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Brady to retire from House

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Kevin BradyFILE PHOTO U.S. Representative Kevin Brady

Special to the News-Times

THE WOODLANDS — U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, announced he will end his tenure as a Congressman at the end of this term.

Brady made the remarks during The Woodlands Economic Outlook Conference, held online on Wednesday.

The 13-term Representative of the Eighth District, which includes Trinity and San Jacinto counties, told those attending the conference about his decision to retire.

“I set out to give my constituents the representation you deserve, the effectiveness you want and the economic freedom you need,” he said. “I hope I delivered. It’s a remarkable privilege to work for you in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Brady said he was proud to have worked with the President and lawmakers from both parties to redesign America’s broken tax code, reform the IRS, pass the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, reform America’s retirement system, end the unfair ObamaCare individual mandate and its harmful taxes, and sign into law a historic national ban on surprise medical bills.

“The Tax Cuts lifted millions of Americans out of poverty, and gave hope to so many the old tax code had left behind,” he said. “America recaptured the title as the most competitive economy in the world, bringing manufacturing jobs and investment back home to America from overseas.

“And we preserved my first success as Chairman: negotiating for Speaker Paul Ryan an end to the 40-year ban on selling U.S. crude oil overseas,” Brady said.

Brady said he works with some of the most dedicated people in the nation — people who are talented, hardworking and serious about their responsibilities — in both parties, and after 25 years in the nation’s capitol there hasn’t been a problem that can’t be solved.

“I love this job, and thanks to incredible lawmakers I’ve worked with in Congress and the White House, I’ve been fortunate to do big things for our country, bigger than a small town boy from Rapid City, South Dakota whose father died when young, with all five of us children raised by a remarkable single mom, could ever dream of,” he said.

Brady said his decision to retire does not have an ulterior motive.

“Is this because I’ve lost faith in a partisan Congress and the political system? Absolutely not,” he said. “Given the times, I’m sure some will say, ‘It’s Trump’s fault.’ Nonsense.

“As you may not know, because House Republicans limit committee leadership to six years, I won’t be able to Chair the Ways & Means Committee in the next session when Republicans win back the House majority,” Brady said. “Did that factor in? Honestly, some. But as I see it, our committee leader term limits ensure lawmakers who work hard and effectively have the opportunity to lead, to bring fresh ideas to our committee work. In my view, it’s a good thing. And the great news is that our Ways & Means Committee is incredibly talented. I’m confident about its future.”

Brady said that in the end, he will leave Congress the way he entered it, with the absolute belief that we are a remarkable nation – the greatest in history.

Despite what the media and social media bombards you with each day, we are not the hateful, racist, divided nation they peddle,” he said. “They are dead wrong. Turn off that noise and you’ll hear the true heartbeat of America. We remain the most charitable nation on the planet. We are a nation so valued that a million military men and women have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms and opportunity.

“Look at yourself; look around at your friends and our community,” he said. “We come together every day voluntarily to feed the hungry, house the homeless, rescue our veterans, race to help our neighbors in a natural disaster, and more. We do this without a single thought about the color of our anyone’s skin, their religious beliefs, or the circumstances of their birth. We volunteer, we give from our pockets and our hearts, we care for each other. Because that is who America is.”

Brady said the country remains a work in progress, but it’s what makes America special.

“Every parent, every generation, is determined to leave a nation for our children — and others — better than the one we inherited,” he said. “As a result, the American Dream is still alive and well for anyone willing to work for it. That is why I remain optimistic about our country, because I have faith in our people. I’ve seen up close how remarkable you are, and while I am leaving Congress, I am excited about our future.”

Brady thanked his supporters for what he called many unbelievable opportunities to lead, including becoming only the third Texan in history to chair the House Ways & Means Committee, and saved his most heartfelt appreciation for his wife, Cathy.

“She is a true angel (you have no idea), who made all this possible and is the best thing in my life … ever,” he said..

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Spotlight on Black History: East Texan bluesman Hopkins still an influential force

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Lightnin 2USED BY CREATIVE COMMONS Undated photo of Lightnin’ Hopkins in the studio.

By Chris Edwards

There is a joke about old country bluesmen pertaining to the methodology behind the colorful monikers that so many of them had. You take one-part physical descriptor (or description of a physical infirmity), join that with a middle name consisting of a nickname and pin a presidential and/or distinguished-sounding surname on the end.

The three-name bluesmen who fit that bill (and there are many) include such greats as Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Hound Dog Taylor, but mention the name Lightnin’ and even those who don’t know anything about the blues know who you are talking about. Lightnin’ Hopkins was so cool, and is so legendary, that mononym status, which has been afforded pop culture figures like Madonna and Cher, also fits for him.

Hopkins, who was born under the name Samuel John Hopkins, on the fifteenth day of March in either 1911 or 1912, hasn’t sang the blues or struck that unmistakable Lightnin’ groove in A major on his guitar on this planet in nearly 40 years, but the influence and iconic status afforded the Centerville native only increases each year.

Record collector and ardent blues fan David Barfield called Hopkins “a true original” and said that his storytelling style and authenticity are matched by few.

“Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins tops the list of the Great Texas Bluesmen. To me, he represents the link between the rural acoustic prewar blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and the urban electrified postwar blues of Freddie King,” Barfield said.

Barfield also noted how unique and powerful Hopkins’ guitar playing was. “Unlike his more

polished contemporary, T-Bone Walker, Hopkins retained the raw country blues chops he picked up as Blind Lemon’s apprentice. His guitar playing prowess cannot be denied, as he is frequently cited as one of the most influential guitarists of all time,” he said.

Hopkins’ early life reads like something out of a great set of country blues lyrics – from a hardscrabble beginning as the son of a sharecropper who was murdered when Lightnin’ was but three years old, to later exploits of train-jumping and shooting dice and rubbing shoulders with legends like Blind Lemon Jefferson – but his ascendancy as a nationally known artist, as well as the character of Lightnin’ Hopkins, requires a look into his life in an in media res fashion. Like so many other rediscovered blues greats who flourished in the 1960s once they were brought to the attention of hip college crowds, Hopkins had recorded prolifically early on.

When the folk-blues revival took off in the 1960s and record labels were flush with cash to send A&R folks (as well as musicologists and folklorists) deep into the country in search of authenticity to bring to market, those searches turned up dusty old 78s from the 1920s, 30s and 40s as well as word-of-mouth lore that led to such discoveries as Mississippi John Hurt and Son House, from the fertile Mississippi Delta region. Texas, with its rich musical heritage, was naturally a prime picking territory for the great blues-folk talent search of the era and it yielded greats like Mance Lipscomb from Navasota and Leon County’s Mr. Hopkins.

The rise in popularity of the more urbane Chicago-style electric blues by the late 1950s put Hopkins’ acoustic-based efforts out of fashion with the public.

Sam Charters, a music historian and producer, went to Houston in search of Hopkins in 1959. When he found him, he got the bluesman a bottle of gin and a guitar and convinced him to cut a record, or at least that’s Charters’ take on the story, as the liner notes of the eponymously titled LP that was a result of the sessions and released by Smithsonian Folkways, states.

Lightnin Statue 2PHOTO BY MEGHAN WHITWORTH A statue of Lightnin’ Hopkins that sits on First Street in Crockett.

According to Alan Governar, who wrote the book Lightin’ Hopkins: His Life and Blues, when Charters tracked down Hopkins, the bluesman had serious drinking and gambling issues, and his guitar was in hock. Charters could tell that it had been many years since Hopkins had even played guitar, when they were preparing to record the album.

On his comeback album, he recorded such songs as “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” a blues standard composed by his mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson. Along with Hopkins’ originals, the songs endeared his sound and the deep country blues to larger audiences than he’d heretofore known. Barfield said that the raw country blues chops Hopkins picked up under Jefferson’s tutelage is part of what keeps him relevant to musicians and fans to this day, along with his prolific output.

“His vocals and storytelling style possess an authenticity matched by few. All of this plus his huge recorded output are factors in his continuing popularity,” Barfield said.

Governar estimates Hopkins’s recorded output to be between 800 and 1,000 songs. Although he recorded prolifically and for a myriad of labels in his lifetime, many of the first pressings of his singles and LPs are prized among collectors. Barfield said he owns a handful of Hopkins singles, but his favorite is an original copy of “Mojo Hand” with “Glory Be” on the B side. The 45 was released on the Fire label in 1961. “Both sides are great, and it plays like a dream, plus it looks cool as all get out,” he said.

Young blues musicians regularly cite Hopkins’ influence. Alex Westphal, a guitarist and singer-songwriter who now lives in Colorado, but cut his teeth playing the blues in Texas bars, called it “an overwhelming expression of freedom” hearing Hopkins for the first time. “I felt the true blues spirit,” he said.

Westphal, who is a fan of many streams of blues music, said that Hopkins’ country blues style got him more interested in players like John Lee Hooker, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. “What I heard previous to Lightnin’ was a strict and predictable 12-bar form that I could not stand,” he said. “Lightnin’ spent as much time as he needed on the one or the four or the five chord as he needed to get his point across, like the blues preacher he was.”

The format Westphal references is the typical blues song form, commonly known as the 12-bar blues. The term “12-bar” refers to the number of measures, or musical bars, used to express the theme of a typical blues song. Typical blues songs also tend to feature three chords, with the number of the chord referencing where they appear on an eight-note scale.

From discovering Lightnin’ Hopkins, Westphal said he could hear his influence in later day bluesmen like Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of Hopkins’ lesser-known works, an album titled Free Form Patterns, which he recorded with members of the legendary psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators is one that Westphal said is his favorite record Hopkins recorded. He said the album came about at a time when the Elevators’ leader, the mercurial Roky Erickson, was institutionalized after pleading insanity on a marijuana charge and his band was looking for work.

Free Form Patterns was also influential on Westphal’s own music, particularly his work with the blues-based psychedelic-tinged garage ensemble Noise Crater.

The album also featured the involvement of another Texas music legend in the form of its cover, which was painted by the late country-folk singer-songwriter Guy Clark. According to British music writer Jon Rogers, the collaboration with the Elevators showed the diversity in the musicians’ abilities and cited songs like “Give Me Time to Think” and “Got Her Letter This Morning” as examples of Hopkins’ “blues magic” and the Elevators’ ability to adapt to a different style of playing.

Hopkins’s personal style was the epitome of the cool, swaggering, liquor-swilling country bluesman and his songwriting and vocal stylings were perfect accompaniments to the image, but the guitar style, although part of the overall package, was also its own thing altogether. In his obituary, published in the February 1, 1982 edition of the New York Times, he was referred to as “perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players.” Rolling Stone named him among its 100 Greatest Guitarists in a special issue.

By the time of his death from cancer of the esophagus on January 30, 1982, Hopkins had enjoyed several years of successful recording and touring, of bringing his country-blues sound into places most would have never dreamed it would have ended up. From Carnegie Hall performances to opening for the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane to playing for Queen Elizabeth II, Hopkins was a first-class ambassador of the blues and of Texas to the world at large.

There are a multitude of explanations as to why the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins remains so vital in 2021. The fact that he was able to translate the often-autobiographical songs that spoke of the experience of a Black man who grew up in poverty in the deep south of the segregation era into the most universal of statements show his true power and the power of great, timeless and authentic music. His rustic sound will likely be enjoyed by eager listeners and by budding musicians hoping to learn a thing or two for generations to come.

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Everything old is new again

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image 2After being spotted by Buc-ee’s management at his Highway 19 shop and collection, Jimmy Cochran was commissioned to create display vehicles to use at various Buc-ee’s, the first of which is still displayed in the store in Ennis.

By Tony Farkas

Jimmy Cochran’s passion gives him such a great sense of anticipation that he relishes getting up each morning.

That passion is restoring vintage vehicles, something he grew up with and continued throughout his life.

The 71-year-old Cochran was in the used car business for many years, and he turned that experience into his hobby.

“I’m semi-retired; I had a dealer’s license from 1978 to 2018,” he said. “I gave up the license, but not the love. The car collection became another business, where people either use them as backdrops or purchased them.

“I like all old cars, but my real passion is for pre-war, wartime and post-war models — 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s,” he said. “They have the most unique body designs. I’m a ‘49 model, and that’s the reason I like those years.”

Cochran said he grew up around cars — especially the older ones.

“My father was a tractor mechanic by trade; we never could afford a new car, so I’ve been around used cars all my life,” he said. “I’ve always liked the old cars — I’ve had the passion since was I was a kid. I see potential in every one of them.

“When I get it in the shop, I start dragging things in that will go with it,” he said. “I’ve only had one that I couldn’t figure out what to do with, and I traded that off. I’m a hands-on guy.”

Even as a child, he had the bug. Starting out with four-wheel scooters, he began his foray into rebuilding and refurbishing vehicles.

“I had a scooter, one someone gave me when I was in junior high school. I overhauled the engine, painted it, ran it all over the place,” he said

The next step

A 1936 Dodge 500 Business Coupe park ed on his lot northwest of Trinity about 10 years ago was the key to the start of his new venture of restoring old vehicles.

“I kept (the Dodge) parked here, and it started drawing people to it,” Cochran said. “Those people would then ask me if I knew about this old car in the woods or over there in a barn, and I would go a check it out. Next thing you know, I’m dragging stuff in here left and right.

Image 1One of several projects Jimmy Cochran is working on is a 1927 Ford Model T Coupe.

“These cars are like a magnet drawing people in off the road; I have met people from other countries because of these old cars,” he said. “As a matter of fact I had a young couple in their 30s stop here, they were from Scotland. They had flown over here, got a rental car at the airport and drove around sightseeing, had a big time. They got around here, and did a U-turn and hung out with me, talking and taking pictures, and two hours later, they told me that out of all of the traveling they’ve done, hanging out with me was the highlight of their trip.”

Cochran is not hung up on any particular model, and not on any particular vehicle; it would be like trying to choose a favorite song.

“There’s something to love about each and every one,” he said. “I still like the old engines like the flathead V8. They’re just nostalgic — they sound bad, but there’s nothing bad about them. And it’s not just the sound, but the feel, the smell, everything.

“You won’t see anyone using the current cars in 40 or 50 years, but you can take one of these old cars out of a field, and if they’ll turn over, they’ll run.”

One of his first pieces was pulled out of a field with chin-high weeds; Cochran said he made it run again under its own power, and then started driving it to car shows. However, restoring a vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean creating a pristine piece.

Cochran prefers that many of his pieces retain the patina of rust and age, and he’ll clear-coat on top of it to preserve that look — wanting it to look like it just came off the farm. He also likes to do most of the work on the vehicles, but does hire out the glasswork and pinstriping, as well as some of the welding.

“I’ve sold them for people to advertise with, and I’ve rented them for people to advertise with, and I’ve now got people who call me when they find something, and if I get something good from it, I’ll give them a $100 bill. It keeps them looking,” he said.

Famous finds

Cochran’s cars attracted more than just people, it attracted a manager with the Buc-ee’s organization who happened to be driving by the lot.

“He told me I have some stuff they need,” Cochran said. “He said they redo the old trucks to use as displays inside of a store. He looked around at what I had, and had me get together with someone who was rebuilding them. We met, and they picked out four trucks — two 46 Fords, a 49 Studebaker and a 49 Chevrolet.”

Cochran was given an opportunity to build one on his own, and he went to work. An old parts truck was on the lot, and he began work. Eight months later, when the Buc-ee’s people came to pick it up, Cochran said “his mouth flew open like a two-bit suitcase.”

The first one built is in the Ennis store, and the latest one is going to a new store that is scheduled to open in Georgia.

“They were real pleased, and told me to get to work on the next one,” he said.

Those builds, Cochran said, are not typical; the work is mostly cosmetic. There is no engine, or even axles, leaf springs or rear ends; the inside is redone, the bed and hood are repaired and painted, and the whole piece is mounted on heavy casters to allow it to be moved around.

Barrels are used to mimic wheels; those are used to house display items such as small stuffed beavers sold by the stores.

And if there’s no parts laying around, that’s OK; items such as shaving brushes, barrels, picnic tables and other items not necessarily car-related are repurposed into bed material, running boards, and even shifter knobs.

It’s a process Cochran plans to continue as long as possible.

“I like it so much I can’t wait to get in here in the morning,” he said. “I need to get out here and do something with these cars.”

image 3Jimmy Cochran, a longtime car dealer and a lifetime car enthusiast, has a 1949 Ford Police Cruiser prominently displayed at his lot on Highway 19 north of Trinity. Cochran has a passion for cars and trucks from the 1930s to the 1950s, and if you make an appointment, you can travel down memory lane with his antiques.

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2020-21 Hunting Season

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Scott Vaughn and grandsonCOURTESY PHOTO Scott Vaughn and grandson posing with a hog shot in Northern Tyler County October 30, 2020.

By Caleb Fortenberry

Covid-19 has had people recreating more this past year than in the last several years and with White-tailed deer muzzleloader season being over, there have been plenty of eager East Texan sportsmen wanting to show off a few bagged game animals.

For years, newspapers have been publishing sportsmen and their game. Here recently, showcasing has been less than normal. Maybe it’s time to start showing off those game that hunters haven’t been able to brag on for some time.

Here’s a list of a few of the harvests from East Texas, or people from the area:

Tyler County

1. Tina Barnes

Tina BarnesTina Barnes - 9 point, with crossbow in Chester, TX on October 24, 2020.

2. Dusty Sturrock

Dusty SturrockDusty Sturrock - 9 point in Chester, TX on November 15th, 2020

3. Kim Sturrock

Kim SturrockKim Sturrock – 8 point in Chester, TX on November 8th, 2020

4. Mark Keller

Mark KellerMark Keller - 9 point 14.5”, spread in Colmesneil, Tx on November 27, 2020

5. Buck Odom

Buck Odom 2Buck Odom – Hog shot between Woodville and Chester on December 17, 2020.

6. Nathan Vaughn

Nathan VaughnNathan Vaughn - 8 point buck at the Diamond T Ranch in Warren, Texas on January 3, 2021.

7. Scott Vaughn

Scott VaughnScott Vaughn - 10 point buck in Northern Tyler County November 8, 2020.

Polk County 

8. Ashton Davis

Ashton DavisAshton Davis - Doe, harvested in Texas hunters club in Soda, TX.

9. Paul Oliver

Paul OliverPaul Oliver - 10 Point with a 19 Inch Spread at the Texas Hunter Club in Soda, TX.

Houston County 

 10. Hunter Burris

Hunter BurrisHunter Burris, 9 years old from Danbury, TX holding his first deer, 7-point, on January 2, 2021 in Crockett, TX.

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Keep calm and carry on

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Free Farm VectorFILE PHOTO Free Farm

There are days when I look at the world and all I see is a yard full of chickens – not cowards, actual chickens. Chickens start squawking and flapping around at the slightest provocation. Chickens always act like it’s the end of the world.

When I start viewing the universe as a cacophonous barnyard, I take it as a sign that maybe, just maybe, it is time to seek some stability and predictability from a source who is, unlike a chicken, unflappable.

It was on one of those days that I turned off the television, stepped away from the internet and picked up a magazine from a stack that, considering I was seeing farm animals that weren’t really there, had been ignored for too long.

The teaser headline on the front of the magazine made me turn to the article right away: “Life Lessons from Queen Elizabeth.”

Who wouldn’t want advice from Queen Elizabeth II? She is 94 years old and, as of this writing, still going strong. Long live the queen!

I have always felt a certain kinship with the queen and like to think that we have a lot in common. She has an affinity for tea and for dogs. So do I! She loves horses; I once rode one. She likes things to be neat and tidy. I do, too! In fact, that is one of the top goals for my next life. She wears a royal crown; I enjoy the occasional Crown Royal. She is surrounded by people who wait on her hand and foot; I think I could easily learn to live with that.

The article offered some generic advice about positive thinking, serving others, establishing a healthy routine… yada, yada, yada. With my vast knowledge of Queen Elizabeth, and with four seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown” under my belt, I had expected nothing else. The queen rarely weighs in, publically at least, on current events. During the nearly 70 years she has been monarch, she has been the picture of cool, calm consistency.

She still adheres to that “stiff upper lip” and “keep calm and carry on” philosophy for which the Brits were known back in the day and that I used to find irritating. Not anymore.

As odd as it might sound, when I start seeing chickens where people should be, I can also find solace in TV weather forecasts. Sure, you can go to some dot-com and get the forecast down to the minute, but I want to see a familiar face. Once a meteorologist makes it to the top spot in the weather department, they tend to stay for decades and, just like with my good friend the queen, I start to feel like I know them. They are stable, predictable and unflappable. No matter what may be bearing down on us, you can count on the chief meteorologist to project a calm demeanor and not go all squawky-flappy on us.

When I was growing up, we had a choice of three local stations for our nightly forecast. My family’s go-to weather guru was a skinny guy with glasses named Bob Lynott. I lie not.

I lived in Oregon for the first 13 years of my life and Bob was there for every one of them, although I was probably more interested in my belly button than the weather during his earlier broadcasts.

In those low-tech days, good ol’ Bob would slap his magnetic images of puffy clouds, rain-dripping clouds and the occasional uplifting likeness of Mr. Sunshine onto a map to illustrate what was going to happen in our corner of the world the next day. Since we lived in the Pacific Northwest, the cloud with the dripping rain got quite a workout. He drew the warm and cold fronts on the map with a magic marker.

I did a quick computer check to make sure I was spelling Bob Lynott’s name right (his last name; I was pretty sure I had nailed his first name) and found his obituary. It reminded me of why he was our weather guy. This is one of the stories it told about Bob: “One time, the day after missing badly on a forecast, he made his entrance to his weather slot by putting his hat on the end of an umbrella and sticking it in front of the camera before he came on.” He did that sort of thing fairly often; he was predictable even when the weather was not.

Bob may not have always been right, but you could count on him to fess up when he messed up. No matter what, he was unflappable. We knew we would keep tuning in and that Bob would be there to greet us.

The late author E.L. Doctorow once compared writing a novel to driving a car at night. “You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” He may have been referring to writing, but I think it could be one life’s great lessons. We don’t really need to know what is around the next curve or even our destination; we just need to navigate the road a few feet at a time. It sounds like something my peeps Queen Elizabeth and Bob Lynott might say.

Keep calm and carry on.

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