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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year 2012! And a Look Back at 2011.

The time to say goodbye to 2011 has almost arrived, and what a year it has been!  

Like other years, there’s been good news and there’s been bad news, and since it’s better to finish on an up note, maybe it’s more appropriate to start with the bad news—which this year was dominated by the weather.

For the people of Roscoe, 2011 will likely go down as one of its most memorable years ever in terms of the weather—and not in a good way.  It was a year of extremes and broken records. 

It began at the end of January with the coldest weather in a generation.  Back to back storms hit the area hard, bringing temperatures all the way down to 6°F with sharp north winds and wind chills of well below zero.  The storms left in their wake a multitude of broken pipes and related disasters.

The intense cold was followed by what can only be described as the spring from hell.  The whole country, already dry from the lack of rain since the preceding October, went into full drought mode with high winds, dust storms, and wildfires.  A blaze just north of Colorado City in early March burned over 10,000 acres, and destroyed many homes.  It was just the first of many wildfires that would plague the area over the next few months.  

By mid-April, wildfires were burning all over the Big Country, and the City of Roscoe’s Spring Fling Festival was held with the smell of smoke in the air from a big fire out of control in Coke County near Robert Lee.

In April the temperature was more like that of a normal June with highs of 90°F or more for 14 of the 30 days.  The official temperature for Roscoe on April 8 was 98°, and some thermometers around town recorded readings of over 100°.   The pattern would continue throughout the summer.  May had several 100° days with the high coming on May 28 when the mercury rose to 108°.

The highest temperature of the year, 109°F, came on June 17.  June had a total of 22 days in which the temperature hit the century mark, July had 24, August 26, and September 2. 

All told, Kenny Landfried, Roscoe’s official weatherman, recorded a total of 81 triple-digit days for Roscoe this year, an all-time record.  In comparison, Abilene had 82, Austin 84, Dallas-Fort Worth 70, Wichita Falls 100, and San Angelo 96.  For all these cities, the numbers they recorded broke all the old records, usually by quite a bit.

While the heat was going through the roof, the winds continued to blow, and the lack of rainfall destroyed any chance of a decent cotton crop.  Farmers dry planted because they had to if they wanted to collect crop insurance money, but there was never any hope that anything would come up because it never rained.  Fields which in normal years are green with cotton were nothing but dry dirt.  

In early October, the big rain that everyone had been waiting for finally came, with almost everyone in the area getting from 3.5 to 5 inches, but by then it was too late for this year’s crop.

The total number of bales ginned at the Roscoe Co-op Gin was just over 10,000 bales, and that includes  all the cotton from Snyder and Roby, whose gins never opened for lack of business.  It goes without saying that all those bales came from irrigated fields since there was no dryland cotton this year.  Compare that 10,000 to the Gin’s production last year of over 70,000 bales from Roscoe area fields alone.

Official rainfall for the year was only 7.69 inches, breaking the previous record of 9.35 inches in 1998, the only other year with less than ten inches since records began being kept in 1936.  This month’s rains, totaling 1.39”, at least give us hope that next year will not be so bad, but there’s no denying that 2011 was a rough year as regards the weather.

But that’s the bad news.  The good news is that a number of improvements to the city were either completed or set in motion this year.

Work on the new reverse-osmosis water treatment plant, scheduled for completion in the spring of 2013, is proceeding as planned.  The city has received the $1,765,000 promised it from the Texas Water Development Board, and progress in the early stages of the project has come off without a hitch.

The city also received a grant from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs that offers  up to $80,000 each to five individuals to tear down an old substandard home in Roscoe and replace it with a new one.  Several people have applied for the assistance and five of them will be chosen in January.

The city saw several other improvements this year as well.  Howard Park on Fourth and Oak now has some new pavilions that were built in the spring, and the downtown park across from the bank has one as well, along with a new brick wall that helps its looks considerably.

Three new trees were set out downtown, and the Memorial Park across from the museum has just received a new fence.  Several streets were paved for the first time this summer, including portions of Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Streets, while others, such as Pecan Street, received a new topping.

This past year has also seen several big changes at the school.  The old high school building, after constant use for almost three quarters of a century, was torn down in February and March to make way for a brand new building.  Although dear to the hearts of countless exes who spent an important part of their lives in its halls, classrooms, and gymnasium, its time had finally come.

Now a new state-of-the-art building is going up in its place.  It will contain classrooms, a new gym, and a concession area that can be used both for indoor and outdoor activities. 

Other physical changes to the school include the Astroturfing of the football field, which has been going on for about a month now, along with a planned new surface for the track.  Both are projected to be finished in January, well before track season starts. 

Changes to the school’s east entrance are also underway.  Elm Street will be closed between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and the school’s front area will be changed so that children who walk home won’t have to cross the busy street, while parents who pick up their children will be able to drive right up to the school’s front on a lane that leads into Ash Street.  The practice field on Eighth and Ash will also be converted to a parking lot.

Roscoe Collegiate High School continued to lead the way in educational excellence with its programs.  Its early college program, which allows high school students to get community college credit for advanced work, resulted in 13 of this year’s 25 graduates receiving their Associate’s Degrees from Western Texas College at the same time they got their high school diplomas from Roscoe High.

The school is now also involved in a program with Western Texas College and Angelo State University that will ease the often difficult transition for high school grads to a university campus.  Counselors will come from Angelo State to advise students on college coursework and majors, and students will take trips to the ASU campus to familiarize themselves with the university setting and its offerings and opportunities.

Elections in the spring resulted in several contested seats and some new faces on both the City Council and School Board.  Pete Porter was re-elected as Mayor, and Virgil Pruitt beat Don Graham in a runoff for Place 3 on the City Council.  In September, Bobby Dyer had to resign his Council seat because of health issues, and Christi Pepper Beal was appointed to take his place until the next election. 

In the Roscoe ISD School Board election, Tim Tomlin edged Frankie Santiago for the two-year term, and Jason Freeman, Wes Williams, and David Pantoja were elected to four-year terms.

Three new businesses opened downtown in the late summer.  Bruce McGlothlin opened up the Feed Store and More across from the Lumberyard, and David Pantoja and Mark Diaz opened the VP Tire Service and Garage on East Broadway.  The Reel Deal Game Room also opened, but not for long.  Within a month it had closed its doors and was history.

The Roscoe Wind Farm, still the world’s largest, continued to be an item of interest in the national and international media.  Film crews for Channel One, a channel shown in schools all over the country, were at work here in August to interview Cliff Etheredge and get shots of the wind farms, and in November a crew from Los Angeles was here for over a week doing the same thing for a series that will air this spring on the Weather Channel. 

An article in the Texas Tribune and the New York Times discussed the effect that money from wind farms has on small town schools and used Blackwell's and Roscoe's schools as examples.  And Cowboys and Indians, a magazine that focuses on the western United States, ran an article with story and photos on the Roscoe Wind Farm.  There were also groups from France, Canada, and Japan that did the same for programs scheduled in their respective countries.

And the City of Roscoe’s three celebrations—the Spring Fling in April, the Independence Day Celebration in July, and the West Texas Wind Festival in October—were all resounding successes that brought in people from all over the Big Country to enjoy the festivities and to see the live bands that performed “on the bricks” on Cypress Street next to the bank. 

Each of the celebrations featured vendors, a children’s area with inflatables of various kinds, Plowboy Mudbogs, and fireworks shows, as well as the street dances and live bands.  In addition, the Wind Festival held the annual cookoff sponsored by the Roscoe Volunteer Fire Department, and the prize money this year was bigger than ever.

The feature band at the Wind Festival was the Bellamy Brothers, who drew a massive crowd to Roscoe’s downtown to see them and the fireworks show.  An estimated crowd of 3500 was concentrated in the little park and in Cypress Street from the Roscoe State Bank all the way back to the Lumberyard. 

Several people have asked how the festival planners can top the successes they had this year, and it won’t be easy, but those involved say they’ll find a way. 

All things considered, things are looking up for Roscoe, and if we can just get some decent weather, 2012 should be another great year for the community.



Graveside services for Patsy Lou Williams, 68, were held at 3 p.m. on Friday at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Sweetwater.  She died on Thursday at Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene. 

She was born March 11, 1943, in Coleman and married Leon C. Williams there on August 7, 1959.  A homemaker, she had lived in Sweetwater since 1965 and Roscoe since 2008. 

Survivors include her sons, Jerry Williams and wife Mary of Roscoe and Clifton Williams and wife Doris of Cisco; daughter, Sheila Chase of Arkansas; sister, Janice Merrill and husband Johnny of Coleman; and five grandchildren.  

She was preceded in death by her husband Leon and a daughter, Tracy Lynn Collins.

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