Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day



We chose to start our Memorial Day this year by remembering and giving thanks for those Americans who chose to serve in the military in the name of the United States of America.


For about the last fifteen years David Wyer has graciously handled setting up the Memorial Day ceremony at the Bailey County Cemetery in Muleshoe.  The wind had finally settled and the morning was cool and sunny, with a clear blue sky.


The program began with Boy Scout Troop 620 posting the colors and raising the flag.

IMG_8088Back row, left to right: Christian Mora, Nathan Rejino, Scoutmaster Ramon Sanchez. Middle: Isaiah Rosales, Antonio Lopez. Front row: Nathan Craig; Joseph Rejino. 


Bethany Young, daughter of Tadd and Annie Young,  sang The Star-Spangled Banner, and

IMG_8081Basil Nash spoke to the small but attentive gathering.



Basil, who served in the Marine Corps from 1975 to 1980 with the HML 267 3rd Marine MAW at Camp Pendleton, California, shared the story of a solder named Dale Sando who served with Leonard Nash, Basil’s father, during WWII in the 101st Air Born Division. It was D-Day, and the men jumped behind the beach line, near the town of Carentan, France, and walked into a bunch of Germans. In the battle that ensued Dale Sando repeatedly drew fire to himself to protect the others. Thanks to Dale’s efforts, Basil’s dad returned home after the war; Dale did not. No medals were awarded, no headlines recognized Dale’s sacrifice, no fanfare marked his efforts. And that was the point of Basil’s address: while some whose deaths were honored with medals, and rightly so, those others who also made that supreme sacrifice should not be overlooked for their contributions in the line of fire.

IMG_8099The service ended with a closing prayer given by Monty Leavell, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Muleshoe. 

Decoration Day, as Memorial Day used to be known, started in 1868 after the Civil War as a way of honoring those who died in that War Between the States. Time passed, those now once more United States fought in other wars in which more American lives were lost. After a time, decorating the graves of friends and family as a show of respect also became a part of the day’s rituals, which is a good thing, but the true focus was to be a way of saying thank you to American soldiers.  Since 1966 Decoration Day has been known as Memorial Day, but the tradition has faded, and most kids and young adults today don’t make the connection when they see clusters of red, white, and blue artificial flowers and small American flags for sale when they chase around stores to find sale tags and marked-down merchandise.  Unfortunately, sometimes  it takes a personal loss of a family member in the service for all this patriotic stuff to become relevant to them.

It is a sign of our times and a comment on the values of our society, that celebrities who die from questionable, less than honorable causes, are showered with stories, headlines, TV specials, and their deaths are viewed as huge losses and a tragedy to society. The real tragedy is when we ignore or overlook the loss of responsible people who were willing to step up to the plate and do the right thing, to fight for the honor of their country. Saying thanks to living veterans for their service and honoring the memory of those who died by taking part in a memorial service is the right thing for us to do.

So next year on Memorial Day, gather up some people and take part in a ritual that deserves our attention. As Americans, we have much to be thankful for, and we owe our military servicemen and women a huge debt of gratitude.

IMG_5233Fort Smith National Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Thank you to Basil Nash, Shawn Rejino, and Dorothy Wyer for helping with information for this article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wizard of One Act-and Other Literary Events


Way back last century, in 1960, Kerry Moore began his teaching career in Muleshoe High School. The century turned, the Y-2K scare became a blip in the time line,  but the 74 year-old Memphis, Texas, native is still in the game,  grooming debaters, coaching the finer points of poetry interpretation, teaching effective public speaking, and directing award-winning one-act plays.

Along the way he became Dr. Kerry Moore, after having attending West Texas State (now West Texas A&M), Texas Tech, doing graduate work at Stephen F. Austin, and earning his PhD from LaSalle University. While all that was happening, he taught, American history, English, and speech. When the state made speech a required course for graduation, his teaching assignment narrowed to just speech, which suited him just fine, I suspect, since speech in all its forms was his real passion anyway.


That passion is certainly evident in the success his students have had over the years in UIL literary contests-just check out all the trophies and awards lined up all over his classroom, and this is just one wall--but also in the general confidence and stage presence his students have after taking one of his classes.


Dr. Moore retired in May of 2001 after 41 years of teaching, directing his energies into traveling the state to judge contests and lending his expertise and experience when needed. But then fate stepped in; by 2007 a speech teacher was nowhere to be found in the Muleshoe area, so superintendent Gene Sheets approached him to come out of retirement.  Dr. Moore had grown weary of the judging, what with all its driving and hectic scheduling, so going back into part-time, teaching the subject he loved just sounded like a set-up he couldn’t refuse, and it was a done deal.

Dr. Moore and his wife Pat, who he met in Muleshoe and married in 1972, still lived right across the street from the high school, so he fell right back into the routine he enjoyed for so many years. He still enjoys watching the kids grow and develop as they learn how to internalize and understand an author’s intent when preparing to present poetry or act in the play and when they tackle and master the researching, organizing, and speaking preparation that goes into debates and persuasive speaking.

When I asked him about the kids who had earned the right to compete on the state level, the list was exhausting! There are other UIL literary events, 22 which correspond to subjects taught at the high school level.  Muleshoe has always had a good number students who qualify to compete in those contests as well and many have placed in the top spots, just not in the very top spot yet. But we have had, thanks to Kerry Moore, winners in the speech categories.

So once again, I had to draw the line and narrow the list to just the gold medal winners, and they are all in the speech area.  But even at that, I don’t have all the names of the cast and crew for each of the one act plays that have won. So if you were in one of these plays, you will just have to add your name to the list by adding a comment and make sure you show your medal to all your friends. So with my apologies for not naming every single person individually, here is the list of state champions in speech, debate, and one act play:

1962 – Karen Jones, Persuasive Speaking

1963 – Shirley Smallwood/Nine Ed Bovell, Debate

1968 – Druscilla Damron, Poetry

1970 – Leland Ferris, Poetry

1972 – Martha Jane Chapman/Linda Mason, Debate

1973 – Chuck Smith, Informative Speaking

1973 – Perry Hall, Persuasive Speaking

1075 – Larry Torres, Prose

1977 – Royce Clay/Tom Pepper, Debate

1978 – Brad Baker, Persuasive Speaking

1979 – Fran Berryhill, Persuasive Speaking

1979 – Debra Bouchelle, Informative Speaking

1980 – Fran Berryhill, Persuasive Speaking

1983 – One Act Play, Royal Hunt of the Sun

1984 – Betsy Lunsford, Poetry

1985 – One Act Play – King Lear

1989 – Brandon Wilson, Persuasive Speaking and Lincoln-Douglas Debate

1997 – Steven Madrid, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

1998 – Carlos Rojas, Poetry

2001 – Westin Price/Rocky DeHoyas, Debate

2001 – Westin Price, Persuasive Speaking

Prior to 1975 boys and girls competed separately, which I found interesting and must have surely changed because of the passage of Title IX in 1972 which we tend to associate with athletics, but which actually made no specific mention of athletics.  And Kerry laughed that from 1975-77 even though Muleshoe might not have placed first at state in every event,  Muleshoe won every speech event in district and regional competition, which was pretty aggravating to the schools who then had to cancel plans to travel to Austin.

In the old days, Dr. Moore was known to announce his presence with a vocalization that was something of a cross between a constipated cow and an elephant trumpeting. Legend has it that he stuck his head in the door and interrupted former band director Anthony Gibson’s teacher evaluation with his  distinctive bellow, closed the door, and went on his merry way. Or was it the other way around? Always the teacher, Kerry had coached Anthony on the technique, and they greeted each other with it at the most unexpected times.

I don’t think they have come up with an appropriate category for that skill at UIL headquarters just yet. But if they do, well, Muleshoe and Kerry Moore will place first in that event, too…


Thanks to Kerry Moore, Bob Graves, April Smith, and Pat Watson for helping me gather information for this article.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Junior Brings Home the Gold


Junior Baca did us all proud when he placed first in the 800 meter run at the UIL state track meet in Austin last week. Of course, Junior also had a good year in football this past season, but he is also talented on the track, and this was his turn to shine as an individual. And shine he did.

An interview with the champ as well as a video of his race, courtesy of by way of the Texas UIL website,   can be viewed at, And if you watch, you will see Junior run his own race, starting out near the lead but not burning out to hold the lead, and then when he came around the last curve of that second and last lap, at about the 200 meter mark, he just burst out of nowhere, and it was his race from there to the finish line. He put his heart and soul into it and kicked into high gear, surprising everyone that he could come from behind like that and win by such a nice margin.

Congratulations, Junior! Quite an accomplishment. 


Thinking about Junior’s success, I thought about other kids from Muleshoe who made trips to state and were rewarded with a gold medal. So I decided it would be interesting to look back and see who else came home toting a   large gold disk. We have had a good number of kids who earned the right to compete at state, no small feat in itself, who may not have placed in the top three. But my goodness, look at all the kids who don’t even get to go at all. So, while those kids can look back with pride, including my daughter Caroline who went to state with her cross country teammates in 1986, who also hold the distinction of being the first girls cross country team from Muleshoe to compete at state (Yes, I am shamelessly taking advantage of the fact that since I am the author and the mother, I could sneak that in!), I wanted to focus on just the first place winners and  see if I could come up with a list of past gold medalists from our little podunk town out here in the middle of nowhere with the seemingly hard to pronounce name that no one has ever heard of…

I talked to people and checked several sources, and I came up with quite a nice list, and to my knowledge it is all accurate information.  But time has passed and with this kind of list it is practically inevitable that I will have left someone off or reported some point of information incorrectly. So let me say right now I am sorry for any faux pas I may be committing. But I feel quite sure that if I do have something in error, dear readers, one of you will let me know, right? Check the comments for any corrections that may filter in.

So here goes. Starting way back in 1938 Woody Lambert may have won the then 880-yard run. I was told that the 1938 football team made it to regional, which at that time was as far up the ladder that small schools could go, making their feat not really a state championship, but a championship of sorts.

According to my investigation a long time passed before Muleshoe had another winner, and that was Shelly Dunham Turnbow who captured the discus title in 1980. After that the list gets longer:

1982 -  The boys cross country team, consisting of Allen Beasley, Tony Luna, Ronnie Logston, Martin Mendoza, Chris Hopkins, Tony Rojas, Henry Carrion, and Aldo Almanza, came in first.

1983 - The boys cross country won again, with almost the same team: Tony Luna, Danny Sanchez, David Medlin, Allen Beasley, Tony Rojas Ronnie Logston, and Norman Perez.

1984 – Another cross country team of Norman Perez, Ronnie Logsdon, Tony Luna, David Medlin, and Ralph Salazar won again!

1993 -  Eric Cisneros won the 3200 meter run.

2001 -  Kyle Atwood won the 800 meter run.

2002 – Kyle Atwood again, winning  the 800 meter and  1600 meter runs.

2003 – Jessica Withrow won the high jump.

2005 – Jessica Withrow  again, winning the high jump and the 100 meter  intermediate hurdles.

2008 – The Mules football team won the state 2A championship title. beating Kirbyville 48-26. (See “The Perfect Season,” September 7, 2009.)

2011 – Tyson Turnbow won the state 2A golf title. And if you think that name sounds familiar, well, it is. His mother is Shelly Turnbow, who threw that discus in 1980.

Which bring us back to 2012 and Junior Baca and his 800 meter win this year. And who knows who will be next? Coach David Wood made the comment that when he moved here in 1996, Junior was just one of the toddlers he would have seen running around during sporting events, and here he is a state champion,  so you never know who that next champion  will be. It’s fun to watch and see how these kids turn out.

And for me, that was one of the perks of teaching-seeing kids grow up and become themselves.

So now all of you classroom teachers are sitting there thinking, well, what about the literary events? Those kids deserve recognition too. Yes, they do, so next week we will look at that list, and a local legend who helped many of them get there.

But in the meantime, when you see Junior, give him a hug for a job well done.

A special thanks goes to Bob Graves for his help in compiling this list, as well as Shelly Turnbow, Pam Atwood, Dana Perez, David Wood, and Mike Riley.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Reading to My Mother

Reading has always been a part of my life. My maternal grandmother made up stories and also read to me. Mother read bedtime stories and listened to my prayers as a nightly ritual growing up. I read many Golden Books, as well as others, to my children as they grew up. I became a teacher and for 31 years read to and with my students, from sixth grade language arts to high school senior English and every grade in between. And of course, I now read to my grandchildren.

While all that reading was going on, the time came when I had to move my mother into a nursing home. Twenty years ago my dad died. The year after his death she moved to Graham and lived by herself but enjoyed being near her brother and his wife. Seven years later she needed assisted living, and we moved her to the Sherick, a lovely place in Lubbock. After three years there, the time had come for full-time care, and we moved her to the nursing home in Muleshoe. And two years after that, she passed away and joined Daddy.


Mother was stoic and philosophical about the nursing home move. She had always said when the time came that it was necessary, then that was just the way things would be. She was okay with the set-up, for a while. Then the insecurity set in. If I was late for the day’s visit, she would call. If I didn’t arrive when she thought I should have, she would call again-and again. No matter if I was in the  middle of something, she would just keep calling until I finally showed up. I think the record was eight calls.

I wanted to be there for her, but it became increasingly hard to carry on a conversation, especially if I had done nothing out of the ordinary that day to share with her.  After describing her aches and pains, she was interested in my day’s activities, but I felt bad talking about things she could no longer do. Short drives and visits to my home became physically painful for her. We tried watching TV together and discussing the program. This didn’t work because that activity did not provide her with my undivided attention, which was unacceptable to her now. I had become the focal point of her limited life, and she was not happy without having me all to herself.

I subscribed to Texas Monthly magazine, thinking she would enjoy reading about people and places familiar to her. She was not the least bit interested. And then it dawned on me. I was the one who wanted to read about those familiar people and places. She liked being an audience of one, so I would just read the magazine to her.

And it worked like a charm. I enjoyed the magazine; she enjoyed the attention. We discussed, disputed, and dissected the articles. It was stimulating and fun for both of us.

That lasted for a few issues, and then she grew weary of the routine. We decided to tackle a novel. I dug out the copy of Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, that she had given my father on his birthday in 1940. This turned out to be an excellent idea. To some people, Texas is considered the Wild West, but technically we are a part of the South. Growing up on the Gulf Coast and having a family tree with roots in the Deep South and Great Britain,  I was steeped in Southern tradition, so I enjoyed the book, fiction though it may be, as an informal history lesson, up close and personal.

I think it took a month to finish the book. We followed it with yet another Southern primer, The GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) Guide to Life, by Deborah Ford. This one I could really relate to since I was taught that thank you notes were not an option but a necessity, white shoes were never worn after Labor Day and up to Easter, and black-eyed peas were always eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck.

We then chose Out of Africa, by Isak Dineson, because I had wanted to read it. We couldn’t get into it like the first two. Africa was a world away; we had lived the first two books.

We had discovered and enjoyed Kinky Friedman’s column when we read Texas Monthly. He had written a slew of mystery novels, so we decided to give Armadillos and Old Lace a try. By this time Mother was losing mental alertness and was falling asleep before I could finish the chapter, which was just as well since this book required a little on-the-spot censorship so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to read it to her. I finished it, still reading out loud to let her hear my voice in her subconscious and know I was still there, and so I could learn the ending.

We never had the chance to start another book. Parkinson’s, emphysema, poor circulation, blood clots, and all her other ailments, not to mention being 91 years old and just worn out, finally took their toll, and I lost her on September 17, 2005. But the time spent reading those books was a gift that allowed us to have one last chance to laugh together, share insights, and learn from each other.

She’s been gone now seven years, and I still have good memories of the time we spent reading and talking.   So my gift, then, to those of you caring for aging parents is the discovery that reading well-chosen selections with them has the power to sustain you both and help you through those final, sometimes difficult days, with humor, purpose, and insight that you might otherwise not have had the pleasure to share.



Gone with the Wind is not a bad way to start, even if you aren’t from the South.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hunger Games vs. The Lucky One

Last Sunday while making the car happy again, 1010 miles this time, and making myself happy viewing and taking yet more wildflower pictures…





I had the chance to do something else I like to do but haven’t done much lately-go to the show. As in moving picture show. Or movies, as they are better known these days. I spent the day Sunday driving down to Lake LBJ and taking lots of pictures of red pastures between Brady and Llano, after which I decided to add another twenty or so miles to the car going to Marble Falls to see for myself the movie of the moment, The Hunger Games.

I had not read the novel, but had heard all the hype about the violent plot that sets kids against kids to the death in a government-created realty game. So what else is new? The sad reality is that kids kill kids every day, and we have read other books with the same basic plot. Did you not read Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, in high school? And as for government run amuck, what about 1984 and Brave New World? In Lord of the Flies, the boys are behaving like bad adults, whereas the Tributes in The Hunger Games are being forced into their deadly behavior by adults, but the end result is the same-death. I came away from the movie thinking Suzanne Collins must surely have read these novels for inspiration, but then I found out on the Internet that the Iraq war footage blending into reality shows on TV, along with a little Greek mythology, were her inspirations. I also read that she has been accused of stealing the plot from Battle Royale, which I have not read. Well, authors have been known to borrow from existing plots forever. Goodness, Shakespeare didn’t come up with the idea of Romeo and Juliet all by himself, you know. And look how many times that story theme has been borrowed since then.  I just wish I had enough imagination to come up with a new twist to an old story that would sell!

The movie and I got off to a rocky start with all the shaky, jumpy, MTV-style camera work at the beginning of the story that I really couldn’t see much point in and that I found tiring and confusing. Thank goodness that didn’t last through the whole movie. The action in the woods, filmed in North Carolina, provided a beautiful backdrop for the games. It was refreshing to see a female protagonist for a change, one who was athletic and strong and smart-and who wasn’t looking to latch onto the first cute boy that came along. The movie was thought-provoking and worth the price of the ticket, and the ending scene was a very effective set-up for the next installment, which will surely happen.

So then the next day after making the Kingsland to Llano to Mason to Llano to Enchanted Rock to Kingsland circle taking more wildflower pictures…





I wound up back at the movies to watch The Lucky One, taken from the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. I’ve not read any of his books nor seen movies of his books, but this guy is a romance novel writer deluxe. The story was set in Louisiana, I think filmed there, and very pleasant to watch. Zach Efron was easy on the eyes as well. But it was oh so predictable! The good guys were just right, the villain was nasty, everything fell right into place, and they lived happily ever after. If it were only that way in real life. I am not a romance genre fan, but I will have to admit this one made the evening  a very pleasant couple of hours.

I have decided to read the Hunger Games series-on page 247 right now- I doubt I will read a Nicholas Sparks book, although I am not sorry I saw the movie,  and I am still culling through all the wildflower pictures, 210 to be exact. So I think the trip was a success.

Sometimes taking off down the road by yourself is a good thing.