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Burglary suspect arrested in Polk County

STOCK PHOTO By Chris Edwards news@tylercountybooster.com POLK COUNTY – Tyler County authorities are reporting an arrest made recently in a burglary that occurred in March. According to Tyler County Sheriff Byran Weatherford, deputies with the Tyler County…

How to avoid getting wrapped up in a car wrap scam

By Ari Lazarus FTC Consumer Education Specialist You’re looking to make some extra money and you get a text or email or see an ad on social media: Get paid to wrap your car and drive around. The offers can sound good: $600-700 a week to drive around with an ad for some well-known company — usually an energy drink. Many times, these offers are…
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Fishing event set for special needs kids

Special to the News-Times COLDSPRING — Wolf Creek Park will be the site of the CAST for Kids fishing event, set for Saturday. The event is sponsored by San Jacinto County, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas Farm Bureau Insurance. The children participating in the event will enjoy a morning of fishing followed by lunch and an awards…
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Tribe announces plans for new casino resort

From Enterprise Staff The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has announced plans to build a brand-new casino resort on its tribal lands. “We are incredibly excited to embark on this new chapter. This new casino resort will not only provide significant economic benefits for those living and working in the region, but it will also become a vibrant…
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Two million fry released into Lake Livingston as part of hybrid bass stocking program

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s (TPW) Inland Fisheries Jasper District Supervisor Todd Driscoll hands a box containing 50,000 fry to TPW Inland Fisheries Biologist Dan Ashe as TPW Technician Ray Lenderman waits in the wings. Two million fry are being released into Lake Livingston through a stocking program that is a joint effort of many,…
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s (TPW) Inland Fisheries Jasper District Supervisor Todd Driscoll hands a box containing 50,000 fry to TPW Inland Fisheries Biologist Dan Ashe as TPW Technician Ray Lenderman waits in the wings. Two million fry are being released into Lake Livingston through a stocking program that is a joint effort of many, including Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Trinity River Authority, Lake Livingston Fishing Club aka “The Happy Hookers,” Friends of Lake Livingston and local fishing guides Michael Richardson and Jeff Friederich. Photo by Emily  Banks Wooten

Child abuse/neglect statistics show 173 dead in 2023

By Chris Edwardsnews@tylercountybooster.com During Monday morning’s regular meeting of the Tyler County Commissioners Court, County Judge Milton Powers read some sad, sobering and stark statistics. In Tyler County, last year, there were 267 reports of child abuse and/or neglect, and of those reports made, 41 cases were confirmed and of those…
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Arrest made following pursuit

By Chris Edwardsnews@tylercountybooster.com SPURGER – The Tyler County Sheriff’s Office recently made an arrest following a high-speed pursuit in the Spurger/Fred area, according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. Weatherford reported that on the night of Monday, March 18, TCSO deputies were patrolling the area, and observed a…
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Charges dropped against constable candidate

By Tony Farkasnews@sanjacnews.com Peter SpartaThe felony charge against a candidate for the San Jacinto County Precinct 3 constable’s position, arrested in January, was dismissed Friday because it was characterized as a case of mistaken identity. The charge was dismissed by a representative of the Waller County District Attorney’s Office, Tiffany…
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Fire department rescues stranded boaters on river

Four people were rescued from a sinking water craft on Thursday. Courtesy photo TCNS staff TRINITY —Trinity Fire & Rescue rescued four adults from a sinking boat on Thursday. Fire Chief Keith Johnson said that at approximately 8:30 p.m. Thursday, rescue personnel were sent to the site of the sinking craft on the Trinity River across from Trinity…
Four people were rescued from a sinking water craft on Thursday. Courtesy photo

Stolen trucks

On Thursday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office received reports that three newer model Ford pickup trucks had been stolen from multiple locations across Polk County. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has requested the public’s assistance in locating the vehicles pictured that were stolen. Those with information in reference to this casethat may help…

Hybrid bass stocking program could have huge economic impact

Mike Bischoff of “The Happy Hookers” Lake Livingston Fishing Club signs a permit application as Ron Diderich, president of Friends of Lake Livingston, and Dan Ashe, an inland fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, look on. The three men and the groups they represent are part of a larger effort to stock Lake Livingston with…
Mike Bischoff of “The Happy Hookers” Lake Livingston Fishing Club signs a permit application as Ron Diderich, president of Friends of Lake Livingston, and Dan Ashe, an inland fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, look on. The three men and the groups they represent are part of a larger effort to stock Lake Livingston with hybrid bass, making it a destination lake for anglers. Courtesy photo

Red Cross Opens Two Shelters to Help those Impacted by Storms

Wednesday, April 10, 2024- The American Red Cross has opened two emergency shelter in our Southeast and Deep East chapter to help those impacted by the overnight storms across the region. Our Texas Gulf Coast Disaster Team is working with local county officials and emergency managers to determine the needs in several communities due to the…
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Online Independent Living class offered

STOCK PHOTO Crockett-Palestine Resource Centers for Independent Living are beginning a new online class, Independence Corner, for people with disabilities. Classes will be held on Mondays from 1-2 p.m., with the first class on April 8. The topics for the first series of classes include making decisions, money management, career preparation, health…

UH musical theatre showcase concert slated

From Enterprise Staff The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts is proud to announce a collaboration between Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown and acclaimed actress and singer Sally Mayes at the University of Houston on April 12. This concert, a highlight of the spring semester, serves as the culmination of the “Song…

Eclipse to hit Texas Monday

By Chris Edwardsnews@tylercountybooster.com TYLER COUNTY – A cosmic event that at least one economist is predicting to be “the most profitable 22 minutes” in Texas history is occurring next Monday, April 8. A total solar eclipse, which the site Great American Eclipse, is calling “the greatest sight nature offers,” where the sun will be eclipsed by…

Arrests made for drugs, road rage incident

From Enterprise Staff Polk County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives served a felony warrant on Brandon Michael Dunaway, 21 of Livingston, on March 26 in relation to an overdose that occurred at a Polk County residence earlier this week. Upon arrival, detectives identified Dunaway’s girlfriend, Christian Cari Stanley, 19 of Livingston, who…

Trinity-Neches Livestock Show kicks off Monday

STOCK PHOTO From Enterprise Staff The 78th annual Trinity-Neches FFA and 4-H Livestock Show kicks off Monday at the Barney Wiggins Memorial Arena on S.H. 146 and will run through April 6 with a rodeo slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Gates will not open prior to 6 a.m. each morning and will close at 10 p.m. each night. Everyone must leave the…
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Tunnel travel in downtown Houston

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Tunnels 01

Story and photos by Kelli Barnes and Amy Holzworth

Surprise! There are six miles of tunnels covering 95 city blocks, 20 feet below the skyscrapers in downtown Houston. The 168,600 employees working downtown can beat the heat, rain, and traffic each weekday by going underground. The offices covering 51 million square feet of space have been somewhat abandoned due to COVID 19.* 

Anyone can descend to enjoy a brisk walk in a climate-controlled, safe environment. The atmosphere is a cross between a large airport and a large hospital. It is open 6 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. during the five weekdays. Access to the tunnels is available by traveling downtown via Metro transportation to two major entrance points — Wells Fargo Plaza and McKinney Garage on Main. Metered parking on the street is available for $3, and there are open parking lots and parking garages available. Several stairs and escalators provide channels down into the tunnels in various spots downtown. For close parking to a tunnel entrance, use McKinney Place garage and plan to spend between $8 for an hour or up to $20 for the day. There are parking coupons for $3 off available in some places. The Wells Fargo parking garage is cost-prohibitive for most visitors and is used primarily for banking customers and employees based on the pricing.

Tunnels 02The best time to visit would be 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. when most shops and restaurants are guaranteed to be open for business. Some establishments are shut down before and after the lunch rush. Those hours would be best for walking and enjoying the tunnels.

A wide variety of food choices from chain restaurants to individually owned, specialty-food eateries are available. Here are a few locally owned recommendations: 

  • Star Chef Dumpling: pan seared or steamed pork, chicken or veggie-filled options
  • Simit & Poacha Bakery: has amazing Tiramisu and Polka pastry to name just two
  • Amilles Coffee Shop: for an espresso or lavender and honey latte. They also have traditional coffee favorites. 

When thinking of shopping options, imagine places one would go during a lunch hour in addition to food: dry cleaners, barber shops and shoe shining, hair and nail spas, chiropractors, print shops, pharmacies, convenience stores, jewelry repair, and even doctor and dentist offices. The COVID shutdown is coming to an end, and businesses are opening again to service the thousands of employees returning to the office. 

The hustle and bustle felt in the tunnels is infectious. Texans have so many special things to see and do, and this is a good one. The history of this particular attraction starts in the early 1930s. 

Tunnels 03Ross Sterling, who also served as the 31st governor of Texas, wanted to build a tunnel under the city to connect two downtown movie theaters. He was inspired by the tunnels under the Rockefeller Center in New York City. 

Will Horwitz later connected three of his vaudeville and movie theaters to save on air conditioning. In the construction boom beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, more buildings went up and their owners linked tunnels to the previous passageways. 

Expansion in the area continues with additional buildings and tunnels in the planning stages.* When visiting, the tunnels are random with no particular rhyme or reason. Color-coded maps are located throughout and prove both useful and necessary. 

Downtown Houston has a new motto: “The coffee is brewed. The taps are tapped and the grill ignited. The doors are open and the tables set. We are moving forward, but we need you to join us.” 

*statistics and historical facts from: 365thingsinhouston.com


The tunnels in downtown Houston were started in the 1930's and have been added to over the years. Since each tunnel was individually built and paid for by different business owners in different decades, you will see hints of the time period on the structures and decor choices. (Above) Signage lines the checkerboard hallway in this tunnel, marking different business services available. (Left) Think "The Jetson's" when enjoying art lined hall in this tunnel area.

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By way of two Wheels

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Main Photo Wheels

Story, photos, and illustrations by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

With no shortage of ways to explore to piney-nooks of East Texas, from rides down shaded forest roads to secluded hikes, sometimes a more middle-of-the-road approach is needed to enjoy the woods properly. Motors are great from getting to point A to Point B quickly, but for those looking for a slower pace with a bit of excitement, grab a pair of handlebars and air up your tires for a bike ride through East Texas.

CountyMapBelow the tall pines, red clay roads give way to smaller human-sized trails for human-powered wheels to ride through sandy bottoms and over tree roots. But before biking through East Texas, beginners and experts alike should take note of the unique terrain the pineywoods poses. East Texas’ soils range from silty sands to hard clays that get slippery with the coastal rainfalls, and with so many creeks running through the region, riders should be mindful of wet bottomlands that can quickly house flash floodwaters.

Hefty roots sent off by pines and hardwoods seek to trip bikers who stand on their pedals, while rocks sometimes get kicked up by fast-moving tires. Riders should always take care to wear a properly fitting helmet and take a first aid kit for themselves and their wheels with them. 

Don’t be timid when it comes to letting others know you’re in the area- indicate things like your upcoming direction or that you’re approaching when in thick areas of vegetation through visual and audible cues- do both if possible to be mindful of those with impairments.

 Bighead Creek Trail- Kilgore, TX

Running alongside and crossing over several local creeks, including Bighead Creek, this trail features 3.5 miles of volunteer-built bike courses that sit right outside the city, making it easy to forget there’s any concrete even around. Manmade dirt mounds dot the trails between trees and switchbacks exist for more experienced riders. The trail maintainers are constantly adding new features, so while short, it’s sure to challenge anyone any time of year. Riders can access the bike trail by hopping on the 4.8 mile paved Creekside Trail at one of several trailheads in the area.

FEE: Free, Day Use Only

Things to know: Popular with dog walkers

A portion of the Nacogdoches trails system that runs through Stephen F. Austion State University's Native Plant Center.A portion of the Nacogdoches trails system that runs through Stephen F. Austion State University's Native Plant Center.

SFA Recreational Trail- Nacogdoches, TX

Walk through the Gayla Mize Gardens and over a wooden bridge crossing Lanna Creek into the pine-lined SFA Recreational Bike Trails. Stretching around seven miles, the connected trails that make up the system takes advantage of the town’s elevation changes and has something for everything level of difficulty- including some wooden ramps hidden around the trails. Like all of East Texas, bikers should be extra cautious about pine trees big and small while taking fast speeds, especially while biking alongside the creeks. Keep a close eye on the trails for the occasional protected Timber Rattlesnake or sunbathing box turtle, as well as runners and hikers who also make use of the trails. Bikers who want to explore more of the town’s historic streets can access the 6 mile Lanana Creek Trails by taking a quick detour across University Street and through the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden.

FEE: Free, Day Use Only

Things to know: Port-a-potties are occasionally present at the trailhead but this is not always the case. The town's bike shop, Mile’s Bike Shop, is located less than a mile from the gardens.

DogwoodflowerDavey Dogwood Park- Palestine, TX

Named as much for the park’s benefactor as it is for the flower popular within the boundaries, this city park sits outside of old town Palestine and caters to outdoor seekers of all types. Bikers can expect to find 5 miles of paved and 8 miles of dirt surfaces to cruise around the 250-acre park in. Small wooden bridges connect land over streams, while tree roots and rocks help hold more steeper trails together.

Since this is a city park, pedestrians and dogs can be found sharing the trails, but park benches for post-ride picnics are also abundant.

FEE: Free, Day Use Only

Things to know: There are no bathrooms

The dam at Mission Tejas State Park leads into elevated switchbacks that take riders by most of the park's features.The dam at Mission Tejas State Park leads into elevated switchbacks that take riders by most of the park's features.

Mission Tejas State Park- Grapeland, TX

Just as the creeks in the park continue to carve out steep ridges, Mission Tejas State Park is quietly carving out a reputation for some quick and exciting rides through the pines. With several of its trails serving hike and bike traffic, riders are sure to get a good view of the northern half of the Davy Crockett National Forest with just under 10 miles of flat and inclined trails. The historic buildings throughout the park provide perfect places to rest, with maps and more available inside the visitors' center. Bathrooms, water bottle refill stations, and day-use areas can also be easily found, and camping is available for those looking to make a week out of hitting the East Texas trails.

FEE: $3 daily or free with a Texas State Parks Pass

THINGS TO KNOW: With any trails that may encounter vehicle traffic, keeping lights, especially blinking lights, on bikes can help increase rider visibility for themselves, but also approaching traffic.

Kit McConico Park- Lufkin, TX

Moving further south into Lufkin is Kit McConico city park, which humbly hides a 5.5 mile trail system right outside of the loop. The trail, made up of its own loops and segments, is maintained by the local bike club and is designed to be easy enough for anyone in the community to enjoy. it’s a quick way to explore the fungus, flora, and fauna that call the pineywoods home while en route to other parts of the region.

FEE: Free, Day Use Only

THINGS TO KNOW: Restrooms are available at the trailhead.

Double Lake Recreation Area Bike Trails,-Coldspring TX

Running through the Sam Houston National Forest, Double Lake Recreation Area (DLRA) Bike Trails start at the appropriately named Double Lake Recreation Area and connect some 21 miles of the National Forest’s best bike-only trails that are a favorite among local Houston area bike clubs and solo-riders alike. The trails do get hit hard by coastal rains, especially during hurricane season, but public showers by the swimming hole at DLRA offer a cool-off and clean-down for muddy bikers. With the coastal weather, bikers can expect to hear plenty of birds above and see patches of colorful fungus and flowers in the warmer months, and views of post-prescribed burns in the spring. Trailheads can be found along Forest Service Road 210A near the Double Lake Lodge.

FEE: $7 day use

Things to know: Bikers should be mindful of the $400 fee for bringing bikes on the Lonestar Hiking Trail.


Huntsville State Park- Huntsville, TX

Huntsville State Park offers almost 15 miles of bike trails in the park, with all trails serving both bikers and hikers, so be wary of slower foot traffic while riding down the sand and clay dips that define some of the trails. Expect a long ride wherever you go, with the largest loop circling the entire permitter of the park. Large shady pines help keep riders cool, even in the Texas sun, and benches are scattered about the trails to help remind adventure seekers that even they need a break.

The park borders the national forest boundaries, as some trails feed into the national forest so riders should take care to have the appropriate passes. Both the park and national forest participate in hunting season to varying degrees so recreationists should take extra caution in the fall especially to avoid hunting areas and wear brightly colored clothing.

FEE: $5 daily or free with a Texas State Parks Pass

Things to know: There are also several trails adjacent to the park in the national forest, including the Lonestar Hiking Trail, which prohibits bike use.

George Mitchell Nature Preserve 

Just down I-45 in Montgomery County, the George Mitchell Nature Preserve in The Woodlands makes for a challenge closer to the city. The bi-directional loop, which will put you at a cool three miles from start to finish, is a good excuse to visit the more populated neck of the woods. Since the park aims to include native species, riders should keep an eye out for migrating birds and small mammals that frequent the area, as well as swarms of mosquitos that call the coastal humidity their home.

FEE: Free, Day Use Only

Things to know: This trail is popular with dog walkers

Armed with tips and starter locations for a ride around the woods, those ready to become stewards of the trails just need to pick up a map and a water bottle (stickers from your favorite ride spot optional), and lay down fresh track in the sand and clay. Remember to always observe individual park rules (to avoid having future rules named after yourself), and always follow universal means of respect, from Right of Way to Leave No Trace.

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After the storm

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deadfish2021COURTESY PHOTO | TPWD Red drum killed by freezing temperatures in last week’s winter blast float in Pringle Lake, a backwater estuary along the middle Texas coast near Port O’Connor.

Texas wildlife, fisheries experts reporting mixed bag of hits following frigid winter blast

Story by Matt Williams

The polar vortex that pummeled the south in February with snow, ice and record low temperatures caught lots of people off guard and wreaked havoc on life as we know it. Many who lived through Winter Storm Uri will forever remember it as a chaotic week when Texas froze over and all sorts of trouble came in the wake.

The state’s power grid choked, leaving millions to fend off the ruthless cold in the dark without heat for days.
Limbs snapped and trees toppled, taking power lines with them. Pipes burst, flooding countless homes and businesses. Roofs collapsed and ceilings caved in. Lakes and ponds froze over.

At Lake O’ The Pines and Toledo Bend reservoirs, sections of two popular marinas sank under the weight of ice and snow.
Excessive demands for gasoline caused long lines at pumps.

Grocery store shelves were stripped bare and many fast food hubs ran short of meat for tacos and buns for burgers.
For many, finding clean water to drink and warm water to bathe became a challenge.

To make matters worse, all of this hardship and more fell on top of a lingering pandemic that refuses to go away.
Texas’ fisheries, wildlife and habitat took some hits in the winter storm, too. It’s still too early in the game to know the full extent of the damage done in the outdoor world, but some of the early reports indicate it isn’t pretty.

A panel of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department experts offered some thoughts on the situation thus far:

White-tailed Deer and Exotics

White-tailed deer program leader Alan Cain doesn’t foresee any significant losses with white-tailed deer with the exception of a few older animals.
“Obviously, some mortality of the very old deer or those deer in poor body condition is to be expected — this is just nature, survival of the fittest,” Cain said.

Cain pointed to possible damage to native habitat in some regions as a more pressing concern. He said some brush species in South Texas that had green leaves before the freeze are now parched or brown.

“We’re also seeing some impact on the winter weeds which are critical for deer this time of year and into the early spring,” he said. “There are still some green patches of burclover, but we’re also seeing lots of it burned from the freeze. I’m hopeful the moisture from the snow and ice soaked up in the soil we’ll see a good start to the spring green up as temperatures warm.”

Exotic animals didn’t fare near as well in the winter blast. Axis deer and black buck antelope were among the hardest hit. “Many of the exotics don’t do well with extended periods of extreme cold,” Cain said. “I’ve heard reports of axis deer seeking shelter in barns on some ranches in the Hill Country, which is completely unexpected. This just shows how desperate some of the axis deer were to find shelter from the weather. I suspect it will be several weeks before we know the full impact on the exotics.”

Coastal Fish Kills/Shad Die-offs

Sadly, widespread fish kills occurred along the Texas Coast when frigid air chilled water temperatures into the mid-40s in shallow bay systems. Reports of dead fish and cold-stunned sea turtles began coming in as early as Valentine’s Day. Quantification of the impacts are still ongoing, according to a Feb. 23 TPWD news release.

Biologists and game wardens have documented mortalities along the entire coastline, but TPWD says it appears that bays south of Galveston were the hardest hit. Early assessments indicate the majority of fish impacted were non-recreational species, but game fish including spotted sea trout, red drum, sheepshead, grey snapper, snook, black drum and tarpon were also impacted. Experts will know more as gill net sampling and angler creel surveys get underway this spring. Freshwater sport fish aren’t near as susceptible to mortality in freeze events because they can usually find refuge in deeper water. However, shad populations that provide vital forage for game fish aren’t always so lucky, according to TPWD fisheries biologist Brian Van Zee of Waco.
Van Zee said threadfin shad die-offs have been reported at lakes Texoma, Lavon and Graham.

“It’s not that uncommon, especially at Lake Texoma,” he said. “Luckily, shad populations rebuild quickly. Once it warms up they’ll starting spawning like crazy.” Van Zee added the game wardens at Lake Falcon in South Texas scooped up numerous tilapia that perished in the cold.

Wild Turkey

Wild turkeys are big, hardy birds. Likewise, TPWD wild turkey program leader Jason Hardin isn’t expecting to see any major impacts from the big freeze.
“Most of our turkeys should be fine,” he said. “They should have had enough fat and energy reserves to survive. That said, any birds that were in bad shape (malnourished, injured, or sick) going into this event would have a harder time and would be more susceptible to predators. This undoubtedly depleted fat reserves, so there could be an impact going into the nesting season with reduced reproductive effort, but if we can stay warm and green from now until spring they should have a chance to replenish their reserves.”


Texas bobwhites just can’t catch a break. The verdict is still out as to how hard the iconic game birds may have been hit by the cold blast, according to Robert Perez, upland game bird program leader.

“Our Texas quail species do have adaptations to get through tough weather,” he said. “With the right escape cover available, the covey formation does an excellent job of heat retention. However, the snowfall seems to penetrate even good escape cover, so coveys may have been pushed and possibly weakened.”

Perez added that icing events lasting beyond 3-4 days can spell trouble for the dapper game birds. “Bobwhite and scaled quail are only weak scratchers, so they are not really adapted to having to dig through ice,” he said. “Once the body fat reserve is gone birds have been found whole/frozen after prolonged ice periods in the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma. I have not gotten any reports of that so far with this winter storm, but it is possible.”

Doves, Ducks and Bats

TPWD’s webless migratory program leader Owen Fitzsimmons said there have been reports of mortalities among white-winged doves, pelagic offshore species and various songbirds, but he isn’t expecting the impacts to be significant. He believes any dove losses will be quickly offset with a decent breeding season.

“Birds need to consume a lot of food to generate heat and stay warm in sustained cold weather,” he said. “It only takes a day or two without food to kill a bird in extremely cold temperatures. The bad part was that all the snow and ice made finding seeds/insects impossible, so that’s why some birds didn’t make it.”

Additionally, TPWD reported hundreds of dead coots and multiple blue-winged teal mortalities at state wildlife management areas, along with dead or cold-stunned bats beneath road bridges.

Giant Salvinia Knocked Back

The big freeze may have helped in the state’s ongoing battle against giant salvinia. The invasive plant is present in more than two dozen Texas reservoirs and several rivers, according to John Findiesen, TPWD’s aquatic habitat enhancement team leader.

“I’m not completely sure what the long-term impacts will be, but short term looks good,” he said. “We had a cold weather event in January 2018 that was was not as severe as this one and had a shorter duration, but it still wiped out 98 percent of the salvinia in the state. Giant salvinia covered nearly 6,000 acres of Caddo Lake prior to the 2018 event. We found less than 50 acres of salvinia in our initial post-event survey in 2018.”

Unfortunately, the plant has knack for bouncing back. “This event will definitely help reduce salvinia coverage again, but I don’t know how long it will be before we see it floating again on area lakes,” Findiesen said. “Even if it all dies in Texas, it could easily be brought from somewhere else by trailer, boat or other equipment.”

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Turning ‘Time in Texas’ into Country Gold

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tyler dozier 2COURTESY PHOTO Tyler Dozier

By Caleb Fortenberry and Chris Edwards

The pandemic that seized the entire planet last year made for a drastic change in how humans live, work, worship and play. In the “blessings in disguise” category, many who had to re-invent their lives found new passions or re-discovered old hobbies.

Spurger native Tyler Dozier is one such young man who managed to turn bad news into something positive. “As bad as the coronavirus is, I got laid-off from the plant, and jobs are slow,” he explained. “So, I decided to do something that I enjoyed.”

Dozier took his God-given talent in music, which he’d honed through his young life, and blaze the trail that many talented Texans before him had taken. So far, he has gone gung-ho into his fresh start, with two singles already under his belt and a full-length album in the works.

The young singer/songwriter has music in his genes. His father, Donald Dozier, is still known in the region for his prowess as a guitarist and played with many bands and artists through the years, including a pre-superstar Mark Chesnutt. Tyler said his father is his primary influence in chasing a musical career, although he did not get to see him onstage in his glory days.

“I never got to see him play, because I was too young at the time that he quit playing out,” he said.

Some other influences came by way of artists like Josh Ward and Cody Johnson, both of whom Tyler began following before they were huge regional acts.

The young artist said he pretty much taught himself to sing and started playing music when he was eight years old, beginning with piano. Eventually, he also took to playing guitar and drums. His father helped him get started on the guitar when he was 12, and he added the elder Dozier will also play with him live. “I do have plans of getting a band together,” he said. “I have some guys right now that I’ve played with for a long time just around my house and stuff. The only thing I’m missing is a bass player right now but if everything goes as I hope then I will have a band to play out in the next couple of months.”

Until he gets a band solidified for live work, though, he said he is content to play as a solo act, which he said is a good way for the audience to really hear him and his songs “as I am.”

At present, even though the continuing efforts to curb the pandemic have slowed down consistent live performance opportunities for musicians, Tyler has been able to take to the road and play some solo acoustic shows in such venues as Conroe’s Red Brick Tavern. “It’s a blast to get out and play in front of live audiences,” he said.

Before he even started getting into venues, he began laying down some of his material in the studio. His first single, “Doing Time in Texas,” a classic-sounding country tune detailing the heartbreak of a man’s willingness to wait for the woman he loves, went out to radio stations during last summer, when he was the tender age of 19.

The song was co-written between three songwriters, one of whom was Tyler’s cousin David Reed. “First time I heard it, I was like, ‘Man, I really got to cut this song’,” he said.

The song made enough of a splash in the Texas regional market that Dozier was able to score a management deal with Salter-Gann Universal Promotions and Management, LLC.

A second single, “How Can I Get You Off My Mind,” also penned by his cousin Reed, is currently making its rounds in the radio markets, and to add to that excitement, Tyler said he has plans to journey to Nashville soon to record some songs he has co-written with Reed.

Dozier’s performance of his new single, which is orchestrated by traditional country instrumentation, such as the whine of a pedal steel guitar and acoustic guitars, bares the influence of his dad’s old running buddy/bandmate, Chesnutt, but still sounds uniquely Tyler Dozier.

Whatever happens for the young East Texan singer and writer of pure country songs, one thing is certain to anyone who meets him: he will remain the same grounded, yet talented, young man he has always been.

“Man, it’s crazy how people have responded to my music. Especially when I play live. Man! People come up and talk to me and that’s just what this is all about. I’m just an ol’ country boy out here doing what I love and for people to enjoy listening to it as much as I do, it means a lot and it’s really inspiring.”

Tyler Dozier’s singles “Doing Time in Texas” and “How Can I Get You Off My Mind” can be downloaded from all digital music retail platforms and can be streamed on Spotify or requested from radiofreetexas.com.

Video interview with Tyler

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A place to rest their heads

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EastTexan Spring2021

Sleep in heavenly peace commits to ending childhood bedlessness

By Chris Edwards

In the classic song “The Weight” by The Band, a weary traveler’s lament known to every man, woman, child and beast, the late, great Levon Helm sings of someone looking for a place “where a man might find a bed,” to no avail.

There are many who are in search of that same, seemingly basic amenity/comfort, including children, a fact that bothered Woodville resident Brian Smith.

“I had no idea that children without beds was an issue, a problem at all. I simply never thought about it. I have always had a bed; everyone that I knew had a bed,” he said.

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Smith and his wife Deborah saw a story on a Beaumont television station’s news broadcast that reported on that particular issue and an organization fighting to end it, and it left a deep impression upon both their hearts and minds.

The story was about a non-profit organization named after a line in the old Christmas time hymn “Silent Night.” Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a nationwide concern, and was began by a concerned church youth group leader named Luke Mickelson.

Mickelson first encountered the issue of children without beds in his church and got a group together to build beds for a family in need. From that humble show of service sprung the organization, which became a non-profit with chapters around the country. Mickelson was even honored by CNN in 2018 as a “Hero of the Year.”

The Smiths added an East Texas chapter of the organization to its growing roster on September 5, 2020, which was a quest of approximately 10 months.

The couple investigated the practical aspects of getting a SHP chapter started, namely the cost of materials and the necessary non-profit paperwork, interest was fomenting, and several members of the community became interested in helping.

With a group together, the “core team,” they had their first building event on that day in September, when they built six twin beds to donate to families in the county who were in need.

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“There are children in Tyler County sleeping on the floor, on a couch, in a chair, or are sharing an undersized mattress on the floor with too many siblings or otherwise in a less-than-optimal sleeping environment,” Brian said.

The word got out quickly throughout the community, and Deborah said it was “an extremely rewarding experience” to see her desire to help the community pay off.

Although the story on the news brought the issue into living color for Brian and Deborah, seeing folks who could use a hand-up was nothing new to Brian. He said he has done mission work in some of the poorer areas of Mexico, places “where one sees true poverty,” he said, and seeing how people lived left a deep, lasting impression, which came back in spades when he and his wife saw that broadcast.

“Here, in the United States, to realize that our little county probably has hundreds of children without beds hurts my heart,” he said.

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“As a sentimental older man, I still get choked up when I think of the joyous reactions of the children we help. The feelings of peace and security that a real bed gives them gets me up for early morning bed builds,” he said.

SHP currently has 240 chapters across the nation, and in Bermuda, and there are hopes to break into Canada in the near future.

Anyone can volunteer at one of SHP’s bed-build events, and they do not have to bring anything, “except a desire to help others,” Brian said. The group will supply the tools, PPE, drinks, snacks and instructions.

The Woodville chapter of the group hopes to be able to build sturdy, functional bunk and twin beds from dimensional lumber one Saturday each month during the 8 a.m. to noon time period. The volunteer-driven assembly line process allows most anyone to contribute.

According to the chapter’s website, located at shpbeds.org/chapter/tx-woodville, anyone who wishes to volunteer can show up to the build day event or a delivery event, and those dates are available on a calendar on the site. There is also a link on the site to allow anyone who is interested in contributing financially to the cause, or to sponsor a build day.

According to Brian, the cost to build a twin bed is $170 and $350 for a bunk bed, and all of the materials must come from donations. Each chapter of SHP must be financially self-supporting and entirely dependent on donations, which is all carefully accounted for, from local chapters through the national headquarters.

The estimated monthly need for the SHP Woodville chapters is $2,500 to $3,000, which is enough to provide 14 to 17 beds per month, and this is the cost for the bare materials.

The organization also needs tools, such as saw blades, drill bits and other items, such as gloves, safety glasses and many other PPE items.

Brian added that for anyone who needs one of the beds, there is a place on the website to request a bed, and applicants can answer a few basic questions and submit. He and Deborah can also be contacted directly, at 844-432-2337 (extension 5757) or at PO Box 143, Woodville, Texas 75979, for anyone who might be interested in donating to the cause.

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