Thursday, June 30, 2011

A grand idea!

I had what I thought was a grand idea the other day.

I had just gotten home from another long and difficult day of work at the Lyle T. Whitworth Allstate Agency in Poteau, and went outside to play ball with Molly.

You might say this is how I unwind after work, assuming I was actually wound up at work.

Anyway, every evening I take Molly outside and throw the wiffle ball for her. She thinks this is great fun and will repeatedly go chase down the ball and bring it back to me to…be thrown again!

This actually serves a dual purpose. In addition to spending quality time with the family dog, since we are suffering through global warming here in southeastern Oklahoma, I hope it tires her out.

She has the bad habit of wanting to play right as I want to go to sleep and I do my best to wear her out, not that Molly is prone to get worn out.

This has nothing to do with the whole concept of this blog, but while playing ball, Molly also has a bad habit of accidentally dropping the ball so it will fall down under the deck so she can rescue it and get dirty in the process.

This is not a good thing for Craig. See, if the Trish (AKA wife) sees Molly go under the deck, she assumes the dog is dirty and that means the above mentioned Craig must give Molly a bath. So I try to conceal Molly’s actions whenever possible and pick her up and kind of give her a shake, hoping the dirt will magically fall off.

Anyway, I regressed. So I was throwing the ball as far as possible. The gun just isn’t what it used to be and it isn’t exactly easy to get much distance from a wiffle ball. (CRAIG’S NOTE: it is spelled wiffle, not whiffle, even though my spell check keeps trying to get me to change it!).

I started thinking of ways to improve the Journal, which I typically do some 20 to 30 times a day, and possibly bring in more income. Another idea! I thought of making the Journal a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation. Hmm, that would mean anybody who donates to the Journal could get a break on their taxes.

What a great idea! I had brain flatulence and decided to see what the wife thought about it. I spelled out my plans and waited with great anticipation for her response.

“I thought you were already non profit,” she said.

I told her the benefits for both the Journal and readers and how the corporation is set up.

“But you’re already not making a profit on the Journal.”


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friday marks a new beginning

Friday is a big day for Heavener and LeFlore County.

July 1, 2011 marks the beginning of a new era as the Friends of the Runestone take over operation of the historic park.

In case you missed it over the last few months, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department washed its hands of the Runestone and six other state parks.

To the OTRD, good riddance. They didn’t want the park so to heck with them.

Now, the park will be run by people who actually care about it. The Friends of the Runestone and city of Heavener will be operating the park.

It has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to keep the park gates from closing for good and taking away the major tourist attraction for Heavener, and one of the main ones for the county.

Mike Kennerson, city manager for Heavener and president of the Friends, deserves a lot of credit. So do a lot of others.

But for all those who love the park and want it to be there for the future generations, your help is needed. Heavener does not have the funds to keep the park operating. Neither does the Friends of the Runestone.

That is where all of you can and need to help. We need to support this financially and any other way, by volunteering or getting the word out to the world about the beauty and historical significance of the park.

Here is a link to a story Kennerson wrote about the Park with a link to a membership form.

There are various membership amounts available for individuals and businesses. The Runestone will not get any help financially from the state so our tax dollars are being used for other purposes, which will not benefit the citizens of LeFlore County.

It’s not about sticking our thumb (or other finger) out or up at the OTRD, lieutenant governor or the governor. But this is a great way to show everybody, especially those government goobers who made the decision to close the state parks, what can happen when people work together and hopefully we can make the park even better than it was before.

We will miss Vicky Hurst and Lester Rowland and thank them for all they did for the Runestone, and also wish them the best in the future.

And I hope all of you will do what you can for the Heavener Runestone Park.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Picture this

Tuesday night, I let Molly the sometimes (and frequent) pain in the buttock dog go do her business.

Since Molly sometimes refuses to take care of her calls of nature unless she has company (don't ask me why), I followed. As soon as I looked out the back door, it looked like a disco bar was going on outside.

Strobe lights were apparently firing off every second or so. Being the curious person I am, I walked to the side of the house to find out what was happening.

I was expecting a work truck or something on the road in front of the homestead.

Nope, no work truck. It was a natural light show going off. Overhead the clouds were clear and stars were visible. But to the east, there was a large cloud firing off lightning at a rate I have never seen before.

Typically, there will be a flash of lightning, followed by another a few seconds or minutes later.

Not this time. There was continuous lightning going off with flashes in different locations inside the cloud.

This was neat, I decided, and glad this wasn’t overhead. Despite the brightness of the flashes, the cloud was far enough away no thunder could be heard.

I alerted my wife to this and asked her to come look. She wasn’t all that excited to get off the couch since Trish had a rough day vacationing. But finally, she came outside and took a look.

This actually interested her for a few seconds before whatever was on the telly prompted her to move back inside.

When I see something unusual or interesting, this was a call for me to morph into Craig the Photographer!

I got the old camera out, changed the lens to one better suited to the conditions and grabbed the tripod. There are big trees in front of my house, so I decided to go to the top of the hill and take some pictures.

One of my favorites is pictured in this blog!

I got set up pretty much in the middle of the road next to the water tower, hoped nobody would run thine rear over with an automobile and took to firing pictures.

I set the shutter at a slow speed so I could capture a string of lightning, and that is what I got.

While fighting off the attack from a swarm of mosquitoes and other irritating insects which wanted to distract me, I spent about 20 minutes firing off pictures until the cloud moved to the north and behind a group of trees.

I looked in the viewfinder and reviewed the pictures. They looked good! Of course, they all look pretty good until I post them on the computer and cull out the bad ones.

I loaded the pictures and went through them until I narrowed my choices to a couple. I always shoot on RAW instead of JPEG so I have more control over the processing, er, process.

I edited the picture and got it ready to go and this was the result from the light show.

I go in stages where I take a bunch of pictures and times when I am not so active. Yesterday, I saw some little flowers in the yard and took the second picture. The flowers were roughly the size of a dime.

And since they were low to the ground, I got out my miniature tripod and loaded up a macro lens to try and get the picture.

Not my best effort, but it turned out okay.

People sometimes ask me what I like to take pictures of. My favorites are sports, macro (bugs and flowers) and wildlife. People? Not really. I don’t really enjoy the whole posing thing and prefer taking candid pictures of the little ones doing cute stuff like smashing cake over their face.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tragedy, controversy and more

We offer for you today, a multi-topic blog.

Like many others, I was saddened to hear the news about what happened to the Watkins family of Heavener.

Eric, only 21 years old, and his seven-month old son Bryor, were killed in an auto accident near Verdigris last Friday. Eric’s wife and Bryor’s mother, Ginger, was also in the vehicle, but survived the accident.

The Watkins vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Keaton Hannah of Verdigris, an 18-year old who had just hit another vehicle, left the scene and then crashed into Watkins' vehicle.

Hannah was charged with manslaughter, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.

I don’t understand why somebody is charged solely with manslaughter when they drive while drunk and then take the life of another person. I do know that to be charged with murder, it typically must be premeditated, but is this enough punishment?

I know Hannah will have to live with the memory of this the rest of his life. But hopefully the justice system will throw the book at him. And hopefully they can find who supplied the alcohol to an underage driver and go after them, too.


Next up, the superintendent situation at Poteau continues to draw controversy. The school board named Wayland Bonds of Moore as the interim superintendent at a meeting on Tuesday.

Bonds recently retired as Moore superintendent. He takes the place of Dr. Alice Smith, who is retiring at the end of the month. In case you missed it, assistant superintendent Hank Harris was earlier named to the position, but that offer was later rescinded by the board in a controversial 3-2 vote last week.

Supporters of Harris are passing around a petition in support of him. The petition has over 400 names on it, but was not presented to the school board at the meeting on Tuesday as they hope to add more names to the list.

The issue has left the community divided. Supporters of Harris are outraged and no official reason has been given by the board on why the offer was rescinded.

Harris' supporters have held meetings and threatened to do other things to pressure the board to try and reinstate him.

I do not feel like this will accomplish anything, other than get the board members to plant their feet firmly in the ground. If somebody does not support the actions of a board member, they should remember this when the next election happens. Threatening to do this or that is not the solution.

And to wrap up this blog, I watched Glenn Beck’s talk show yesterday afternoon. Typically, I do not watch talk shows as they are a waste of my precious time.

But I was flipping through the channel and caught him talking about basically how the country is headed for a mess. His studio audience consisted mostly of college students.

Beck’s message was the students and others have a great opportunity and could turn things around. He also talked about how the college system is flawed, which is something I have believed for a long time.

Instead of wasting time taking classes that will never help students in their career choice, they should be taught how to succeed in their chosen profession. Much like the technical schools do.

Beck also pointed out the cost of attending college is growing faster than it should.

It was interesting listening to the students. Some complained about how they can’t find a job and it was like they should be owed a job after completing college. Others were taking action and starting their own businesses or interning for companies to learn the profession.

Naturally, some complained about having to intern and not get paid anything for it. One of the persons in the audience said they learned so much by being an intern that it more than made up for not getting paid.

It was easy to see who will succeed and the ones who will struggle and complain that it is the economy’s fault or the fault of somebody else.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Board makes tough call

Every time school board elections are coming up, I see all the signs for people wanting to serve on the school board.

I wonder if these people are crazy. I served on the school board at Heavener a few years ago. I even served as president of the school board for one year. While the first year of being on the board was okay, during my term as president it seemed like there was constant controversy.

No, it was not because of anything I did. I hope that it was just poor timing. We had to replace a superintendent and make other decisions that make the position a difficult one. I had phone calls and visits to work and home from people (many of them friends and people I had known my whole life) telling me why I should do this or not do that.

It isn’t fun, that’s for sure. Every decision you make upsets some people and makes others happy.

I always tried to do what was best for the students and the school. And sometimes I voted against what my friends wanted me to do, or against the majority.

In case you didn't know, school board members don’t get paid to administer the school and there are no fringe benefits.

Poteau’s school board made one of those difficult decisions during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

By a 3-2 vote, the board voted to rescind the offer it made earlier to Hank Harris to serve as the next superintendent of Poteau schools.

Board president Chris Fenton and members Beth Buchanan and Crystal Walker voted to rescind the offer to Harris. Board vice president Jay Sommers and clerk Adrian Sconyers voted no.

The reason why the board took this action was not disclosed and don’t expect any statement as to why this happened. That would violate every privacy law out there and bring a flock of lawsuits.

There are plenty of rumors and hearsay floating around. No, I won’t get into it because it is rumors and hearsay. 

I did attempt to get some information from one board member as to why the board addressed the issue, but got the “no comment” reaction.

I can understand that. If I was in the board member’s position, that is what I would have done.

Harris has served Poteau schools for a long time and has a lot of support. He was the logical person to replace current superintendent Dr. Alice Smith, who is retiring on June 30. Naturally, there are a lot of people upset with the decision.

I can certainly understand that. But again, this was not an easy thing for the board to do. Hopefully, this was not done because of some axe to grind or because it was personal.

Instead, I hope it was because the three people who voted yes were doing so because they thought it was in the best interests of the students and the school.

Was this the right decision? Only time will tell.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time to act

Like areas all over the country, LeFlore County has its problems.

Unemployment is high and thanks to the recession, the economy is not all that good.

One of the leading employers in our county, Bremner, has announced plans to lay off 135 people and there is speculation the plant will soon close its doors.

Most employers are trying to ride out the bad times and are not adding employees. When the workers do find jobs, they frequently require travel and do not pay what the person made in previous occupations.

Many people who would like to live and work in LeFlore County, have to relocate elsewhere to find a job, especially our college graduates.

Now, just like areas everywhere, the county tries to bring in new employers with a bunch of workers.

It would be great if we could bring in some company that hires several hundred people.

Those companies are few and far between.

So what is the solution? That would need to come from somebody far smarter than this publisher of a small web site.

But I do have some ideas.

The first one is to do everything possible to help our small employers, those with 10 or so workers to stay in business and hopefully grow.

I believe these types of companies are the key to our future. While still trying to bring in new companies, we can’t forget about these companies or businesses and must support them.

Also, I believe we need to support any start-up businesses. This includes one-person businesses and others who have a skill and dream about starting a business.

Every company has started off small and the successful ones grow and provide jobs and services to our residents.

I remember while growing up in Heavener that we had pretty much everything we needed. There were hardware stores, several grocery stores, lumber yard, toy stores and much more.

These were old family businesses that were successful, had employees and contributed to the sales tax for the town and county.

Now, those businesses are gone. Much of the blame goes to the Walmarts of the world, which can sell products for less than your local business. That has led to so many empty, boarded-up buildings in communities everywhere.

We can’t look for help from Oklahoma City. That is obvious. Just look at the recent Runestone fiasco. Everybody likes to point fingers, but this is not a Republican, Democrat, Tea Party or independent problem.

Toss the partisan politic crud aside. To move forward, we must work together and not worry about who votes for who or who supported who.

Everybody running for office always talks about bringing new jobs, lower taxes and paints a rosy picture for the future if he or she is elected. That doesn’t happen, of course.

We can’t sit on our tush and wait for somebody else to solve our problems. LeFlore County needs to capitalize on our resources and people. That means getting people to visit our county.

Desperate times require desperate actions. If you have suggestions on how to improve our county, please leave your comments below.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Facebook friends!

Just threw Molly’s ball and watched her chase it and bring it back for me to throw it again…and again!

Or…Dadgum, what is that smell? Molly must have…oops, forgot that was me. Need to get some air working in here!

If I was the type to update my Facebook status, those would have been my latest status updates.

Pretty exciting stuff, eh?

As you probably didn't know...or care, I use Facebook mainly for LeFlore County Journal stuff and rarely look at my personal page.

But I dropped by and noticed my friend list has grown to 517. At first, this brought incredible feelings of joy. Happiness, I say! I had 517 friends! Wow. I felt like Sally Fields accepting an Oscar.

Then I actually wasted time thinking about it and realized while I probably know and can name 517 people on a good day, I don’t think I actually have that many friends.

After browsing through the list, I soon figured out my Facebook friends could be broken into the following categories: 1. People who are actually friends; 2. People I know; 3. People I vaguely remember; 4. People I know but wish I didn’t (just kidding!); and 5. Who the #@%$ are these people.

Many of the people in the final category probably are friends of a friend, or requested to be friends for some reason that would probably confuse the heck out of sociologists or FBI profilers.

I wondered if these people requested my friendship out of some hope we would grow to be buddies and spend many fun-filled hours bonding over their latest updates on where they ate supper or discussing the latest Dancing With The Stars Many of Us have never heard of!

Maybe having a bunch of friends on Facebook brings up a person’s self esteem. Or perhaps, they like to brag that “I have more Facebook friends than you do!” or “I have never really been that popular until I got on Facebook and because of constantly asking people I don’t know to be friends, now I have nine zillion trillion friends!”

Do the others care? Is there some kind of prize for having the most friends?

My version of a true friend is somebody you can count on for help if you need it, not somebody who requested to be a friend when you don’t even know them on a social networking site.

Perhaps I should start requesting all my friends on Facebook do something to prove their friendship, such as mowing my yard when it gets hot or wash the Genemobile, since it is currently filthy.

Or to really test their friendship, I should make silly remarks to their status updates or pictures and see if they unfriend me.

But I’ll pass.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weather woes

The first headline I saw today when I got on the internet was not the way a person should start his morning.

It was on Yahoo and said: Democrats shun Weiner.

Do I really need to know that?

In case you have missed out, over the last month or so the Journal has had the weather forecast.

Each morning I get an email from with the local weather forecast.

In case you were not aware, I am not a professional meteorologist. No, really (and I did look up the spelling. The first word I typed was for a person who studies meteors). I am not even as good as the old dudes who can tell what the weather will be six months from now because of the amount of fur on some bug's back.

Basically, I post what comes in the email with only slight rewording. Lately, every forecast has been HOT, or near record highs.

I don’t particularly care for the heat, but these are much better than the ones we had just a couple of weeks ago.

Most of those warned of severe storms coming our way.

I have never been good with storms. I hide it well because I am by nature a cool and collected person. Rather suave, too, if you can get past the image of looking like a mole rat which was referred to in my last blog.

In the past, anytime the sirens went off or Fred Baker or Garrett Lewis told us to get to the cellar, I moved at a speed which made Adrian Peterson look like a grandmother recovering from a broken hip.

Fortunately, now I live with this big hill behind the homestead and in a brick house. If a tornado did bear down on me like I was a mobile home park, I believe it would hit the hill behind me and take off like a biker hitting a ramp and wind up somewhere else.

This is probably not wise, but for some reasons when the bad stuff hits, it seems to follow a path to the south of Long Lake Hill, down around Hodgen or to the north part of the county.

I guess that is because of the mountains or rivers, I don’t know and Garrett has never explained it. Because of the choice of his music, I never can listen to Fred or KISR long enough to find out if it has been discussed.

When the first storm hit this year, it had my full attention. The wife went to bed. I asked her if she was worried about the weather. She answered by turning off the bedroom lights and was soon snoozing.

If you recall, that was the one with the softball-sized hail. I had never seen softball-sized hail, nor do I care to see it. After it started in with small hail, Molly was wondering what was going on and went to scratch at the door, which to the uninformed means “Get up off your rear and let me out!”

She lasted approximately two seconds outside before scampering back in.

We had so many storms this year that toward the end, I adopted the “Cry Wolf” attitude. I went to sleep, just like my wife.

This has not been a good year for the weather. We went from ice, to bad storms and now hot. Where was the nice weather, dangit? And how bad is it going to be in July or August.

Let’s find some bug-forecasting old men and find out, shall we?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I write a letter!

Dear Reader(s),

I haven’t actually done the whole letter thing in a long time.

Now, it is all emails, instant messages and text messages. But this morning, while trying to avoid the latest news on Weiner-gate, I wondered if it was possible to actually write a letter.

I decided to give it a whirl, but hang on a second and let me change the channel as another story about Rep. Anthony Weiner sending an image of his last namesake to women is on the news again.

There, much better.

Okay, where were we? Oh yes, I was writing a letter to my reader(s).

So, it is hot here in LeFlore County.


Dang, this letter writing can be tough at times. Better turn off the television as I really don’t want to hear anything else about the subject mentioned above or how Tiger Woods won’t play in the U.S. Open because his knee is hurting.

Well, Tiger, my knees are hurting but I am going to work today, so there. I will tell you why my knees hurt later in the letter!

Let’s see, what is going on in the county. Well, the Runestone will now be operated by the city of Heavener and the Friends of the Runestone. At first, I was worried about the Runestone staying open. At least now it will be operated by somebody who cares.

Hmm, what else is going on?

I draw a blank, which is starting to be a habit.

Let’s see, The Trish decided I should go with her to a wedding on Saturday. Generally, I try to avoid weddings as I have been through enough of my own. This one was unique, at least. It was held at Lake Eufaula, on an island, which required a boat ride to and from the island.

As weddings go, it was okay. Short and sweet and most of us wore shorts, which should be a requirement for all weddings and funerals, except I guess when it is cold. But they should still be fast and should have a timer requiring them to be finished in at least 15 minutes.

Our dog Molly needs her hair cut in a bad way. She once again resembles a black mop and it is hard to see her eyes.

Speaking of haircuts, last night, I mentioned to Trish that I thought she was getting her hair cut. She DID get a hair cut yesterday. Good one, Craigman.

Since it is so hot, over the weekend I decided to shave the old head and remove the goatee for the first time in a couple of years. “Ugh!” said my supportive wife about my new look. A co-worker, Sarah, said I look like a mole rat. Perhaps I am ignorant, but I never heard of a mole rat so I did the whole Google thing. After seeing a picture of one, it was not a flattering description and the hair will be coming back ASAP.

After watching the movie Sanctum last night, I decided it would be a good idea if the local movie stores offered a money-back guarantee if the movie you rented stunk. I wasted two hours of my precious time watching this movie and was so bored that I even talked about my wife’s hair.

The movie also made me wonder how it felt to sink so much time and money into making a movie and then discover it was a stinker, which is probably how most of you feel after reading this letter. But hey, I do offer to refund all the money you spent on reading this if you find it that bad.

Last month, I decided it was time to get back into shape. So I started running again. I quickly got so I could run (or jog, actually) and made it to three miles without stopping. I planned on actually running a 5K later in the summer.

That was about the time my knees sent a message to my brain that 48-year old guys with bad knees should probably reconsider the whole running thing. But I won’t miss the U.S. Open, by gosh. Or work, either. Take that Tiger.

Of course, it might be different if I had Tiger’s cash.

So I truly hope you have a good day.


Monday, June 6, 2011

My little girl

My daughter turned 18 on Saturday.

Less than two weeks ago, Michaela stepped up on the stage and accepted her diploma as a graduate of Southside High School in Fort Smith.

I have always been proud of her as she is really a good kid, er, person. When she was announced at the graduation, it was “With Honors, Michaela Hall” and she got a big ovation from our little section of three.

Her name was listed several times in the graduation program and she will attend the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (that’s UAFS for those of you scoring at home) in the fall with a full ride (THANK GOODNESS!) because of her grades.

She also has a part-time job and gasp, a boyfriend. We got to meet him for the first time about a month ago.

I expected to be disappointed. Like most fathers, I planned on trying to scare him and let him know that if he hurt or disappointed my little girl, the Wrath of Craig would fall on him in a way which would make the Egyptian plagues from the Bible seem like a more favorable choice.

But he was pleasant, dressed nice and acted like a civilized person. No visible tattoos, snarls or eyeball rolls when I tried to be funny. I didn’t even try to stare him down with my Don’t Mess with Craig look, which fails to scare anybody (especially my dog, Molly) and makes Trish laugh.

He did not belch, pass gas at the dinner table or say something like “Woman, get me some grub!”

Actually, that was me.

He even has a job and is going to college. I actually liked him.

Then she graduates and turns 18.

Whoa, this is a little too much. How is this possible?

There is no way she can now be considered a young adult. I expected her to be a little girl forever and come see me every other weekend and complain about my wanting to watch something educational like a football game instead of Lifetime.

But instead, Michaela grew to be a smart and mature person, despite having me as a father.

All the speakers at her graduation talked about how they are going to change the world for the better and the amazing opportunities ahead of them. Well, Michaela has already changed the world for the better, at least my little slice of it.

And yes, she has all these opportunities ahead of her. Unlike her father, who was limited in his academic fields because of laziness and Craig Attention Disorder Syndrome, Michaela can now do whatever she wants in life. I just hope whatever she does brings her joy.

I know that I haven’t been Ward Cleaver or won any Best Father contests. But if there was a Best Daughter contest, Michaela would win hands down.

With Honors.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gilstrap overcame obstacles to succeed

Like most people, I am glad to see others succeed.

Especially when those people are young adults. That is especially true when those young adults overcome obstacles to succeed.

Connor Gilstrap is one of those young adults who has overcome a lot to succeed.

Connor Gilstrap slides into third base during a game this past season.
Gilstrap, who just graduated from Poteau High School, signed Wednesday to play baseball and continue his athletic and academic pursuit at Carl Albert State College.

He is not your typical standout athlete, at least in size. Gilstrap is short and stout, to tell the truth. No, he does not stand 6-foot-2 and weigh 200 pounds.

Gilstrap is in the mid five-foot tall territory, give or take an inch or two. But what he lacks in height, Gilstrap makes up for it in heart.

Prior to his junior season, he injured both knees and had to sit out both football and wrestling. This came after he was one of the Pirates’ leading tacklers as a sophomore and qualified for the state tournament in wrestling that year.

He came back and played baseball his junior year, even though his knees were not 100 percent and was a pain inn the rear for most opponents both from his leadoff spot in the batting order and in the outfield, where he roamed far and wide to track down batted balls.

Gilstrap could have used the knee injuries as an excuse to coast or even sit out football this past season, where he was in danger of even more damage to his knees on every play.

But he didn’t. Despite missing his junior year, Gilstrap was once again one of the top tacklers for the Pirates and an inspiration to many.

In wrestling, he was one of the top wrestlers in his class and again made the state tournament.

When he finished wrestling, it was time for baseball. Like the other sports, Gilstrap was a standout. He helped a young Poteau team, which frequently started three or four freshmen, to win a district tournament and advance to the regionals.

For his success on the baseball field and in the classroom, Gilstrap is getting the opportunity to continue playing baseball when he goes to CASC in the fall.

Again, he won’t be the biggest player or even the most talented. But it is doubtful anybody will play harder or show more heart.