Essays/Opinion

Recent Articles

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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Diane Green, Forever in Our Hearts

On Monday, October 22, 2018, at 3:15 p.m. Texarkana lost a little bit of southern charm and a lot of grace.  Diane Green a beloved school teacher, friend to many, mother, wife, and member of too many civic groups to list passed away from this life and to the gates of Heaven. When I heard of Diane’s passing, like many in the Texarkana area, I was shocked.  I had been blessed to know Curt and Diane through several political events and various functions.  Immediately after hearing of her passing, I began to look over social media and found that my respect for Diane was not alone.  There were state representatives sharing memories, Texarkana business leaders sharing memories, former students of Diane’s sharing memories and even people as far away as Little Rock talking about how her death was affecting them. One former student called Diane “A class act, a kind soul, a lady.”  Another student stated that she had been in Diane’s first kindergarten class and that as one of Diane’s students she would sing when coloring.  The lady said that Diane came over to her, told her she could not sing in class but promised to come to see her when she sings on stage someday.  The student reported that true to her word, years later Diane would watch the former student sing on the stage at the Oaklawn Opry. Another Texarkana business leader posted a picture of himself with Diane at a celebration of someone’s citizenship being completed.  In the comments, the leader stated that Diane “was such a true friend to so many!  I always appreciated her down to earth attitude, her concern for others, and just being Diane, which encompassed a multitude of wonderfulness!”

A former state representative would sum up many feelings around Texarkana when she posted simply, “Forever in our hearts.”  The caption was found above a picture of Diane and the representative on Facebook. As for me, I met Diane first at a political function.  I tend to stand back and observe at many of these events.   I was in the process of observing when Diane must have noticed I was looking around from the side of the room.  She came over, introduced herself, and talked for a little while.  I remember having the immediate feeling that I was talking with a lady of southern charm, and of the kind of grace you did not simply respond to with a “yes” or a “no,” but instead, you responded with a “Yes ma’am,” or a “No ma’am.”  I would later assume that the feeling must have come from the overpowering presence that Diane presented.  Maybe that presence was something from her time as a teacher, or it was just something from the way she carried herself.  Whatever it was about Diane that projected this positive presence I quickly observed it from others in the room as well.  Everyone at the event was responding with the same respect that seemed appropriate to Diane’s status and to her person. Continue Reading →

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The Oaklawn Rotary Club

Many of our readers are aware that Texarkana has a Rotary Club called the Oaklawn Rotary Club of Texarkana.  They meet weekly, complete charity work, host luncheons, and invite guests to speak.  It just so happens that I visited the group a few months ago and was blessed with the opportunity to speak at today’s lunch meeting.  My topic was community journalism and how it is affecting our future.  I arrived at the meeting early, set up a slideshow and waited.  Fortunately, I was the last person to speak or have anything to do in today’s meeting.  This placement in the schedule afforded me the opportunity to watch the club in action. Within a few minutes the Texas Middle School Choir arrived.  The young ladies and their director had completed a competition recently that permitted each student to sing solos.  The Rotary event would be their first event to perform as a group.  The choir was made up of seventh and eighth graders dressed in black and carrying their music to the front of the room.   I considered momentarily how nervous I would have been to be singing in front of a group as a group for the first time but quickly noticed these girls were not nervous.  The group and their director had confidence and from the first note to the last, it was obvious why they had that confidence.  The performance was amazing.  Each note was perfectly pitched to the Rotary group by voices that, though they had not performed together, could have easily competed with a well-trained adult choir.  I did not get the name of their director, but I would highly encourage anyone to seek out these young ladies for any event in need of musical support. Later in the program, Outstanding Student Awards were presented by the Rotarians to two Texas Middle School Students.  Out of about 514 students, these two students had stood out academically and with positive teacher recommendations.   A short bio background was given on each student just prior to the award.  It was clear that not only were the Rotarians proud to be able to provide the awards, but the students and their groups were beaming with pride too. Various other topics were discussed by the group including fundraisers, social events, and community work.  It was obvious that this club is not going to sit on the sidelines and not be involved in the community. When my time to speak came, I must admit being a little nervous after following the choir, the discussions, and the award ceremony for the students.  Somehow, my topic of community journalism did not seem as important or as needed as those other areas had been.  Nonetheless, the Rotarians listened, watched the slides, and seemed interested in the material presented.  Once I finished, the group even had a few questions and insights to provide.  I was made to feel welcome and appreciated by each member present. Continue Reading →

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The Next Day

Seventeen years ago, today, September 12, 2001, it was the next day after the worst terrorist attacks the United States had ever seen.  The confusion of the day before was just starting to settle down to some extent.  Naturally, there were still questions such as “who was behind this attack?” “Why did they hate us so much?” “How many survivors might we find?” and dozens if not hundreds of more similar questions zipped around the nation. Most of America woke up on September 12, 2001, still shaken, upset, mad, and hurt.  Families had been torn apart with death and destruction. The eerie silence in the skies had ended as planes started to fly once more.  The various branches of the government worked vigorously to meet a President and Congress’ demand to know who did this to us.  The military stood on high alert around the world, many waiting for the word to go, find, destroy, and take out those who were responsible.  A President transformed from a leader intent on being an “Education President” to one now charged with leading the nation in a new kind of war.  Bush would now become like Truman, Roosevelt, Johnson, Lincoln and so many others.  He would become a “War President.”

As Americans stayed home, locked their doors, opened their Bibles and other religious text, some for the first time in years, it seemed like it all should have been a dream.  It should have been something we read about happening in other places, other countries, and somewhere other than home.  No generation living could remember a time that the U.S. mainland had been attacked with such destruction.  For a moment, as America stood frozen in fear, it seemed as if the terrorist had won.  They had brought America to her knees.  They had terrified citizens from sea to shining sea.  They had put the military on the highest alert it had been on since perhaps the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Around the world, those who supported the terrorist watched and cheered.  Those who thought of America as the shining symbol of hope, stood by perplexed, shocked, and wondering if this was how it all would end. As the world waited, something unique happened in America.  It was started with a small symbolic gesture of firemen at ground zero.  A photographer over 150 yards away used a telephoto lens to snap the picture of the firemen raising the American flag at 5 p.m. on September 11.  The flag had been borrowed from a yacht named “Star of America” and the next day, September 12, the picture appeared to the world. The raising of the flag at ground zero, where the worst of the destruction, the most loss of life, and the horrible pictures of planes hitting the towers had been seen, became a symbol of something more than hope.  It was from that moment at ground zero that the nation’s heartbeat began to spread.  Flags had always been a part of America, but now Old Glory went up with a vigor and pride not seen in years.  Flagpoles at government offices, hospitals, car lots, malls, businesses began to assert themselves to the world.  Some flagpoles that had been vacant for years, found the flag going up them.  Homes began to display the flag, and boats, trains, and even planes had them displayed. Continue Reading →

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Make Plans to See Governor Hutchinson and Abbott in Texarkana

Texarkana, USA – On September 4, Governor Abbott and Governor Hutchinson will share the stage together for an AR-TX REDI Meeting in downtown Texarkana.  The meeting will be held at the federal courthouse on Stateline at 3:00 p.m.  Traffic is expected to be complicated at this time and both Texarkana Texas and Texarkana Arkansas police are making preparations to handle the parking and routing.  Those attending will need to pay special attention to instructions from the police departments which can be at the link found here. Citizens of both Texarkana, Arkansas and Texarkana, Texas are being encouraged to attend this important event.  Citizens from surrounding towns with an interest in the area’s growth, development and progress should also plan to attend.  The general feeling in the community is that both Governor Hutchinson and Governor Abbott need to be aware that the people of Bowie County and Miller County have a vested interest in the success and growth of Texarkana. A few years ago a community member said during some heated times between the two Texarkanas that, “Texarkana, Texas needs Texarkana, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Arkansas needs Texarkana, Texas.”   It is our opinion that a truer statement could not be made.  While there are individual differences in the two cities, there is also a huge tie between the two.  For economic growth, the businesses located in both states need the citizens of each town.  Because of tax opportunities in both Miller and Bowie County, the growth of the Interstate system into the area, and the recent growth in community-based levels of higher education, Texarkana, USA has opportunities not available in many cities.  The time to act is now. Citizens should plan to come out on September 4, at 3:00 p.m. and support Texarkana, USA.  The governors of both states need to hear loud and clear that we want Texarkana to be the most successful area in the four states region.   The more people showing up to show support, the more clearly conveyed the message will be to both governors that Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas, as well as Bowie and Miller Counties,  are far more connected and together than we are apart. This amazing opportunity to show the governors a unity that stretches beyond a state line will rarely be seen in any other part of the country.  Make plans to get there early and make sure you show your overwhelming support for Texarkana, USA. Continue Reading →

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Support for Coach Barker Grows in Fouke

Since the breaking news of Coach Ricky Barker’s public intoxication arrest, various opinions have been circulating on social media.  Some people have come right out and said that he should be fired, but in Fouke there also is a growing group of supporters for the coach.  That growing support seems to be based on the positive impact that Barker has had on the community and students. Several people have made positive statements such as “people make mistakes” and “shouldn’t we forgive” or “nobody is perfect”.  Others have gone as far as to say that what the coach did may have been wrong, but that it is certainly no reason to fire him.  One Fouke resident said, “Had the coach been driving with a bus full of kids and was drinking, then heck yeah he should be fired.  But he wasn’t.”

Along with the positive and negative discussion, there is even talk about a potential meeting at the school to discuss the issue.  Some people have suggested that the football team will line the roads and show support for the coach when there is a meeting.  Others have suggested that they will testify on the coach’s behalf.  One parent noted that his kid was going nowhere and had some major issues before Coach Barker came along.  The parent went on to say that Barker started working with the young man and that behaviors, attitudes and in fact the young man’s entire life turned around for the positive.  That parent said, “Nobody can take away how much it means to us that Coach Barker helped our son.”

Whether the football team and students show up to support Coach Barker will be unclear until there is a meeting.  Many residents have stated support already on social media for the coach and have also stated an intent to be at the any planned meetings.   There is currently a rumor that when there is a  meeting it may be closed.  At this time there has been no official posting from the school regarding a meeting.  Signs have been showing up on Facebook with one citizen making the sign posted above reminding people of the need for forgiveness.  At the time of this article, the sign above was posted on the “Miller County, AR Alerts and crime awareness” page had over twenty-six comments with people still commenting when we checked. The one thing that is apparent on social media is that there is overwhelming support and evidence from the community that Barker has had a positive impact on the students at the Fouke School District.  Hopefully, when there is a meeting held, they will keep in mind the positive attributes of the coach in any decision they feel compelled to make.   Continue Reading →

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Parents Talk To Your Child About Threats

It’s that time of year again when kids are excited to return to school, teachers are thrilled to see new faces, and parents are relieved to be sending their children to school so laundry can finally be caught up and put up… well, maybe the parents are excited.  It is more likely that the kids and teachers are more than a little apprehensive about the new year.  There will be new faces, new classes, new friends, old friends, and in many cases it can be overwhelming for students from kindergarten to senior high.  You can buy all the supplies and get as ready as possible for the new year, but there is some stuff parents need to consider in this new age that was not as important years ago. Unfortunately, we live in a time of school shootings, threats that develop into actual events, and a general fear in society of what will happen next.  In the midst of all this concern, kids are still kids.  Kids joke, they talk, and sometimes, they simply do not think before they act.  Parents, this is where you have to step up.  I recently talked with a parent whose child had made a comment, a joke basically, about bringing a gun to school.  While the child thought nothing about the statement, the teachers, administrators, and law viewed it a little different.  The next thing that child knew, he was handcuffed, in the back of a police car, and on his way to stand before a judge.  Needless to say, for a ten-year-old little boy, this was terrifying.  The child explained that he was simply “joking” but his joke was taken seriously by all concerned.  A frantic mother had to rush to the courthouse and address the judge.  Parents, you have to take time to prevent this from happening to your child and the time to do that is now in a two-step discussion. The first discussion you need to have with your child is about idle threats.  You should explain how serious a threat can be taken by someone else, even if the child is only joking.  You need to inform your child that he or she should never make statements like, “I’m going to shoot you,” or “I’ll just kill everyone,” or even something as innocent as “I’ve got a gun in my boot!”  Your child should know that no threat, joking or serious, should ever be made.  Along those lines, your child should be told that if someone makes a threat to harm him or her or even others, that he or she has a responsibility to inform a teacher or school administrator immediately.   Depending on your child, it may be appropriate to set forth a rule or a consequence if the child does make a threat – joking or not.  Perhaps your child needs to know that X-Box will be off limits for the rest of the year, or that he or she might end up in jail.  You need to impress upon your child that threats, joking or not, should not be made at school or anywhere else.  If needed, tell your child about the kid who made a joke and ended up before the judge in handcuffs. The second thing you need to discuss in this area with your child is the need to not take any questionable items to school.  Questionable items can be things that someone might consider to be a weapon.  Some of these items are clearly marked in school handbooks, but your child may need a reminder.  The child should know to never take a knife, sharp fingernail file, razor blades, bullets or shells – used or not,  anything that looks like a weapon and most importantly never take a gun to school.  Any of these items could result in an immediate suspension or even expulsion from school.  The action could be taken regardless of the child’s age. Continue Reading →

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Following Shatner on Social Media

I have a confession to make to the world…I stalk William Shatner.  That’s right, I follow him daily.  I look at where he is each day, what he is saying, and what’s going on in his life.  Well, okay, I don’t actually “Stalk” William Shatner and don’t worry, he won’t have to get a restraining order against me, but I do follow his Twitter Account all the time. I have never been able to meet William Shatner in person, but I’m still holding out hope that I’ll attend a convention and meet him somewhere.  You know, the day I’ll likely step up in line, and he’ll say, “Hello there,” and I’ll respond by telling him how awesome his work from acting to writing, to his charity work has been and how honored I am to finally meet him in person…well, I hope I will.  I guess I’m more likely to ramble off, “You’re Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, the reason I still have a Commodore Vic-20 to this day, you wrote the Tek books, and have great horse charity events and I’m in your fan club and have followed you since I was a little kid…..oh, and you were in that cool episode of the Twilight Zone where the monster ripped the engine cover off the plane!”  At that point, I’m sure security will have to ask me to move along so that Mr. Shatner can sign other autographs…so much will be my big moment! Despite having never met William Shatner, it seems he has always been there in my life.  As a child, I did watch those Star Trek shows over and over and over…Ok, yes, I have the Blu Ray editions now too.  I also watched just about anything he was in such as T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, and yes Battle of the Network Stars!  I have several autographs on Star Trek items and collected from reputable sources over the years.   I even watched episodes of Boston Legal, not because I like law shows, but because William Shatner was in it! Having read his books, read about him, and heard what other actors have said about him – did you know some of it is not nice?  Really! – I still did not feel like I knew him, then that all changed!  One day a magical thing happened!  William Shatner got a verified Twitter Account.  He started tweeting and I started stalking…err, following. Continue Reading →

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Social Media Responds to Renaming of Hobo Jungle

Texarkana, AR – Hobo Jungle Park, at least as far as anyone seems to remember, was named after the “Hobos” who once frequented the area when it was owned by the railroads.  The term Hobo started in the late 1890s and referred to a person who would travel around the country seeking work.  Often this group of people would travel by train and stay near train yards or train stops.  When the train would prepare to leave, and the Hobo needed to travel to work, he would usually follow the tracks to the next town or he might “hop a train” and ride in an open freight car as far as he could.  After the city obtained the land, a park was put in that has eventually become a baseball and softball complex in the city of Texarkana, Arkansas.  The park has been named “Hobo Jungle Park” for as long as most citizens can remember, but on Saturday, June 23rd, the City of Texarkana Board met and renamed the park by a unanimous vote to the “Ermer Dansby Pondexter Sports Complex”. As it seems with most change, it did not take long for social media to come alive.  The pictures of the Mayor and others holding a certificate of the name change was published on the Texarkana Arkansas Facebook page and comments started flying.  While there were many positive comments on the name change, there appeared to be an overwhelming number of negative comments.  Comments ranged from “STOP CHANGING OUR LANDMARKS” to “I will still call it Hobo Jungle” and many others. People questioned the meeting and when it was announced.  Some noted that the Texarkana Gazette carried a short article about the meeting on Saturday, the same day as the meeting.  Someone else stated that they had seen it posted on the Facebook page on Saturday, again the same day as the meeting.  A quick look at the Facebook page did not show a note about the meeting and a look at the city calendar showed all stated board meetings on the first and third Mondays, which is normal for the city.  On the calendar for Saturday, June 23, 2018, there was no entry for any meeting or event on the city calendar.  

The posting on Facebook has continued to extend well beyond the twenty-four-hour mark now.  People go on to question facts like the recent poll by the Gazette where the majority did not want to rename the park, the odd timing of the meeting, and the fact that it appeared to be changed without allowing public input from citizens.  Most questioned who Mrs. Pondexter is and what she had to do with the park.  Theories ranged from she was a lady killed when the trains derailed, to she was an outstanding citizen advocate. While citizens continue to debate whether the name should or should not be changed, whether the city should have given more notice or not,  there should be no denying that Mrs. Pondexter is one of Texarkana, Arkansas’ shining stars. Continue Reading →

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