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.