodbye to Rodney Phillips

Rodney Phillips 1968-2019

Today I said goodbye to a friend of nearly twenty-three
years.   When you’ve known someone for
twenty-three years, it’s not uncommon to see them at their good points of life,
tough points of life and their high points of life.  It’s also not uncommon to really get to know
the person and sometimes to forget that person has other associates, friends,
and family.  Today, I said goodbye to one
such friend, Rodney Phillips. I’m not going to try to recap all of Rodney’s life because
there isn’t enough time to do that.  I
will say that he has touched many people. 
Rodney’s reach was more than apparent at his family visitation when I
saw page after page of signatures in the visitation book.  It was even more evident as I stood just
outside the chapel where standing room only could be found for his funeral
today.  Rodney had a far reach in life,
but rather than recap all of that, the only things I can recap about Rodney is
what I directly know about him.  Rodney
was a son, a husband, a father, a Christian, a hunter, a fisherman, a mason,
and he is my friend.    Rodney lived the
life of a Christian man and a mason until his last day on this earth.  So, rather than focus on his birth,
experience, and death, I’d like to share with you a couple of stories that sum
up who Rodney was and in fact who he still is. 

Rodney was a Christian. 
Rodney not only believed entirely in Christ, but he also had no shame or
fear of speaking about God.  While
speaking is excellent, actions are, and Rodney knew this.  Several times, I saw Rodney act in a
Christian manner.  Recently when some disagreements
broke out over a situation we were both involved in, I turned to Rodney because
I knew he would have a calming answer. 
Not to be underestimated, Rodney had the best solution of all.  He said of the situation, “Well, all I
know is we just need to forgive and let bygones be bygones.  We just need to all get along.”  He did not preach it; he stated it.  That is the type of Christian Rodney is, he
wants to forgive, move on, and continue in harmony.  While that situation is not yet resolved, I
certainly hope those who heard his words, or perhaps those who are reading them
now, will remember that Rodney wanted nothing more than peace and harmony and a
forgiving atmosphere.  I think we can do
that, if not for ourselves, then for Rodney. Rodney is a friend, and real friends are hard to find.  Rodney is not only a friend, but he is also a
true friend.  Rodney was the type of guy
that met no strangers and helped anyone at any time.  Several years ago I was traveling back from
Dallas pulling a trailer when my vehicle broke down.  I called “friend” after friend and received
no help.  I had answers like “I’m already
in for the night,” or “I’ve been drinking,” or “I can not come that far right
now,” etc.  As I went down my list of
numbers, I reached Rodney’s. When I was about to give up, I called Rodney’s number.  His response was simple; he said, “I’m
on my way.  We’ll pull the trailer back
first, and then we’ll get my trailer and get your vehicle.”  When Rodney arrived, I started to hook up the
trailer, and I noticed he was watching and doing little to help hook it
up.  In fact, Rodney was directing me,
something I learned he is very good at doing. 
He seemed tired, and I assumed that he had just woke up and was maybe
still sleepy.  When I said, “Rodney,
are you okay,” his response shocked me. 
Rodney said, “Yeah, man, I’m fine. 
I just had surgery last week, and I’m not supposed to lift anything or
do anything stressful.  So I’m a little
tired.” As we talked, it turned out this was no minor surgery; in
fact, it was major surgery.  I was
humbled and surprised by Rodney’s actions. 
Out of all the people I called for help, Rodney, who had just had major
surgery a week before, was the only one to come to help me.  We hauled the trailer back, picked up his
trailer, and pulled the vehicle back. 
Rodney reluctantly allowed me to put gas in his truck and refused to
take any money for helping.  Even when
Rodney was tired and had more than a good excuse not to help, he never
complained and came to help a friend in need. 
That is what true friendship is and will always be in my mind. 

I never got the opportunity to repay Rodney for his
brotherly love, his Christian attitude, and his friendship.  Through the years, we worked on many projects
together and shared many laughs.  I
always reminded him of the time he came to help me when nobody else could or
would, and I always told him, no matter where I was in life, he could still
call me from anywhere, and I’d help.  When
I would say this to Rodney, he would laugh and say, “I know you’d do the
same for me.”  Well, Rodney, I never
got the chance.  You’ve gone home to
Heaven now.   Someday when I get there,
I’m going to ask God why he needed you home when you had touched so many lives
here on earth.  I’m going to ask God why
I couldn’t have kept my friend, and the friend to many others, for a little
longer here on earth.  I know God will
have his reasons, and I know they will be good ones.  So, in the meantime, Rodney go fishing with
those who have gone before you, say hello to your dad for me,  do some hunting, and enjoy Heaven.  Oh, and if you decide to send a message this
way, I want to know how the steaks taste in Heaven and if you’re cooking them. Continue Reading →

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Fishing Memories

It’s fishing time again! 
I know there are people thinking, “It’s always fishing time,” but for me
fishing time starts after winter and ends about the time my teeth stop
chattering from the cold.  In simple
terms, I fish in the Spring until the end of fall.  I’m what you call a leisure fishing guy.  I’m not so serious about fishing that I have
a five hundred dollar rod and reel, but I also enjoy the use of good equipment.  I enjoy fishing equipment so much, that once
I have the basic stuff together, I rarely buy new.    This
year as the fishing season kicked off for me my favorite reel from 1989 (A
Zebco Rhino) broke.  After thirty years,
the reel finally gave up.  I trudged off
to the store to get a new one and while I was there I decided it was time to
invest in a new tackle box as well.  This
was not an easy decision for me.   As old
as that reel was, my Plano 6300N is actually older.  The box dates back nearly forty years
ago.  I decided it was time for a new
tackle box to go hand-in-hand with the new rod and reel.   As a blessed man that I am, my wife stood
nearby encouraging me to get the best tackle box I wanted and planned to use
for the next several years. I was happy to find that Plano still makes their tackle
boxes in the USA.  I was also happy to
find a wide variety of new models.  I
selected one, purchased it and the rod/reel and headed home.  In a few days I sat down to move over the
tackle I wanted to continue to use, store away old lures like my grandfather’s
and others from my childhood, and get the new Plano ready for action.  It was then that I began my walk down a
“fishing” memory lane with that old box.   

While I fully intend to use the new tackle box, I did not
realize how hard it would be to actually move stuff from the old box to the new
one.  Naturally, the act of moving it was
easy, but the symbolic aspect of the move was deep in my mind and history.  As I looked at the old tackle box a flood of
memories came rushing back to me.  I
remembered the first time I got the box at a Walmart that closed at eight
o’clock when Walmart was still two words. 
I remembered the special offer inside the box!  I could send away for a nameplate for my new
tackle box and I did.  I remembered the
day it arrived and how I proudly stuck it on the indented spot for nameplates
on the top of the box. 

As more memories washed in, I had to smile.  As proud of that nameplate as I was back
then, I can also remember the day it finally fell off and I lost it.  I could remember the day I got a scuff on the
box next to a fishing pond.  In fact each
scuff, scratch, and mark had a memory attached to it.    The
old box is faded now, and I could remember all the days it sat out beside me in
the sun.  I could remember other scuffs
from carrying the box on my bike, hauling it in the back of my grandfather’s
old Ford, and even a time or two I dropped it a little too hard near the
fishing spots.  I could remember hauling
it on boats, to lakes, rivers, and streams. 
I could remember each time my grandfather gave me a lure to place in the
box – I was and still am very proud of those old fishing lures.  I could remember each time I pulled the fish
stringer out for that perfect fish, and each time the line snapped, and I had
to dig into the old box for more tackle. 
I could remember using it all through school and then taking it with me
to college.  As nearly forty years of
fishing memories ran freely through my mind, I closed the box with many of the
old lures still in place. 

I placed both the boxes back in storage – one ready to go,
and one ready to tug at my memories forever-and decided to look to see if my
old Plano 6300N was still around.  A
quick search on E-bay found dozens of them ranging from $10 to about $30.   They are now called “vintage” and “Old”
tackle boxes.   Many of them are marked with the same type of
memory marks of scuffs and scratches as mine, and others looked as if they had
sat up on a shelf with no use at all.  I
found myself feeling sorry for the ones that appeared to not be used, and then
I was sorry for the ones being sold.  The
ones that appeared not to be used, missed a lifetime of fun and fishing.  As for the ones with the memories, it was sad
that someone’s fishing memories had been posted on eBay at a rate of between $10
to $30. 

I decided long ago I would not sell my Plano box.  In fact, I think I may have decided not to
ever sell it after the first fishing trip with it.    Somewhere down the line my children may
decide to sell the box and that will be okay, because it will not hold the
memories for them that it does for me. 
Maybe…just maybe if I’m lucky though…this new Plano box will become
theirs and will hold memories for them. 
Who knows, in another thirty or forty years, one of my children may be
looking back with fond memories at the Plano box that replaced my old 6300N
today. Continue Reading →

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Destroying History

From Facebook Post

George Orwell once predicted that “The most effective way to
destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their
history.”   It might be thought that Orwell
could see into the future with his book 1984 and other predictions he seemed to
make.  These predictions did not unfold
though in 1984, they are unfolding now. 
It appears that there are those in society, especially in positions of
authority with the government, set on denying and obliterating our
understanding of history.  These groups
first targeted schools, and then national monuments, but they met more resistance
with national monuments than they did with school.  Once they ran into that blocked doorway of resistance,
they opted for the next best thing…obliterate recent history that few people
will be overly concerned about. 
Obliterate first Confederate history and that will open the doorway for
a firm assault on U.S. History. Dallas has again jumped onboard with a desire to deny
history, and their target this time is a statue in a cemetery – yes, you read
that right, a cemetery where we bury our dead to remember them.   You
may remember that a year or two ago as Confederate Statue Hysteria rose, many
city governments said that the statues belonged in museums or in cemeteries.  Well, Dallas targeted first Lee Park and successfully
removed the statues there despite overwhelming opposition from the public.  With that step done, they are now moving to cemeteries
– “But Wait,” you say!  They said these
statues should be in the cemeteries, right? 
Well, you were told they would not put the statues in museums – remember
those in New Orleans?  They are still sitting
in a city yard.  The statues from Lee
Park?  Still in storage.  Now, they are targeting Pioneer Cemetery and
the Confederate Statue that will cost the people of Dallas over $400,000 to
remove.  You know there must be a need
for immediate and fast removal!  After
all this statue has stood on the same location since 1896 or 122 years.  Further, consider what was originally said
about these statues – they are in public view and should be in museums or cemeteries
to remain out of the general public view. 
At that time, many people warned that these governments would not stop
with the public view, but that they would also focus on cemeteries and deny the
statues a place in museums.  The same
people who warned of the cemetery assault also told us that attacks on the
founding fathers would be next. Now, you may not believe that these groups will target the
founding fathers, but consider this – the last Confederate veteran died in the
1950s.  Prior to that, the only honor
that he had for fighting in a war came from his friends, family, the Union
army, and the communities.  Since there
was no country, and they did not have veteran status at the time, the statues
were erected around the country to honor them. 
They were erected, as almost all documentation indicates, to promote
healing, unity, and to honor the people who lived through the Civil War on the
Confederacy side.  In the late 1950s,
Congress made all Confederate Veterans, American Veterans.  This now means that the government will place
cemetery markers for those veterans, and that they are just as honored as
veterans of the United States.   With the
consideration that the Confederate Veterans are American Veterans, then it is conceivable
to view statues in their honor no different than those honoring Vietnam, Korean,
World War I or World War II veterans and so on. 
However, over 100 years later none of the original daughters or sons of
those Confederate Veterans are alive. 
There are small groups of decedents around the United States who honor,
assemble, and remember as well as study the history.  But the core group who supported and erected these
statues are long gone.  Since they were
not “National” statues, they are generally not afforded the protections of a National
Park or a National Monument after the late 1950s.  The fact that they have a small direct defense
base with no federal backing makes them the easy target.   The
goal is simple -remove the Confederate statues from public places, including cemeteries,
lie about it if you have to – remember they wanted some of the statues moved to
cemeteries, but they have not, and they have not put them in museums either-  get them out of sight and then set the goal on
others such as founding fathers.  The
target will shift to national statues once these groups have forced the nation
to accept the removal of the Confederate statues.  Once people are complacent and have accepted
that the city government can and will simply remove statues at their own
desire, then when it comes time to target Washington, Jefferson, and others, it
will be easy.  We will have grown to
expect monuments and statues of and about our history to be taken down. 

Ultimately it does not matter whether you like the
Confederate Statues or not.  It really
doesn’t matter what your understanding of Confederate history is as far as that
goes as well.  The fact is, the
Confederate Statues are a part of our national history.  They were put up in the south, north, east
and west to honor and help healing.  No
matter what anyone tells you or dreams up about them being put up to harass or
cause fear in people, the actual history from the period does not support this –
Even if you believe the history does support that these statues were put up to
scare people, then you have to explain exactly who was being scared by a
Confederate Statue in Pioneer Cemetery? 
Did the Daughters of the Confederacy have some great master plan that
would scare away people by posting these statues in graveyards?  Was their target the ghost of other people?   It
simply not likely.  The fact is, the
period of time when these statues were put up is collectively known as the “Cult
of the Confederacy”.   It is a period of
healing, honor and remembrance.  In many
cases, it gave the only grave markers known for some soldiers who died in the
war.   It was a way to promote unity in the United
States and Presidents, Congressional members, and others all supported and even
attended the dedications for many of these monuments and statues. Continue Reading →

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Black History Month and Texarkana

Warning – the essay below contains situations and history that may not be appropriate for all readers. As we come to a close in February, most of the Black History
Month events in Texarkana will be winding down. 
Celebrations of great African-American contributions to our nation,
state, county and to the city of Texarkana will come to a close.  Many people will have learned about names
like Scott Joplin, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Little Rock Nine, William
Still, and others.  The list of African-Americans
making an impact is long, but there is also some names you will not hear
mentioned.  Maybe you will not hear them
mentioned but they are names like John Carter, Edward Coy, and Bud Hayden.  These names may be left out of Black History
Month Celebrations, at least publicly, because as politically correct goes,
their names can and often do make people feel uncomfortable.  See, the names John Carter, Edward Coy, and
Bud Hayden are three of the famous African American names from Arkansas because
they are three of the most famous cases of lynching in the state.  In fact, two of them, Edward Coy and Bud
Hayden, were lynched right here in Texarkana, Arkansas. 

The two men were lynched in Texarkana, Arkansas a little
over six years apart.  Edward Coy was
lynched in February 1892, in a moment of history that shocked people across the
nation and headlined newspapers from Little Rock to New York.  Perhaps even more shocking is that Mr. Coy’s
lynching was elevated to being burned alive at a stake.    Mr. Coy was accused of assaulting a white
woman in town.  Once Coy was captured, a
mob decided he was guilty, tied him to a tree, cut his skin, poured coal oil on
him and then had his alleged victim light him on fire.  Mr. Coy’s lynching, with no trial, no judge,
no jury, is perhaps one of the most brutal lynching’s in this despicable part
of our history.  By any standards, today’s
or those of 1892, Mr. Coy was outright murdered.  Roughly 1,000 people stood by and watched.  It was rumored that Mr. Coy and his alleged
victim had been seeing each other.  It
was further reported that before the woman set him on fire, Mr. Coy pleaded with
her asking how she could burn him when they had been “sweethearting.”   Mr. Coy died near Iron Mountain Roadhouse by
some accounts.  Other accounts place the murder
on Broad Street in Texarkana, Arkansas. 

In June of 1898, downtown Texarkana, Arkansas again became
the site of a lynching.  This time Bud
Hayden was accused of assaulting a twelve year old girl.  The girl identified Mr. Hayden as the man who
assaulted her, and this would result in his death.  There was no trial, no jury, no judge again
in this case.  Articles from the time
period do point out that Mr. Hayden did have the benefit of several citizens
speaking about the event.  Naturally,
their speeches were made while Mr. Hayden had a rope around his neck and was
being prepared to hang, and most were made in favor of lynching Mr. Hayden.   Statements from the time said they “adjusted
the rope so it would not choke him and ran to a tree near Iron Mountain
Railroad crossing.”  Once again, the
incident is nothing short of murder.  Mr.
Hayden was hung and shot several times.   

It should be noted that both of these lynching’s occurred with
what newspaper articles of the time called “Over 1,000 people” in attendance.  Since the 1890 census placed the population
of Texarkana at 3,528 and the 1900 census placed the population at 4,914, it
would be safe to guess that the likely population at the time of the their deaths
was around 4,000.  If over 1,000 people
attended the lynching’s, then this meant that roughly a quarter of the
population stood by, contributed or condoned, and watched as two men were
murdered without a judge, jury, or trial. 
Even the laws on the books at the time would not have supported hanging
or a death sentence for assault of an adult or a child, but yet the people of
the Texarkana area stood by and watched. 

The lynching of Edward Coy and Bud Hayden is a shameful,
horrible, and pathetic moment in the history of Texarkana, Arkansas.  Maybe that shame and horror is the reason few
people hear the names today of Edward Coy and Bud Hayden.  Maybe it’s easier for us as the current
residents of Texarkana, Arkansas to look the other way and praise the African American
contributions to society by the greats like Scott Joplin and Dr. King.  Maybe, praising men and women for their great
contributions makes us feel a little better, eases our minds and allows us to
forget men like Edward Coy and Bud Hayden. 

I have traveled up and down Broad street.  I have looked around the railroad areas and I
have found no mention, no plaque, no sign, no statue…nothing at all to indicate
that Edward Coy and Bud Hayden were lynched in those areas.  I have to stop and wonder what if Mr. Coy or
Mr. Hayden had been the next Scott Joplin, or the next Dr. King, or the next
William Still?  What if they were
destined to make an impact, make a difference, or become “somebody”?  Well, we will never know that answer, and the
reason we will not know the answer is because they were lynched right here in
Texarkana, Arkansas.  Yes, maybe a
plaque, or a statue or a memorial of some sort would be uncomfortable for our
community, but you know what?  I bet that
Mr. Coy and Mr. Hayden were far more uncomfortable and terrified as they faced
the last few minutes of their lives in the hands of an angry mob that operated
freely outside the law.  A statue, plaque
or memorial would certainly be uncomfortable for our little town, but maybe we
need to be reminded not only of the great African Americans, but also of the African
Americans who were so horribly wronged during this period of our history here
in Texarkana. Continue Reading →

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Keathley’s, An Old Idea Ahead of Its Time

Post from Keathley’s General Store’s Facebook Page

Keathley’s General Store was an old idea ahead of its time.   With all the excitement about downtown apartments, the Grim project, and a growing set of restaurants and small retail stores, Keathley’s was an old idea returning to the downtown area as a fresh new face. 

It’s hard for many of us to remember a time when people in
Texarkana walked, rode the trolley, and inched their way into a crowded downtown
Texarkana to purchase needed items.  In a
time before large chain grocery stores, big retailers, and shopping centers on
the edge of town, downtown was the place to go. 
You bought supplies you needed such as flower, eggs, meat, and other
grocery items downtown.  You also bought
things like books, toys, and housewares downtown.  To the point, downtown was the place to be
and go.  It was not unusual to find a “general
store” to meet these general needs. 
Items were purchased, friendships were made, and people eased back to
home happy with their hometowns.  Those
days faded with the arrival of the supermarkets and the outward growth of
Texarkana.  As people moved away from
downtown, the general store closed up and went away. 

With the revitalization of downtown Keathley did his
research, found that downtown was going to be booming again, and decided to
jump ahead of the competition.  The family
opened a general store.  Keathley’s
General Store, to be specific, opened in late September 2018.  The fanfare from newspapers, to social media
was big.  People praised the idea,
including me, and people were excited and talked about the new store.  People all over town made comments about how
proud they were to see a downtown store coming back.  Texarkana was going to have a general store
again – not a knock off big chain – but a real general store owned and operated
by a local family.  We were all excited,
but then we did what we always do…we failed downtown and more specifically we
failed Keathley’s General Store. 

Less than five months into the return of the general store
to downtown, Facebook broke the news on the store’s page.  They were going out of business.  Like all going out of business sales it
started with 10-20% off, followed by more and eventually today 95% off was
hanging from the sign outside the store. 

When I first heard about the store, I was excited just like
many others in Texarkana.  I love the
downtown Texarkana atmosphere,  and so
like many others I decided I would start visiting the new downtown store.  With all the new apartments, I knew they
would thrive.  Apparently, several of us
in the community felt the store would thrive because if you are like me, your
good intentions of supporting the downtown store never came to pass.  It seems that just about the time I decided to
go to  the little store, the notice came
out they were closing.  But I have to
admit…I did not go in September, October,  November, or December.  I finally went today and found the store in a
state of what would be the last few hours. When you put your stuff up for 95% off, it doesn’t take the
public long to come clean your shelves.  I
arrived today to find a few books, some toys, and a lot of empty freezers and
shelves.  The Keathley’s were warm and
welcoming and surprisingly to me, they blamed nobody for the store’s
failure.  In fact, they admitted that
they may have simply been too early for the downtown area to support the store.  I on the other hand was certainly quick to
blame myself, and others who called the store a great idea and talked it up
without ever setting foot into it during a regular day of operation. 

With the growth planned for downtown Texarkana, assuming
regulations and requirements do not kill it off, there will be a booming population
in the area someday.  People will go for
walks downtown, they will enjoy parks, the library, the street lights, and the
local dinners.  Maybe when that growth
finally expands, a general store can survive in Texarkana.  Unfortunately, until that day comes, any
general store in Texarkana will be dependent on those of us who do not live
directly in the downtown area.  All our talk
and good intentions simply will not pay the bills to support a general store or
any business in the downtown area.  No,
Keathley’s General Store was a great old idea that simply came too soon.  It came at a time when we as a community were
not willing to put our money behind our talk and good intentions.  Maybe we will learn from this lost treasure
of Texarkana and make sure the next downtown business has our talk, good
intentions, and most importantly our financial support as customers.  
Continue Reading →

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Finding The First Christmas

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the joy of the season, the magic of the season, the decorations, the trees, the family, and the gifts of the season will come to a high point for most families.  There will be food, reunions, music, and presents.  Afterward, children will ride new bikes, play new video games, and text their friends to report on their Christmas loot.  By the time January rolls around, those same children will have forgotten many of the gifts, but they will return to school and complete essays and reports on how Christmas vacation was spent.  Most will start off those reports with, “I got this or that for Christmas,” or perhaps, “We had ham, and cake and grandma came.”   With all that will happen in the next couple of days, it is sometimes easy, even for Christians, to forget that at the center of all the celebrations is a small baby and the worship and praise bestowed upon that baby for his birth into the world. The first Christmas was very different than the ones we celebrate today.  There was no Santa Clause, no gift giving among friends, no cakes, pudding, and family visiting.  There were no bright lights and snowmen.  There was initially only a baby in the manager.  There was wise men, or magi, in the east who had studied the stars and knew that a new king was being born, but they would not arrive until sometime after the birth.  The fact is, on that wonderful night that we now celebrate as Christmas, there were no gifts.   It was a much different kind of Christmas for those who ended up celebrating. 

Mary and Joseph and a few others knew the significance of the birth.  They knew that God was sending his only son into the world.  But the fact remains that few others knew about what was going to happen. 

Imagine being one of the angels in Heaven for just a moment.  You know that God himself is about to enter the world he has created.  You know that after hundreds of years of messages carried, enlightenment given to the inspired words that would predict Jesus’ arrival that at this very moment Jesus was in fact being born.  Those angels must have been bursting with the desire to spread the news.  If angels sit in Heaven, or have a starting point, they must have all been on the edge of their seats or right on the mark waiting for the word to go.  Can you imagine them leaning forward, pushing against the line like runners waiting for the starting gun to go?  In Heaven, the celebration was in full swing. They knew what was happening and they had waited for it, perhaps even rehearsed and prepared, or maybe they just knew what they would do.  Whatever the case, they wanted to praise God, celebrate Jesus, and share with the world their love and devotion to the new king.  Finally, at long last, maybe it was the moment that Jesus first drew his breath, the word was given from above and the angels were told…”Go”. The angels then raced into the world and told the first people they found about Jesus.  They found shepherds in a field.  These shepherds were hard at work, dirty, tired, poor, and working to get by when all at once the worshiping of the angels started.   The angels had arrived, and they were ready to get the party started.  They were not bringing trees or pudding, no Santa in a red suit.  No, these angels were worshiping God, praising his son, announcing the arrival and celebrating.  So powerful was the moment, that the shepherds dropped everything they were doing and rushed to see the new king. 

When the shepherds arrived and saw Jesus, they worshiped
him, they glorified him, and they celebrated him.  Afterwards, those same shepherds went out and
told everyone they knew about the new king. 
They continued to worship him and celebrate him and to spread the world
just as the angels had done. 

Sometime later, between Jesus’ birth and about two years of age, the magi would finally arrive.  At first, they would seek Jesus as a king in Jerusalem, but then eventually they would arrive at Joseph and Mary’s home.  Most likely the home was a poor or modest home and certainly not one where a king would be found, but nonetheless, they would worship.  They would recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, the King and they would worship him as God.  The story tells us that they also presented gifts before heading home a different route to ensure Jesus’ safety. 

That first Christmas was very different from the one we
celebrate today.   While the politically
correct will attempt to take Christ out of Christmas, the fact is they can
never do it.  Christmas is not about the
wrapped presents under a tree, it’s not about a man in a red suit, it’s not
about candy, and cakes, and pudding, no Christmas is much more.  Christmas is about the one Savior of the
world.  Christmas is about the worship
and celebration of Jesus Christ and his arrival in this world.  The event would affect millions of people,
promote thousands of books, and the news would spread around the world.  It all started with angels wanting to
worship, shepherds coming just as they were to worship, and even the rich
bowing down to worship the king.  
Arguably the entire story took place over a year or two, but it had been
prepared for since the beginning of time. 

So, during your Christmas celebrations on the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, enjoy the day.  Spend time with loved ones, remember Christmas of the past, eat, give gifts and celebrate.  It’s a wonderful time of the year and you should enjoy it.  But maybe, at some point you can take a break from those modern celebrations and step back to the first Christmas for a moment, and in that moment,  you can worship and celebrate the baby in the manager coming into this world as the first gift for our salvation. Continue Reading →

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Recently I was reminded of what a wonderful gift life truly is to each one of us.  Today is my birthday and I’m another year older; however, last night I thought I might not make it to this year’s celebration.  As I drove home last night, an 18 wheeler decided that he wanted in my lane.  Seeing how he was in an 18 wheeler and I was in a Toyota Camry, I decided it would be best to not fight him for the road.  I allowed the car, or perhaps the car just did it, to go away from the truck after he hit me.  Fortunately, I am fine and in all likelihood, my car will be fine too.  As a side note, those big spokes on semi-trucks can take all the paint off your car doors – in case you were wondering – but again, nobody was hurt, and I survived which was in and of itself wonderful to me. When the driver of the truck came back, apologized and admitted that he simply did not see me beside him, he said, “I felt a small bump and wondered what I hit.”  I responded to him that the “Small bump was me.”  I guess in comparison, I really was an insignificant and small bump on the road.  Naturally, this statement got me to thinking about whether I was a “small bump” on the road of life. As you can imagine, my life flashed before my eyes – you know it does that when an 18 wheeler takes over your lane and sends you off the road, but I have to admit that I was at peace.   With life flashing before my eyes, I was reminded of just how blessed my life has been.  It has been filled with joy, good friends, family, work, and too many hobbies and interests to even start to list.  I have had supportive parents, great kids, and friends that simply cannot be replaced but can only be maintained with a long, positive history.  Life has been good and no matter what the driver said about my car on the road, my life has certainly not been a “Small Bump”. It is interesting in a way that this incident came just after a holiday of thanks and just before the most important holiday in my religion, Christmas.  It is even more interesting that it came on the eve of my birthday – a day each of us sets aside to celebrate our lives. I was able to make calls to family and say, “I’m okay.”  I was able to drive away and even more importantly walk away, from what could have been a very serious accident.  I was able to reflect, thank God, and to realize that as Thanksgiving closed out, my birthday was forthcoming, and Christmas was just around the corner that I have been blessed and have had a wonderful life. Continue Reading →

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Stop For The Bus

With all the safety lights, driver knowledge, and the size of a bus, no child should ever be hit by a car while entering or exiting a bus.  Unfortunately, while everyone seems to know the law, not everyone honors it.  Recently a family was devastated when their three children (9 and twins age 6) were killed while crossing the street to get on a bus.  As a nation read the news in shock, a fourth child continued to fight for her life in a hospital.  While prosecution is certain to follow for the driver, there is no amount of enforcement, jail time, fines or any other things that can be done to bring back those three children.  There will be no middle school, high school, football, basketball, cheer, dance, or even college years or beyond for Mason, Xzavier and their sister Alivia.  They are dead.  They are dead because some driver failed to yield to the flashing lights of a school bus.  People are outraged, but some bus drivers are implementing further protections for the children in their care. The average school bus can weight between 25,000 lbs and 36,000 lbs, and that is a lot of steel moving down the road.  In recent years some bus drivers have been taking what could be considered pointers from police when it comes to child protection and the bus.  Most police officers are trained to use their cars as potential weapons, and most importantly a potential defense if needed.  Many bus drivers have figured out with the recent accidents that they can do more.  With a bus weighing 25,000 lbs, it makes one large and almost immovable object on the road when stopped.  Some bus drivers have started utilizing that large bus as a shield. I first saw this within a few days of the accident that has gained national attention.  Driving down a two-lane road a bus was a few blocks in front of me.  The driver put on his flashers and all traffic began to slow down, but then he did something different.  Rather than stay in the lane coming directly toward me, stopping with his red lights on and stop sign out in that lane, the driver turned his bus slightly and cut into the middle of the road.   I thought he was intending to turn or perhaps he had moved to miss something, but then he stopped and the red lights started flashing.  The driver had angled his bus across the center line and now took up two full lanes with the body of the bus.  If anyone was going to go around the bus, that person either had to go off the road or run into the bus.  For most, hitting 25,000 lbs of steel would not be the best option.  I thought the driver must simply be doing something different until I started seeing several posts on Facebook and other social media about bus drivers doing the same type of action. The picture above was taken from a friend’s video feed on Facebook.  It was shared with the hope that it would be widely shared, discussed, and implemented by other bus drivers.  The entire video shows the bus’ yellow lights coming on, the bus moving to take up the entire road at an angle and then the red lights come on when the bus is stopped.  Children were able to exit the bus and go in any direction while the bus effectively served as a shield to protect them. Hopefully, bus drivers around the nation will see this video and other pictures like it, share the information, and implement this simple procedure.  Maybe if more drivers will do this, we won’t read another story like Mason, Xzavier and their sister Alivia’s in our national headlines.  Maybe next time the headline will read, “Moron Kills Self While Failing to Stop for Bus and Crashes Into 25,000 lbs of Yellow Steel…No Children Injured.” Continue Reading →

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