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.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Not all gloom and doom

I guess it is easier for some people to think about what is wrong instead of looking at what is good.

People like to complain about the weather, economy, government, neighbors and much more. But not everything is doom and gloom.

The new Reynolds Civic Center is nearing completion and should be a gem for Poteau and the county. Yes, we all wish it had been built so the county tournament could be played there, but it won’t and can’t.

But for a community the size of Poteau to have a facility like this should be a big asset. I have watched construction over the last few months and it is really going to be impressive.

Also, a new library will be built next to the new Reynolds Center. Buckley Library is good, but is not big enough and lacks parking. The new library in Heavener is excellent and with the new one at Poteau, will have libraries as nice or nicer than those in much bigger places.

Carl Albert State College continues to grow and has a big construction project going on which will provide the college with more room for more students. Enrollment at CASC is up, along with several of the county schools.
A new pharmacy is almost finished at the old Central National Bank branch on Broadway in Poteau and it looks like two of the offices in the new commercial building on the north part of Broadway are rented.
Almost Italy’s facilities are impressive since the remodel. The Wise Construction and Real Estate building out near the Fenton car lots is one of the nicer buildings in the county.

Despite the shaky economy, houses are being built throughout the county.

In Heavener, two vacant structures have been rented as an Asian restaurant and a donut business have taken the place of a diner and a pizza place.

Cost of living is still low compared to most areas and with most of the roads from Poteau to I-40 now four lane, it makes getting to and from the interstate a lot easier. Now, if we could just get a four-way from Poteau to Fort Smith…sorry, one little complaint snuck into the blog.

Bremner has called back many of its workers who were recently laid off.

We also have a strong technical education program going at Kiamichi Technology Center for those young and old.

Poteau hosted a state baseball tournament and several communities hosted regional tournaments. These tournaments require a lot of help and long hours, but bring in a lot of visitors and money.

The City of Heavener and Friends of the Runestone have kept the park open, a key for our tourism efforts.

Spiro’s new gym is easily the nicest in the county and brought the LeFlore County Tournament back home last year.

The remodel and expansion of the Methodist Church in Poteau is nearing completion and is one the members have to be proud of.

The banks are also contributing. First National Bank and CNB have built new branches. Community State Bank has a new building to the south and Arvest has remodeled its Poteau branch and added a branch in the south part of Poteau.

So many areas of the county were hit hard with the bad weather during April and May, but friends, neighbors and strangers helped those who saw their homes damaged or destroyed.

This proves to me that there are still good people in our county.

It is easy to stick your head in the dirt when things are not at their best, but it is reassuring to see so much good going on. The economy will come back around, it always does. And with all the good that has been done when times are not the best, this should really benefit our towns and the county.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A weather gripe

I try to not think about the weather, let alone write about it.

But curiosity overcame this cat (typically a rather cool one, but not in these conditions) and I typed in extended weather forecast in a search box by a company looking to own the world the other day.

There was the Farmer’s Almanac! It had to be right. After all, people have been turning to the publication for several decades.

I expected to read about some prediction based on the length of fuzzy hair on some endangered insect, but was proven wrong.

Here was our forecast for the summer: Cooler and rainier than normal. (Rainier?) I’d have to go out on the proverbial limb (not a real tree limb, of course) and say WRONG!

This has been the worst summer since the summer of 1980. Ah, that one was a booger. I think this one is worse, but it might be my extended age and favoritism of a good air conditioner.

Not that our cooling system would be considered good. Our AC hasn’t shut off in over a month and ceiling fans and other fans are going pretty much nonstop around the House of Trish. Still, it is hot in and out.

Anyway, another section called for temperatures only a degree above average for July and the precipitation below average. The Farmers were batting .500 there.

August looks better, although my confidence in them has worsened since the prior prediction about the cooler summer is still on the website. Temperatures for Aug. 1-7 are supposed to be below average. Notice the “supposed” in that sentence.

For Aug. 8-10 it is predicted to be hot. But hey, Aug. 11-16 is going to be cooler to the north. Sadly, it does not fully explain the whole north part of our region, but since it is Oklahoma and Texas, maybe that will be good news. Then again…

We are supposed to be comfortable from Aug. 17-23. Does this mean we are migrating to Montana and Wyoming? Then the month is supposed to close with thunderstorms and storms to the south.

And just for something to speculate about, which is basically what a long-term forecast is, the forecast for September and October is supposed to be cooler and dryer than normal.

Since I have no faith in other forecasts and you have managed to stumble along this far, here is my extended, long-term forecast with a no money-back guarantee:

Hot. Little chance of a break until late September. Then warmer than average until a surprise winter storm hits in late October, bringing the average tempature down to below freezing untl next April. Sorry, no fall. Just straight from summer to winter. Cold until April, then storms and an early and hot summer.

There. You have it, for what it’s worth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Me and the Tea...Partiers

It was with a little apprehension I approached the Buckley Library Monday evening.

Inside, a group of county Tea Party members were waiting to hear Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones discuss the recent county audit.
I wondered whether the members would treat me rudely. I had, you may recall, written blogs on our new Republican governor that were not exactly kind. To be more accurate, I wrote that I voted for her in the last election and would not repeat that action in the future.

Would I be allowed in? Was there some kind of secret handshake or word that would get me past the front door? I hoped there was not any kind of initiation ceremony that involved paddles or removal of clothing.

So I made my way into the auditorium and SURPRISE! It looked like most of the other meetings I had attended over the years. I just strolled in. Nobody let out a boo, shouted out I was a communist or worse, a Democrat.

No group chants or four-letter words used in connection with the Democratic party. Instead, I was treated like a person should be welcomed.

I saw Bobbie McAuliffe and talked with her a few minutes and she introduced me to a few people. Nobody was rude or sneered at me.

For the most part, the group was middle aged and above. Not many youthful Tea Party people in LeFlore County, but that was to be expected.

Prior to the meeting starting, there was a prayer and we did the pledge. I think all meetings should start this way. If you don’t agree…tough. Go outside. Pick your teeth, nose or whatever

After a few introductory comments (again, no bashing of other political parties, honest) Jones was welcomed to talk about the recent audit.

He said his office was way behind on county audits and displayed a document showing which counties needed audits. When Jones took office, the county was four years behind in audits on LeFlore County.

The auditors were initially planning to do an audit on 2007 and 2008. After hearing about the problem with a certain former commissioner in the district in the northern part of LeFlore County, the auditors added 2009 and 2010.

And the auditors noticed the former commissioner of that district, Carroll Rogers, had a going away party with the county money before he left office. Jones explained that once a commissioner is not relected, the commissioner can only spend half the budget for that district before the officer leaves, er, office.

Jones welcomed and took several questions from the audience. Unlike most public meetings, I found none of the questions dumb. People say there are no dumb questions, I tend to disagree. It’s like a law that somebody always has to disgraces the good people of the county with a stupid question, but not this time.

The group was educated and looking for answers on what could be done on the problem and ways to make sure it couldn’t, and didn’t, happen again.

I didn’t switch my allegiance to the Tea Party during or after the meeting. But I did better understand the group. These weren’t a bunch of destroy the government types. Like most of us, they want our country to be great once again and the elected leaders to be better stewards of money, which they definitely need to be.

And I was invited back to the next meeting.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Just imagine you are a player, fan or coach of the Heavener Wolves.

You open the newspaper to look at the upcoming football schedule. Let’s see, the opener is at Fayetteville. Eek. Then, we return home the second week to host Van Buren before another trip is on the agenda for the third week to play Fort Smith.

No, not Southside or Northside. That was Fort Smith. Whoever made that schedule would not be a popular person. Heavener will not open with those three opponents in the upcoming 2011 season. Instead, the opener on Sept. 2 is at Savanna.

But at one time, specifically 1930, that was Heavener’s three opening games. And guess what? The Wolves came out of that trio of contests with a pair of wins and a loss to Van Buren. That team went on to finish 10-1 and was proclaimed the Oklahoma State/EOAC champions, the only big championship the school has captured. Click HERE to review that season.

Lately, the Wolves have gone through some rough times. But just over 50 years ago, Heavener dominated southeastern Oklahoma. Consider the following: Heavener scored 54 points in its first four games in wins over Vian, Muldrow, Panama and Eufaula.

Spiro held the Wolves to ONLY 28 in a 28-6 loss. Heavener came back to hang 42 on Broken Bow, then really got its offense going by scoring 78 points later in a pair of lopsided wins over Wilburton and Poteau.

That Heavener team was the only one is school history without a loss. The only non-win was a tie in a second-round playoff game to Stigler, a team Heavener defeated earlier in the season. Back then, they didn’t play overtime. The Panthers advanced because of a tiebreaker. Here is the information on that season.

I find all this old information very interesting. That is why I started a new website In addition to having links to sports stories from throughout Oklahoma, there is a section with what I hope will eventually be scores from all the Oklahoma high schools games which have ever been played.

Currently, I have most of Heavener’s scores from 1926 through 2010, aside from a few years, which I hope somebody will forward. Next, I will turn my attention to Poteau and the other county schools, then branch out to the rest of the state.

Yes, this is rather ambitious. But I hope others enjoy looking back through the years and reading about how our fathers, grandfathers and even great grandfathers did on the gridiron.

Along with the scores, I hope to get team photos and stories which can be added to each year.

Eventually, I plan to add basketball and maybe baseball. But that is a ways down the road.

If you have information, please send it by email to or by mail to: Craig Hall, 300 S. Earl, Poteau, Ok. 74953.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Poteau goes big time

Baseball people invade town!

Sounds like a horror movie, eh? But not so fast. All the strange faces started arriving in Poteau Monday night and some will be here through Friday, or even Saturday.

Is it some kind of coup? A government intervention?

Nah, just one of the better events Poteau has held in a long time.

Players, coaches and families from seven different towns are in and around Poteau for the 2011 OK Kids Midget State Baseball Tournament.

The tournament began its run in the heat Tuesday at 2 p.m. and games will be held for at least four days, and maybe even a fifth.

Temperatures soared close to 110 on the first day of the tournament. But still the players and their entourages came to the PARC looking for what might be the biggest win of a bunch of 12-and 13 year old boys’ lives.

They came from the west, of course, as there aren’t any other Midget teams between Poteau and the Arkansas state line. They also came from the southwest and the northwest.

Tushka was the closest town from Poteau with Durant running a close second. A group from Holdenville were also in town, along with Kingfisher and Shawnee. Then there were the really long-distant visitors all the way from Weatherford and Elk City, many probably getting their first opportunity to visit the beauty of southeastern Oklahoma.

There were good crowds and some excellent baseball. We saw double plays, a home run (which I missed), exciting finishes and even a mini-wave from the fine folks from Holdenville.

In case you missed it, this is the first time Poteau has hosted a state tournament and this IS a really big deal. We have approximately 10 players from seven different locations, along with coaches, family members and fans visiting our fair community, staying in hotels, visiting local attractions and bringing in a much-needed economic boost.

It is never easy to host a tournament like this, especially for the first time. But everything about the tournament appears to be first rate. The field was in great condition, even if the tournament was held in May. It wasn’t. This is July and we are suffering through a miserable heat wave.

You really have to give credit to many people. Dr. Steve Smith was instrumental in getting the tournament to come to Poteau, along with local OK Kids head honcho, Jerry Pitchford.

But then you also have to give a big credit to Dale Gilstrap, who is the tournament chairman, along with Poteau high school baseball coaches Ronnie Sockey, Andy Perdue and many more.

The City of Poteau made some great improvements to the facility to help make this tournament one many people will remember for a long time. Then there are all those who have spent hours working on the field, or running the concession stand. Plus, local businesses are helping to support the event with donations and publicity, along with making our visitors feel at home.

Hopefully this is the start of an annual tradition. Many of the state tournaments are held way out in western Oklahoma or around the Oklahoma City area.

No, Poteau is not the most convenience location in the state to hold a tournament such as this, but I doubt any other community or group could put it on any better.

The only disappointment, at least for four groups, is their teams lost on the first day. But since the tournament is double-elimination, they get to do it all again today.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Q & A on the Journal

I sometimes get questions about the LeFlore County Journal and would like to answer a few of them.

The most asked question is how and why I started the Journal. As some of you know, I once worked at a newspaper and was a journalism major in college.

During the mid 2000s, I started a website called heaveneronline. It was a big hit and I kept it up for a couple of years before I took a job which prevented me from running the website.

I missed it. So I still wanted to do something along the lines of heaveneronline, but make it bigger. After talking it over with some friends, I decided to do something for LeFlore County. At the time, I was considering doing one for the county, or one just for Poteau. I actually listened to the suggestions and I think that was the best decision.

Even before I started the original heaveneronline, I realized there was a better way to get news, sports and information out instead of the traditional newspaper. At best, you are looking at getting the information the next day, but only if you purchase a paper. Typically, the information would not be available online until two days later.

That is why I am such a big proponent of publishing news and information on a website. I can get the information out there quicker and that is one reason why the Journal has grown.

Second question is if the Journal is profitable. I do have some dedicated advertisers and a few supporters who donate to the Journal, but I also work a full-time job and can’t dedicate the time selling ads for the Journal as I would like. So I do make a little more income than I spend, if you don’t consider the two hours or so I spend on the Journal most days.

Third question is about the people who write a column frequently and if I pay them. Unfortunately, no, I can’t pay them. I wish I could. The Journal is fortunate to have some really good writers. We also have some readers who send in information frequently and that is also greatly appreciated.

Traci Barnes has been sending in columns for the longest. Don Barnes has been a frequent contributor while John Inman and Bobbi McAullife have sent in columns for the last few months. Happy Frazier has sent in some columns and David Deaton with the LCBGC has contributed his weekly column over the last few weeks.

I can’t thank them enough.

I haven’t been asked this question but wanted to tell what my biggest mistake was with the Journal. That was with the Journal ezine. It was a weekly publication I put out with all the latest stories and photographs. It looked like a weekly newspaper, except full color and not as big.Just when it started to take off, I started my job and there wasn’t enough time to do everything.

But with the ezine, I did it the wrong way. I had people subscribe to get the information. Instead, I should have made it available for free and tried to bring in income from advertising.

Hopefully, I will be able to resurrect the ezine in that manner. The thing I always liked the best about it was people could print off a certain page and keep the publication to show others.

Now, I just need to figure out how to start this up again.

I have also been working on a new project, which I hope will be a big hit, especially for the sports fans. Look for more information in the next few days.

The Journal has come a long way since its debut on Sept. 19, 2009. I started spreading the news about the Journal to a few people, who shared it with others, who did the same thing. Even in the slow times, the Journal gets several hundred hits a day.

As always, if you have any suggestions on making the Journal better, please send an email to or leave a comment below.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vacation ends...sadly

It is with a great deal of sadness that my brief vacation has ended and I must return to the toils of labor today.

Because of skillful planning, I combined two days of vacation with a weekend and the July 4th holiday to form a five-day escape from work.

But as I mentioned previously, that ends at approximately 8:20 this morning.

As you are probably breathless in anticipation of my exciting vacation, I will share it with you!

FRIDAY—uh, was the first day of vacation. I, uh, can’t remember what I did. I vaguely recall renting a movie (or was that Saturday?) We’ll call this a relaxing vacation day.

SATURDAY—let’s see, that was the second day of vacation. I, uh, crud, what did I do? Oh yes, the brain cells are not completely frittered away. The wife, mother of mine and I went to Fort Smith and visited my 96-year old grandmother, Rena.

Okay, I have been a negligent grandchild and have not seen her in a long time. Consider me scorned. She has lost a little of her speed over time but is still sharp, although she could not grasp why I could not print off the LeFlore County Journal and show it to her. “It’s a website, not printed!” I tried to say. Of course, she probably has not ever seen a website and has no interest in surfing the old web.

I introduced her to my wife, Trish, several times. With my past marital strikeouts, I can see how this would be confusing.

After that, we went to eat at a Fort Smith restaurant I shall not name because they failed to advertise for their mention or grant me free eating. It was good, though, and I enjoyed making a mess with the peanuts and Trish not having grounds to scold me for making the above-mentioned mess, for once.

SUNDAY—I was actually a semi-sorta bee (or Craig) on this fine day. I mowed a portion of the grass which had not died yet, cleaned the wood floors (which have somehow become my responsibility) and went to a local laundry to clean a rug. Unfortunately, while at the laundry, I forgot an almost new thing of laundry soap. Trish figured this out later on when she decided to do laundry.

I went back to retrieve the soap but somebody had pilfered it away. NEWS FLASH: Thieves terrorizing local laundromat! I have been reading a lot of mystery novels and thought about breaking out Detective Craig, but decided that would probably be a waste. I considered confronting a person visiting our fine country from south of the Red River, but did not want to deal with all the language difficulties. Plus, he wasn’t there earlier so I had to buy a #%$ new thing of laundry soap at a local store, which I will also not name since I did not mention Logan’s earlier.

MONDAY—The big day! Not only was it the birthday of our country, but Trish turned a year older! I would tell you how old she is, but I forgot. So we had a big cookout, I came close to a personal grilling record by knocking out 24 angus burgers and 16 hot dogs (no, not the Anthony Weiner variety).

Fans, let me tell you, it was a hot one as I labored in front of the old grill to make sure nobody went home hungry. I sweated in places that I did not know could or would leak perspiration.

But bravely, I fought through the discomfort, the pain, the constant mosquito attacks and the frequent “when are we going to eat?” questions and I conquered the challenge! The grub was good, also, as you probably expected from a grillmeister of my fame, but no fortune.

After everybody scooted, it was time to watch the fireworks. Fortunately, our homestead is just below the hill and we had a great view of the explosives. After much prodding from my wife to take it easy and relax, which I had been doing since approximately 5 or so, we settled in out front. Coach Andrew Perdue joined us and we rejoiced in the splendor and magnificence of the fireworks and good company, since I was there.

And that leads us to the final day…

TUESDAY—a sad day this was, knowing my parole was fixing to end. I actually slept in (to almost 8 a.m.!) because of the grueling Independence Day and staying up WAY past the optimal sleeping time for Craigman.

Met a couple of friends for lunch and then went to swim at a friend’s house, even though they were home. We planned on having a cookout but I was a little wheezy (probably from the suffering on Monday) and we had to leave before the food was grilled.

So, there you have it! My vacation in a nutshell (or rather long-winded narrative, if you must).

Less than an hour of freedom remains. Now if life had a pause or rewind button.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 1st

July 1st has come and gone once again. It is one of those days that probably do not mean much to most people.

For a lot of us, it just means the Fourth of July and fireworks are about here.

Everybody has a few certain dates they remember. It could be birthdays, anniversaries or special moments.

I remember July 1st because it was three years ago that we lost my father.

My father, Gene Hall, had battled cancer once previously in his prostate. The cancer returned to his body in the fall of 2007. We were frustrated that it didn’t seem like the doctors would do anything about it and his condition grew worse.
His battle ended on July 1, 2008, three years ago to the date.

I try not to dwell on his death and the absence he left for my family, but remember the good things he did.

My father loved several things: his family, Heavener, photography and OU football. At the end of his funeral service, we didn’t leave on a sad song, but blasted Boomer Sooner, which we all thought was appropriate.

Some people consider me to be a pretty good photographer. I take some good ones, but nothing compared to my father. If he was in the right location or got a good break, my father would have been considered to be as good of a photographer as there is.

He was a perfectionist in many ways, including his photography. He used film for photography and for a long time, had a dark room set up in one of the bedrooms of the family home.

Now, two rooms of the home are filled with his images of people and places, mainly of Heavener and LeFlore County, but also from OU football games.

He took pictures for the Southwest-Times Record of Fort Smith of many OU games in the 1970s.

I always think the best pictures tell a story. His certainly did.

Probably the one best known is the one pictured here to the left. At first glance, it is not all that remarkable until you consider the OU running back is Billy Sims, who won the Heisman Trophy the previous year.

The game was against the University of Iowa in September, 1978. If you look to the right in the picture, the player wearing No. 41 was a freshman for the Hawkeyes named Bobby Stoops.

That freshman weighed around 170 pounds, and was diving over an OU blocker to tackle the best football player in the country, one who outweighed him well over 30 pounds.

I think that tells something of the drive that Bobby Stoops had and why some 21 years later, that player, now better known as Bob Stoops, became the head coach at the University of Oklahoma and returned the program to the greatness it had achieved in so many previous autumns.

My father has hundreds of pictures from OU games. He made the trip to Dallas several times and he could capture the excitement of that adventure known as OU vs. Texas like few others.

We watched the OU-Texas game together in October, 2007. Somehow, I had a feeling this was a special day and this was probably the last time we would watch an OU-Texas game together. It was. And the Sooners winning that day made it even more memorable.

I also wanted to share my favorite photograph my father took. It is one from Wister Lake with the sun looking huge and a pair of boats out on the lake.

This photograph should have been on the cover of every tourism magazine for Oklahoma. It is not easy to get a picture like this, trust me, I have tried many times.

He captured it perfectly. Remember, this was taken back when photographers used film. There weren’t any viewfinders on the camera and you could not check out the image and make changes like we can now.

My father used to enter his pictures in the Fort Smith Photography Alliance contest every year. He won some awards, but one of my prized moments was when a photograph I took several years ago won second place in the contest.

He was probably more proud for me than if the award went to him.