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  • Former NFL player, Crockett native drowns at Rayburn

    Pete Lammons trading card as a New York JetCOURTESY PHOTO Pete Lammons trading card as a New York Jet

    By Chris Edwards

    A man who drowned in Lake Sam Rayburn on Thursday was identified on Friday by authorities as that of Peter Spencer “Pete” Lammons, Jr., a 77-year-old Houston man who was once an NFL athlete.

    Lammons, who was reportedly an avid outdoorsman, was fishing in the Major League Fishing’s Toyota Tournament when the incident occurred on Thursday. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the drowning occurred near San Augustine Park, which is located on the east side of the lake, seven miles southwest of Pineland. The drowning in the second that has occurred in the region during this week. On Sunday, 18-year-old Richard Tyler Johnston, of Hemphill, drowned in Dam B.

    Texas Parks & Wildlife game wardens recovered his body by using sonar, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, according to a press release from Major League Fishing. The accident occurred when Lammons fell overboard at the dock while preparing to fish in the tournament, according to MLF.

    Lammons was a native of Crockett and played football for Jacksonville High School in the late 1950s and early ‘60s before he matriculated to the University of Texas in Austin and played as a Longhorn. He was drafted as an eighth-round pick by the New York Jets in the 1966 AFL draft, according to ESPN, where he played as a tight-end through 1971. He finished his career as one of the Green Bay Packers in 1972.

    Pete Lammons as UT Longhorn courtesy of UTPete Lammons as UT Longhorn courtesy of UT

    Lammons was a starting defensive player on the Jets’ Super Bowl III championship team, and he was also a part of the UT 1963 national championship team under legendary coach Darrell Royal.

    Lammons also played for another legendary coach, Bum Phillips, as a high school freshman. Phillips was then head coach at Jacksonville High School. Years later, the two men met again on the sidelines of the 1967 AFL All-Star Game.

    According to Lammons’s nephew Lance, his uncle had been fatigued from two recent stent surgeries and tripped as he was about to board the boat, fell into the lake and could not be saved.

    After his football career, Lammons was involved in real estate and horse racing. He was also a professional angler, and had competed in more than 50 of the MLF tournaments.

    On a story about Lammons’s death on the New York Jets’ official website, his nephew is quoted as saying that “Pete wanted Jacksonville to have his Super Bowl ring and his National Championship ring from the University of Texas.”

    Lammons also has a scholarship named in his honor for Jacksonville HS graduates.

  • Former Tyler County Sheriff Jessie Wolf dies

    Jesse Wolf 1Wolf when he served as Tyler County Sheriff. PHOTO COURTESY OF KENDALL COLEMAN

     
    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Former Tyler County Sheriff Jessie Wolf died on Monday at the age of 68. Wolf was a long-time lawman in the county and served one term as sheriff. He died of natural causes.

    In a profile of Wolf written by the late scholar and community leader Mayme Canada Brown, and published in the Sept. 25, 2014 edition of the Booster, Wolf was described as a stand-out athlete during his high school days at Warren ISD.

    Wolf was, according to Brown’s story, one of the “new generation in the time of total integration,” in 1968, and following his graduation in 1970, he and his twin brother James were scouted by Prairie View A&M University and accepted to the program in 1972.

    Wolf was a collegiate star athlete, as well, and was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. In addition to being a football star, Wolf also earned a collegiate letter in the university’s track and field division.

    Following his graduation from college in 1976, he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. He also played for the Birmingham Americans and the Canadian team the Stamp Platers.

    After his semi-pro and professional football career ended, he returned to Tyler County, and worked in law enforcement. He eventually worked his way up to Chief Deputy under the late former Sheriff Gary Hennigan.

    jesse wolf 2Jessie Wolf in the ‘70s as a Prairie View A&M football star. BOOSTER FILE PHOTO

    In 2004, when Hennigan retired due to declining health, Wolf became acting sheriff, and was later elected to the position. He took office in 2005 and served one term.

    Wolf, according to Brown’s piece, made history as the first Black sheriff in the county’s history. When he retired from his law enforcement career, aside from being a highly respected member of the law enforcement community, he was a shining example, as Brown wrote, of someone who had the courage and willingness to move forward in life.

    A public celebration of Wolf’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Eagle Summit on the campus of Woodville High School, which will be prefaced by a public viewing starting at 9 a.m. The services for Wolf are being handled by Kendall Coleman and Coleman’s Family Mortuary of Woodville.

  • Happy Days Diner & Tammy’s Country Kitchen

    EastTexan Winter2021 tammys 2EMILY WOOTEN | EAST TEXAN Fried steak fingers from Happy Days Diner.

    By Emily Banks Wooten

    “One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock. Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock. Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock. We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.”

    When I heard that song during my childhood and adolescence I knew it was Tuesday night and time to gather around the TV with my family to watch the beloved sitcom “Happy Days” and see what the Cunninghams were up to. Oh, how we loved that middle-class family from Milwaukee and their idyllic life in the 1950s.

    While it’s not Al’s Diner and you won’t find Richie or Fonzie there, you will find some solid good food at Happy Days Diner in Shepherd, Texas. There’s a jukebox in the front corner and the walls are covered with pictures of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, as well as a few classic cars.

    The menu is entertaining as all the dishes are song titles from the 50s and 60s.

    On a recent trip there, my 13-year-old daughter and I ordered the “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” which was hand-breaded homemade steak fingers with cream gravy, a choice of French fries or mashed potatoes, a house salad and a dinner roll. She chose brown gravy for her mashed potatoes while I preferred the cream gravy for mine.

    The plate arrived with four beautiful steak fingers that were each the size of the palm of my hand. I kid you not. They were first class. The meat was tender and the crunchy breading was perfect. I’d definitely order it again.

    the “Ooo Baby Baby,” which was two center cut pork chops, fried or grilled, with choice of French fries or mashed potatoes, a house salad and a dinner roll. He ordered them grilled and was a little disappointed. While they were seasoned perfectly, he said, they were so thin that they’d dried out during grilling.

    EastTexan Winter2021 tammys 3EMILY WOOTEN | EAST TEXAN Pork chops from Happy Days Diner.

    Our first experience at Happy Days Diner was in August of 2006. I was three and a half months pregnant with our daughter and we’d stopped there for breakfast on the way to Houston for a day of shopping and a movie. I had two scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and hashbrowns with a side order of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and cream gravy. I ate and enjoyed every bite and didn’t think a thing of it. My sweet husband didn’t say a word but just smiled and continued drinking his coffee. Several days later, I accidentally overheard him telling my mother that he’d never given much thought to that whole “eating for two” thing but that he’d certainly witnessed an increase in my appetite as my pregnancy had progressed. We still laugh about that today.

    We’ve had something of a family tradition evolve over the years at Happy Days. After we’ve placed our order, to pass the time as we’re waiting on the food to arrive, we each select our favorite picture of Elvis and Marilyn from the selection on the walls. There are plenty from which to choose and it’s not uncommon for our individual faves to change from one visit to the next.

    And once you’ve satisfied your appetite at the Happy Days Diner, you may also do a little shopping. There’s a rack with a selection of T-shirts for sale, as well as a large array of hair bows and $1 hair scrunchies. You may also replenish your stash of Scentsy wax bars or Avon Skin So Soft.

    Happy Days Diner is located at 6230 US-59 in Shepherd. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. They don’t deliver but they do offer take-out. The telephone number is 936-628-6515.

    Some time back we received a circular in our local newspaper that was a menu for a place called Tammy’s Country Kitchen, east of Woodville. The menu touted the “best burgers in town” and “breakfast all day.”

    My husband and I decided to drive over one Saturday and check it out. I’d studied the menu pretty closely and had a fairly good idea of what I was planning to order. On the way over, however, I decided to look it up on my Trip Advisor app and check out the reviews. There were plenty and one after another raved over the burgers.

    EastTexan Winter2021 tammysEMILY WOOTEN | EAST TEXAN Cheeseburger and sweet potatoe fries from Tammy's Country Kitchen..

    My curiosity was definitely piqued so I changed my mind about my order once there. I selected a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries and my husband ordered a hamburger and onion rings. Oh. My. Goodness. The reviewers had not overstated. That may have been the best burger I’ve ever had. I’ve wracked my brain trying to determine what it was that made it so good and I still can’t put my finger on it. I do know, however, that there will be more Saturdays in our future in which my husband and I will drive over there for no other reason than to get those burgers again. We enjoyed both the sweet potato fries and onion rings too.

    Tammy’s Country Kitchen is located on 233 US Hwy. 190, one mile east of Woodville. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The telephone number is 409-331-9

    While they don’t deliver, they do offer curbside pickup.

  • Hearing scheduled for Woodville motel

    Willis MotelCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Willis Motel in Woodville, Texas

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A motel that is said to be more than 75 years old is the subject of concerns by the city of Woodville.

    The Willis Motel, which was the location of a fire in late 2019, is the topic of a hearing set for Monday, April 26. The City Council will meet in the capacity as the city’s Building Standards Commission and give consideration to the condition of the facility and what action(s) should be taken.

    The city has compelled the owner to attend the upcoming hearing to “show cause why [the motel] should not be ordered vacated, secured, repaired or demolished.”

    The Willis Motel, known to many locals simply as “The Willis,” or “The W,” has long been in operation in Woodville. City Administrator Mandy Risinger said the motel’s owner said at a previous hearing that it was more than 75 years old. A file on the motel from the Better Business Bureau indicates that it has been in operation as the Willis Motel since at least Jan. 1, 1978.

    Risinger said that the fire marshal investigated the Willis after the fire and requested that the city’s building inspector come and assess things.

    The pandemic hampered the city’s ability to work on cases of dilapidated structures last year, and also, Risinger said, the fire marshal, Chuck Marshall, died last year and there was no documentation that the Willis’s owner had resolved any of the issues.

    Risinger said that at a recent hearing, held on March 29, the owner was under the impression that all of the issues had been resolved.

    The Jasper fire marshal, whom the city is contracting, re-inspected the property, Risinger said, and found issues to be addressed, which the owner began working on. Additionally, the fire marshal requested the city’s building inspector and health inspector look into the facility.

    Risinger said the city has also received a number of complaints from residents of the motel as well as charitable organizations who have used the facility to put people up. She said the owner is compiling a list of livable rooms to present to the Building Standards Commission and has to provide a plan for addressing all of the existing issues and a timeline.

    Public records show an LLC, Vaishvi, as owning the Willis Motel. The Secretary of State’s office lists a Dipesh Lad as the principal with Vaishvi.

    For the coming hearing, the council is sitting as the Building Standards Commission. Under the city’s by-laws, they can either appoint one or serve as the commission themselves. They will choose how to move forward with the owner and the facility, and can give the owner 30 days to address the issues. If they give him more than 90 days, Risinger said, a detailed timeline is required.

    Progress reports on the work will also be required. At present, Risinger said the owner is supposed to be getting estimates on how to bring the problem parts of the property up to code.

    Risinger said it stands to reason that the property would need continual maintenance and upgrades over time, and that typically in the motel industry, as well as with most commercial property, major overhauls usually take place.

  • Help available for small businesses

    1 SBDCCHRIS EDWARDS | ETN Woodville businesswoman Tammy Rucks, of Tammy’s Pizza and Party Palace, chats with Christina Cole, of the Angelina College Small Business Development Center, at an open house event in Woodville hosted by the SBDC and the Tyler County Chamber of Commerce.

    BY CHRIS EDWARDS

    WOODVILLE – On Thursday evening, the Angelina College Small Business Development Center, in conjunction with the Tyler County Chamber of Commerce, hosted an open house event, at the Nutrition Center in Woodville. The event was a networking opportunity to showcase the variety of services the SBDC has to offer for small businesses, as well as non-profit organizations.

    According to Dianne Amerine, director of the center, funding from the CARES Act allowed the SBDC to hire three independent contractors to assist its regular staff and to help conduct events such as Thursday’s open house.

    Amerine said the SBDC and the Chamber both agreed the event would be a good method for local businesspeople to network and learn about the services that are available. “We decided this would be a good opportunity to get the word out,” she said.

    The consultation services available to businesses are free and confidential and range from creating comprehensive plans to assistance with debt restructuring, financial analysis, as well as marketing. According to a one-sheet provided to attendees of the event, the college’s SBDC, which is under the Texas Gulf Coast Network of Small Business Development Centers, the advisers working to help businesspeople through Angelina College’s center have more than 100 years of practical business experience to assist local entrepreneurs.

    “If a business was impacted by COVID, the SBDC can help them,” Amerine said.

    Anyone who is interested in seeing what the SBDC can do for them can contact the center by phone at 936-633-5400 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • High-speed chase ends in arrest in Tyler County

    RaheemJonesMugMUGSHOT Raheem Jones

    By Chris Edwards

    TYLER COUNTY - A high-speed chase on highway 190 near the Tyler County line resulted in the arrest of a Jasper man on several charges.

    The chase begun on Saturday evening, at approximately 8 p.m., according to the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Police Department. Officer S. Allison with the tribal PD attempted to initiate a traffic stop for defective equipment, and the driver refused to stop.

    A high-speed pursuit begun along 190 eastbound, and once near the county line, deputies from the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office were called in to assist the AC officers in pursuit. The driver, who was identified as Raheem Wesley Corday Jones, got up to speeds in excess of 100 mph in the 2010 gold Cadillac he drove.

    Allison was able to get Jones to stop in Tyler County and held him until multiple units from TCSO and the Texas Department of Public Safety were on the scene. Jones was arrested for evading and driving with an invalid license and was also found to have an outstanding warrant for parole violations stemming from an intent to deliver a controlled substance conviction. He was taken to the Polk County Jail.

    He is currently incarcerated on bonds totaling $16,500 from the evading and DWLI charges, and no bond on the parole violation.

  • Ivanhoe awarded $11.4m

    Cathy Bennett lakeCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett stands in front of the remnants of Lake Ivanhoe. Its dam was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey.

    Funds will go toward flood mitigation projects

    By Chris Edwards

    IVANHOE – For a city that has seen its fair share of progress in its short life as an incorporated city, last Friday was a red-letter day for Ivanhoe.

    On that date, Ivanhoe’s mayor Cathy Bennett, along with the state’s land commissioner George P. Bush and state Senator Robert Nichols announced that the state’s General Land Office (GLO) approved a funding amount of more than $11.4 million to go to the city toward flood mitigation projects, which will improve the city’s drainage infrastructure.

    Bennett said when she received the good news, she was “extremely elated.” The money will go toward several projects in the city that, with its budget, could have not accomplished, she said.

    Multiple flooding events, going back to 2015, and the Hurricane Harvey disaster in 2017, have damaged parts of Ivanhoe’s dams, and in the case of the Lake Ivanhoe Dam, breeched it, and caused severe erosion on the face of the dam. Lake Ivanhoe was reduced from a 22-acre lake to a body of water the size of a pond. That dam will be reconstructed, along with the Camelot Dam.

    Along the Tristan Dam, the road level will be raised to match the level of the dam. Recent storms have exceeded the lake’s capacity of its emergency spillway. This has presented a hazard to first responders, as well as the public, travelling along Lakewood Drive during and after storm events.

    These projects are a few of the major infrastructure works to be undertaken with the funding within the city.

    According to a news release from the GLO, the scope of the work to Ivanhoe’s infrastructure will, in the long term, increase the city’s resilience to any future disasters and reduce the long-term risk of loss of life and damage to property.

    “Since 2015, 140 Texas counties have received a Presidential disaster declaration,” said Bush. “The need is extensive, and this first round of mitigation funding is geared directly at helping communities that are majority low-to-moderate income and lack the resources to fund their own mitigation projects. The GLO is proud to help communities across Texas increase public safety, prevent property loss and minimize hardship on residents,” he added.

    The grant carries a 1% match, which Bennett said the city still has money in its bond fund to cover. There are many in the community asking questions on social media about the coming windfall and the timetable of the work it will cover, and to that end, Bennett has scheduled a town hall meeting at the Ivanhoe City Hall for Saturday, June 5 beginning at 10 a.m. She said the meeting will address the myriad of questions that residents, as well as city officials, may have, including the timetable of the project and how the funding is awarded.

    Bennett has invited the engineer working on the project, the city’s grant administrator and also the GLO grant manager to participate. The town hall meeting will be livestreamed on the official City of Ivanhoe Facebook page and YouTube site. For anyone who might have questions to bring up at the event, but cannot attend, Bennett is encouraging them to email her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their name, address and question. Bennett invited the citizens to read the grant application, which the city has posted to its website, in full, at https://cityofivanhoe.texas.gov.

    Ivanhoe’s grant award is part of more than $2.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earmarked to protect Texas communities affected by Harvey and other severe floods going back to 2015.

    Nichols made a statement last week in support of the grant funding, and noted that within Senate District 3, more than $105 million of the overall funding was awarded. Neighboring Jasper County was approved for $29.4 million, which will go toward projects in the cities of Jasper and Kirbyville.

    “This grant money will be key in protecting infrastructure that we have, and it is also going to be helpful in our economic future,” Bennett said.

    One bittersweet note occurred as the city’s grant award was announced on Friday. Jack Brockhouse, who served as the mayor of Ivanhoe for a term before Bennett was elected in 2014, died. Brockhouse lived on Lake Ivanhoe and had hoped to see it return one day, Bennett said.

  • Jasper man indicted on child rape charges

    MUGSHOT Anibal VillasanaAnibal Mauricio Villasana Courtesy of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Department

    WOODVILLE –  A Tyler County grand jury handed down an indictment to a Jasper man on child rape charges.

    Anibal Mauricio Villasana, a 61-year-old Jasper resident, was indicted by the jury on two counts of Indecency with a Child by Sexual Contact. Villasana’s indictment came after an investigation regarding incidents alleged to have occurred in Tyler County. The information was submitted by Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin and his staff following the investigation.

    Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said that the Texas Rangers worked on the case.

    Villasana, according to a news release, has worked for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years. He has worked in various capacities within that county’s jail, including as head of kitchen staff, head of maintenance and jailer.

    A statement made by Jasper County Chief Deputy Scotty Duncan to Jasper-based radio station KJAS affirmed that Villasana had been places on leave with pay, pending the case’s outcome.

    Villasana reportedly turned himself in to the Tyler County Justice Center on Tuesday morning, and was released after making arrangements to post his bail, which was pre-set at $100,000, or $50,000 per charge.

    The charges handed down to Villasana are a second-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per charge, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

  • Judge Blanchette fights COVID

    Blanchette 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB File photo - Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette swearing in Warren ISD board members in November, 2020.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette found himself among the 13 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus this year.

    Blanchette received a positive result from a COVID-19 test administered on Friday, Nov. 28. He said he had begun feeling ill the day before Thanksgiving, and by Friday was very sick. He is currently staying confined at home. His wife, Leeza, had also fallen ill with the virus and is recuperating.

    An update from the Tyler County Emergency Management Facebook page noted Blanchette’s announcement and that he appreciates the prayers and support from the public in his recovery.

    As the pandemic has experienced a nationwide surge in the past month, the likelihood of infection has increased, and anyone is fair game for the virus.

    Several other elected officials in the area have tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a recent story from KJAS out of Jasper, the Jasper ISD School Board President Mark Durand and the county’s Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Raymond Hopson were both diagnosed with the virus last week.

    Hopson was elected to fill the seat held by Judge Jimmy Miller who died from coronavirus complications during the summer.

    In Tyler County, the total number of confirmed cases has surpassed 300, and at press time is at 320. This number represents the total number of positive cases in the county since reporting began in late March with the first confirmed case.

    Two recent deaths were also reported as COVID-related. Last week, Ruby Moore, of Warren, died from complications, and the week prior, Ethel McGough’s passing was linked to the virus.

    Those two deaths brings the COVID death count to nine in the county.

    In other COVID news, the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe recently addressed the methodology for reporting the county’s number of cases and added reportage for the number of quick tests administered. Jobe said those cases are not listed by public health as active, but they are tracked, investigated and logged in the system as “probables.”

    In addressing questions about the seeming lapse in reporting cases, Jobe said “The public health numbers and my numbers don’t always match,” which he attributed to a timing issue.

    Additionally, the numbers from public health sources use the test date as the starting date for active cases, and then county 10 days and remove from active if they do not receive the result, Jobe said. Those cases are posted to the recovered category. “Several counties where we have residents go test are slow to get results to our public health group,” he said.

  • Law enforcement asks for help to find Town Bluff man

    Missing Man 040121 copyCOURTESY PHOTO Thomas Thornton

    By Chris Edwards

    TOWN BLUFF – Law enforcement and family members are asking for the public’s help to locate Thomas Thornton, a 72-year-old Town Bluff resident who was reported missing last week.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, Thornton’s family last saw him on Wednesday, March 24. Thornton’s sister, Norma Armstrong, said that Thornton is in the early stages of dementia and she fears for his wellbeing.

    Armstrong said that her brother makes frequent trips from his Town Bluff home to the Walmart in Jasper, and that he left to go to the store on Wednesday and did not return.

    Thornton has grey and black hair and typically wears a baseball hat bearing a veteran slogan, carpenter-style blue jeans and a T-shirt. He stands 5’7” tall and weighs 255 lbs. Thornton drives a dark grey 2017 Ford Edge with the Texas license plate number NJJ-8580. A Silver Alert was issued on Sunday evening for Thornton by the Texas Department of Public Safety with further details, including his eye color (blue) and the fact that he has a visible scar on his right arm.

    According to Weatherford, law enforcement was able to track Thornton to a gas station in Hemphill on March 26. Sabine County Sheriff’s deputies reviewed store video footage showing Thornton purchasing fuel and then travelling north on Highway 87.

    Deputies were last able to track his phone to a location in Shelby County, but were unable to locate him, and currently unable to track him due to power issues with the phone.

    Along with the dementia diagnosis, his family told deputies that Thornton is also dependent on medications.

    Anyone with information regarding Thornton’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172.

  • Life lessons learned from a tiny, orange kitty

    Tiny Kitten This is Tiny Kitten, and he’s a joy to be around.

    By Chris Edwards

    For those of you who are loyal readers of the scrawlings I spin here on this site (all three of you) there may be a few things you may have learned or will learn about me in our time together.

    For instance, you might become aware of the facts that I like dour old Southern writers, the great old bluesmen, really great Texas barbecue (cooked the tried-n-true old-fashioned way) and a lot of other really old, but really cool, stuff.

    You also might be aware that I really enjoy the fellowship and comfort of our animal friends, especially cats and particularly orange cats.

    A lot of people go on and on about their “soulmates.” Some youngsters have a succession of “soulmates.” Not sure how that works, but I somewhat believe in the concept as a whole, however I don’t think it has to be limited to a fellow human. My soulmate was a shockingly bright (both in fur color and in regard to intelligence) orange cat named Orangey Tangerine Garfina, and the one-year anniversary of her passing is rapidly approaching.

    I’ve known a great many folks in my existence, but nobody “got” me like Orangey did. I’m not sure if she was my sidekick or if I was hers.

    Last summer before she passed on to the great treat-gobbling parlor in the sky, I’m convinced that she, along with the Lord above, sent an unexpected blessing into my life in the form of a tiny orange kitten.

    The kitten showed up at the house before Orangey peacefully passed, but it would take a little while before I was able to put my hands on it. My mother, who is as big of a friend to wayward felines (if not moreso) as me, diligently worked to catch the scared little fella. Before long, we were able to provide some human comfort to him, and a proper name of Ziggy Sunkist Stardust, in honor of the late, great David Bowie. However, it soon became apparent that his nickname of “Tiny Kitten” would likely be a lifelong term of endearment.

    It has been more than a year since I was first able to pet and hold the tiny orange one, and although he’s now “husky,” in the words of his veterinarian, it’s still so much fun to call him Tiny Kitten, so much so that he doesn’t even look whenever I call him Ziggy.

    One thing that those who have known orange cats have discovered, without fail, is that those orangies have enormous personalities. Although Tiny/Ziggy’s sweet orange godmother had enough personality for 10 cats, the little one is no slouch in that department. He’s a lot shyer than she was, and not nearly as vocal, but his playful, sweet ways never fail to make me smile on a daily basis.

    To say this has been a weird year for all of us would be like saying President William Howard Taft was a wee bit chubby or that Shane MacGowan enjoys a drink now and again.

    Uncertainty has wrapped its ugly arms around most of the populace, and although the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as outbreaks of unrest on our soil can be terrifying and upsetting, none of us really knows much about anything, in a universal sense.

    The mighty Nacogdoches metallurgists the Beef Masters put it best in one of their songs, “Blurry,” which contains the lyric “Everything you see and everything you feel might be gone in a moment’s notice.” It’s a sobering and saddening thought, but so true.

    Be that as it may, that little orange feline has made all of the existential angst easier to bear in my world. Not only has

    he been there for me through this year of extreme uncertainty, but he has also seen me through the deaths of a couple of friends. He’s been, to say the least, a joy to be around, and every day, his cheerful demeanor is always a bright spot in my daily existence.

    Tiny Kitten is in no way a replacement for my sweet Orangey girl, but the circumstances of his coming into my life has made me realize there is a lot of truth in that ages-old maxim about good/great things happening when one least expects it.

    There are other lessons I’ve learned from the (now not-so-tiny, but still fun-to-say) Tiny Kitten, and I’m certainly glad I get to be one of his humans.

    In watching little orange man’s day-to-day doings, it’s easy to take away how important grooming and hygiene is, and not just in this age of sanitizing everything due to the virus. Tiny Kitten could spend hours licking himself.

    Also, Tiny Kitten believes in rest. That little feline fellow could sleep 80% of the day away, but he’s still a growing kitten. The body needs rest when tired, so be sure and replenish your sleep after those long days.

    Apart from healthy habits Tiny Kitten demonstrates, he also imparts that it’s important to be yourself. Tiny Kitten has a nifty personality and a unique outlook – and so do you, gentle reader – so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

    Last, but not least, it’s alright to indulge here and there in that snack that probably isn’t the best thing for you, if it brings you joy. Tiny Kitten loves eating his treats (after he bats them around with his little orange paws) and seeing how happy that makes him makes me not feel so bad about late night runs to grab a pint of Blue Bell Cookie Two Step, which I typically eat in one sitting. Note: I limit my ice cream habit to a pint at a time. Eating an entire half-gallon of Blue Bell would just be excessive.

    If Tiny Kitten could talk, he would probably look at me, with that still kitten-y face and those big eyes, and say “Don’t sweat the small stuff, human. In the long run, it’s all small stuff.”

  • Longtime Tyler Countian to turn 100

    3 Old Photo FranFran with her baton and her brother with his trumpet during high school days.

    By Chris Edwards

    Each trip around the sun is a cause for celebration, but for those who hit the century mark, that achievement is definitely worthy of a big celebration.

    Centenarians are becoming more common nowadays, with all of the advances in healthcare and nutrition available. According to the most recent numbers from the Census Bureau, there are around 97,000 centenarians in the United States, and nearly 573,000 around the world.

    Yet, still, many of those who reach 100 years young are not without some complications. Longtime Colmesneil resident Frances Ellen “Fran” Wyche is the exception. Wyche, who recently moved to Zavalla, to live with her son on his small farm, still finds a great deal to enjoy from life and activities to keep her mind, body and spirit young and free.

    Wyche will celebrate her 100th year on Monday, Jan. 18, and according to her younger sister Mary Ann Kittell, of Colmesneil, she has kept busy all of her life.

    Wyche was the first-born child of Herman Walton and Ila Lee. Her father, a WWI combat veteran, had started his family in Detroit, where he had returned after the war to re-settle into his old job as City Electrical Engineer.

    4 young Fran 011420A young Fran Wyche.

    Her father was always encouraging of her pursuits growing up, and chief among them was twirling. According to Kittell, their father managed to find the best twirling teachers and even fashioned her batons in his metal shop, perfecting balance and innovation.

    Wyche was also the first to use a fire baton, which features materials at each end with a chemical mix to ignite blue, yellow, green and red at the right moment.

    She spent her childhood growing up in the Beaumont area, and became the state baton-twirling champion in 1939. Later, she won the national title. Her little brother Tommy was no slouch as a twirler, himself, and took the second-place honors toward the state title in 1939.

    Kittell, who is nearly 89, herself, remembered when she and her sister, their parents and other siblings moved to Texas. She recalls it like it was yesterday. “There was no electricity out there in, and it was a shell road. We lived off the old Highway 90 in Amelia,” she said.

    Wyche’s talents and lust for life and adventure took her far outside Southeast Texas. After years of ballet and tap dancing, she came home from Baylor to perform in shows that promoted the sale of war bonds and other benefits at the start of the U.S. involvement in World War II.

    She married her high school sweetheart, who was a U.S Air Corps pilot, and traveled around the country, as well as into Okinawa, Japan and through China, and beyond. After spending time in Beaumont and Houston, and raising her son, Robin, and surviving two husbands, she worked a variety of jobs, including a stint as a receptionist at NASA. She also managed her brother’s restaurant in Colorado for a time, and later returned home to be with her aging mother and to help her sister at the BBB with public relations and memberships for a decade.

    When she moved to Tyler County in 1974, she joined the Round Dance club at the Opera House and helped out as a hostess at the Friday night dinner dances and for many other occasions, her sister noted.

    2 Drum Major FranFran as a drum major in high school. Her talent for performing took her far when she was young.

    Last year, Wyche moved from her home on Frog Pond in Colmesneil to Zavalla, where she enjoys being around the animals on her son’s farm. “She’s always loved horses,” said Kittell.
    Kittell said Wyche still enjoys her half-mile walks each day and enjoys visiting with neighbors and gardening. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are frequent visitors, and although her eyesight is dimming, her mind is still sharp, and she enjoys reading and watching television, and good conversation.

    She also still looks much, much younger than her years. Kittell joked that she could still pass for her little sister. “She was my baby sister until she turned 90,” Kittell said with a laugh.
    Although the pandemic has curbed most celebrations, Kittell has put forth a challenge to Booster readers to surprise her sister with cards to commemorate her milestone.

    1 Fran Wyche Recent 011421A recent photo of Fran Wyche

    Anyone who would like to wish this remarkable lady a happy birthday can send a card by way of the Tyler County Booster. Just send them to Frances Ellen Wyche c/o 205 West Bluff, Woodville, Texas 75979.

    NOTE: All photos are provided courtesy of Mary Ann Kittell

  • Meth dealer receives 20-year sentence

    RobertHolcombMug102920MUGSHOT: Robert L. Holcomb, Jr. Courtesy of the TYLER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – After a long hiatus from jury trials due to the pandemic, Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin is back in action.

    On Monday, Babin and first assistant DA Pat “Hawk” Hardy successfully brought a conviction for the state in the case of Texas v. Robert Lloyd Holcomb, Jr. District Judge Earl Stover handed Holcomb a sentence of 20 years in state jail on the charge of Possession of Meth with Intent to Deliver.

    “I appreciate Judge Stover for his attentiveness to the evidence and his sense of justice,” Babin said.

    During the trial, Holcomb took the stand and testified that he was only a meth user and not a dealer. He also attempted to explain why he was carrying digital scales, a loaded short-barrel shotgun, $800 in cash and close to an ounce of meth when he was arrested.

    Babin and Hardy’s evidence proved that Holcomb was a dealer, and one witness testified before the jury that he had purchased meth from Holcomb at least 10 times.

    After Holcomb was sentenced, Babin said “The message is that selling meth in Tyler County has consequences.”

    Babin gave thanks to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford and his deputies’ efforts in apprehending Holcomb.

    “Without their efforts, this offender would still be on the streets endangering our law-abiding citizens,” he said.

    Holcomb is one of several convicted methamphetamine traffickers who have been tried in Tyler County and received stiff sentences. Following a full year of jury trials in 2019, Babin and his office have had to take most of this year off from the courtroom due to COVID-19.

    “I’m glad to be back in the courtroom,” he said. “In addition to this case, we resolved several dozen other felonies last week and will be resolving more cases next month.”

    Babin added that last year between the months of March and September there were hundreds of jury trials performed, statewide, but that number has been “barely 20” this year.

    “I’m ready to get our justice system moving again, and I know other DAs across the state feel the same.”

    Holcomb will be confined in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility.

  • New officers take bite out of crime in Ivanhoe

    riley dogCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Ivanhoe City Marshal Terry Riley with Yaya.

    By Chris Edwards

    IVANHOE – Much like the animated bloodhound in the 1980s named McGruff who reminded kids to “take a bite out of crime,” there are some canine law enforcers who are doing just that in Tyler County.

    According to Deputy Marshal Michael “Mike” King with the Ivanhoe Marshal’s Office, the three recently added canine deputies to the department’s ranks are “earning their kibble.” The canine deputies, named Yaya, Baby and Duke, have, in the short time they’ve been active on the streets, netted three felony charges for possession of controlled substances and one of the canines (Duke) is certified in explosives detection.

    Both Yaya and Baby are certified narcotics detection dogs and are the canine counterparts of Chief Marshal Terry Riley and King, respectively.

    The human officer counterparts (K9s) and the dogs both endure rigorous testing and training on an ongoing basis in order to protect and serve their communities. Along with narcotics detection and explosive identification, the dogs are also extremely useful in search-and-rescue operations and pursuing fleeing suspects.

    Riley and King also recently attended a canine first-aid course, which allows the dogs to be life-flighted by Hermann Memorial Life Flight if they are seriously injured in the line of duty.

    2PHOTO COURTESY OF IVANHOE MARSHAL’S OFFICE Ivanhoe Deputy Marshal Mike King with Baby.

    Yaya was obtained last November by Riley and trained by Ivanhoe resident Michael Hadnot. More recently, Warren resident and businessman Neil Alderman sponsored the narcotics training of Baby. Alderman said he learned during the last election cycle that there were no narcotics dogs working in the county, and said he wanted to ensure there were canine officers available to help out the different school districts in the county, along with other law enforcement agencies in tackling the drug issues facing the area.

    The Marshal’s Office reported that it has responded to 130 calls for service, assistance or criminal activity for each month since the beginning of the year, and the presence of the canine officers has helped immensely.

    Along with the canine officers, Riley recently added another officer to the department, longtime Tyler County lawman Jim Zachary, who will serve as a Deputy Marshal.

    Zachary recently retired from his post as Pct. 4 Constable, which his son, Zach, won in the last election. “With the addition of Deputy Zachary, the Marshal’s Office personnel has over a combined 100 years of law enforcement experience,” Riley said.

    The Marshal’s Office has also forged working relationship with other agencies, including the DEA Narcotics Task Force. According to King, although it is small in number, the Marshal’s Office of Ivanhoe is a full-service law enforcement agency capable of handling everything from traffic incidents to serious criminal violations, all on a small operating budget.

  • Police pursue, apprehend nude car thief

    Tyler County Sheriff OfficeLOGO Tyler County Sheriff Office

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A Jefferson County woman is in the custody of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office following a police pursuit that began in Dam B and ended in Woodville.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, on Monday, at approximately 7:25 a.m., a 911 call came in, reporting a nude woman standing on the side of the road. Deputies with TCSO and EMS headed toward the location, FM 92 North at county road 3715, as the caller had reported. The caller, who was a female passerby, told dispatch that she had stopped to check on the naked female subject, and in the process, a log truck driver had also stopped.

    While the deputies were heading to the location, the subject jumped into the driver seat of the vehicle and drove away with the caller’s two grandchildren in the backseat. The woman had reportedly offered the woman, who complained of thirst, a bottle of water, and when she went to open her trunk is when she took off with the car and children.

    Weatherford said that two minutes later, the deputies received word that the suspect dropped the children off at the Dam B Jiffy Mart at the intersection of FM 92 and US Highway 190. Weatherford said the two children were returned safely to their grandmother.

    The deputies were soon able to locate the stolen vehicle westbound on 190, and traveling at speeds of up to 95 mph.

    TCSO deputies and officers with the Woodville Police Department pursued the vehicle throughout the city of Woodville, and the pursuit ended on Wheat Street, right before 8 a.m.

    The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Lacie Cole, of Orange, and was taken into custody.

    During the pursuit, one eyewitness said the suspect was seen in the Walmart parking lot, where she backed into a patrol unit. Reportedly, she also traveled into opposite lanes of traffic during the chase.

    Cole was later evaluated at Tyler County Hospital, and according to Weatherford, the case is under investigation.

  • Ready for the challenge (VIDEO)

    IMG 3389BRIAN BESCH | PCE Corynn Kaleh had six points in the first quarter and eight for the game.

    Lady Cats prepare for two games that will determine district lead

    By Brian Besch

    Tuesday’s game in Dallardsville seemed more of a formality than competition, as Big Sandy easily outscored Spurger 69-14.

    The home team overpowered the Lady Pirates 42-3 in the first half and never allowed more than six points (fourth) in any quarter.

    “We have battled a little bit of injury since the Christmas break, but overall, I have been pleased with the way we have been playing,” Big Sandy coach Ryan Alec said of his group. “We've beaten some quality teams over the break and we also lost to a quality team in Central Pollok at their place. They were a good, solid team. We got a chance to see what a really great team looks like.”

    Alexis Thompson led the way on the scoreboard, with 28 points in just three quarters. The sophomore point guard hit eight 3-pointers. Faith Geller had 19 points, connecting three times from behind the arc, and Kalyssa Dickens collected 10 points.

    The Lady Cats are undefeated going into an important two-game stint of district contests. Both could prove to be pivotal in determining District 24-2A seeding for the postseason.

    “In my opinion, it is going to come down to us, West Sabine and Broaddus,” Alec said of the title race. “I think all of us will battle it out for the top spot. With West Sabine, we are going to have to match their intensity and we will have to play well. We play at their place on Friday and that is always a tough place to play.

    “You always tried to take games one game at a time and our focus is on West Sabine now. We have Broaddus at home on Tuesday, which will be another tough battle. They are very aggressive and play extremely hard. That will be another tough game.”

    The challenges are something the coach believes his team is prepared to face.

    “We're ready and I think the kids are excited for Friday night. They know how big of a game Friday night is going to be in West Sabine.”

     

  • Remnants of Rockland (GALLERY)

    Remnants of Rockland 10CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Rockland, Texas Abandoned Railroad Trestle, completed in 1899.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    Sawmill towns drove the economy of Southeast Texas in the 1800s. From topographical to abstracts, many of these forgotten towns can be referenced in early 20th century maps. One of the most notable towns that was forgotten and left to fall into ruin was the Aldridge Mill in Jasper County, just north of the Neches River and East of Zavalla. This is one of the only mill structures left standing in the area and for an unusual reason. Owner of Aldridge Mill, Hal Aldridge, had a fire occur on his mill in 1911 when it was fashioned out of wood. To avoid insurance rates increasing, he made the structures more fire retardant. He constructed the buildings out of concrete in 1912. With the buildings being made in this fashion, the structures are still standing to this day, and is a spectacular sight to see in the Angelina National Forest. Aldridge did not only operate just this larger mill. He actually started on a smaller scale in Rockland on the south side of the Neches nestled at the northern end of Tyler County.

    Remnants of Rockland 2 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Aldridge Saw Mill in Jasper County, Texas.

    Rockland is known for its stone, and various quarries that helped make the Galveston Sea Wall. Unknown to many, it also was full of longleaf yellow pines at one point and a mill was situated West, right next to the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. Many mills, such as the Rockland Mill, were placed near railroads for quick transportation to other towns, rather than letting the logs float down a river, which was not only time consuming, but problematic. Trams were built to bring logs back to mill ponds, which preserved them while they awaited to be sawn.

    Cary Ard with shovelCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS Cary Ard and his shovel in the rock pits near Rockland.

    Education coordinator for the Texas Forestry Museum, Kaitlin Wieseman clarifies, “they would build little short lines out into the forest so then they could cut the trees and have the train bring them back to their sawmill. So, basing their sawmill next to actual prominent rail lines that were main lines, like the Houston East and West, was probably a better idea to do than building out in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. They did have capabilities to build a line but usually they would have teams of men that would build that short line out just into the forest, not necessarily out to their own sawmill, but they could have if they needed to.”

    Remnants of Rockland 28CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB One of the only remaining track railings along the track bed.

    The Rockland Mill, also known as the Rockland Plant, was first owned by one of Rockland’s postmasters, John Delaney and others. Delaney, interestingly enough, worked with Aldridge at the post office. In 1890, Aldridge bought the mill and vast amounts of land tracts in the area. He operated the mill until 1898, when he sold the business to William Cameron & Co., one of the first forestry millionaires. It was burned down November 4, 1898, only a few short months after Cameron bought the sawmill.

    Remnants of Rockland 18CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Remains of the Rockland Sawmill. Steam wheel foundation, located West of most residents in Rockland and East of Highway 69.

    “If you can just imagine, we’re working with steam, which you have to have fire to be able to produce steam, to heat up the water, but also your working with wood around everywhere. So, some sawmill towns would build their sawmill only of wood. They wouldn’t build them, usually, out of stone just because that costs more,” said Wieseman, “most of the smaller ones, if it burned down, and they didn’t have enough money or area to cut down trees, then rebuilding wasn’t really in their thoughts of doing that because it would cost too much.”

    Woods Crew Near TrainCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A woods crew, possibly connected to the Aldridge Sawmill, stops for a photo.

    The plant was rebuilt with newer equipment and a water tower that measured 125 feet above the ground and able to hold thousands of gallons to transport water throughout the mill. Cameron operated the mill producing roughly 3,000,000 linear feet of lumber per year, until he sold it to John Henry Kirby in 1905.

    Remnants of Rockland 20CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Foundations at the Rockland Mill.

    One of the interesting details learned about mill towns of that time is that they had a form of currency for each company. In this particular mill, it could have had at least three different forms of coin being used for trade at the company general store and commissary. Aldridge, Cameron, and Kirby used these coins for the workers to make various purchases from the mill’s stores.

    Remnants of Rockland 1 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Bricks found adjacent to the Rockland mill pond and saw mill.

    One of the reasons Rockland became so popular, was not just the sawmill, but the fact that the railroad did not cross the Neches. It stopped in Rockland. That is, until 1899 when the rail road trestle was completed. Similar to the remains of the Rockland Plant, the bridge over the Neches still remains intact and unharmed by human vandalism, more than likely due to the inconvenience of getting to it. It is still a spectacular view if you can get to the bank near it. The engineering and man power that went into building it is perplexing.

    Rockland rail yard locomotive facing BeaumontCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A locomotive heads toward Beaumont, passing through the Rockland railyard.

    Remnants of Rockland 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Rail Road on the Jasper County side of the Neches leading to the Rockland Trestle.

    The main way to cross the river without taking the train was Dunkin’s ferry, which has been speculated that country singer, George Jones, once helped operate. Mac Dunkin’s well, barn and chimney are all that remain of the crossing. The old Lufkin – Beaumont Highway led to the ferry situated just Northwest of the mill. It operated until the 1930s when the US Highway 69 bridge joining Jasper and Tyler counties was completed. This left the town of Rockland off to the wayside and the mill eventually shut down. It wasn’t until rock quarries began to produce in higher volumes, that the town was revived for a period.

    Ferry Boat Neches RiverCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS A group of well-dressed travelers cross the Neches River using a ferry near Rockland.

    Remnants of Rockland 6CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Mac Dunkin's well, located Northeast of the Rockland Mill site.

    The Rockland Mill site is on private property and unfortunately there is no public access to it. Because of this factor, it has remained in a healthier condition than the other structures such as the Aldridge mill, which has been defaced with spray paint graffiti for years. After being granted permission to locate different parts of the mill, many older bottles were discovered near where the general store or commissary would have been placed. What would have been trash, paints a picture of what life could have looked like back then. The concrete structure that held the steam engine still stands erect, but the steam engine itself is no longer on the site. Various concrete foundations lay in the dense underbrush. There are numerous possibilities of what they could have been used for, but it is safe to assume the boilers would have been located nearby and there is a good chance they would have been placed on foundations, such as the ones found. Trams that ran from the railroad are still built up around the mill pond. The pond is still holding water, but many trees have grown in it and around it, so it is not easily accessible nor noticeable.

     Remnants of Rockland 24CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB The Rockland Mill pond's levee broke at some point, but still holds water and has traces of the tram surrounding it.

    According to Texas State Historical Association, Rockland has had a population of about 100 people since 1990. From 1900 to 1940 the population was roughly 300 and thought to have close to 500. The town included 150 to 200 dwellings for sawmill workers, a school and church building, three doctors' offices, two drugstores, a livery stable, a dance hall, and a railroad station. Now, only residential structures, rock quarries, and lumber tracts remain. Although, not much resides in the once bustling town, the remnants of Rockland are still there, underneath the earth being preserved in its once trampled grounds.

    Aldridge Home in RocklandCOURTESY THE HISTORY CENTER, DIBOLL, TEXAS The Aldridge family home in Rockland. Hal Aldridge built this house at the time of his marriage. The home was later turned into a hotel. The home was still standing in 2020.

  • Report on plane ‘a true mistake’

    U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during Cope North 21 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 9, 2021. Cope North is an annual multinational exercise designed to increase capabilities and improve interoperability among partner nations, and this year’s exercise focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations, large force employment and combat air forces training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during Cope North 21 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 9, 2021. Cope North is an annual multinational exercise designed to increase capabilities and improve interoperability among partner nations, and this year’s exercise focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations, large force employment and combat air forces training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)

    By Chris Edwards

    TYLER COUNTY – A report from a concerned resident about an aircraft in distress led to a large-scale search effort that ultimately ended with good news.

    At approximately 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a military plane flying low to the ground, with smoke coming from an engine, according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. The report came from a resident living on FM 1450, who reported what appeared to be a plane in distress, as well as smoke coming off of the ground. The sighting was reported near the county lines of Tyler and Polk.

    According to Weatherford, the first responders concentrated their search efforts around and near FM 1943 west of Warren, to US 190 west of Woodville, into Polk County. Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe said there were two AMBUS units staged in the two counties: one in Warren and one in Midway on 190.

    The search lasted for two hours, after the responders received information that the aircraft had made a safe landing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish, La. Jobe said the report that launched the massive search was “a true mistake,” that the person who made the report saw the smoke on the ground, which was likely from a controlled burn that was taking place on the A-C reservation, and with the smoke coming from the plane, along with the fact that it was flying low, put the elements together and feared the worst.

    Jobe added there were probably a total of 12 or 15 ambulances involved, as well as three fire departments. “We had a whole lot of medical care response in about an hour,” Jobe said.

    Polk County OEM Coordinator Courtney Comstock and Alabama-Coushatta Tribal OEM Coordinator Willo Sylestine were also part of the efforts, Jobe said.

    Along with TCSO, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Game Wardens and Forestry Service also participated.

    Jobe said that although the search was the product of “a legitimate error” from a concerned resident in the area, emergency personnel will likely treat the experience as a training exercise.

    There will be an after-action review on Wednesday, Jobe said, which will be done cumulatively with the Emergency Management offices that were involved.

  • Resolutions, library funding discussed by Tyler County commissioners

    NEWS TyCoCourthouse graphicCOURTESY OF OFFICIAL COUNTY WEBSITE The Tyler County courthouse

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The Tyler County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in opposition to two pieces of legislation they say would, if passed, “silence county officials.”

    The officials adopted several resolutions and proclamations during its regular monthly meeting on Monday morning. The first resolution the officials approved was to voice opposition to Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 749, of which County Judge Jacques Blanchette said “is of a concern to all of us who hold public office.”

    The bill in the Senate (by Sen. Bob Hall) and the House bill (by Rep. Mayes Middleton) would prohibit the usage of county funds to support any non-profit organization engaging in legislative communication.

    Blanchette said information is going around about the bills, which are among the thousands of pieces of legislation up for examination in the current legislative session, and other counties across the state are voicing similar opposition.

    “It is just simply our way of enjoining ourselves to the other counties who are expressing themselves and their voices to the legislature in the opposition to any of our efforts to speak out to the legislature regarding laws they pass that place burdens upon us that are in turn passed on to the taxpayer,” Blanchette said.

    The second item under the heading “Resolutions/Proclamations” was to proclaim the month of April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Tyler County.

    CASA board member Donnie Wayne Gulley spoke to the issue before the officials on Monday morning. Gulley, who was a foster child himself, said he has striven to be an advocate for abused and/or neglected children who are in the foster care system.

    Gulley said that through the last year there were 188 confirmed victims of child abuse and/or neglect in the county last year, which he said was “188 confirmed victims too many,” along with 87 total children in the child welfare system.

    He outlined the process of the Court Appointed Special Advocates and what they do. “The difference that CASA makes for children who have experience abuse or neglect is definitely life-changing,” he said, and spoke of his own experience and memories of abuse at 18 months old when he was removed from his first home.

    “We can stop the cycle of abuse by being a much-needed voice of support,” Gulley said.

    Library funding discussed

    Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock brought an agenda item up for discussion concerning funds allocated to the Allan Shivers Library in Woodville. Sturrock said that he has researched commissioners court minutes from the 1950s or 60s and could not find anything that specified how county funds to the library were to be applied.

    Sturrock wanted to bring the item up so that the court could have, in writing, a way for the facility to use county funds in whatever ways its governing board sees fit.

    Blanchette and Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall are both on the library’s board, and former county employee Kay Timme was recently appointed. “The concept is certainly laudable and has a lot of merit,” Blanchette said of Sturrock’s agenda item. He recommended suspending any action until more information comes from the governing board for the library. He also described its funding structure, which comes from three different entities: Woodville ISD, the City of Woodville and Tyler County, and is supplemented further by grants, fundraisers and donations.

    Timme read the deed for the library, which states that if there is a failure to keep the facility going on the part of the three contributing entities, the funding would revert back to a foundation associated with the Shivers family.

    Other documents that Timme uncovered spelled out what particulars the county is responsible for funding, which include the staff along with books and professional supplies.

    Library board member Josh McClure also spoke on the topic, specifically to the inclusion of the word “may” within Sturrock’s agenda item, as in “Tyler County may support the Allan Shivers Library in the amount agreed upon by the Commissioners’ Court…,” which McClure said could be problematic in the future, with regard to whomever might be elected to serve in the future and their desire to fund or not to fund.

    “I do think that wording needs to be visited,” McClure said. “If the policy said ‘may,’ and then one day someone who doesn’t support the library is voted in…and says ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this,’…it would put more of a burden on the county.”

    Other Business

    During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners also approved the following items:

    • A proclamation recognizing March as Red Cross Awareness Month in Tyler County

    • A resolution for an indigent defense grant program

    • A proclamation to proclaim March 1 through April 3 as “It’s Dogwood Time in Tyler County”

    • Billie Read and Walter McAlpin were re-appointed to the Tyler County Hospital Board of Managers to begin serving new two-year terms.

    • The starting of procurement services for engineering and administrative services for the fiscal year 2021-22 TDA CDBG grant cycle, along with the appointment of a rating committee were both approved.

  • Sabine County teen drowns at Dam B

    LE Flashing LightsFILE PHOTO LE Flashing Lights

    By Chris Edwards

    DAM B – A Sabine County teenager drowned on Sunday afternoon while fishing at Dam B, according to Jasper County Sheriff Mitchel Newman.

    Richard Tyler Johnston, 18, of Hemphill, was reportedly fishing near the spillway at the reservoir. The incident was reported right before 7 p.m., and volunteers from the Jasper County Emergency Corps, as well as others, were dispatched to the location, on the lake’s south end. The volunteers, along with officers from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene, and game wardens from TPW recovered Johnston’s body.

    According to Newman, the body was recovered from an area between the floodgates and the Willis Hydroelectric Unit. Johnston was pronounced dead at the scene by Jasper County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Raymond Hopson.

    Hopson said that he requested an autopsy be performed.

    According to Newman, from the preliminary investigation, it appears that Johnston, along with others, walked to the location where the incident was reported, from the east side of the dam. Johnston was reportedly there on a fishing trip.

    Johnston’s family has established a Go Fund Me page to raise money for his funeral expenses. According to the site, Johnston had turned 18 in December, and he had only begun working and had no life insurance.

    His father preceded him in death, and the family wishes to bury him next to his late father, as they believe it is what he would have wanted.