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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Roscoe in Years Gone By: "Blind Walt"

Walter Lewis, outside the Bourland Hotel, where he once lived.

(Like all small towns, Roscoe has always had its town characters with names like Rooster Rhea, Lester Stevens, and Pete Stewart immediately springing to mind.  The following is an account of one of Roscoe’s best known back in the 1920s and 1930s, Walter Lewis, or “Blind Walt.”   About two years ago when W. G. and Modena Hughes gave the Roscoe Historical Museum the above photo of "Blind Walt," they both assured me that back in those years he was one of the fixtures of downtown Roscoe that everyone knew.  

Being too young to remember those early times, I asked some of the local old timers—my mother, Clyde Ater, and Harold Duvall—if they remembered him, and they all did, each telling me something they knew about him.  So when I got this story about him by John Beryl Witherspoon, I was already interested in learning what he’d have to say about "Blind Walt," and his story is one worth repeating.  However, it’s too long to put in one blog post, so I’m posting only Part 1 this week.  The thrilling conclusion will come next week.)

by John Beryl Witherspoon

Walter’s father walked him right up Cypress Street every weekday morning to go to work.  You see, everybody had to work whether they were blind or not.  There was no federal aid for anybody.  No, Walter came right up Cypress Street while all us kids were going the other way to school.  We always spoke to him, and he knew many of us by the sound of our voices and called us by name.

When his father was walking him, he would take his cane and hang it on his arm and walk as fast as anybody.  He didn’t have a white cane either because nobody had thought of that safety device for blind people; consequently, Walter had a brown cane.

When they got to town, Walter’s father would take him to Russell Haney’s Tailor Shop, and from then on until time to go home, Walter was on his own.

Russell allowed Walter to keep merchandise and “Punch Boards” in the back of his shop.  Now, everybody knew that punch boards were unlawful, but Walter disagreed.  His contention was that they were not unlawful but illegal, and everybody knew that an “ill-eagle” was merely a sick bird!  Anyway, there wasn’t a sheriff in Texas who would have arrested him because he never abused the privilege.

By nine o’clock, he was on the street with a Navajo blanket or some other gift under his arm and a punch board in the other.  He went from one store to the next.  You could hear him coming because he tapped his cane on the sidewalk, and he always knew where he was.

He had several types of punch boards.  Sometimes, each punch had a girl’s name on it and underneath a space where the person who punched it could write his name.  Up in the corner was a secret tab that could be pulled off that revealed which punch was the lucky winner after all the punches had been taken.

When all the punches had been taken, which cost ten or fifteen cents each, depending on the cost of the gift, Walter would ask one of the merchants to pull the secret tab off to reveal the winner.  If the name under the tab was “Mazie,” and your name was under Mazie on the board, then you were the winner.

Nobody ever turned Walter down when he asked them to take a punch if they had ten or fifteen cents to spare, but when few customers were in town, he could always count on the merchants to see him through.

Walter contended that if he could make one person happy in Roscoe every day, eventually he would make the whole town happy—at least for one day.

By eleven o’clock in the morning, his day’s work was usually done, and he would retire to Russell Haney’s Tailor Shop.

Russell had a settee behind the counter and other places to sit.  Walter always sat on the settee.  He would sit there and rub one arm from the wrist to the elbow, and then he would rub the other arm the same way, and when Bood asked him why he did it, he said he felt like something was crawling on him.

Some of the town bullies teased him by pinching and goosing him when he was making his rounds but they always quickly retreated because Walter was handy with his cane.  Nowadays, psychologists would say that his problem was nothing more than a nervous condition.

One afternoon when Bood and I came from school, he was lamenting the fact that he got so tired making his rounds every day and that day when he came out of a store, he couldn’t remember where he was, and he was completely lost.  He said he had to concentrate, and if he didn’t, he would find himself in trouble.

“That doesn’t sound too difficult to me,” said Bood looking seriously at him, and Walter said, “Well it is.  You should just try blindfolding yourself sometime and start walking around and see just how far you will get,” and Walter rubbed his arm vigorously.

“I’ll bet you anything you could blindfold us and we will be back here in fifteen minutes,” Bood said proudly.  “Why, Walter, you only have four blocks to go, you might say, because you make stops for two blocks on the other side of the street and two blocks on this side of the street, so actually you only travel two blocks.  We can make your route and be back here in fifteen minutes without a hitch!”

Walter took out one of his two-for-a-nickel King Edward cigars, lit it, and replied, “You can’t do it because you haven’t developed the instincts that it takes those who are blind years to develop.  You have to use your nose, your ears, and your sense of feel, and you haven’t done that because you depend on your eyes, and when you are blind, you develop the other senses to compensate for the loss of the eyes.  Therefore, I say you can’t do it.”

Check Farmer, who had been listening to the whole thing, said, “I am going to the barber shop for some blindfolds,” and he hurried out the door.

Everybody began to talk at once.  Some said we could do it, and others said we couldn’t.   Everybody was choosing sides.

Suddenly, Check came back down the street, taking long steps with two fresh face towels in one hand and two safety pins in the other.  He came back into the Tailor Shop.  He folded the towels and proceeded to pin them around our heads in such a way that we were in total darkness. 

Then somebody said, “Alright, Check, start them off.”  Check led us out the front door.  We had our arms locked tight and couldn’t see a thing.

As soon as we were on the sidewalk, Check spun us around two or three times, and when we started walking, we fell right off the curb!

We tore our blindfolds of and went flying back into the Tailor Shop.  Bood was vehement.  He was almost crying.  He accused Check of being unfair because nobody ever spun Walter ‘round and ‘round, and he declared that we deserved another chance at it.  Everybody agreed that we deserved another chance without any more spinning.

Then Walter said, “I want you two boys to come over here and sit down, and I am going to help you in every way that I can.”

But, help or no help, we were determined to do it regardless of the obstacles we might encounter.

(to be concluded next week)



Irrigated cotton just east of Roscoe in November.
According to gin manager Larry Black, the ginning season for the Central Rolling Plains Co-op Gin is now over for the 2013 cotton crop.  The gin rolled out the final bale last Friday morning just before 5:00am. 

The gin’s final total is 71,849 bales.  Here’s how that total stacks up against those from the previous six seasons, i.e., since the Central Rolling Plains Gin consolidated from the Roscoe and Inadale gins:

                                             Year         Bales Ginned
                                             2007           109,991
                                             2008             57,184
                                             2009             39,626
                                             2010             70,379
                                             2011               9,966
                                             2012             66,985
                                             2013             71,849

The total number of bales for all seven seasons averages out to 60,854 per year, so this year’s total of 71,849 is 10,995 bales, or 15.3%, above the seven-year average.  That’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad at all when you consider what farmers were thinking they might get back before we got the big rains in mid-July.



The Plowboys had a good week with victories over Hermleigh and Westbrook, and even though they lost to Ira last night, they are still in the driver’s seat to finish second in district and earn their way to the playoffs.

The Plowboys defeated the Cardinals last Wednesday evening in Hermleigh by a score of 56-39.  At the end of the first quarter, the Plowboys led 11-6, and by halftime they had extended the lead to 24-14.  After three, it was 43-28, and by game’s end, they had won by seventeen, 56-39. 

High scorer for the Plowboys was Jesus Leanos with 19 points, followed by Javier Leanos with 12.  Cutter Davila had 10, Shelton Toliver 4, Kevin Lavalais 3, and Luis Villa 3.   

Then they won their fourth district game in a row Friday evening by downing Westbrook 54-28.  That’s quite a turnaround when you consider that they’d lost six consecutive games before that.  The victory put them in second place in district with a 4-1 record. 

The Plowboys jumped out to a 24-4 lead over the Wildcats in the first quarter and never trailed after that.  The halftime score was 33-14, and at the end of three it was 47-24.

Jesus Leanos led the Plowboy scoring with 20 points, followed by Javier Leanos with 17.  Davila made 5 points; Toliver,  Lavalais, and Anthony Ortegon had 4 each; and Dillon Freeman had 2.

Then last night the Plowboys lost to Ira in Ira, 68-58.  The game wasn’t really as close as it sounds as the Bulldogs were already ahead by 18 points at the end of the first quarter, 26-8, and at halftime the score was 40-26 Ira.  At the end of three, it was 58-45.  

Even so, the Plowboys showed great improvement over the two teams’ first game in Roscoe when the Bulldogs trounced them 62-29.  Ira is undefeated in district, having beaten all the other teams at least once, and they will probably stay that way until the regular season ends. 

Once again Jesus Leanos led the scoring for the Plowboys with 22 points, while Javier Leanos had 21.  Lavalais had 5, Toliver 4, Davila 3, and Villa 2.

Next up for the Plowboys are the Highland Hornets in Roscoe Friday evening at 8:00.  The Plowboys won the first match-up between the two, 39-33.



The Plowgirls clinched a playoff spot Friday evening when they beat Westbrook 46-22.  That made the Plowgirls 6-1 in district and assured them of a second-place finish next to first-place Highland, currently ranked second in state. 

The Plowgirls led the Wildcats the entire game.  The score was 8-1 at the end of one, 23-12 at halftime, and 34-20 at the end of three. 

High scorer for the Plowgirls was Eva Aguayo with 14.  Sunshine Saddler had 10, Sam Ortega 7, Shelby Brown 5, Selena Perez 4, Whitney Williams 4, and Mia Herrera 2.

Then the Plowgirls lost to Ira in Ira last night, 46-40.  They kept it close the entire game but were unable to come away with the victory.  The Lady Bulldogs led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter and 21-17 at the half.  At the end of three it was Ira by four, 34-30.

Sam Ortega led the Plowgirls with 14 points.  Aguayo had 7, Brown 5, Saddler 5, Herrera 4, Williams 2, and Danielle Dean 1.

The Plowgirls are now 6-2 in district.  Their next opponent is Highland here in Roscoe at 6:30 Friday evening.



What a week it’s been for the weather!  It might best be summed up by paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous quote, “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a few minutes.”  And that’s the kind of week it’s been with the weather going back and forth like a badminton birdie.

A week ago on Wednesday, the weather was beautiful with a high of 61°F and a low of 38°, and that 38° that midnight was as high as it got on Thursday, when a norther blew through late that night and sent temperatures down to 19°.  Winds were high and gusts up to 39mph sent the wind chills down into the single digits.  Friday morning’s low was 13°, but then it warmed up to 45° that afternoon, which was actually pleasant because the winds died down to just a slight breeze.

Then Saturday and Sunday were two of the most beautiful days you could ask for at this time of year.  On Saturday, temperatures rose to 62°, winds were calm, and the sunset that evening was gorgeous.  Sunday was even warmer a morning low of 44° and a high that afternoon of 70°.  The evening was also warm, and at midnight it was still 52°, but it was too good to last.

At about 3:00am early Monday morning another cold front hit, bringing howling winds with gusts up to 41mph.  The temperature plummeted, and wind chills once again dropped into the single digits.  It was freezing all day Monday and Monday night, and yesterday’s high was 32° after a low of 12° with wind chills down to zero. 

Apparently, though, the weather is changing again.  This morning’s low of 18° is as cold as it will get for a while, and a high of 75° is forecast for tomorrow and Friday afternoons.  Lows for Friday and Saturday morning should be in the high to mid forties, and Saturday afternoon should be only slightly cooler with a high of about 60°.

The only constant for the entire past week—and the forecast for the coming one—is the absence of any precipitation.  In fact, there is a fire weather watch in effect for Nolan County and the surrounding region due to the dryness and expected high winds.



Services for Carroll Nelms Reed, 64, will be held at 2:00pm tomorrow, January 30, at the McCoy Chapel of Memories in Sweetwater.  Interment will follow at Pyron Cemetery.  He passed away in Rankin on Sunday, January 26. 

He was born in Dequeen, Arkansas, on August 16, 1949, and was a 1967 graduate of Roscoe High School. 

Survivors include his wife, Marilee E. Reed of Sweetwater; son, Jaylon Reed of Sweetwater; daughter, Kelly Chapman and husband, Greg, of Coahoma; grandchildren: Nathan and Reagan Chapman of Coahoma; Jayton and Annabelle Reed of Sweetwater; brother, Stanley Elmer Reed of Mineral Wells; sisters: Danielle Kowalsky of Forney, Annie Green and husband, Buddy, of Lake Whitney, and Johnna Reed of Simpsonville, NC; as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his parents.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roscoe in Years Gone By: Medicine Shows

An early-day medicine show. (Photo from Internet)
[Editor’s Note: Recently, Carl Childers donated some items to the Roscoe Historical Museum passed down to him by his mother, “Lady” Jane Young, who was born and raised in Roscoe.  Among them was a booklet containing several memoirs of Roscoe in the 1920s by John Beryl Witherspoon, who grew up here back then.  This is one of the shorter ones.  Since there were no televisions or computers in the twenties, entertainment was naturally quite different, and medicine shows traveling from town to town —remember the Wizard of Oz?—entertained the locals and sold them their “snake oil” cures.]

by John Beryl Witherspoon

Other shows came to our town, but the ones that were the most popular were the “Medicine Shows” because they were free.  We were dirt poor but didn’t know it because we had no standard to compare ourselves with.  Most everybody borrowed money from the bank to live on until the next crop was out.  Everybody was reluctant to spend the “Bank’s Money” on entertainment, so everybody came to the medicine shows because they didn’t cost anything.  When the fall of the year came, there was a deluge of them.  The crops were out and all the merchants who had extended credit to all of us during the year were paid, and we had money jangling in our pockets.  But they avoided us like the plague in the spring when we were “strapped.”  But, when fall came, it was payday for everybody.

Many medicine shows came our way, but the most prominent one was “Doctor Tate’s Medicine Show,” which came out of Corpus Christi every year.  He always made our town once a year.

Medicine shows were unique because it took only one truck and two men to run them.  The truck was designed so that one side would “let down,” thus making a stage.  Then, there was a side door into the truck, and it could be used to store the “medicine” and for sleeping quarters.

The man in charge of medicine shows was always a Doctor!  His credentials were questionable, but who cared as long as we were being entertained? 

His assistant was usually a young man of some accomplishments who could play an instrument and sing and dance, and he was the stooge who went through the onlookers and delivered the medicine.  I say onlookers because there were no seats; we all stood on our feet.

If the “Doctor” addressed his assistant, he always called him Mr Moe.  They were very formal in their conversations, which went on throughout the show.  When the show opened, the “Doctor” might come on the stage and bring a bottle of his medicine.  He would hold it up so everybody could see it and describe all the ailments that it would “positively” cure.  He would go on to explain that it was a very rare and private formula which had been given to him by Chief Tonna-wa-hoo, whose life he had saved in a raging prairie fire in Oklahoma.  And, that the Chief swore that he had not given it to a living soul before then.

Anyway, it was intriguing.

Mr. Moe would come out on the stage and entertain us with some songs and dances.  He always had make-up on.  Sometimes he would be a country bumpkin and at others he would be a black-face.

He would come out among the onlookers with his arms loaded with medicine and “Snake Oil” that was guaranteed to cure the pains of all aching joints and muscles.

The Doctor carried on continuing conversation while he was out there.  He might say, “Mr. Moe, do you know how to make ice water?”

“I don’t think I do know how to make ice water.  How do you make ice water?”

“Peel an onion.  That’ll make your eyes water!”

Then, Mr. Moe would scream, “Sold out!  Give me some more medicine, Doctor!”

Everybody would have a big hearty laugh and wait to see what happened next and buy more medicine.

Then maybe Doctor Tate would say, “Mr. Moe, which hand do you stir your coffee with?”

Mr. Moe would say, “Let’s see, I think I stir it with my left hand.”

Then, Doctor Tate would say, “That’s funny.  I use a spoon.”

Everybody would laugh again and buy more medicine.

Later, I asked my grandfather why everybody was so anxious to buy Doctor Tate’s medicines and elixirs, and he said, “It’s laced with alcohol and two tablespoons full of it will make anybody feel better!”

I suppose that was so as evidenced by all the empty medicine bottles piled up behind the billboards after the show left town.

That was our town and we loved it.  Others have their memories, maybe at a different time, but just the same, it was “Our Home Town.”



The following are the top ten show sales for Roscoe students at last week’s Nolan County Stock Show:

Exhibitor                         Place                       Division                  Amount

Max Nemir          Breed Champion              Swine                        $400
John Ruben Herrera       1                              Swine                         $200
Ty Fullwood                       2                              Lamb                         $175
Dillon Freeman                  2                             Swine                         $175
Emma Pulattie                   2                             Goat                           $150
Derek Creed                        3                             Swine                         $150
Ezekiel Murphy                 3                             Swine                         $150
Kamren Fisher                   4                             Steer                          $300
Kristen Johns                     4                             Steer                          $300
Kaylee Palacios                 4                             Swine                         $125   



In a game played at home on Friday evening, the Plowboys defeated Loraine 56-30 for their second district victory.  Roscoe jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter and led at halftime 27-14. 

High scorer for the Plowboys was Jesus Leanos with 13, followed by Javier Leanos, Shelton Toliver, and Cutter Davila, all with 12.  Luis Villa made 6 and Kevin Lavalais with 1.

The Plowboys are now 2-1 in district play.  Their game with Hermleigh last night was postponed until tonight because of a death in the Hermleigh coach’s family.  It will be played in Hermleigh. They will then play Westbrook here in Roscoe on Friday followed by Ira in Ira next Tuesday.



Loraine forfeited Friday’s scheduled game with the Plowgirls along with the rest of their season.  They no longer have enough varsity girls to compete, and their JV girls are not yet ready to play on the varsity level. 

Instead, the Plowgirls played the Odessa New Way Christian Academy and lost, 67-47.  The Eagles jumped out to a 23-12 first quarter lead and had extended it by halftime to 32-18.  The score at the end of three was 51-33.

Selena Perez led the Plowgirls in scoring with 20 points, followed by Sunshine Saddler with 13 and Sam Ortega with 8.  Danielle Dean, Mia Herrera, and Whitney Williams all had 2.

Then last night the Plowgirls beat Hermleigh, 48-29. The first quarter ended at 7-6 Roscoe, but by halftime the Plowgirls had pulled away to a 22-10 lead.  At the end of three, the score was 30-16.  

High scorer for the Plowgirls was Eva Aguayo with 15 points.  Williams had 9, Saddler 8, Brown 5, Ortega 5, Perez 5, and Dean 2.

The Plowgirls are now firmly in second place, their only district loss coming from Highland.  On Friday, they play Westbrook in Roscoe, and next Tuesday it will be Ira in Ira.



Allen Richburg got this great shot of a moonset on Thursday morning.
The weather was typical for this time of year.  Skies were clear practically the entire week, and highs were generally in the sixties with lows in the mid to upper thirties.  The high temperature for the week was on Monday afternoon, when it got up to 71°F, and the low was yesterday morning at 33°.  There were some breezes but no high winds, and there was no precipitation.

The forecast is for much colder weather for the next couple of days.  This afternoon should see a high in the upper fifties, but temperatures will drop considerably with a low of about 30° tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow’s high will be in the lower thirties and the low tomorrow night will drop down to the mid teens with a 20% chance of snow.  Friday will also be cold with a high in the upper thirties and a low in the lower thirties.  The weekend will be warmer, however, with highs back in the sixties and lows in the mid thirties.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

City Council Receives Updates on City Projects

Cody Thompson addresses Council at last night's meeting.
At the monthly meeting at City Hall yesterday evening, the Roscoe City Council received updates on several City plans and projects. 

City Manager Cody Thompson reported that the City’s Type A and B Boards have recently been obtaining prices for different possible projects.  One would be the stuccoing of the east wall of Memorial Park on Broadway and Cypress as well as possibly the north wall of Old Town Park.  The Boards are also looking at locations to put a farmer’s market with a roofed area and electrical outlets.  They are open to suggestions and solicit citizen input.  If you have any good ideas, please contact City Hall at 325-766-3871.

City workers have recently been cleaning up lots around town and patching streets.  They plan to work on Cypress Street at the I-20 service road and have it fixed and seal-coated by summer.  Line improvements for the water treatment plant are moving along as planned, and a SCADA remote monitor is currently being installed in City Hall, which will greatly improve the monitoring of water pressure to city lines. 

Survey crews will be in town this week to survey manholes and sanitary sewer lines as part of the $1,040,000 plan to improve water and sewer lines on the city’s south side.    

The Council also approved Police Chief Felix Pantoja’s state-required annual racial profile report.



The Coliseum is once again host to scenes like this one from last year's show.
The Nolan County Junior Livestock show is underway at the Nolan County Coliseum with the weigh-in for steers and heifers taking place yesterday.  Here’s the schedule for today and the rest of the week:

1 p.m. - Swine weigh-in
4 p.m. - Broilers, rabbits, sheep and goats weigh-in
6 p.m. - Steer show, followed by heifer show

4 p.m. - Goat show, followed by lamb show
5 p.m. - Rabbit show, followed by broiler show

Friday, January 17
4:30 p.m. - Swine Show

Saturday, January 18
10 a.m. - Honorary show
11 a.m. - Lunch
1 p.m. - Awards followed by premium sale

Roscoe FFA Director and Ag Teacher J. J. Caswell says that Roscoe FFA and 4H students will be represented in all categories with 10 steers, 4 heifers, 32 swine, 2 pens of rabbits, 2 pens of chickens, 7 goats, and about 20 sheep.



Plowboy Shelton Toliver continues to reap post-season honors with another all-star team selection.  This time it’s the Abilene Reporter-News All-Big Country Class 1A Football Team. The Plowboy wide receiver’s 78 pass receptions for 978 yards and 17 touchdowns have been too good to overlook. 

In recent weeks, he has also been named to the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Class 1A All-State second team, and the All-District 7-1AII first team, chosen by the district’s coaches. 

In addition to Toliver’s first-team selection, two other Plowboys received honorable mention on the Reporter-News All-Big Country Class A Team.  They are quarterback Cutter Davila and linebacker Max Nemir.



The Plowgirls defeated Ira’s Lady Bulldogs in Roscoe Friday evening 45-39, but fell to Highland last night 70-22.

In the Ira game, the Plowgirls were ahead 10-8 after the first quarter and by halftime had increased it to 23-10.  At the end of three it was 33-17 Roscoe.

Sam Ortega’s 19 points led the Plowgirls’ scoring.  Eva Aguayo had 12 points, Selena Perez 6, Sunshine Saddler 5, Whitney Williams 2, and Ashton Payne 1.

In the Highland game, the Plowgirls were overwhelmed by an outstanding Highland team.  At the end of one, the score was 21-5,  and at halftime it was 37-10.

Plowgirl scoring was as follows: Dani Dean 5, Saddler 4, Aguayo 3, Ortega 3, Perez 3, Williams 2, and Mia Herrera 2.

The Plowgirls’ next game is at home on Friday against Loraine.



The Plowboys are now 1-1 in district play after losing to Ira on Friday night and beating Highland last night.

The Ira Bulldogs overpowered the Plowboys in their district opener in Roscoe, 62-29.  Ira jumped out to an 18-4 first quarter lead and by halftime has increased it to 37-13.  After three quarters the score was 52-20.

High scorer for the Plowboys was Javier Leanos with 13, followed by Jesus Leanos with 6. Cutter Davila and Kevin Lavalais both had 3, and Anthony Ortegon and Shelton Tolliver both had two.

Then last night the Plowboys got their first district win against Highland 39-33.  Jesus Leanos led the scoring for Roscoe with 14 points, while Javier Leanos had 12.  Luis Villa had 6, Chase Cathey 3,  Davila 2, and Ortegon 2.  

Their next game will be with Loraine here on Friday evening.  Tip-off is at 8:00.



This week the Nolan County Crime Stoppers has selected a burglary in Roscoe as its Crime of the Week.  This burglary occurred in the 400 block of Elm Street sometime between December 13 and January 5, and two jewelry boxes full of jewelry were taken.

Unfortunately, this was not the only burglary that occurred in Roscoe during the holidays.  There were two others in the 800 block of Bois d’Arc and another in the 300 block of Pecan.  In addition, a generator was stolen from the back of a pickup on the city’s north side near Sweetwater St. and North Bois d’Arc. 

The investigation of all these crimes is ongoing by the Roscoe Police Department and the Nolan County Sheriff’s Office.  If you have any information about any of them, please notify Crime Stoppers at 325-235-TIPS.  You may be in line for a reward of up to $1000 if the information leads to the arrest and filing of charges against the person or persons responsible.

Roscoe Police Chief Felix Pantoja also wants to give Roscoe residents fair warning that in coming weeks City Police will be picking up loose dogs and issuing citations to their owners.



Safety lighting will be installed on I-20 to make this area safer.
In an ongoing effort to improve safety, the Texas Transportation Commission recently approved nearly $424,000 for a project to install additional safety lighting on I-20 at US 84 a mile east of town.

Willis Electric Co. of Abilene has been awarded the project, which will add lighting to about three miles of roadway in the area. Work is expected to begin this spring.



Both flag and flagpole got a workout during Sunday's high winds.
The area was on the wrong side of the 50% chance of rain forecast for last Friday as there was no precipitation at all. Instead, skies were clear, and temperatures over the past week have been warmer than average for this time of year with highs generally in the sixties and lows in the thirties.  Sunday was the exception when the high was 77°F and the low was 50° with high southwest winds that had gusts up to 39mph, prompting a fire advisory.  The year’s first reddish skies could be also seen above the horizon.

The forecast for the coming days is for more of the same with highs in the sixties and lows in the thirties, except for Friday which will be a little cooler.  Skies will be clear and sunny every day, and there is no rain in the forecast.



Holy Mass of Christian Burial will be tomorrow at 10:00am at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Sweetwater for Maria Ellen Saenz, 57, who passed away on Sunday, January 12, at Hendrick Medical Center. Interment will follow at the Roscoe Cemetery.

Mrs. Saenz was born in Brady on June 23, 1956, and married Jose Alberto Saenz on June 10, 1976, in Ralls. She moved to Roscoe from Nebraska in 1986. She was a member of Saint Albert Catholic Church and was a Sunday School teacher and a member of the Guadalupanas. She was a homemaker and had worked as a cook at the Dairy Queen, at the Roscoe Co-op Gin, as a Certified Nurse’s Aide, a custodian at TSTC, prison guard and school bus driver. Before the decline of her health, she was active as a Roscoe Plowboy Booster, Nolan County 4-H Booster, and for the Boys Scouts of America.

Survivors include her husband, Jose Alberto Saenz of Roscoe; sons Marcial Saenz and wife, Armida, Mario A. Saenz and wife, Lee, and daughter Estella Saenz, all of Roscoe; sisters Estella Lira of Haskell, Diana Rivera of Sweetwater, Julia Vera of Georgia, and Maria Pomposa Martinez of Haskell; brothers Epifanio Cuellar, Jr., of Crosbyton, Andy Cuellar and Vicente Cuellar, both of Ralls; as well as nine grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, three sisters, and several aunts and uncles.

Rosary will be held this evening at 7:00 p.m. at McCoy Chapel of Memories. Online condolences may be expressed at


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Down Memory Lane: The Joy Theater

This photo from 1949 is the only one I have of the Joy Theater.
(Editor's note: This article is re-posted at special request.  It originally ran in the March 11, 2011 Hard Times.)

In a world of smartphones, iPads, 3-D movies, and HD television, it’s difficult to envision a time when radios were the most advanced medium in the home and a trip to the movie theater to see a “picture show” was a special treat.  In fact, the number of people who remember those days is steadily shrinking, but some of us still recall when the Joy Theater was one of the most important establishments in downtown Roscoe.

The Joy Theater was located on the south side of the street, just east of the intersection of Broadway and Main and just west of Medlock’s Furniture store.  In the early fifties, it was owned by Jack Wallace, but he gave it up to run the Midway drive-in theater between Roscoe and Sweetwater and sold the Joy to John Weatherhogg, the math teacher at Roscoe High, who ran it with his son, Neil.       

The price of admission was 14¢ for kids under 12 and 35¢ for anyone 12 or over.  When we went on Saturday mornings, my parents usually gave my brothers and me the correct change or maybe 15¢, but occasionally we got lucky and got a quarter apiece.  That would not only get us into the picture show, but also a small sack of popcorn (5¢), a coke (5¢), and a piece of penny candy, such as a Tootsie Roll, a piece of bubble gum, or a little four-pack of Kits.  The Joy also sold candy like Big Hunks and Sugar Daddy, both of which were popular with kids because they took a long time to eat. 

Next to the candy counter was a staircase that went up to the colored section, which was just a small balcony upstairs in the back with a few folding chairs and benches. 

The evening shows were always for adults, but Saturday mornings were for kids, and it was always a treat to get to go.  My brother Joe and I regularly went with Ronnie and Cuppy Graham but would meet up with other friends once we got to the theater.  Like other kids who lived in town, we walked together from one of our houses and, when it was over, walked back.  I don’t think it ever occurred to any of our parents to drive us to the theater the way parents do now.  

Inside the theater the best place to sit was the front row.  Besides being closest to the big screen, it was next to the open area between it and the screen where you could play or wrestle before the show started.

When the lights went out, the show would start with Previews of Coming Attractions, followed by the Paramount World News.  Then came the cartoon (or sometimes a Three Stooges short), which we considered the best part of all.  Sometimes it would be a Disney cartoon with Donald Duck or Goofy, but more often than not it was Looney Tunes with Sylvester & Tweety, Tom & Jerry, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd & Bugs Bunny, or Woody Woodpecker. 

Then came the serial, which ran in successive episodes from week to week and featured someone like Lash Larue or Flash Gordon and his nemesis, the mad scientist, Dr. Grood.  In all of the serials there was also a pretty lady who got involved and needed rescuing from time to time.  The episodes always ended with Flash Gordon or the pretty lady in dire peril of impending ruin—and then we had to wait for a whole week to find out what happened to them.

After the serial came the feature presentation, more often than not a black-and-white western starring Hopalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.  We knew them and their comic sidekicks—and their horses.  With Roy Rogers came Gabby Hayes and Trigger; with Gene Autry it was Smiley Burnett and Champion.  Most kids had a strong preference for one or the other, with some liking Roy Rogers better, while others preferred Gene Autry. 

My friend Biggy Miller said he liked Roy Rogers better because Roy Rogers could duck bullets, a claim that I thought was preposterous.  He’d gotten this idea from scenes when the bad guys would be shooting at Roy while he was riding Trigger full speed, and naturally he’d look back and duck down when they shot at him.  Biggy believed he could see the bullets coming and was dodging them. 

Saturday morning movies weren’t always westerns, though.  Sometimes they were jungle movies with Tarzan or Jungle Jim or Bomba the Jungle Boy.  In these, the comic sidekick was Cheetah or some other chimpanzee just like him, who would at some point save the day.  And sometimes they were war movies with John Wayne, Van Johnson, or Richard Widmark.  It hadn’t been that long before that the country was at war, and the memory of sacrifice and victory was still fresh on people’s minds. 

No matter what the movie was about, though, when it was over, we’d go back home and relive it in our play afterwards.  If it was a war movie, we’d be out in some vacant lot killing Japs or Germans.  If it was a western, it would be Indians or outlaws, and if it was a jungle movie, it would be crocodiles or gorillas or natives.  

People did things at the Joy Theater that don’t happen at movie theaters now, and I’m talking about adults, too, not just kids.  Sometimes there’d be a cartoon with songs.  The lyrics would appear on the screen, and a bouncing ball would move from word to word in sync with the song—and the people in the audience would sing along with the song.  I guess most of them were used to singing every Sunday morning in church, so nobody thought anything was unusual about singing in the Joy Theater--and so they did.  I can remember singing along to tunes like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Oh, my darling Clementine.” 

And on certain nights, Tuesdays I believe, between the cartoon and the movie they’d turn on the lights, and Mr. Weatherhogg would go to the front of the theater to conduct a drawing.  The ticket stubs had numbers on them, and people would check theirs to see if their number matched the one that Mr. Weatherhogg drew and announced.  If it did, they won a prize of some sort.  After three or four prizes were awarded, Mr. Weatherhogg would remind everyone that there would be another drawing the next week, the lights would go back out, and the feature presentation would begin. 

The movies that drew the biggest crowds were the religious ones.  When they ran one called “King of Kings,” a show about Jesus, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, and another one, “Quo Vadis,” drew a similar crowd.  Also, a black-and-white movie about Bonnie and Clyde once came to the Joy, and along with it came the actual bullet-riddled car that Bonnie and Clyde had been in when they were ambushed and killed.  The car sat in front of the theater all day, and that evening the movie played to a packed audience. 

However, the popularity of the Joy faded pretty quickly once Abilene and Sweetwater got broadcast television stations in the mid-fifties.  I don’t think the theater brought in a lot of money in the first place, but when people started staying home to watch Slim Willett and similar programming for free—or went to Sweetwater to see picture shows at the Midway or the Rocket drive-ins, the competition was too much for the Joy, and it finally had to close its doors, becoming just another memory of an earlier time.

The Joy's movie calendar for February 1948.  (Click to enlarge.)


The Plowgirls are now 2-0 in district play after defeating Hermleigh 46-22 in Roscoe on Friday and Westbrook 27-19 in Westbrook last night. 

Against Hermleigh, the Plowgirls jumped out to an early 9-2 lead in the first quarter and never trailed the Cardinals for the rest of the game.  The halftime score was 19-10 and at the end of three it was 33-16. 

High scorer for the Plowgirls was Shelby Brown with 19, followed by Eva Aguayo with 13, Sunshine Saddler 6, Cha Cha Chavez 4, Ashton Payne 2, and Whitney Williams 2.

Then last night the Plowgirls defeated Westbrook 27-19.  Once again, the Plowgirls jumped out to an early lead and then held serve in the second quarter.  After one it was 6-2 and at halftime 14-10.  The Wildcats were within one at the end of three with the score 17-16, but then the Plowgirls outscored Westbrook 10-3 in the fourth to win by nine, 27-19.

High scorer for the Plowgirls was Aguayo with 14 points.  Sam Ortega had 5, Saddler 3, Williams 3, and Selena Perez 2.

The JV Plowgirls lost to the Hermleigh JV, 32-11, but then rebounded with a 19-12 victory over the Westbrook JV, 19-12.  Scoring in the Hermleigh game was as follows: Caty Chavira 6, Alejandra Solis 2, Mireva Sanchez 2, and Lyndi Wilkinson 1.  In the Westbrook game it was Danielle Dean 8, Wilkinson 5, Sanchez 3, Karina Cisneros 2, and Chavira 1.

The Plowgirls’ next opponent is Ira here Friday evening.  The same is true for the Plowboys, who were idle this past week. 



Curtis Grimes
Curtis Grimes, the young country music star who was recently a finalist on the TV show The Voice and who can currently be seen on a Supercuts commercial, will return to the Lumberyard Saturday night. 

The show starts at 9:00pm, and the cover charge is $10 at the door, $8 in advance.  For more information, call the Lumberyard at 325-766-2457.



January sunset.
The temperature got up to 72°F on Saturday afternoon, but then another killer cold front came blowing in on Saturday night, and it’s been really cold since then with some strong breezes.  But at least this time the cold front was a dry one, unlike the one we got in early December.  On TV they were calling it a “polar vortex,” and it was massive, hitting almost all the continental United States.  

Sunday’s high was 37° and low 19°, while Monday’s high was only 32° with a low of 10°.  Yesterday morning it was 20° at sunrise and actually got up to 48°, so it appears we’re through the hard part.  This afternoon should get up into the upper fifties with a low tonight in the upper twenties.  

On Thursday night the weathermen are forecasting a low in the forties and a 50% chance of rain, which will extend into Friday afternoon with temperatures rising into the upper sixties. 

The weekend should be once again sunny and dry with highs in the fifties and lows in the thirties.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! and a Review of 2013

Happy New Year!  Here’s wishing the best for you and yours in 2014!  

As we move into the new year, this is perhaps also a good time to look back at the old one and take stock of what happened in and around Roscoe in 2013.

One of the first things that comes to mind is the City festivals that have now become an annual feature of the community.  All three of them—the Spring Fling in April, the Independence Day Celebration in July, and the West Texas Wind Festival in October—were once again successful in bringing life to downtown Roscoe and providing a venue for family fun and entertainment.  Vendors plied their wares in the downtown streets and parks while kids played in the bounce houses or ran for candy thrown from parade floats.  At the free concerts, noted country singers and their bands performed on the music stage as people danced “on the bricks” or relaxed in their lawn chairs.  The Plowboy Mudbog was a big hit at the baseball field and brought in enough money to support the town’s baseball teams, one of which made it to the State Finals in Ennis.  Cooks cooked, judges judged, prizes were awarded, and the festivals were always capped off with one of Robert McBride’s fireworks shows.

Under separate sponsorship was the Cinco de Mayo festival on May 4, which featured a morning parade and a free concert and street dance that evening.

Carl Childers speaks at groundbreaking for Young Farm Estates.
Perhaps the most exciting development for the City this past year, however, was the approval of a new housing addition, the Young Farm Estates, on Roscoe’s north side and the City’s annexation of some 172 acres of farm land to accommodate it.  The project was approved by the City in April, and the groundbreaking ceremony was held with fanfare on October 1.  Phase 1 of the project began shortly thereafter and has now advanced from the surveying stage to the laying of the sewer line.  Once complete, the first phase will have seventy lots for developers to build new homes on, which will greatly benefit the town in many ways.

At its October meeting, the City Council also approved the plat for a new five-acre RV park on the north side, next to the Young Farm Estates. It will have spaces for 54 RVs and be known as the Stone Tower RV Park.  Additionally, Smartt Industries has set up an office and warehouse just west of US 84 across the tracks from the American Legion.

The long awaited work on the new reverse-osmosis water treatment plant is also finally underway.  The $1,765,000 project got its final approval by the state last summer and the installation of the new computerized SCADA system and the laying of new water and sewer lines is now in progress.  The contractors, Associated Construction Partners of Boerne, plan to complete their work around the first of September, and the plant should be operational before the year is out. 

The Roscoe City Council also approved a $1,040,000 bond to upgrade the water and sewer lines on Roscoe’s south side, and 2014 will also see much needed replacements and improvements to the old lines that should put them in excellent shape for years to come.  

Several new businesses opened in Roscoe this past year, among them the Plowboy Center Lodge, McVey’s Nursery, the Rockin’ S Cantina liquor store, Burritos Zacatecas, Peppy’s Mexican Imports, the Laundry Express, the Purple Passion Salon, and the Southern Belle Salon.

Roscoe’s schools also continued their tradition of progress and excellence.  In May, RISD voters approved by a 3 to 1 margin the construction of a new $3.5 million Capstone STEM Research Center.  As one of Texas’ 23 designated high performance school districts, the RISD has leadership responsibilities, and school officials anticipate that the Research Center will give its students a leg up in employment or college with STEM (Science, Technology, Electronics, Math) knowledge and endorsements.  The program is also designed to serve as a model for other rural schools that want to provide their students with similar opportunities. 

Roscoe’s robotics team, the Plowbots, led by coach Dan Boren, went to the international meet in Las Vegas last spring and were members of a team that advanced to the semifinals.  This fall, they changed their name to Plowtech and won the Big Country Hub robotics meet in Sweetwater, which earned them the right to represent the Big Country Hub at the regional meet in Dallas. 

In July, two former Plowboys returned to Roscoe to coach the football team.  Jake Freeman, who was the defensive coordinator at Sweetwater, and Greg Althof, the offensive coordinator at Crane, immediately made their presence felt with improvements that made the Plowboys competitive with schools that would have previously blown them out.  The team finished 4-6 and 3-4 in district after going 2-8 the year before, and their prospects will only get better as they benefit from the off-season weight program and coaching system of the new coaches.

2013 WTC Graduates from RCHS
The high school also continued to excel as a collegiate high school.  Of the twenty-seven graduates who received their high school diplomas in May, nineteen (i.e., 70%) also graduated with Associate’s Degrees from Western Texas College in Snyder.  This was the best outcome yet, beating last year’s 13 of 25 RCHS grads who earned Associate’s Degrees.

The number of students also grew, and many were turned away because classes were capped at forty except for the seventh grade class, which was already larger than that.  The total enrollment for all grades at the beginning of the school year was 526, an increase of 79, or 15%, over 2012 and 163, or 31%, over 2011.

In short, Roscoe is doing fine and making significant progress as we move into the New Year.  Here’s hoping you’re all doing the same!



The weather for 2013 was about average as temperatures and rainfall go, but of course its impact depends a lot on when things happen.  According to Kenny Landfried’s official records, Roscoe got a total 18.44” of precipitation in 2013, which is 3.4” below the 78-year average of 21.85” (since official records began in 1936).  Some areas around Roscoe got more, others less. Lyndall Underwood, on the west end of town, recorded only 17.06” for the year, and I don’t know what the totals were around Champion, but from the reports I got during the year, I’m pretty sure it was more than what either Underwood or Landfried recorded.

Also, the timing of the rainfall was a bit unusual.  Following a relatively dry spring, there was barely enough moisture to plant cotton in June, and by early July the cotton was suffering from lack of rain, and it appeared that we were headed for another crop failure.  But then in mid-July, when it’s normally dry, an unexpected front moved in from the northeast, and we got about 3½ inches of slow rain over three days, which saved the day for a lot of farmers. 

Then, if we’d got another good rain in mid to late August, we might have been looking at another bumper crop like the one in 2010.  However, that August rain unfortunately never came.  Still, most farmers in the area wound up with what amounts to a pretty decent crop.  The average number of bales ginned at Roscoe’s Co-op Gin for the last five years is 62,000, and last year the number was slightly above that at 67,000.  This year, according to Gin Manager Larry Black, the number of bales already ginned is right at 50,000 with 12,000 more ready to be ginned and about 15,000 more—give or take 5,000 or so—still to be stripped.  That puts the total for this year’s crop at about 77,000 bales, or about 10,000 more than last year.

Roscoe’s temperatures were a bit milder this year as well.  Two years ago, the area broke all the old records with 81 days in which the temperature reached 100°F or more.  Last year the number of triple-digit days dropped to 34, and this year there were only 16. 

The hottest temperature in 2013 was 105° recorded on June 5, and the coldest was 10° on December 7 and 8.  The last day in the spring that the temperature dropped below freezing was May 3, when it fell to 31°.  The first day it dropped below freezing in the fall was November 7, when it fell to 30°.



The Eula Tournament last week was a mixed bag for the Plowgirls, who won two and lost two. 

They lost their first game on Friday to Hamlin 53-21 in a game that was never really close.  Hamlin led 16-7 at the end of one and at halftime 31-11.  High scorer for the Plowgirls was Eva Aguayo with 8, followed by Shelby Brown and Sunshine Saddler, both with 4, Whitney Williams and Cha Cha Chavez with 2, and Ashton Payne with 1.

They then defeated Stamford 44-40 in a close game.  Roscoe led at the end of one 15-5, but Stamford came roaring back in the second quarter, and the score was tied at halftime 19-19.  Stamford was ahead at the end of three 32-30 but was not able to keep the Plowgirls from overtaking them in the fourth.  Eva Aguayo led the Plowgirls with 21 points, while Payne had 9, Brown 8, Saddler 3, Williams 2, and Chavez 1. 

The Plowgirls then defeated Hawley 47-36 to stay alive in the Consolation Bracket.  Roscoe jumped out to an early 10-2 lead but led at halftime only by one, 16-15.  They had a strong third quarter, though, and won by a margin of 11.  Aguayo had 18 points, Brown 11, Payne 10, and Saddler 8.

The Hawley victory put the Plowgirls into the Consolation Championship game with Paducah.  Unfortunately, they lost that one 38-14 in a game the Lady Dragons dominated.  Williams and Magali Casas both had 4 points, and Aguayo, Williams, and Saddler all had two.

Next on the schedule for the Plowgirls is a home game against Hermleigh on Friday.  The game will start at 6:15pm.



The Plowboys’ woes on the basketball court continued this past weekend at the Eula Tournament as they lost all three of the games they played with none of them really close. 

They first lost to the Graford Jackrabbits on Friday 56-32.  High scorer for the Plowboys was Javier Leanos with 14.  Anthony Ortegon had 8, Jesus Leanos and Cutter Davila both had 4, and Shelton Toliver had 2. 

They then fell to Comanche 57-33.  Shelton Toliver was high scorer for the Plowboys with 9, followed by Ja. Leanos with 8, Kevin Lavalais with 6, and Davila and Ortegon, both with 5.
Then on Saturday they were defeated by the Paducah Dragons 59-43.  The Plowboys’ high scorer in that one was Jesus Leanos with 13, followed by Luis Villa with 12.  Ja. Leanos had 9, Dillon Freeman 5, and Ortegon 4.

The Plowboys will have no games in the coming week.  Their next game is against Ira on Friday, January 10.


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