Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas break!

My well-deserved four-day break comes to a crashing end at approximately 8:15 this morning.

Due to my consistent hard work and much pleading, my boss was kind enough to grant me an extra day off from work Friday, which gave me that long stretch away to relax, enjoy Christmas with the family, count my calories, and watch the rain.

Here were the highlights!

Friday, slept in past 7 a.m.! Since I typically get up between 5 and 6 on work days, this was indeed a blessing.

I did my remaining Christmas shopping that morning. I only had to take care of my mother and daughter and after much consideration, I went to my bank and exchanged some money to give the perfect Christmas gift: cash.

No long lines or worries about gosh, will they like my Christmas gift? I did place those gifts in Christmas envelopes. The family did me right for Christmas, although Trish the Wife had already thoughtfully presented my present earlier so she could enjoy my gift to her, which she had picked out and received about three weeks ago.

We had Christmas at my mother’s house that night. Food was good and the only regret was forgetting to bring my camera, which was pointed out several times by the wife as in, “I can’t believe you forgot your camera!” Unfortunately, it was the start of a trend.

I am trying to remember what I did on Saturday. I did sleep in again, then, uh, watched some football while the wife was at her mother’s baking goodies for Sunday’s Christmas festivities. I read and let the dogs, Molly and Dodger, in and out approximately 50 times.

Molly would announce her wish to go outside by standing at the door and barking. I would let her out and coax Dodger to follow. If I chose to go outside with them, which I did several times, they were happy.

If I decided to stay inside and watch a crucial football play on a game which I was watching because there wasn’t anything else on, they went outside and before I could plop my rear back down, they would scratch to come back in.

Molly comes in without a problem. Dodger stands at the door and glances back and forth between me and the door, not really sure if he can make it in before the door slams on him, even though I am holding it with a foot or other body part.

Sunday was Christmas Day and that meant a trip to the in-laws. All the way across…town. Yes! No travel for Craigman, thank goodness. Another excellent meal, but some person again forgot to bring his camera to document all the festivities.

The food was ready when we got there, another bonus. But as I was elbowing my way past the small children to the front of the food line, the wife put me on fill the glasses with ice patrol. I filled like eight cups with ice and brought them back into the kitchen, only to discover she only wanted cups for us.

Fortunately, the line was small and plenty of food remained. After again eating a balanced meal, I made my way into the family room and was soon appointed play partner with Parker, who got a new bike from Santa and wanted somebody to help.

I was pretty good the first four times I got to help him ride the bike. Parker is three and decided it was more fun to slam on the breaks while I tried to push him. I thought it was funny the first three or four times he did this, but at about 30 or so, grew a little irritated.

Parker actually got going pretty good about the fifth time he dragged me outside and left me wondering what I was missing on the History Channel. He had training wheels on the bike, so I wasn’t all that worried. At least until Parker tried to turn and the training wheels failed.

Fortunately, he fell about the speed of a turtle. He looked up at me, as if to scold me for not protecting him, or to wonder what kind of fit he should throw. I checked for blood and found none, and acted like it was no big deal and got him back on the bike to distract him.

He was fine. Parker did run over his sister later on, but that was her fault. Not Parker’s. Or mine. I thought we were going to have to perform emergency stitches on her, but the only casualty was a small tear in the knee of her hose things.

And then, there was Monday. It was raining and not really excited about going anywhere. We did have a gift card for my favorite eating establishment in Fort Smith, along with one for a book store. Sadly, the wife had a gift card for a clothing store and wanted to go there first.

I survived, barely. Then we went to eat! Not many cars in the parking lot! We were behind like one group and they got seated instantly. Then, the receptionist said it would be a few minutes that all there waiters had tables.

I looked around and saw approximately eight tables occupied. So, we sat. And sat some more. Other people filed in, obviously not aware of the waiter shortfall. The receptionist disappeared and the waiting area soon filled with people.

An older worker soon arrived and took control of the madness. Two, count ‘em two, tables got their food before we did, even though our waiter took our order first! If we hadn’t had wings and bread to tide us over, there could have been a scene!

Our food finally arrived. Mine was not up to its usual greatness. They totally messed up Trish’s grub. But did send it back for correction.

We used a gift card and paid with a large denomination bill. Our host/waiter, returned several minutes later and asked if we had smaller denominations as he could not break it. Seriously.

We paid the balance with a debit card so we could escape. Made another quick stop and returned home, where Molly and Dodger were waiting to go outside and come back in repeatedly.

And the break was over.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 10 for 2011

Every year, all the major news organizations feature the top stories of the year.

We are not a major news organization, unfortunately, but there have been some big stories in LeFlore County over the last year. And here are my top 10 stories for the year:

1. State champions. LeFlore County had three state champions in 2011, likely an all-time record. Talihina boys won state in basketball, Wister captured a state crown in the spring in baseball while Panama’s girls won a fast-pitch softball title in the fall.

2. Oklahoma dumps on state parks. The Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation decided to close seven state parks, including the Runestone near Heavener, without advance notice or any planning to keep the parks open. Fortunately, the city of Heavener was able to keep the gates of the Runestone open along with help from the Friends of the Runestone.

3. Weather. Bad ice and snow storms in the winter turned into the stormiest spring in recent memory with high winds, tornadoes and hail. The summer was the hottest ones in history.

4. Audit reveals problems. LeFlore County finally got an audit and it was not that good. The state auditor revealed problems with the county, especially regarding former county commissioner Carrol Rogers in Dist. 1. County residents, including members of the Tea Party are calling for an investigative audit.

5. Poteau superintendent. The Poteau school board offered the position to Hank Harris, then removed the offer at a heated school board meeting which did not set well with supporters of Harris.

6. County tournament returns to LeFlore County. After two years at UAFS, the LeFlore County Tournament was played in Spiro’s new facility in 2011. Heavener’s girls and Talihina’s boys each won for the second straight year.

7. Pocola problems. The school board and city council of Pocola continues to have problems and infighting.

8. Bokoshe. Continued controversy over fly ash dumped near town along with a police officer striking a member of the city council.

9. Alleged murderer returned to county. Suhail Shanti was arrested in June and extradited to LeFlore County for allegedly murdering a fellow Carl Albert student in 1983.

10. Donald W. Reynolds Community Center opens. The new facility in Poteau opened with much fanfare this fall with an open house and several events already held there.

Naturally, there are some stories which are not listed. Please list other events from 2011 in the comments section below or send them to me by email to craig@leflorecountyjournal.com and they will be addressed on Friday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thanks for the memories, John Inman

I first met John Inman in the summer of 1986 at a Dallas Cowboys game at Texas Stadium.

John was a veteran sports writer back then and I was just making my debut in the profession. Somebody took our picture together as two sports writers from Heavener and it appeared in the Heavener Ledger.

Since then, I have gotten to know John better. He is, without doubt, one of the good guys and in my various publishing platforms, nobody has helped me more over the years.

So it is with a more than a little bit of sadness that John’s Time-Out column is missing from the Journal. After some 200 columns and blogs, John informed me last week that it was his last column.

For the Journal, it was his 42nd column, ranging from Heavener football to the Yankees, his favorite professional baseball team. Since he started writing his weekly column for the Journal, the only time he has missed was when he had surgery on both eyes.

John has decided to devote his time to writing his upcoming book on the history of Heavener football and I am sure it will be a project all the old Wolves will enjoy.

I can’t fault him for his decision, but instead want to thank John for his contributions. There are so many people who have helped over the years and I don’t want to name them here because I would leave somebody out, but John has helped more than anybody.

He always passes on a kind word and his stories were never about how the sky was falling, but instead were always with a positive slant, even his Yankees stories.

Hopefully John and his Time-Out column will return sometime in the future, but until then, I thank him and wish him good luck with the book and in life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The best county rivalry

In the captivating blog I wrote yesterday about the toughest gyms to play in as a visitor in LeFlore County, Cameron Sanders made a good suggestion.

Cameron suggested that I write about the best rivalries in LeFlore County. That was such a good idea I am going to follow his advice.

After reading his comment, I started thinking (which is one of the key components of trying to write a blog, or anything for that matter), just what is the best rivalry in LeFlore County?

Naturally, this is basketball only since it is that time of the year.

Many would say it is Poteau and Spiro. An easy choice, and also a good one. These are the two biggest schools in the county and like to pound each other whenever they play.

Perhaps, it is Panama and Pocola? Not exactly a lot of love lost when these schools play, eh?

Could it be Howe and Wister? Two longtime foes of the hardwood!

How about Heavener and Poteau? Cameron and Pocola?

And how can we talk about great rivalries and overlook that spirited Hodgen and Monroe clash?

But are these the best rivalries? For me, the best rivalry in the county is one involving two schools who don’t even play during the regular season.
They are located approximately five miles apart as the crow and Highway 59 fly.

Want intensity? Check. A willingness to bash each other’s head against a backboard? Got it. Beating the foe makes the whole year worthwhile? No doubt.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I believe the best rivalry is between Heavener and Howe. Back in the old days when the people of Heavener did not care about basketball, it wasn’t a big deal.

But in the last 20 years or so, the purple and gold vs. the red and white has been a big deal, just about every time the two foes compete.

Since they typically don’t schedule each other, those meetings typically come in the LeFlore County Tournament, which just ups the intensity quite a bit.

Heavener is the bigger school, but Howe has had more success with state championships and more trips to the big house. Basketball is the big deal at Howe. It is also big at Heavener, but there are other distractions such as football, which the Lions and Lady Lions don’t have to worry about.

For 364 days of the year, the residents of these two county teams work with each other, worship together, share how-do-you-do greetings at the store and typically do not want to tear each other’s throat out. In times of trouble, they come to the aid of the other.

But if these two teams are paired up in the game James Naismith invented, there is an intensity that borders on insanity. Normally sane people holler and scream like they have just escaped from a certain facility in Vinita.

Players play a little harder, coaches coach like their job is on the line, and there is an effort by both teams typically only found in a state tournament game.

The noise can border on ear popping. Even during the warm ups.

Heavener and Howe’s boys haven’t played for a couple of years while the girls have met up in the championship game of the past two county championships.

One game was played at UAFS in Fort Smith. Sure, there was another game to follow that night, but there were more people at the game that night than there were when Northside and Southside played in the same facility a month later.

The other meeting was at Spiro, another full house. Heavener and Howe could have been played in Timbuktu and the fans would pack the auditorium (that is, if they have auditoriums in Timbuktu) and behave like they had been bitten by rabid creatures.

Another rendition of this rivalry could happen again this year. For the girls, it would be in the semifinals as Howe is the top seed while the Lady Wolves are seeded fifth.

The only way the boys could play would be in the finals as the two squads are on opposite sides of the bracket.

The NCAA has March Madness. In little old LeFlore County, it is January jubilation, at least for the winning town. But for the losers, there is always next time.

Don’t agree that Heavener and Howe is the best rivalry? Share your observations in the comment section below.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The toughest gym to play

Our fine county has a wide assortment of gyms, from the old to the new.

There is the almost brand new facility at Spiro and the old gym at Cameron.

During one of my recent trips to a county game, I started thinking about which gym truly gives its team the best home-court advantage.

From a win-loss percentage, this is a no-brainer. Howe’s girls have never lost a game at home since they moved into the new gym.

But that record isn’t built on the fact the gym is any tougher than any other to play in, instead, that’s because Howe’s girls have seldom lost anywhere over the last few years because the Lady Lions have been so good.

It is a nice facility, but not one other teams dread playing at for any reason other than how good the Lady Lions are at playing basketball.

For me, the toughest place to play as a visitor would be Cameron. It is an old WPA building, built back in the 1920s or 30s and there just aren’t many teams playing in a facility like this.

The crowd is right on top of you and the court seems smaller than others, mainly because there isn’t any room along with sidelines or the baselines. Old wooden stands, an old court which has stood the test of time well, but was old back when I played there in the 1970s.

It doesn’t hold a huge crowd, but when it is packed, it gets cranking.

Another tough place to play is Pocola. This is another facility which hasn’t changed much over the years. The crowd is right on top of you and can be intimidating, as many others teams have discovered over the years.

Spiro’s new gym is easily the most comfortable facility of any of the county facilities. All chair-back seats and a huge scoreboard hanging down at the center of the court. But the crowd is back from the court. It is by far the best place for me to take photographs at in the county. Good lighting and enough room that I don’t have to worry about getting stepped on by officials or players.

The best crowd atmosphere for high school games were the finals at Carl Albert State College, back before the facility was downsized and the big games of the LCT were moved to UAFS for a couple of years and then Spiro.

No empty seats in the building and people packed like sardines behind both baskets. It was always hot, loud and a fire marshall’s worst nightmare.

The facilities at UAFS and Spiro are much nicer, of course, but it just isn’t the same. The Mick Thompson gym at CASC is nicer now after the remodel, except it isn’t big enough to hold the games any more.

I just wish the new Donald W. Reynolds facility in Poteau had been configured to hold about 3,000 for a basketball game. But it isn’t and with the way the economy is, we have to play with the hand that is dealt to us.

It is always better to have a neutral site and Poteau is more centrally located.

Share your thoughts on the toughest place to play by leaving a comment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't 'fix' the LCT

As the 2012 LeFlore County Tournament approaches, expect to hear some discussion about breaking the tournaments into two divisions again.

Some supporters want the tournament to be divided into a big school and small school division.

I had no idea anybody was thinking about doing this until last year.

For me, that is a terrible idea. If something isn’t broken, don’t mess with it.

The LCT is the best tournament in the state of Oklahoma, drawing huge crowds and creating memories for those players and fans which will last a lifetime.

Some would argue the smaller schools have no chance to win. There are years when it is tough, sometimes even impossible, for a smaller school to win, but there have been plenty of years when the smaller schools have not only competed well, but won.

I do not know how those supporters want to break the tournament into two divisions, but it would probably be with Poteau, Heavener, Howe, Spiro, Panama, Pocola, Talihina and Wister in the big school division. They would have a tournament among the two divisions with the winners playing in the finals.

All those schools are Class 2A and above. That would put Arkoma, Bokoshe, Cameron, LeFlore and Whitesboro in the small school division. That automatically messes things up as the breakdown is eight and five.

Won’t work. With 13 schools competing in varsity basketball, there is going to be an odd number. Howe is the smallest school of the ones listed in the big schools. Think the smaller schools want a piece of Howe’s girls?

I don’t expect one of the small schools to win this year. But one never knows.

And what makes this tournament so exciting is the opportunity. It’s the chance to see teams play against other teams which don’t play during the season, the chance of a Bokoshe, Cameron or Whitesboro to defeat a Spiro, Poteau or Heavener.

Or, even come close to an upset. That makes this so special.

Back in the old days, Indiana’s state tournament featured every school in the state.

Remember the movie Hoosiers? The movie was about a small school beating a big one for the Indiana state championship.

We have our modern day Hoosiers during the middle of January every year, maybe not with the silk short shorts, but it is the same thing. Small vs. Big, the chance of an upset which the coaches, players and fans will remember for years to come.

And that is the way it should be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No clear cut favorite for LCT

The first mega game of the 2011-12 season has come and gone and the 2012 LeFlore County Tournament is now just over a month away.

One thing that has been shown is there is no clear cut favorite to win the tournament. Talihina’s boys and Heavener’s girls each won the last two years, but with both of those teams rebuilding, a new champion for both divisions will likely be crowned.

For the boys, Spiro is the top seed. But as second-seeded Poteau proved in its 64-43 win Tuesday night, the Bulldogs can be beat. Spiro will have the home-court advantage in the LCT again and still has to be considered the favorite, although the Pirates landed the first punch of the season.

Spiro is easily the most athletic team of the county, but when the outside shots aren’t falling, like in Tuesday’s game, the Bulldogs are vulnerable. And Poteau has the guard play and height to cause Spiro problems.

The Bulldogs also can’t have a meltdown like they did last night where their players were whistled for four technicals. While Spiro must learn to keep its cool, Poteau must improve its free throw shooting if the Pirates hope to win.

Poteau was 21-37 from the charity stripe in the win, but missed eight of its first 10 free throws in the fourth quarter when the game was still in doubt.

Heavener also can cause problems with a solid team and good height. But the Wolves have gotten off to a slow start against some tough competition, which includes Spiro and Stilwell.

Cameron, Howe, LeFlore and Wister are the smaller schools which could cause some problems in the tournament for the bigger schools.

For the girls, Howe was seeded No. 1, Spiro was second, Talihina third and Bokoshe fourth. But, Howe lost to Rattan last week and Spiro fell at Stigler. Talihina is now the only undefeated team in the county after Arkoma knocked off Bokoshe on its home court last night.

After Rattan lost to Howe, Talihina defeated Rattan. It was on Talihina’s home court, but if the tournament was seeded now, the Lady Tigers would probably be the top seed.

The Lady Tigers don’t have a lot of height, but are very athletic. Howe and Spiro have height and experience in playing in big games as the Lady Lions have been to the last two LCT finals while Spiro reached the state tournament last year.

Bokoshe is the fourth seed, but has been playing without one of its best players in Jamie Carberry. She can’t return until the second semester, if Carberry does rejoin the Lady Tigers.

Arkoma’s girls have been the biggest surprise. After struggling for a long time, the Lady Mustangs are easily the most improved team in the county. With several players off the team which won the junior high county championship last year, Arkoma is 5-2, won its own tournament and scored the upset over Bokoshe.

Monday, December 12, 2011

County seeds and tournament update

Some notes and thoughts about county basketball as we head into the last week before the holiday break:

LeFlore County basketball coaches and administrators met last Wednesday to seed the county teams for the upcoming LeFlore County Tournament, which begins on Jan. 16.

To run a tournament, teams have to be seeded and this happens every year. The only difference was this year the seeding was a little early.

With the larger schools just getting started, some schools had not played enough games to be able to judge how good they are. Heavener’s boys and girls had played once prior to the seeding, Spiro had only played twice, as had Poteau’s girls, and others.

There is no perfect time to seed the teams, but even a little later could have changed the seeding process. Howe’s girls were seeded first, as they should have been at the time.

But one day after the seeding was done, the Lady Lions lost to Rattan at the Choctaw Invitational Tournament. Talihina defeated Rattan the following night and went on to win the tournament.

Sure, the tournament was played at Talihina and the Lady Tigers had the home court advantage, but this certainly would have had some influence on the seeding process if done later.

As it is, Howe’s girls are seeded first, Spiro (which also lost last week) is second while Talihina is third. Everybody still did a good job with the seeding and until and if Howe and Talihina play, there is no way to determine which team is better. Or if a talented Spiro team is the best in the county, and you also have to throw undefeated Bokoshe into the mix.

Here is how the boys bracket and girls bracket for the 2012 LCT will look like, obviously we do not have the times or locations yet.

And speaking of tournaments, the county was well represented over the weekend. As mentioned earlier, Talihina’s girls won the Choctaw Invitational Tournament while Howe’s boys edged Wister in the third-place game.

Arkoma’s girls captured their own tournament with wins over County Line and Mansfield.

At EOSC, county teams won their bracket. Bokoshe’s girls overcame a lot to win their bracket while Cameron edged LeFlore in the boys division.

Bokoshe played without one of its best players in Jamie Carberry, lost a big lead and went over six minutes without scoring to win. Brianna Brassfield hit another winning basket on an assist from tournament MVP Miranda McFarland in the overtime win over Panola.

In the boys finals, it was a “no…no…good shot!” moment which was the clincher for Cameron. With the score tied in overtime and some 17 seconds left, the Yellow Jackets called a timeout to set up a final shot. Instead of working the clock, Ryan Carter took the inbounds pass and launched a shot from deep in the corner.

It went in to give Cameron a three-point lead and Kenny Whitehead iced the win seconds later with a pair of free throws.

Carter was the MVP of the tournament. But this isn’t the same old LeFlore team which Cameron defeated.

Caleb Smith is one of the best scorers in the county for the Savages and his not making the all-tournament team is still a mystery, unless it was reserved for seniors. Along with Dakota Watson, LeFlore has a couple of standout players and solid players in other positions.

The Savages could cause a lot of problems in the LCT for one of the higher seeds.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Eighth graders show promise

Unfortunately, I don’t get to see the younger teams and players of LeFlore County play all that much.

The varsity sports are a priority and there is only one of me to go around.

I do enjoy watching the younger teams play so I can get a sneak peek at the future Pirates, Bulldogs, etc.

So I ventured out to Pansy Kidd Middle School Thursday to watch the finals of the junior high tournament, prompted by a text from a friend who had high praise for the teams in the finals.

It was Spiro vs. Roland for the girls and Poteau against Sallisaw for the boys.

I wasn’t disappointed, that’s for sure.

In the first game, Spiro and Roland paired off and both teams have a player who could dominate once they reach the varsity.

For Spiro, it was Carleigha Thompson. She has the talent to be one of the better players in the county. Thompson scored 29 points in the game, 17 in the first half as Spiro grabbed a halftime lead.

As good as Thompson was, Roland’s Mikiah McDonald had a better game. McDonald scored 19 points in the third quarter alone as she led the Lady Rangers’ comeback in an eventual 50-43 win for the championship.

McDonald finished with 39 points, 26 in the second half, outscoring Spiro as a team in the final two quarters.

That set the stage for the boys’ championship. Poteau has an outstanding team and group of players in the eighth grade, both in basketball and football, where the Raiders went undefeated this season.

This group has not lost a game against a team from its own age since the sixth grade. On this night, the Raiders had an off night from the field, which several people pointed out.

But their quickness and pressure wore down the Diamonds and the Raiders used a 25-3 run to grab control of the game and they won their own tournament, 34-21.

The Raiders are loaded. They have size, speed and depth. They are the best eighth-grade team I have seen since the Poteau group from two years ago that are now sophomores dominated the county.

In two years, when this group joins up with the current sophomores on the varsity, Poteau could have something special, possibly the best team the Pirates have had in a while.

And it is easy to see why the Spiro girls and Poteau boys got the top seed in the upcoming LeFlore County junior high tournament which tips off on Jan. 2.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A new family member

The dreaded phone call came sometime Friday afternoon.

It was from Trish the Wife. Since she usually doesn’t call during the school day because she is hopefully busy inspiring the minds of our students and future leaders, it worried me.

I braced for bad news…and it came.

“What would you say if we got another (she paused here for dramatic effect)…dog?” she said.

First off, we have a dog. Second off, that dog (Molly) is sometimes more than we can handle. And she wanted to add another? Egads!

I mumbled something back along the lines of we don’t really need another dog but it probably doesn’t matter what I say because you will do it anyway since you are Trish the Wife.

I asked what kind of dog it was, fearful it would be a Pit Bull or Rottweiller, which would probably eat Molly for an appetizer. She said it was a Maltese, which is one of those little fluffy dogs.

When I got home that evening after a long and strenuous day at work, Trish was sitting on the back deck with Molly and some little white thing that looked about the size of a New York City rat.

I quickly realized our dog population is no longer segregated. We had Molly, solid black, and the dog to be named later, solid white.

We, or rather Trish, finally settled on a name: Dodger. She kept asking me what we should name it. I ventured forth with names such as “Spike” and “Slayer”, which certainly did not do justice to the little pooter.

Trish had named both her sons names starting with the letter “D” and planned to call the next one which never came Dodger, or Dodge. And the dog was named.

I had never been a big fan of the Dodgers growing up. The name Dodger Dog does have a good ring to it and I understand the Dodger Dogs are quite tasty out in L.A.

So, it was Dodger. The little guy is a little skittish, to tell the truth. He is not sure about contact with people and is perfectly happy to run away when one of us tries to pet him, or scamper off in his cage and try to hide. Dodger does like to play with Molly, which has made my morning publishing even more difficult.

I would share a picture of Dodger with you, but he does not stay still long enough for me to get one. Dodger also rides a little low to the ground and the wet grounds have not been kind to his whiteness, kind of like a white truck as dirt and mud are attracted to both.

He weighs a whopping 6.8 pounds, most of it hair. Dodger is fond of chasing Molly in the yard. But since his legs are about the length of a buffalo wing, Dodger is not all that swift a foot.

Dodger also likes to grab Molly’s toys when we play fetch. After this happens, Molly looks up at me with a “why?” look on her face, probably the same way I look at Trish when the new dog leaves a Dodge pile on the floor.

But overall, she has done quite well with Dodger, considering Molly is not a big fan of other dogs attempting to take away her attention.

The worst thing is that while Molly is supposed to be my dog, she favors Trish aside from when it is time to play. Dodger follows me around like he is my shadow, even when I don’t have food.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Journal big in Mongolia, Waterloo

I know this makes me sound like a dork, but I have always enjoyed statistics.

In fact, I didn’t know the university I attended even awarded “A’s” to one Craig Hall until I took a statistics class after several semesters.

I spent a little time examining some of the statistics from the Journal and our facebook page and since it is a rainy Sunday morning and I don’t have anything better to do, thought I would share this with our fine readers.

Under the Journal’s facebook page, I came across statistics showing where our fans are from, sex (as in male or female, not frequency), age and much more.

Here’s a startling fact: most of our fans come from the United States! No really. Of our current 2,066 fans, 1,975 come from the good old U.S.A. I must say it was a great relief that our goal of getting a fan from Mongolia has been realized.

Canada is our second most popular country. Not really sure why we have fans in Canada, but we do and that is, of course, all that matters. Guess I need to use the term “hey, hoser!” more often.

The top city for fans is Poteau with 472 fans, followed by Dallas. We also have 31 from Waterloo?

Of our fans, 65 percent are women and 32 percent are male. Not really sure what the other three percent is, not that I am sure that I want to know.

As for age, we are most popular in the coveted 35-44 age group.

We also have a good stats package with our new web hosting. It tells the most popular story along with hits, plus the searches that bring our excellent readers to the Journal.

Our top story of all time, at least since Sept. 12, is a story Jason Green wrote about Potty Mouth Dolls. Honest. Next up, was the game story of Gravette beating Poteau in football.

The top search topic to bring readers to the Journal is from people searching for: Leflore county journal. Luckily, those fine internet surfers who were trying to find the Leflore county jernal have been rewarded with a link.

Unfortunately, the stats do not show what our fan from Mongolia likes to read.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Journal tries out new reporting technique

After over two years of publishing the LeFlore County Journal, I finally figured out why we aren’t making the big bucks.

This came to me while listening to a game on the radio the other night and it was a “duh” moment. Why had I not thought about it earlier?

No response necessary to that last question, thank you very much. Before I get started with my new writing style, I thought I would test it out first, kind of a target audience to get your response.

Okay, this example is from an imaginary football game.

Welcome to the game story on the Stu’s Septic Service LeFlore County Journal Game of the Week! Remember, at Stu’s Septic Service we take crap so you don’t have to!

Tonight’s game was between the Petros Panthers, sponsored this week by King’s BBQ, and the Summerfield Squirrels, once again sponsored by Jamatt RV, where they can't save you money if you shop anywhere else!

The Marilyn’s Bail Bond play of the game happened in the third quarter when the KP’s Player of the Game, Bub Bubbles intercepted a pass and returned it for a 74-yard Lyle Whitworth Allstate Agency touchdown to put the Panthers ahead, 6-0.

The First National Bank, which is the largest bank in Heavener, extra point attempt was wide right. The score update was sponsored by the Kiamichi Technology Center.

And our Anchor Finance Final Score was, 6-0, in favor of the Panthers!

Both teams played solid defense in wet and muddy conditions, but were certainly warm and dry when they returned home, at least if they have Baker’s Heating and Air service their units.

Our Warehouse Willy’s offensive player of the week was Jimmy Bob Jo-Jo Chipper from the Squirrels, who completed 1-13 passes for six yards and rushed for two yards on 19 carries.

The LeFlore County Youth Services defensive player of the game was presented to Ralf de Pardue, who narrowly edged out Farm Bureau agent Jerry Pitchford’s second-best defensive player of the game, Mickeal White. White would have probably won the first-place award, but had to leave the game with an EOMC Hospital medical update dislocated pinkie toe.

Our Myers Drive-In ballchildren for the game were Danny Don Dumas for the Panthers and Jasminian Nikolian Featherdusterhead for the Squirrels. Both ballchildren were presented certificates suitable for framing by Kevin Traywick at GCT Printing Solutions! And remember, always get your suitable for framing certificates put in a frame from Diane’s Hobby and Leisure Attire in downtown Monroe.

The postgame interview with the winning coach was sponsored this week by Kay Sullivan Realty, who has been assisting buyers in their search for their dream home for well over 10 years.

“Goshdarn it was good to win this here dadgum ballgame,” said Bob Marchant Scoreboard Show (TM) winning coach Billy “Burp” Magnet. “I really gotta, uh, hand it to the players! They was the ones who won this game. I knew we had one of them big advantages in the coaching department, but them boys out on the field was the ones a blockin, a tackalin and sweating so much they probably cleaned out all those blackheads on their noses which gives me heartache. Not us coaches.”

“I can’t figger this out,” said Summerfield coach Arnie “the Lefty” Switchthrower in our Dawgone Grooming Salon interview with the losing coach! “Them refs done ripped us a new one! I tell you, Burp musta paid them an extra chili dog with the extra cheese or something at halftime. We got them yeller hankies throwed on us all night long.”

Our Stu’s Septic Service LeFlore County Journal game of the week picture is sponsored this week by the Dugout Drive-In on Hwy. 271 in Wister.

The Carl Albert State College scholastic player of the game was Ithan Lanscome III from Summerfield, who has a 2.23 GPA despite missing two weeks earlier in the semester with a medical condition that HIPPA laws state we cannot share.

“I wish I could have played tonight,” said Lanscome III, a fourth-string slotback on offense for the Squirrels. “I can understand the coach’s decision, but I really think I could have made a difference. It’s a good thing my uncle Mortimer is the president of the school board because I am going to talk with him about getting rid of the coach.”

Hopefully this generates the ad revenue for the Journal to make it big time!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Basketball is back

Many people look forward to the first day of deer season.

I am not a hunter, so that does not give me any particular thrill. For me, it is the first game of the year for football and basketball.

Each year, I look forward to that first football game over the summer and as the weather turns cold, I turn my attention toward that first basketball game.

My first game of the year was Tuesday as I ventured over to Cameron to watch the Yellow Jackets and Howe play. Both schools already had a game under their belts, so the new had worn off a bit for them.

It was still muggy as I arrived in the greater Cameron metro area and had to park out in the north 40 as the main parking lot was full. Fortunately, the ground was soggy but still solid so I didn’t have to worry about getting my wife’s car stuck.

It is warm inside the gym, but luckily the windows are open and it isn’t a sweatbox. Cameron’s gym is easily the oldest in the county, one of those rock buildings built back in the 1920s or 30s, during our last major depression. It’s small, old and smells of history. If the great state of Oklahoma ever has an old basketball movie filmed here like Hoosiers, it should be in Cameron.

I usually like my sit to the side of one of the baskets to take pictures in the first half of both games. That isn’t possible at Cameron, where the baseline is approximately six inches wide. I start off at the Cameron end, but quickly realize that was a mistake as all the action is down at the other end. I walk to the other end and squeeze my body into a doorway that provides a little more room and hopefully keeps me from tripping one of the officials, or them from stepping on me.

I haven’t taken a picture at a basketball game since last March. I wonder if I still have it in me. Seriously. Howe is attacking the basket with a passion and I soon have some keepers, although I did have to throw back a few because of bad focus.

Unfortunately, the game is one sided and it is hard to stay interested. I go out to get a bag of popcorn and a student shows extreme gusto and chases me down to sell a chance on a rifle. As I mentioned before, I don’t hunt and don’t need a rifle, but I cough up my two bucks.

The first game ends with a final score of 78-17 in favor of Howe. Despite the score, Cameron does show some improvement under new coach Sheila Jones.

Finally, the excitement starts to build as the boys take the court. This promises to be a good one as Cameron has three starters back from last year and starts five seniors while Howe is much improved over last year’s bunch.

The action is at a frantic pace from the start. Both teams play defense like it should be played, man up, belly to belly. Easy shots are few and far between.

Howe slowly builds a lead through the first half and stretches the margin to nine early in the third quarter, only to see Cameron come back, even though its two big guys are on the bench and the Jackets don’t have a player on the court who is six-foot.

The intensity builds. The fans are into this game and the noise level picks up. Players dive for loose balls and an already physical game gets even rougher as players from both teams play like this is for the county championship, not an early-season game.

The fouls start to mount up and trips to the charity stripe build. Cameron loses its two big guys as does Howe with Daniel Barnhart. Each possession is critical and the game could go either way.

Rodie Snell makes a three for Cameron with 1:45 left. It is his only basket of the game and breaks a 51-51 tie and puts the Jackets ahead for good. Howe misses a couple of shots and Cameron converts to build the lead to six in the final minute.

The game finally ends at 61-57. A good game and night, even though somebody else won the gun I didn’t need.

But basketball is back.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't quake on me

So, here we are safely tucked away in the central part of the United States.

We thought we were pretty safe from those nasty earthquakes that threaten to break California apart and send Hollywood out into the Pacific.

Wrong. An earthquake hit near Prague early Saturday morning and aftershocks could even be felt here in the county Saturday around 11 p.m., which was conveniently timed right after the end of Oklahoma State’s game with Kansas State.

I have never particularly wanted to be in or anywhere near an earthquake. I don’t dig the ground shaking, sorry. And I missed this one. People from the county felt this one and described the event like “uh, the house started shaking!”

As far as I know, our house didn’t shake. Or it might have been because our house had been shaking since approximately 3 p.m. that day since Trish the Wife had invited three (count them, THREE!) little ones to spend a good part of the day and the night with us.

The little ones were 10, 4 and 3. I’ll admit that herr Craigman likes things calm and quiet, except for the muttered adjectives tossed about when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State failed to perform the way they should during their games that day.

The noisy one of the trio is Brenley, aged 4, who is a personal earthquake. She was on the go constantly and enjoys fighting with our dog, Molly, who enjoys fighting back. Brenley does not quite grasp the whole sit still and watch a movie.

She gets bored with inactivity after approximately .02 seconds. Since I was safely tucked away back in the office/Craig cave watching football, she visited me on average every 3.35 minutes to ask me what I was doing, what everything in the office was, and managed to stand perfectly between my spot on the couch and the television.

I tried the mute button on her, but unfortunately it didn't work.

Like every semi-sane adult male, I was flipping back and forth between the OSU/K-State and LSU/Alabama football game. I lost track of the touchdowns I missed in the OSU game and the missed field goals by Alabama in the other game.

She had good timing. Every time something was about to happen, Brenley came running into the office wanting to know what the printer was, the laptop, remote, cell phone, book and other items were.

I started to suggest a strong dose of allergy medicine for sleep aid, but did not feel like that would go over well since Trish the Wife is a responsible adult for the most part and would frown on that suggestion, even though she was in charge of children entertainment and accident prevention.

My little buddy Parker also visited a few times, but since he is only 3, did not understand or enjoy the whole football thing. The oldest one, Kennedy, is shy for the most part and voiced her desire for popcorn by sending a text to Trish the Wife, who was sitting next to her on the couch in the family room.

The household was settling down at about the time the tremor effects were supposed to have hit the area. Again, our house did not shake, but it was probably because it had been shaking for approximately eight hours nonstop.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodbye 'Coach'

Ralph Perdue Sr. lived the good life.

He touched the lives of hundreds of people as a coach, principal, teacher, administrator and as a person. He was also a good husband, parent, grandfather and friend to many.

Perdue’s battle finally came to a close Sunday at around 4:20 in the afternoon and while we are glad he is no longer in pain, the world is not nearly as good of a place as it was yesterday.

He moved to Heavener in the mid-1960s along with wife, Peggy, and sons, Ralph Jr. and Andy to take over as head football coach of the Wolves.

Perdue was the coach at Heavener from 1966-74 and while his record was only 36-50-4, he took over a program which was struggling in a difficult time to coach anywhere.

His second team upset defending state champion Talihina, which was undefeated at the time, and he was the last Heavener coach to lead the Wolves to a win over Poteau, winning over the Pirates in 1971-72.

He was an old school coach and teacher, but behind that rough exterior, all his players and students knew a jewel was hiding.

Perdue got out of coaching as his sons got old enough to play sports and umpired baseball and was later a football official.

After retiring from Heavener, he golfed, but only on days ending in “y”, and was a member of the First Baptist Church in Heavener and the Heavener Lions Club.

He was always a person I respected. Even as an adult, it was almost impossible to call him by his first name. It was still "Coach" or Mr. Perdue.

I remember as a young boy going to watch football practice. Coach Perdue and Coach Bob Riley were coaches then and they let the players know what needed to be done, and if it wasn’t done, that messaged was delivered in a simple fashion.

His sons Ralph Jr. and Andy are now two of my best friends. Another indication of how good Perdue was as a parent is both his sons are two of the best people around. Andy has followed in his father’s footsteps and is an assistant coach at Poteau.

He leaves behind his wife, Peggy, along with his two sons and wives, and four grandchildren.

Goodbye “Coach”, you will be missed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

County notes

The regular season ends Friday night for all county football teams.

At least two county teams will make the playoffs, and possibly three.

Arkoma is in, along with the winner of Pocola's game at Heavener. Spiro must win at Stigler and see how other district games wind up to find out if the Bulldogs will make the playoffs.

One of the biggest surprises for county teams this year was the improvement Panama showed. Earlier in the year, the Razorbacks were not a good football team. But the Razorbacks snapped a 17-game losing streak two weeks ago by beating rival Pocola, 21-20, and gave Heavener a tussle before losing last week.

If Panama had defeated Heavener, the Razorbacks would have made the playoffs. This was certainly a difference from early in the season. Panama coach Brandon Ellis has probably done the best coaching job of any coach in the county this year.

Ellis has got the Razorbacks headed in the right direction. If he is given enough time, Panama could be back.


It looks like the LeFlore County Tournament will be played in county again this year. Bokoshe is the host this year with the semifinals and finals to be played at Spiro High School, just like it was last year.

This means the big games in the county tournament will be played in the county. This is still a little controversial move. Everybody wants the county tournament to be played in the county, but there are some who don't like playing at Spiro.

But until a new facility is built, and there are no plans to do so, if we are going to play it in LeFlore County instead of UAFS, this is the only choice.


Talihina's girls were already expected to be better this year. The addition of Chelsea Baggs could make the Lady Tigers one of the teams to beat in the LCT.

Baggs was one of the top players in the county as a sophomore and played her junior year at Caddo.

Baseball is still months away, but there is already some controversy. Arkoma was scheduled to be the host this year, but handed it off to Spiro, which will now host the county tournament.

Some coaches are not happy with this and have said their teams will not participate. Hopefully this won't happen and all the teams will compete in the showcase for county teams.

It does look like one of the best pitchers in the county, Blake Roley, will not be throwing for Poteau this year as he is scheduled to have an operation on his arm. Roley, also one of the better basketball players in the county, will miss his senior year in hoops.

Roley came out for football as a senior after not playing since his freshman year and is one of Poteau's leading receivers, catching three touchdown passes in last week's 59-56 loss at Fort Gibson.

Apparently the injury dates back to last summer and was not a result of playing football. Roley, who was throwing over 90 MPH last year, was expected to get a lot of attention from colleges this spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

State makes another dumb move

Well, another day and another strange move by some government officials in the great state of Oklahoma.

Remember the fiasco that was the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s decision to close seven state parks?

There’s another brilliant move coming up. Starting in January, all state employees and teachers will be forced to get most of their prescriptions by mail.

This is preventive medicines, which are typically for 30, 60 and 90-day supplies of drugs. Again, this is preventive medicines. State employees can still get a prescription filled at a local pharmacy if it is for a cold, infection, etc., which is not a preventive drug.

The move is expected to save the state over $8 million a year.

Great, huh?

Uh, not really. These orders will be filled by out-of-state companies with the money being sent to companies in different states.

Naturally, Oklahoma pharmacists are not happy with this move. They shouldn’t be. Neither should state residents.

While this might appear to save $8 million, it actually has an estimated $75 million negative impact on the state with lost revenues.

That will hurt countless pharmacies, especially the small-town pharmacies. Think you can get the same customer service from some drug company in Texas or Arizona as you do with your local pharmacist?

I don’t.

My only experience with mail-order prescriptions was not a good one. While working for a company which marketed medical plans for senior citizens, customers were told they could get their prescriptions for free if they were by mail.

Sounded great, except when orders were delayed or the prescription was messed up. This caused customers to be without their prescriptions and was a pain in the rear for the customers and doctors, who had to redo prescriptions which were supposedly never received by the drug company.

Several legislators are trying to change this decision, along with state pharmacists.

Hopefully the state will realize this is a bad move. But based on recent decisions, don’t hold your breath.

Monday, October 10, 2011

County team wins state...again

It is never easy to win a state championship.

But for the third time in less than a year, a LeFlore County team has brought a state championship trophy back to our county.

The latest to bring home the gold was the Panama fast pitch softball team.

Previously the Talihina boys won state in basketball last winter and Wister won the Class 2A state baseball championship in the spring.

Three teams from LeFlore County have proven to be the best Oklahoma has to offer in the respective sports. Some counties never win a state championship.

LeFlore County has won some, but it is never easy.

While Talihina and Wister were both considered favorites, or at least among the favorites going into the state tournament, Panama was not.

The Lady Razorbacks were not even rated in the top 20 by OK rankings.com at the end of the regular season. But the girls entered the tournament on a roll, going back to the end of the LeFlore County Tournament.

Faced with elimination in the tournament and trailing Panama by two runs going into its last at bat, the Lady Razorbacks rallied to win that game and played Poteau a lot closer than anybody expected in the finals.

From that point on, Panama was on fire. The Lady Razorbacks defeated Poteau the next week, won their district and cruised through regional play, even though they had to play and win at Konawa.

Panama downed fifth-ranked Calera in the regional and won all three games in the tournament to advance to state.

Being unranked, Panama drew top-ranked Colbert in the first round. Colbert scored two early runs and it looked like the Lady Razorbacks were going to make a quick exit, trailing by two runs heading into their final at bat.

But once again, Panama rallied and tied the score at 2. Neither team could score in the eighth, ninth and 10th inning. Finally, in the 11th inning, Panama got the winning run to down Colbert, 3-2, and advance to the semifinals.

Panama only scored one run in the semifinals against Savanna, which won its first-round game the day before by scoring 10 runs. But the Lady Razorbacks got excellent pitching by Taylor Eaves and solid defense in holding Savanna scoreless.

That sent them to the state finals against an Oktaha team which had defeated Panama earlier in the season. This time Eaves and her teammates were too good, blanking Oktaha and again, scored only one run.

But that run was all Panama needed and the Lady Razorbacks won the 2A state championship, winning all three games at state by one run, and only allowing two runs in the three games.

So congratulations Panama, the rest of the state didn’t realize until it was too late you were the best in your class. You did the county proud.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Panama, Wister heading to state

Congratulations need to go out to the Panama softball and Wister baseball teams.

Those two squads advanced to this week’s state tournaments.

Panama was unranked going into the regional tournament last week, but went 3-0 in a field which included fifth-ranked Calera.

The Lady Razorbacks have been on a roll since the LeFlore County Tournament, where they finished second to Poteau. The momentum started in the losers bracket finals against Spiro.

Panama trailed going into its last at bat, rallied and then gave Poteau a tough battle in the finals before losing.

Since then, the Lady Backs have been strong, even beating Poteau the following week.

Panama opens the state tournament against top-ranked Colbert on Thursday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The game is set to start at 5 p.m.

Wister’s road to a repeat trip to the state tournament was even tougher. The defending spring state champions hosted a regional, but fell into the losers bracket with a loss to Cameron in the first game of the tournament.

The Wildcats battled back to defeat Wright City and then downed Cameron to make it to the state tournament.

Wister opens tournament play with a game against Amber-Pocasset Thursday at 5 p.m. at Edmond Memorial High School.

If the Wildcats win, they will likely get a rematch with top-ranked Dale in the semifinals on Friday at noon. Wister downed Dale in the finals last spring.

Several other county teams came close to making the state tournament. Cameron lost out to Wister one day after nearly advancing before losing late to Rattan. Heavener, Spiro and Wister also won at least one game in the regional tournaments before coming up short.

Panama and Wister might not be the only county teams in the state tournament as Poteau’s girls open regional play at home this week. The Lady Pirates could qualify for next week’s state tournament by winning their regional in a field which includes Stilwell, Broken Bow and Fort Gibson.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Talihina streaking on

The night was Oct. 26, 2007.

It was a late-season football game when Talihina visited Warner. The final score was Warner 9, Talihina 0.

Just another football game, right?


That night was the last time Talihina lost a regular-season football game.

Since that fall evening four years ago, Talihina has played 35 regular-season football games. Some have been close, many have not. Players have come and gone.

But the end result has not changed. The Tigers walked off the field as winners.

The only losses during that stretch have come in the playoffs.

This was supposed to be the year when things changed. Talihina lost one of the most talented groups of seniors our county has ever seen.

The stockpile is not empty. Far from it.

Talihina has gone 4-0 so far this season and will likely make that 5-0 on Friday when the Tigers host a struggling Panama team which has not won a game this year.

There have been some very good players along the way, no team could achieve that kind of record without some talent.

But there has obviously been some excellent coaching, as well. Kelly Gravitt and his staff have constantly won, first in Class A and the last two years in 2A.

This might be his best coaching job. The early schedule has not been difficult, but Talihina has improved each week.

Now Gravitt and his Tigers are preparing for their first district game on Friday. In addition to the long winning streak, Talihina has won three district champions in a row.

The Tigers do not have an easy road in front of them in their bid for number four. First off, Panama, then a big challenge the following week against Pocola. Followed by Heavener, Wilburton and Hartshorne.

Then, of course, comes the big challenge. It is too early to say if the Tigers will still be perfect after nine games. But don't be surprised if they are.

That is when the biggest challenge to the streak awaits.


The Wolverines are a monster this year and just beat a previously undefeated Pocola team, 75-6, in the district opener for both teams. And yes, the Wolverines will want revenge after Talihina defeated them in the regular-season finale last year for that third straight district championship.

But Pocola won't be easy. Heavener is struggling at 1-3. Wilburton can cause some problems while Hartshorne is improved.

Still, don't be surprised if the small school from the southern part of the county keeps winning and is 9-0 heading into that showdown.

Winning can be contagious as the Tigers have shown.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Two thoughts and suggestions...

On an early Monday morning, here are a couple of thoughts and suggestions.

In the past, it was never a problem of having football games start at 7:30 p.m. That was, of course, before the dreaded spread formation caught on and teams started passing way too much.

Former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes said, "There are three things that can happen when you pass the ball, and two of them aren't good." And that did not even take into consideration three-or four hour games.

Now, many teams pass the ball on roughly three out of four plays. Unfortunately, some (or many) of those passes are incomplete.

When that happens, the clock stops. After a running play, the clock keeps going unless the runner goes out of bounds or picks up a first down.

With so many passes being thrown, games are lasting longer…and longer. Used to be a game would get over at 9:30 p.m. or so. Two hours, good entertainment and not so long people would lose interest.

Now some of the games last longer than one of those “epic’ movies that are expected to win an Oscar.

Or even as long as an eight-man game.

That is too long. I know this will be hard to grasp, but Arkansas actually did something smart. The schools in Arkansas now start games at 7 p.m.

Yeah, that makes travel a little difficult, but I would definitely endorse this idea.

High school football games do not need to end at 10:15 or 10:30 at night. How is Bob Marchant supposed to stay up that late? How am I? Fans lose interest after a certain point, as do the players.

Two years ago, I covered a Central game at Talihina. I believe there were less than 10 passes thrown in the game.


I was able to avoid hitting Bambi on the way home, and arrive home before most of the other games in the county were over that night. And some wonder why I enjoy covering Talihina games.

Personally, I say bring back the wishbone, the veer and the Power-I and run the stinking ball, not only because it makes the game quicker, but that is the way high school football should be played. Most 16-17 year old kids do not need to be throwing a football 40 to 50 times a night.

So as long as the spread continues to rule, the games need to start earlier.

One other suggestion Oklahoma needs to change: volleyball.

Volleyball? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. I am not a big fan of volleyball even though I covered it back in the Texas era. But it can be exciting, honest.

Some schools already play volleyball, but not many of the smaller ones. This is a sport more schools need to pick up. Play volleyball in the fall and move fast-pitch softball to the spring.

Get rid of slow pitch. That sport needs to be reserved for the beer drinkers and church leagues. Most girls don’t even like the slow-pitch version.

Volleyball is much more exciting than slow pitch, plus aside from the bumps and bruises, is better exercise for the student-athletes.

None of the local schools play volleyball, except maybe in physical education classes.

But like the 7 p.m. start for football, it is something that needs to happen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Journal turns two

It's hard to believe in many ways, but the Journal turns two today. Sorry, no birthday cake or big celebration.

It was two years ago when we published this little website for the first time.

The first event I actually covered and wrote about was the Poteau and Mena football game.

Let's hope the terrible two does not apply, not that I think it will.

The times are a changing as Bob Dylan once wrote, and that is certainly true with the Journal. Sometime this week, maybe even today, we will have our 2,000th fan on the Journal's facebook page.

During these past two years, I have covered a bunch of events, both near and far. But all of our content is focused on our county, from the smallest community to the largest.

The goal from the very first post to the latest, which was Bobbie McAuliffe's In Simple Terms column today, is to inform our readers on what is going on in LeFlore County, from our towns, to the schools to the people and places.

Hopefully, we have done that. We have changed over these past two years with the biggest change coming in the last two weeks as the site has migrated from an old Frontpage site to one hosted on Wordpress.

Most of our readers seem to like the new look. A not very comprehensive survey on our Facebook poll was 5-1 in favor of the new look.

It is taking a little getting used to, but it will be better. It is easier to post stories and we don't have to worry about messed up links, thank goodness.

We can now add video, not that the Journal currently has a video camera, but this is a feature that hopefully will happen ASAP.

Thanks again to Jason Green for all his help in getting the new site set up and making it presentable. Also, thanks to all the people and businesses who have helped financially with donations and advertisements, and those of you of who have helped in all the other ways. I have thanked all of you many times before and thank you again.

And last, thanks to all of you readers, especially the ones who check in every day and who have spread the word.

During the last 18 months, I have published the Journal and also worked a full time job.

That means a lot of hours and means that the Journal has missed out on stories and events. It also means a lot of hours, such as last week's county tournament. But it has been worth all those early mornings and late nights in trying to keep you informed, educated and hopefully entertained.

It is my goal to keep making the Journal better and expand the coverage. I have thought, discussed and consulted with those close to me on what comes next. I have considered doing an actual newspaper and that might eventually come, but I have thought for the last few years that to succeed, you have to do things differently.

And the Journal is different. Hopefully, a difference that you enjoy. So thanks again and hopefully we will be celebrating another birthday on Sept. 19, 2012.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pirates show potential

Poteau has had some excellent offenses over the years.

The 2011 version could be one of the best, if Friday’s opening 38-35 win over Checotah is any indication.

Poteau used a quick strike passing attack to build a big lead, then come from behind twice in the fourth quarter to escape with the win.

Wilson Klutts threw for a career high 351 yards and four touchdowns for the Pirates, who have one of the best receiving groups in school history. Poteau has a bevy of talented receivers to stretch the defense and Klutts was on target most of the night.

A pair of seniors better known for excelling in other sports, showed they also have abilities in football as well.

Senior Jesse Woodson was better known as an outstanding soccer player before Friday’s game, but he quickly showed his talents are also suited for football, catching three touchdown receptions and also intercepting a pass in the final seconds to finally end the cliffhanger.

Blake Roley, who came out for football for his final year, is an outstanding pitcher in baseball and basketball player. He had seven catches, as did Woodson, and bounced back after two drops early.

While those two had the most catches, they are not Klutts’ only weapons. Five other receivers had at least one catch. Tyler Tustin, Kendrick Hardaway, Jace Pitchford and Dakota Clark all had catches while Jerrett Lowrimore also saw playing time.

It was apparent early this was not the same Poteau offense which struggled for most of last year. The Pirates scored early and often in building a quick 28-6 lead. Poteau moved the ball throughout, the only mistakes were a pair of interceptions in the third quarter, which ended potential scoring drives.

The only negatives to come out of the game, for the offense, was the running game struggled most of the night other than a pair of long runs by Klutts. He got the first touchdown on a 41-yard rush and a 29-yard carry in the fourth helped the Pirates regain the lead, only to see Checotah bounce back.

Poteau’s running backs had trouble finding running room behind the young offensive line, which did a good job for the most part in protecting Klutts. Starting running back Nick Donathan was struggling with an injury and only carried the ball four times.

There will be a lot of shootouts like last night unless the Poteau defense shows some improvement. After a solid first half, the Pirates were shredded by Checotah in the second half, before making a stand on fourth down to give the offense a final chance.

Checotah mixed in the pass and run to keep the Pirates’ defense confused. The Wildcats ran at will in the final half as the young Poteau defense had trouble tackling Checotah’s Brandon Mann, who finished with 142 yards rushing.

Poteau’s defense did make the big stop late and also intercepted two passes, one by Woodson and the other by Hardaway in the first half.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Enjoy the moment

It was hot a couple of weeks ago when I visited Poteau’s practice to take a few pictures.

Actually, it was more than hot. This was one of those early practice with the players dressed out in shorts, tee shirts and helmets. No full pads, yet.

Those weren’t ideal conditions for being outside, let alone practicing football with a heat index of around 110. But I heard the players laughing when they weren’t doing drills and enjoying what they were doing, which is how it should be.

And I wanted to tell them to lap it up, enjoy it to the fullest because one day soon, there will be no more football practices, games or teammates and all they will have left are the memories and the friendships.

My high school years were among the best ones in my life. Yes, that is probably sad and makes me shallow, but it is true.

I got to play football, basketball and baseball. I also got to see my friends all the time and was part of something special. I have read the bonds a person makes serving in the military are the strongest.

That’s understandable. You are trying to keep your buddy alive and another friend is doing his (or her) best to make sure you live to fight another day.

Being on a football field with your friends and teammates is not like fighting somebody who wants to kill you, but there will always be something linking me to those guys.

I have made many friends over the years since leaving Heavener High School. Some have remained friends, others have vanished into the shadows of adulthood.

But the friends I made in school and out on the football field, basketball court and baseball diamond are still there. When you go through something as tough as a football practice when it is well over 100 degrees together or keep fighting and clawing to win a game you probably shouldn’t, that makes it special.

These were all team sports, of course. Nobody could win a football, basketball or baseball game by himself. It takes 11, five or nine all working together and helping each other out to win.

Sometimes at the end of the night, our team would have more points or runs than the other team. Other times, we didn’t. There were times we got spanked rather roughly. But the next day, or couple of days later, we were back out there again.

Until the games ended. I can still remember, 31 years later, how each sport ended. Stigler was it in football, Poteau in basketball and Vian in baseball.

I can’t remember what I ate for dinner two nights ago, but I do remember the feeling at the end of all those games, knowing that was the last time we would play that particular sport.

And it hurt.

Now, I seldom see most of those old friends or teammates. Unfortunately, it usually takes a funeral for us to get together.

That is why I hope all those young men and women, especially the seniors, enjoy this year and make the most of it before they move on to college, jobs, family and being an adult.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More manure from OTRD

Xavier Neira wrote a truly thought-provoking column recently in the Norman Transcript.

Neira wrote in the column that the closing of the seven state parks was truly a “win-win” situation.


He said all the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department employees were able to keep their jobs. This would probably come as a surprise to Lester Rowland and Vickie Hurst, the former employees at the Runestone, who are no longer working for either the OTRD or the park they dedicated much of their life to serving.

After the OTRD dumped the seven parks, locals were forced to come up with a plan to save the parks. This will enhance local operations, according to Neira..

At least the locals will actually care about the parks, something the OTRD does not.

Now, the local communities, already hurting for money because of the bad economy, will have to raise funds to keep the gates open for those visitors who help support those same local economies and bring in revenue to the state, without one iota of help from a state organization that is in operation to promote the state and bring visitors into Oklahoma.

Neira wrote of the savings for the state. Wow, a supposed $700,000! It’s a good thing the OTRD is sitting on over $30 million in various funds. Plus, as you will recall, the total savings for the Runestone (not counting employee salaries) was around $4,000.

He also wrote the OTRD showed innovation in helping those local communities. Innovation? It was more like sticking the proverbial middle finger out to the rural communities. Also, Neira proclaimed the OTRD showed efficient workforce management to ensure the most efficient use of resources.


The most efficient use of resources would have been to keep the parks in operation and not fling them back at the local communities like some object that had been picked from a nose.

Sadly, Neira complained that the Oklahoma Public Employees Association has brought a lawsuit against the OTRD for transferring employees. Even though the OTRD has been dedicated to preserving the jobs of those impacted!

See Hurst and Rowland above.

He says all but two were transferred to a park less than 30 miles away. Yep, that is a good way to preserve those employees. This was that efficient workforce management he alluded to earlier.

And to wrap it up, Neira wrote that Oklahomans should be proud of the OTRD!

I am not making this up.

I have an idea for efficient management for the OTRD. Get rid of the current director and don't allow the governor to place a buddy in charge of operations and name who she wants on the committee. Let the legislature hire somebody qualified in running state parks and not one who helped raise a bunch of campaign money.

By the way, Neira is a new member of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

The column can be seen HERE.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Father's picture of Stoops on ESPN

The day was Sept. 15, 1979. It was a typical late summer day in Oklahoma as my mother and father made their trek to Norman to watch OU open the season against Iowa.

My parents attended most of the OU homes games from the middle 1970s through early 1980s. My father, Gene Hall, was a serious photographer and had a sideline pass courtesy of the Southwest Times Record out of Fort Smith.

He would take pictures at the game and drive to Fort Smith to drop the film off so the SWTR could use a picture in the Sunday edition.

It was another series of openers for the Sooner dynasty under Barry Switzer, hosting an Iowa team which had just hired Hayden Fry as its new head coach.

This was OU, so everybody expected an easy win. But like many early games back in those days, the Sooners had trouble holding on to the ball and eventually won, 21-6.

That Sooner team featured Billy Sims, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and regarded as the best running back in the country.

On that day, an Iowa freshman named Bobby (now better known as Bob) was a member of the Hawkeyes and playing in his second college game after his team won the opener over Indiana the previous week.

Move forward to the early 2000s. Stoops was now the head coach at Oklahoma and my father pulled out the old negatives from that game, along with the game program.

He found Stoops in the program along with his number (41) and tried to see if he had pictures of the new OU coach during that game.

To his surprise, Stoops was pictured three times. The best one was of Stoops leaping over a blocker to try and tackle Sims. That picture is probably my father’s most famous picture and can be seen HERE.

It has been viewed by thousands of people over the years as I had posted it on my former photo website.

Now, move forward to 2011. Earlier this week, I got a text from a friend saying my father’s picture was shown on the ESPN All-Access series on the Sooners. I checked out the video and it had fans showing the picture to one of the Sooners. The player talks about how it is a great picture and he can’t believe it is actually his coach trying to tackle one of OU’s all-time greats.

Stoops appears in the background and is seen signing the picture for the fans. The episode can be seen HERE. It is in the middle of the video.

He is also pictured again trying to tackle Sims and in another picture, Stoops is tackling OU wide receiver Steve Rhodes. The gallery from that game (which includes the picture of Stoops in the program) can be seen HERE.

I just wish my father, who passed away three years ago, could have seen the video. It would have made his day, or year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking ahead for county teams

The official start of the 2011 football season is now only nine days away.

Most observers think this will be a down year for county schools overall, as Spiro and Talihina lost heavily to graduation last year and were two of the three county teams to make the playoffs, along with Arkoma.

While Spiro and Talihina are reloading, other county teams should show some improvement.

Arkoma and Poteau are two teams that could make a serious run this year. The Mustangs return several starters from last year’s playoff team and if their defense improves, Arkoma could be one of the top teams in its district.
The Mustangs were potent on offense last year and should be even better this time around.

Poteau returns most of its skill players from last year’s team and boasts great speed and talent at the wideouts with Tyler Tustin and Jesse Woodson heading up the corp.

Quarterback should also be a strength with Wilson Klutts and sophomore Jace Pitchford. Klutts has improved considerably from last year and both players can also play receiver and be a threat.

Nick Donathan is back at running back after having to play quarterback last year after Klutts was injured.

The key for the Pirates is a young line on both sides and how well the defense plays.

Spiro and Talihina both lost heavily to graduation. The Bulldogs are looking to replace their potent backfield from last year while Talihina lost a great group that were part of a team that did not lose a regular-season game for three years.

Heavener has most of its starters back from a team that only won one game last year. The Wolves have a small senior class, but strong junior and sophomore classes in their final year playing in 2A before moving to 3A.
Pocola showed a lot of improvement last year and could make a serious run at the playoffs.

Panama and Bokoshe round up the county teams and are playing with new coaches. The Razorbacks failed to win a game last year while Bokoshe lost several key players from a team that competed for a playoff spot.

Panama and Spiro open the season next Thursday before the other schools get the year started on Friday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The old days

Once upon a time…

Downtowns of small towns everywhere were bustling with activity. People in the outlying areas came into those small towns like Heavener, Talihina and Spiro to buy most of their items.

This included food, furniture, clothes, lumber and much more. On Saturdays, it was like a parade with cars and trucks filled with families descending on downtown to get the necessities.

We had plenty of stores and few vacant and boarded up buildings. This meant small businesses, which offered jobs and tax revenues for the local communities.

Highways ran through these communities, but most of the action took place in the downtown area, especially for Heavener and Spiro. Talihina’s downtown is located on the highway for the most part.

Now, if you drive through the downtown areas, most of the old and historic buildings are empty and fading fast. There are usually less than a handful of cars and trucks, especially on the weekends.

I remember as a child how nice it was to have almost everything one needed all within walking distance. We had Stanley Hardware, Wilson & Johnston, Ben Franklin, even a movie theater in Heavener.

We didn’t have to leave town for most of what we needed. There was an occasional trip to Fort Smith and the mall, but that was a rarity. Of course, back then Walmart was just getting started and was not a required shopping trip once a week for most families. There were no Supercenters or groceries at Walmart.

Most of the stuff at Walmart could be found in local stores. Plus, you usually got much better service, although a trip to Wilson & Johnston in Heavener typically included a heated discussion of national politics.

There are a few small businesses like those surviving. In Heavener, there is Rice Furniture, Bernard’s and a couple of flower shops. Poteau offers Bridgeman’s, Holton Hardware and Ollie Lumber.

Ron’s Discount Lumber at Howe is sort of a throwback to the old days and ways.

But those businesses are few and far between.

And I miss them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An outlined blog!

In honor of school starting back, today’s blog will be categorized to make it easier to follow. Sorry, no syllabus as I don't expect you to learn much.


1. Weather

2. School starting

3. A smattering of football stuff

4. Molly by golly

5. Squirrels

1. WEATHER! As you can probably tell, the weather has been much nicer over the last week. No 115 temperatures and even some rain! Just in time for football practice, which should be in section three but was moved up in my excitement.

Here at the House of Trish, looks like a bumper crop of leaves! And it just seems like the last week or so that I finally finished dumping last year’s crop over in the neighbor’s yard.

Since winter, spring and summer were so rough, I feel like we deserve to have the best fall in recent memory. Eh?

2. SCHOOL has started for a couple of county schools with the rest getting started soon, much to the relief of parents throughout the county, state, country and universe.

Not that I have been appointed community service…yet. But be careful out there and watch out for our students, even those wearing shorts down at their knees.

3. FOOTBALL—practice has started and the first scrimmages will be held this week. YES. That means cool weather is coming and many of us will enjoy our Friday night rituals.

A friend (yes, I have a few), asked about the county teams. Overall, the county teams will not be as strong as last year. At least I don’t believe we have powerhouse teams like Spiro and Talihina were last year.

The two teams I believe have the best shot at making runs this year are Poteau and Arkoma. Both teams have some excellent skill players back and could be pretty good.

I heard Poteau and Spiro were having trouble finding a third opponent for the 2012 and 2013 school year. The two county rivals are discussing reviving the rivalry and I hope this happens.

4. MOLLY—has now been a member of the House of Trish for over a year. She is now almost 16 months old, so she should be showing some maturity. Not.

Molly wants things her way and wants constant attention. Lately, she has decided wet ground is not proper for her so I have to bribe her to do her deal outside.

Wet never bothered her before and Molly was a big fan of the snow. Since she always hangs out with me while doing the Journal stuff, I ought to honor her with some title such as associate editor or morale buster, but she is a dog.

She pouted a little when the Trish had to go back to educating students last week since she didn’t have company all day, but has since got back into a sleep all day and stay up later routine, which Molly tries to share with me.

Pet experts, such as my mother, say dogs should start calming down when they are 18 months old. So that means Molly has two months before she becomes a normal dog. I fail to hold my breath in anticipation.

5. SQUIRRELS—I am easily entertained. Sunday morning, while sitting outside on the deck trying to get Molly to get her feet wet and do the bladder empty routine, I noticed several squirrels playing in the trees.

They chased each other, made their irritating squeaking nose and jumped from limb to limb. I was a little worried for them since a good 50 percent of our trees appear to be dead thanks to the drought. Fortunately, none of them fell. Molly also watched, hoping one would fall, I fear.

That reminded me of my all-time favorite squirrel memory. Back in my bachelor days, I had two dogs named Maggie and Harley. There weren’t any trees in the back yard, only a light pole. Maggie and Harley did not care for squirrels running rampant in the back yard.

I let them out one day and a squirrel was trapped and climbed the pole to escape. There weren’t any trees close by so I feared this might not end good.

But instead of panicking, the squirrel started mocking my dogs. Harley wasn’t the sharpest canine to ever chase a stick, but he was fairly proud he had light poled a squirrel. He was barking and doing his best to shake the squirrel down from the pole.

The squirrel continued to mock him, then decided to show Harley who was boss. He (or she) took aim and dropped a load of squirrel urine on Harley. That was when I went inside and got my gun and...ha ha, just joking. Uh, that's all folks!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A big thank you

I have taken thousands of pictures over the years.

Some were very good. Others average and many were sent to the trash bin fairly quick.

I got the opportunity to take a picture Thursday evening I was proud to take.

It isn’t a picture that will bring in any income or win awards. Still, it was one I was honored to take.

The photograph, as you can see here, was of members of the Poteau Fire Department, family members, and one of the fire trucks with Old Glory flying proudly from the ladder. The picture was taken in front of the renovated Costner Stadium for the 2011 Poteau Football Program.

There are a lot of groups who deserve praise. None deserve it more than our fire departments, especially with the current weather conditions.

These men and women don’t do it for the money, but do so to help others. While most of us are at work or enjoying time away from the job, they are called away from work or their families to fight house fires, grass fires and much more.

Fires are hot. Being around a blazing inferno is not pleasant. Add to it temperatures that are breaking records for heat and the fire fighters wear safety clothing and equipment, which makes it even hotter. That can’t be pleasant.

But they still make those sacrifices, even in the worst conditions when it is blistering hot or freezing cold. They fight fires, respond to accidents and so much more.

Most of the fire departments are volunteers. I would say they are like you and me, but they aren’t. I have never gone inside a burning building to save a person, or rushed to the scene of an accident to help remove an injured person from a demolished car or truck.

The county voted for a tax increase last year to help pay for equipment for our county fire departments. I am not a big fan of tax increases. That is one I supported and was long overdue.

Our fire departments and the members never get the thanks or support they need. I have never thanked these individuals like I should have. Most people haven’t.

But all of you are appreciated, from the larger departments to the small ones in communities that might not even be on a map.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Schools start too...

It’s hot in them thar hills. And the forests, pastures, roadways and valleys, also.

Many of the outside workers have adjusted their schedule to come in earlier and get off earlier to avoid the record-breaking heat.

I have been through a lot of Oklahoma summers. This is the worst I can remember since the summer of 1980.

Many of the county schools start next week. At least two are starting later in the month.

It seems like almost every year, the start of the school year is a little earlier in August.


In Texas, schools start after Labor Day. That is how it should be in Oklahoma, too. Back in our ancient days, we started school late in August and got out a little later in May.

What would be gained by this?

Good question. The main factor is to consider the savings in the old electric bills. Yeah, it’s warm in May, but nothing like the students, faculty, etc. are going to encounter when they begin the 2011-12 journey to education.

That alone should be enough to change the schedules in the coming years. In case you missed it, the state and country are facing a difficult economy. Schools don’t have the money they once did.

Consider how much could be saved by cooling all the facilities starting early in September instead of early August.

I know, it is still going to be hot in September, it always is during the first weeks of the month. Maybe even as warm as it is during August, but the schools would still have less weeks of the oppressive heat than if they did start on the current schedule.

Nothing can be done for this year. The schedules are set in stone. But this is something that should be considered for the coming years.

It would not have any effect on the start of football or softball practices.

Sure, many parents are ready to send little Johnny and Jane back to school for a little break at home, but they should also consider what is best for the children and the schools.

Will this happen? Doubtful, but it should.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A good idea

After seeing a story that Murray State, a junior college in Tishomingo, had started a golf program, Ralph Perdue Jr. of Heavener had an idea.

If Murray State could have a golf team, why not Carl Albert State College?

He sent an email to CASC president Dr. Brandon Webb suggesting that would be a good idea.

I also think that would be a great idea.

Yeah, times are tough and there have been cutbacks at all colleges and universities in Oklahoma.

But if a school is considering adding a program, golf would be a great fit.

The expenses are not as high as most sports. If a golfer wants to play college golf, they have their own equipment. The major costs would be for a coach and travel expenses. Hopefully there is a volunteer or a member of the CASC staff who could oversee the program.

Poteau already has two golf courses in Choctaw Country Club and Wolf Ridge, so that would not be a problem.

Plus, this would provide an opportunity for local golfers to stay at home and play. There hasn’t been a lot of college golfers come out of the county, but if CASC started a golf program, that could change.

It could provide the opportunity for golfers to play two years at the Poteau college and then move on to a bigger school while completing their education.

I have no idea what CASC spends on other programs. But in basketball, most of the players are not from this area. That is a no-brainer, of course. Basketball in LeFlore County is good, but there is no way local talent would win at the JUCO level.

But look at how many players are playing basketball (and baseball) at CASC, and look where they are from. A golf program would also bring in student-athletes who would not consider attending the school if CASC didn’t have golf.

Back when we were in school, Heavener did not offer golf. Ralph and the other Heavener golfers never had a chance to test their skills in high school or try out at a local college to develop their skills. His brother, Andy, was good enough to play golf at Northeastern, even though he never played high school golf or during his first couple of years of college, while he played baseball at Carl Albert.

It’s not like we would expect national championships. That doesn’t happen in other sports, either. But most golfers are also good students, unlike some student-athletes in other sports.

The good golfers from Poteau and the area have to go away to play college golf. If CASC had a program, some of them could have stayed and played at CASC. Others who did not play college golf, would have had the opportunity to develop their game and move to the next level.

I seriously doubt CASC will start a golf program, unless there is a lot of demand from graduates, regents and area residents. But I do think Ralph’s suggestion has some merit and should be considered.

Hopefully, so do you.