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  • A fadin’ renegade’s last stand

    doug supernaw 2FILE PHOTO Douglas Anderson Supernaw

    By Chris Edwards

    “Pass the word I’ve done the best I can.”

    - Doug Supernaw, “Fadin’ Renegade”

    Each year the Country Music Association rolls out its exceedingly ridiculous parade of high-dollar fashion and spraytans and back-slapping. There was a fuss made in the aftermath of the most recent ceremony, about how it did not include tributes to three bona-fide country legends who had passed: John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver. Two days after the show aired, another legend of country music passed right here in deep East Texas, Mr. Douglas Anderson Supernaw.

    Had the long, tall Texan died prior to the broadcast, I doubt they would have included a tribute to him, either.

    The CMAs, like so much of what is trotted out to the general public as representative of the “music business” is fake, and Doug Supernaw was not. That guy was as real as Death Valley summers are hot.

    If you’re a casual music fan of a certain age, you might remember when Supe was a big mainstream star, a time when “Reno” and “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” were played dozens of times a day on the radio. It was a time when there was still a place for country music that sounded like, well, country music, on the top of the Billboard charts, and there was a place in the big radio markets for great songs. Although that was all coming up on 30 years ago, those records, like Red and Rio Grande and You Still Got Me hold up as amazing collections of songs to this day.

    doug supernawFILE PHOTO Douglas Anderson Supernaw

    To most folks for whom music is not a big part of their life (and shame on them for their poor life choices), Supernaw was relegated to the “I haven’t heard anything about him in years” status, due to his disillusionment with the music business and other factors I won’t address here, but he was always around and always relevant. To that end, it was an honor to be able to chronicle his return to full-time touring and what was supposed to be a comeback to recorded product for this magazine’s inaugural issue back in 2018.

    Sadly, it was a comeback that was cut all-too short. He was on a tear, playing great shows, promoting an album that showcased re-recordings of many of his old hits, and reminding the world that he was a force to be reckoned with. However, a nagging cough and other symptoms led to an eventual diagnosis of advanced forms of cancer in early 2019. The doctors, from what I’m told, did not give him much time, but they had no idea just how tough a man Doug Supernaw really was. He beat one of the cancers, and, after some aggressive treatments and the caring prayers and meditative energies from legions of fans and friends, it looked like he had beaten it all for good.

    It was not to be, though.

    The last time I saw him was during the Christmas parade in downtown Livingston in 2019. He was helping out in his wife Cissy’s shop downtown, and he looked great. Seeing him greet customers as they walked in, and help out with moving furniture and other goods, made me wonder if any of the folks coming into the store knew they were in the presence of greatness.

    Things seemed to be going well for him in the drawn-out debacle that was 2020, but then in September, word had gotten around via social media that his health had taken a drastic and sudden wrong turn. That news was a punch to my solar plexus, and I’m sure it took the breath of many fans upon discovery.

    The first time I saw Doug Supernaw onstage was at one of the Jasper Lions Club rodeos in the early ‘90s. I’d tagged along with my mom, and was blown away, not just by the music and his performance, but by the example I saw after the show.

    I stood in line with my rodeo program to be autographed and waited impatiently. I still loathe standing in lines to this day, otherwise I’m about as longsuffering as a Hindu cow. What Doug was doing, though, was making sure that he not only signed whatever the fans in line had for him, but that he got to hang out and talk to each and every one of them for a bit. All of this, in spite of the fact that the sack full of Burger King goodies sitting on the table behind him was getting cold.

    Through the years I’ve heard stories about how he played benefit shows for families in need, or for causes near to his heart, when he could have played big-paying shows, instead. I’ve heard stories about how he gave of his time to help coach Little League teams or would spring into action is someone needed help with their horses. He’d do anything for anyone. He was just a regular, very real guy, albeit one with a massive amount of talent and a beautiful, beautiful soul.

    Despite how much he tried to blend in, however, there was just something magnetic about Doug. He had a sort of charisma that made him stand out wherever he was. I remember a few years ago hanging out with him at a Texas Country Music Association event in Longview, and there were a good many musicians, industry folks and fans coming and going; oblivious to most everything and everyone else but him. Everyone wanted to stop and talk to him.

    Another time, at a party in San Marcos, after a music festival he’d played, he was the center of attention, even though it seemed like he would’ve been content to just sit on the host’s couch and eat pizza. Everyone at the party hung on his words about getting to meet Neil Young, or stories about playing Farm Aid events and of what the Beach Boys were really like.

    chris and dougMOLLIE LASALLE | ETXN The late, great Doug Supernaw with the author, backstage.

    One of the stories I’ve heard that best illustrates Doug Supernaw in a nutshell comes from the Midlandbased singer/songwriter Scott Hayley, whom Supe was mentoring shortly before he entered into hospice care. Hayley recently recounted via Facebook posting of how he and Doug were on a road-trip, and Tanya Tucker’s version of the Allen Shamblin tune “The House That Built Me” came on the radio. The song, which was a big hit when it was recorded by Miranda Lambert, recounts a house full of memories once occupied by the narrator, who returns as an adult to the house she grew up in.

    When it hit radio with Lambert’s rendition, it was at a time that Supernaw wasn’t likely paying much attention to pop culture or what was on the radio. Hayley said that he looked over at his friend, who was riding shotgun, and the beauty of the song struck him to the point of bringing him to tears. “It’s so beautiful,” is what he said of the song.

    That story spoke volumes to me about what kind of a guy Doug was. He was, on the surface, a fun-loving fellow who was the life of the party, and someone who loved to laugh (and make others laugh) but he was also a guy with an enormous amount of talent and a truly beautiful soul.

    The wave of mainstream popularity that Supernaw enjoyed in the early 1990s may have been his own slice of 15 minutes of fame, but he was important to many people far beyond the short, fickle memories and attention spans of gauche mainstream culture. All of that CMA Awards glitz and readymade Instagram-posting “outlaw” stuff is, again, utterly fake and Doug Supernaw was not.

    His success and legacy prove that every now and again the good guys finish first and come out on top, and lately, that same concept holds true with the popularity of real artists like Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers and Chris Stapleton making legit art.

    Their popularity probably seems like an aberration to those whose image of country music is defined by Jason Aldean and rapped verses about tractors and beer over computer-generated drumbeats. I’m sure that if Doug Supernaw were just starting out today, he would seem like an outlier, confined to what mainstream radio looks at as the ghetto of “Americana” or “traditional country.” But then again, the real music and real people making that music are still out there. It just requires more effort to find them than most folks are willing to commit.

    To many around Livingston, no doubt, he was just Doug, a magnetic and charming fellow who could be seen around town just enjoying life and the company of friends and his lovely wife Cissy.

    If such a thing as an angel on earth exists, it is his widow. Supposedly, in the mid-90’s when Doug was hanging out in the area, after a gig, he spotted her and said something to the effect of one day he’d return and marry her. Well, he must’ve had a bit of Nostradamus in him, because that’s what happened, and he not only found the love of his life, but a renewed vitality and commitment to his artform.

    God bless Doug Supernaw, a most incredible artist and an even better human being.

  • Broadband project sees some funding

    3 NEWS Broadband GraphicGraphic courtesy of Pixabay

    By Chris Edwards

    LUFKIN – A project that has been three years in the making for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) moved from the planning stages into one signaled by a green light.

    Broadband funding for the 12-county East Texas region that DETCOG services has been high on the council’s list of priorities since 2018, and last Thursday, a chunk of a $32 million round of General Land Office funding for various projects will be allocated toward a broadband project in northern Newton County.

    “We are thrilled to learn that our grant application to construct a rural broadband network in northern Newton County has been approved,” Lonnie Hunt, DETCOG’s Executive Director, said.

    He called the Newton project’s funding award “a significant step toward realizing our ultimate goal of ensuring every home and business in Deep East Texas has reliable and affordable broadband.”

    The project claims $9,008,688 of the overall pie, and Hunt said that DETCOG is awaiting word on another larger grant application, which if approved, would enable the agency to construct a rural broadband network in all 12 member counties.

    “It’s very, very doable,” he said last week on a conference call before the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce Stakeholders and added that the larger grant application may take a couple of months.

    Hunt described the project as intimidating, even scary, when DETCOG first began the initiative in early 2018, but now it is a must. “It must be done here in Deep East Texas,” he said.

    All of the DETCOG member counties signed resolutions in support of the initiative. The Newton County-specific request came from funding after flooding in 2016. The other grant DETCOG is awaiting an answer on is from the GLO’s Hurricane Harvey recovery funds.

    Hunt acknowledged the state legislature, which has placed priority on broadband access throughout the region.

    Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) filed identical bills in the Senate and House (SB 506 and HB 1446) to address the issue by forming a state broadband office, creating a comprehensive statewide plan and identifying which areas have the greatest need.

    Hunt said that broadband access is a big project, which will take time to complete. With the Newton project, he said a contract will have to be put in place with the GLO, and then there is additional engineering work and environmental assessments before any construction can begin.

    “We will move as quickly as we can but will also take the time to make sure this project is done right. Since we began the DETCOG broadband initiative three years ago, we have sought out the best experts available to make sure we have a solid plan that will be successful. We already have our engineering and grants management teams in place and ready to start once we have a contract in place,” he said.

  • Fatal Trinity County crash claims Groveton woman

    police lightsFILE PHOTO Police lights

    By Chris Edwards

    TRINITY COUNTY – A Groveton woman is dead following a multiple-vehicle crash that occurred near Groveton on the evening of Wednesday, March 31.

    According to Sgt. David Hendry with the Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS troopers responded to a three-vehicle crash, which involved one of their own, about six miles west of the Groveton city limits on SH 94.

    According to the preliminary investigation, a Mack truck towing a pole trailer was eastbound and a DPS Chevrolet patrol vehicle was westbound at approximately 6:45 p.m. The trooper in the patrol vehicle, Brady Germeroth, of Crockett, identified a movingviolation on another eastbound vehicle and made a U-turn.

    As Germeroth was attempting to re-enter the eastbound lane of the highway, the driver of the Mack truck drove over into the westbound land and struck a Jeep Wrangler head-on. Both the truck and its accompanying trailer crossed back over into the eastbound lane, striking the back right side of the DPS vehicle, and continued off the roadway where it overturned onto its passenger side and caught fire.

    The driver of the Mack truck, 35-year-old Chad Deford, of Livingston, was not injured in the crash, neither was Germeroth. The driver of the Jeep, 53-year-old Melanie Painter, of Groveton, was transported to Crockett Medical Center where she was pronounced deceased a short time later, according to Hendry. The crash remains under investigation.

  • Festival of the Arts kicks-off Dogwood

    1 Dulcimer 01JIM POWERS | PCPC FILE PHOTO Musicians as well as artisans will have their talents on display at the festival of the arts at Heritage Village on Saturday March, 20.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A surefire sign that things are eking back into the way they should be in Tyler County is that the Dogwood Festival is upon us, as in starting this weekend.

    The festival will kick off with the Festival of the Arts on Saturday at Heritage Village, and it offers a prime opportunity for residents and visitors, alike, to celebrate the heritage and culture of the county, which will turn 175 years young on April 2, the day before the events of Queen’s Weekend, the final weekend of Dogwood.

    The Festival of the Arts was one of the first victims of the slew of COVID-19 cancellations last year, as the entire Dogwood Festival had to be rescheduled and relegated to a single Saturday in June. This year, however, it is business as usual, with the pandemic on a downhill slide and the growing availability of the vaccines.

    Tyler County Heritage Society President Sarah Reinemeyer said the Village, along with its staff, volunteers and the TCHS Board of Directors wishes to welcome the public back after last year’s absence. The festival is “a fine time to learn, have fun, and make memories,” Reinemeyer said. “We eagerly await your return and hail your good health.”

    The gates will open at the Village at 9 a.m., and the festivities last until 3 p.m. Admission is $5, and visitors can tour the Village, take in some live music from the Village Stage and enjoy a special Dogwood Festival exhibit, which is on display in the special exhibits room next to the gift shop.

    Along with all of the aforementioned features, there will be a quilt show. Reinemeyer said the Sassy Scrappers group have decorated the entire Village with lots of beautiful homemade quilts. “Each is an art work on its own,” she said. “Many with the family memory to make it more precious.”

    Although the traditional dinner-on-the-grounds that has long been a part of the Festival of the Arts has been cancelled this year, visitors will still be able to get some of the legendary food that the Pickett House puts out, including the restaurant’s famous fried chicken and chicken and dumplings.

    On Sunday, the Village Street Bed and Breakfast, located at 201 North Village Street in Woodville, will host its Royal Tea, to which all of the little princesses are cordially invited.

    The event lasts from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and offers the opportunity for young girls to meet the Royal Court and take photos with the princesses and the ladies-in-waiting and to make their own sash.

    Each of the girls who attends will also receive a crown of their own. Tickets are available at the door for $20.

    Mr. East Texas named

    In addition to the inaugural weekend for the Dogwood Festival, the customary honor of Mr. East Texas has been named. This year, Ben G. Raimer, MD, was awarded that title, as the festival’s executive director Buck Hudson announced on Monday.

    Raimer, a Warren High School grad (class of 1965) currently serves as the president ad interim of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He has held many appointments, honors and has earned many advanced degrees.

    Raimer is a member of the Texas Pediatric Society Executive Board and President-Elect of TPS. He serves as chair of the Texas Health Institute Board of Directors and the East Texas Baptist University Board of Trustees. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and serves as a commissioner on the BGCT Christian Life Commission.

    Raimer served as chair of the Health and Human Services Commission Council for a term, appointed by then-Governor Rick Perry.

  • I do not like culture wars with green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I Am

    LIFESTYLE Cancel Culture Graphic 03 10 21COURTESY OF PIXABAY

    By Chris Edwards

    By now I’m sure most of you have seen or heard some variation of a sky-is-falling pronouncement on beloved children’s literature perennial Dr. Seuss.

    I’m sure many/most of you have also witnessed the army of Culture Warriors ™ shooting down “cancel culture” in response to the “cancellation” of the beloved Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s name away from his pen.)

    Some folks with nothing better to do would have you believe that “they” have “canceled” The Cat in the Hat and other staples of childhood from The Good Doctor’s pen (he actually wasn’t a doctor, but I digress.) This is not the case at all. What happened was this, and I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of it, but my name is Chris, so I guess this is the Chris’s Notes version: Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which controls the publishing of his works, decided to cease the publication of six of his books. According to a statement released last week, the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

    None of the six books that are being yanked feature the Cat in the Hat or any discussion of green eggs and ham. Instead, they are titles such as And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and Cat’s Quizzer. Six books out of 60, and out of those six, I’ve only heard of one of those titles. Furthermore, the most recent publication date on any of these was 2004. From the examples shown in reportage of this story, some of the books include ethnocentric stereotypes of Asian and African characters.

    Withdrawing six books out of a large bibliography is not exactly cancelling an author’s legacy and/or availability. To draw a parallel from another end of the literary spectrum, with regard to age appropriateness, everyone should at least have name familiarity with James Joyce, even if they’ve not read a word of Ulysses or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Did you also know, however, that he wrote a bizarre, nonsensical novel titled Finnegan’s Wake?

    I’ve never seen accounting for Joyce’s book sales, but I’ll bet Finnegan’s Wake probably sells in the dozens per year, when compared to the tens of thousands that the other two likely move annually. Would the public claim that Joyce is being cancelled if, suddenly, his publisher decided to withdraw Finnegan’s Wake?

    This is just the way the free market operates. Publishers pull titles that aren’t selling all the time, and it’s not just producers of printed media. There are probably more than a hundred records that I adore dearly, and all lost to the churn and burn of the marketplace.

    One of my favorite albums of all time is Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult by the mighty Denton, Texas-based melodic death metal band Brutal Juice. When the album was released in 1995, it sold in the wee thousands, an outcome that ended with the record going out of print and the band dropped from major label Interscope.

    When that album and band disappeared from the ranks of major labeldom, I don’t recall any custodians of popular opinion or congressional leaders decrying the lack of Brutal Juice in the mainstream marketplace or claiming the band had been censored or “cancelled.” Again, it was just the free market doing its thing.

    Fixating on “cancel culture” is pointless and stupid enough within common, everyday conversation and/or on social media channels, but when it boils over into places where legislation is passed, then it’s super-problematic.

    Take the case of Ohio congressman Jim Jordan who recently called for a House Judiciary hearing on the topic and claimed “cancel culture” is causing a wave of censorship across this great country.

    Add to that House minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s ridiculous political theater, which involved a five-minute video of his reading Green Eggs and Ham.

    When sitting members of congress use their position and influence to attack private companies for how they operate, it is governmental overreach, plain and simple.

    “Cancel culture,” if one has to call it that, has always been around. The only difference is, before it was not referred to in such a ridiculous way and governmental leaders did not waste time on such matters.

    Arguing about the gender of a toy potato or refusing to drink a soft drink because someone up the corporate ladder adopted some text from a tone-deaf training manual is ridiculous. Having members of the nation’s legislative body engage in such nonsense is not just ridiculous, it is extremely counterproductive. Instead of seriously looking into and debating the massive stimulus bill that just passed the Senate, congressional leadership wanted to talk about Dr. Seuss and an accompanying false bill of goods being sold to the public.

    Dr. Seuss may have published some outdated, and just plain wrong, depictions of people around the world early in his career, but he evolved, and now instead of thinking of broad stereotypes of ethnic groups, we remember lessons like “a person’s a person, no matter how small” (from Horton Hears a Who) which he wrote to atone for the anti-Japanese sentiments he expressed early in political cartoons he created.

    Perspective, as my late and great buddy Victor Holk once wrote and sang, “takes years if it’s done right,” and Dr. Seuss, like all of the great creative minds who produced a large body of work spanning many years, developed and honed his perspective. It’s not fun to commit such canards in such a public, big way, but, hey all creatives are human, after all.

    Thanks to the Good Lord that it never occurred to me to write a book when I was twenty-something!

  • WHS speech and debate competitors excel

    Izzy NarvaezPHOTO COURTESY OF CATHY D’ENTREMONT Izzy Narvaez prepares to compete at Congress State Debate.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Students in Woodville High School have excelled in a great number of extracurricular pursuits throughout the years, with each endeavor preparing them for some sort of skill in life beyond graduating. A group of WHS students recently took home top-notch honors in a field of competition that is relatively new to the school.

    The sport of speech and debate is, in the words of WHS’s speech and debate coach Cathy D’Entremont, “the consummate academic activity”; one that uses research, analysis, critical thinking skills and a variety of other skills, for competitors to succeed. WHS’s speech and debate team recently took home the first-place honors in District-level UIL competition.

    D’Entremont, a seasoned speech and debate coach, has been involved in the world of forensics, for more than 50 years. From the time she started competing as a seventh grader in Beaumont, she was active throughout the rest of her student career as a speaker and debater.

    After graduating from the University of Texas, she began coaching in public schools, and coached a national champion in 1983 in Houston.

    When she began working at WISD, she said she began looking for students to debate, and a recommendation from a colleague bore her witness to a transformation. “A teacher suggested I recruit a student who was acting out,” she said. That student, whom she said was a “bright, articulate smart aleck,” was Drake Broom a 2020 WHS graduate, who became a standout success and went to state in Student Congress and Cross-Examination Debate.

    “He developed great leadership skills, stayed out of trouble and is now in the Marines planning to become a JAG (Judicial Advocate) and follow a career in law,” D’Entremont said.

    “I have seen the transformative power of speech and debate many times in my years as a coach,” D’Entremont said. “I remain lifelong friends with numerous former students who are professors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, physicians and CEOs.”

    The current crop of award-winning speakers and debaters at WHS includes Izzy Narvaez; Jaydee Borel; Zander Duckworth; Kyler Coleman; Riley Vaughan; Kirby Wright; Mollie Jarrott; Kesean Paire; Kevon Paire; Rachel Risinger; Conner Risinger; Adriana Stark; Savanah Ludwig; Tanyia Mitchell; Chase Gray and Cailee Stephenson. All of the students took home awards from the recent UIL District competition in their respective events. Team captain Narvaez won first place in Congressional Debate and has been to state two years in the event.

    As the speech and debate program at Woodville High School flourishes, D’Entremont said it is a great benefit, both to her and the student body. “Anything that helps make better thinkers, writers and communicators is a huge educational success,” she said.

    She added that the support of WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg, along with WHS Principal Rusty Minyard and special programs director Terry Young, along with the WISD Board of Trustees, has been encouraging and supportive.

    “I feel blessed to have opened the door to this activity I love to the kids here,” D’Entremont said.

  • WISD recipient of Temple grant

    student 5520411COURTESTY OF PIXIBAY student

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The continuing pandemic has been especially tough on how schools carry on with the business of education. As part of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s efforts to address the issues East Texas school districts have faced, it awarded grants totaling $377K to 12 school districts, with each district getting $30K of the amount. Woodville ISD was one of the districts and district superintendent Lisa Meysembourg said she and the faculty, staff and administration are extremely excited to recceive the grant money.

    Meysembourg said WISD will utilize the funds to address instruction and achievement at all grade levels, from Pre-K through grade 12 “to ensure that all students have equitable access and opportunity to learn, progress and master learning expectations needed for future success,” she said.

    T.L.L. Temple Foundation President and CEO Dr. Wynn Rosser said that although educational inequities existed prior to the pandemic, “the most vulnerable students are bearing the heaviest burdens.”

    Recent studies have posited that the learning disruptions brought about through COVID-19 will only continue to widen underlying achievement gaps, and could ultimately prove detrimental economically, due to increases in dropout rates and reduced postsecondary education completion.

    “Research has shown that without an intentional targeted response to accelerate learning in reading and math in our schools, this event could impact the educational achievement and future of students for generations to come,” Meysembourg said.

    Meysembourg added that the grant funding will help give the district financial resources to provide additional focused instruction and intervention support services to meet the individual needs of the district’s student population in order to increase potential success in school as well as life after school.

    Specifically, she said that on the district’s elementary, intermediate and middle school campuses, master reading and math instructors will be hired as interventionists in order to provide targeted small group instruction to students who are identified as being at-risk, and to help fill learning gaps.

    Also, a summer credit recover program will be offered for WHS students, and the district’s teachers and staff will be provided ongoing professional development in order to strengthen their curriculum knowledge and to build skills toward helping students to recover from the pandemic’s impact upon their learning.