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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

An Unknown Local Hero from World War II?

John Pickens, USN, and his letter to Marion Duncan. (Click on photo to enlarge.)
Editor's note: As news was a little short this week, and with Memorial Day coming on Monday, I thought this might be a good time to recognize an unsung local war vet from the past, John Pickens. The following is a slightly edited version of an article that ran in the Hard Times in January 2012.

A while back, when I prepared a military display for the Roscoe Historical Museum honoring Roscoe’s veterans, I included a book entitled The Men and Women in World War II from Nolan County, which contains photos and information of over 850 local men and women who served in that conflict. It never occurred to me at the time that of all the people included in that book, none of them were black.

Later, however, I was looking through some materials left to the Roscoe Historical Museum by longtime local farmer Marion Duncan, who died in 2004. Among them was an envelope with an enclosed letter and photograph from John Pickens, a black man who had obviously worked for Mr. Duncan and had probably lived on his place west of town. Like many other young men and women in those days, both black and white, he had joined the military service when war broke out.  

The letter, written by Pickens from the U. S. Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, in January 1943, is a fascinating relic of the war and at the very least deserves some recognition, so I present it here in its entirety exactly as it was written. As you notice the misspellings, keep in mind that black people who grew up in west Texas in those days had little to no formal schooling, and it was unusual to find one who had been beyond the third grade.

     U S naval Hospital – Ward – E,                1-13-43

     Mr Merrion Duncan
     Dear frind Just a few lines to let you
     here from me  I am filling puty good now
     I ben in hospital 3 mounths all redy
     I had 3 Ribs Broke and my right leg Broke
     I stayed in the water 10 days on a life Raft
     Nothing to Eat no water to Drink it was 7
     of us got Save some got lost My ship was
     sunk at the Battle of Soloms iland  2 torpeds
     hit my ship By a sub rine one morning a Bout
     3 30 oclock  But when I get up I am gowing
     Back to the Sea some great Day I will Come to
     Bee a hero I hope cost I know I am cripple
     But never mind my cripple leg let me
     show my uncle Sam what I coud help
     Bring them axis Down a pag cost gord [ed.: peg because God?]
     give me right to Bee a free amer icon
     how is your father and sister and the
     Boys tell then helo for me
     So the Best of Luck to you all
     So I will close
     U S Naval Hospital – Ward – E
     Bremerton Wash
     John Pickens J D Jr USNR

The Battle of the Solomon Islands took place August 24-25, 1942, and was a major naval battle between the American and Japanese fleets.  Pickens may have been on the destroyer Blue, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.  

If you have any information about John Pickens or any other local black men or women who served in the military in World War II, I’d be interested in knowing it. Their roles in the war should also be remembered and their service honored.



Roscoe’s summer basketball camp is underway. On Monday, 72 elementary and junior high boys and girls participated, and last night, there were 83. 

Here is the schedule for the High School Girls’ Shootout this Friday and Saturday:

Friday, May 28
New Gym (Varsity)                             
10:00-11:00    Eastland  vs. Hermleigh   
11:00-12:00    Westbrook vs. Spur           
2:00-1:00       Eastland  vs. Roscoe          
1:00-2:00        Westbrook vs. Hermleigh   
2:00-3:00       Snyder vs. Spur         
3:00-4:00       Roscoe vs. Snyder

Old Gym (JV and Freshmen)
Roscoe JV vs. Spur JV
Roscoe Freshmen vs. Anson JV
Hermleigh JV vs. Spur JV
1:00-2:00        Roscoe JV vs. Anson JV
2:00-3:00       Roscoe Freshmen vs. Hermleigh JV

Saturday, May 29
New Gym (Varsity)                         
9:00-10:00    Westbrook vs. Snyder                 
10:00-11:00  Roscoe vs. Hermleigh                
11:00-12:00  Roscoe JV vs. Spur                     
12:00-1:00    Roscoe vs. Westbrook                  
1:00-2:00      Hermleigh vs. Sput                      
2:00-3:00      Snyder vs. Roscoe Freshmen       
3:00-4:00      Roscoe vs. Spur
4:00-5:00      Snyder vs. Hermleigh
5:00-6:00      Westbrook vs. Hermleigh JV

Old Gym (JV and Freshmen)
9:00-10:00   Roscoe JV vs. Roscoe Freshmen
11:00-12:00  Hermleigh JV vs. Anson JV
Spur JV vs. Roscoe Freshmen
Roscoe JV vs. Hermleigh JV
:00-3:00      Spur JV vs. Anson JV



Post Commander J. H. Tollison with Larry Clements and Jodie Kingston last year.

On Monday, Roscoe American Legion Post 227 will honor veterans on Memorial Day as they do every year. The day will begin at 7:00am with the morning flag-raising ceremony, followed by the placement of flags on the graves of former servicemen in the Roscoe Cemetery.

At noon, the flag will be changed from half-mast to full, and in the late afternoon, the flags will be picked up and the flag at the Legion Hall lowered.



George Girard Johnson, Jr., of Abilene was indicted for murder on Thursday by a Taylor County grand jury in the shooting death of former Plowgirl Megan Kirkland. She was fatally wounded when shots were fired at a party outside Abilene last August.

Also indicted for tampering with evidence in the incident were Stephanie Avalos, Kimberly Limas, Yahayra Gutierrez and Ramon Aguirres.



Spring clouds over the STEM Center on Monday.
This past week, we have had some beautiful spring days with mild daytime temperatures, partly cloudy skies, and nice evenings as the area dried out from the previous rain. Afternoon highs ranged from last Wednesday’s 76°F to Monday’s 87°, with lows in the sixties all week. Friday had some strong breezes, but the other days were milder regarding the wind, and Roscoe is as green now as it ever gets.

Early yesterday morning we got another shower. It didn’t last too long, but it put .43” in my rain gauge, and it was enough to refill all the puddles around town that had just about dried up. Yesterday evening, another storm cloud passed over with strong winds that kicked up a dust storm right about sundown accompanied by some lightning and thunder, but there was no rain this time.

The forecast is for some summertime heat today and tomorrow with a projected high of 92° today and 93° tomorrow with strong south winds of 16-20mph. Friday will be cooler and the breezes milder with an 80° high and a 40% chance of afternoon thundershowers. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday should also have isolated thundershowers with chances of 34%-35% with highs in the low to mid-eighties, southeast breezes, and lows in the sixties as we move into the month of June.



Army Sergeant Conrad Alvarez was an infantryman assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He entered the Army in March 2005.

He died in Baghdad during his second tour to Iraq on February 20, 2008, from wounds he and two others sustained the day before when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. All three died from the explosion.  He was 22 years old.

He had attended Roscoe schools and was a former Roscoe Plowboy. Coach Wes Williams said he was “one of the best punt returners I’ve ever seen,” and he kept in touch with his coach after graduating from Hobbs high school in 2003. RHS principal Frank Young remembered him as a “good guy” who had some problems but turned his life around.

Sgt. Alvarez's awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, and Weapons Qualification, M4, expert.

He was survived by his wife, Maria; daughters Celeste and Alyssa; father, Arthur; and mother, Belinda Garcia of Big Spring, where his body was buried with full military honors.

“He was proud to serve and proud of his accomplishments,”  Williams said.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Twenty-two RCHS Seniors Receive Diplomas

Victoria Lopez, Megan Boren, Alexis Arce, Lisa Tollison, Jayden Horne, Zeke Murphy, Georgia Bowers, Elizabeth Rubio, Hannah Ward, Gabriella Dyck, Caleb Reed, Joseph Sanchez, Xavier Lujan, Connor Martin, Aries Sauceda, Arthur Villa, Jordan Blain, Juan Leanos, Zackary Jordan and Kolten Hope

One of life’s milestones for 22 RCHS Seniors was reached Friday evening as they received their diplomas and concluded their high school careers in the Special Events Center. Eleven had already received their Associate Degrees from Western Texas College two weeks earlier.

Here is a list of the graduates with added scholastic attainments:


Vidal Aguayo *                            Victoria Raquel Lopez
Elida C. Aguilera * Φ ©            Xavier Miguel Lujan
Alexis Mercedes Arce * ©        Connor Montgomery Martin ©
Jordan Alexander Blain ©      Ezekiel James Murphy * ©
Megan Nicole Boren * ©          Caleb John Walter Reed * Φ ©
Georgia Leigh Bowers * ©       Elizabeth Marie Rubio * Φ ©
Gabriealla Gloria Dyck * Φ      Joseph Elijah Sanchez
Kolten Shawn Hope ©              Aries Gabriel Sauceda
Jayden Ray Horne                     Lisa Marie Tollison * ©
Zackary Adrian Jordan ©        Arthur Villa, Jr. ©
Juan Pablo Leaños ©                Hannah Joelle Ward * Φ ©

* = Associate Degree (Western Texas College )
Φ = Phi Theta Kappa (WTC Honor Society)
© = Professional Certification

                            Top Ten Graduates
        1. Hannah Ward                     6. Elida Aguilera
        2. Elizabeth Rubio                  7. Alexis Arce
        3. Gabriella Dyck                    8. Megan Boren
        4. Caleb Reed                           9. Lisa Tollison
        5. Georgia Bowers                 10. Arthur Villa



The Roscoe basketball coaching staff is conducting a summer basketball camp. The camp will cover fundamental skills, games, and concepts of basketball. It will have a 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 tournament, hot shot contest, free throw contest, and much more.

The fun begins at RCHS this weekend with 12 Junior High Boys and Girls teams coming to play in a shootout on Friday and Saturday.

The Elementary/Junior High basketball camp will be May 24-26. 105 kids are already pre-registered. (See information below.)

Then on May 28-29, it will be the Junior Varsity/Varsity Girls shootout with 13 schools sending teams so far.

Incoming 1st-8th grade girls and boys are welcome.
Pre-registration is preferred, but registration at the door will be available.
Date: May 24, 25, and 26.
Time: 6:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tuition: Free
Location: Roscoe High School gym
Facilitator: Shella Arnwine



This will be the last of these Covid-19 updates, and they will resume only if the current situation undergoes a significant change. The numbers for new cases, active cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have all been dropping in the Big Country since the January peak and in the last few weeks have flattened at a low level. During this time, schools have resumed normal modes of instruction, and restaurants, bars, hair salons, and other businesses are once again operating normally.

The rest of the country is running behind west Texas in its pace of improvement, but the direction is the same. The CDC has dropped mask requirements for the fully vaccinated, and states are easing restrictions, even ones like Michigan, Minnesota, and the northeastern states that were dealing with surges just a few weeks ago.

So, it appears that we are entering a period where Covid-19 will hang around indefinitely but no longer be a major disruption in the way we live. Many people will continue to wear masks while shopping, and we all will wear them when making trips to the hospital, rest homes, and doctors’ offices, but life is apparently returning to a kind of normal we haven’t seen for the past fourteen months.

And, unless that changes, this will be the last Hard Times to carefully track the weekly numbers as it has done for over a year now. Let’s hope a weekly Covid-19 update remains unnecessary and becomes just another relic of the past!

In Texas, Covid-19 numbers remain low and essentially flat. Hospitalizations have dropped to 2,222 from 2,508 last week, and new cases also remain under 3,000 per day with yesterday’s 2,836. The number of active cases has dropped to 51,990 from 56,743 last week, and fatalities averaged 59 daily this week, the same as last week.

The numbers also remain relatively flat in the Big Country and Abilene. The number of active cases in Taylor County has fallen to 185, 38 fewer than last week’s 223, and Covid-19 hospitalizations in Abilene are now at 10 patients compared to 16 last week. Also, 3 more deaths were reported, so the total for Taylor County now stands at 407. The percentage of Covid-19 patients in the Abilene trauma service area is at 1.32% after last week’s 1.53%.

In our four-county area, the numbers remain low. Nolan County now has 5 active cases, 1 more than last week. Mitchell County has only 1, the same as last week, and Fisher County also has 1, also the same as last week. Scurry County is reporting 4 cases, 2 more than last week. Once again, none of the four counties report any Covid-19 deaths this past week.

Here are the Big Country’s estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Howard, 30 (33); Brown, 10 (14); Coke, 5 (9); Nolan, 5 (4); Erath, 4 (4); Jones, 4 (3); Comanche, 4 (2);  Scurry, 4 (2); Eastland, 3 (2); Shackelford, 3 (1); Callahan, 2 (1); Runnels, 1 (2); Mitchell, 1 (1); Fisher, 1 (1); Stephens, 1 (1); Coleman, 0 (0); Haskell, 0 (0); Kent, 0 (0); Stonewall, 0 (0); Knox, 0 (0); Throckmorton, 0 (0). The total of all these counties for this week is 78, 2 more than last week’s 76.
Selected west Texas counties’ estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Midland 234 (268), Ector (Odessa) 218 (313), Lubbock 166 (190); Wichita (Wichita Falls) 82 (59); Tom Green (San Angelo) 62 (77). This week’s total for these counties is 762, 145 fewer than last week’s 907.

Texas now has had a total of 2,501,376 cases (2,490481 last week), 51,990 currently active cases (56,743 last week), and 49,941 total deaths (49,527 last week).



Sunday's storm cloud at sunset. (Photo by Eden Baker)
After experiencing some spring rain, hail, and croaking frogs two weeks ago, we saw some similar weather again on Monday as another large storm spent a few hours over Roscoe, producing some sizable hail in places and a good rain to add to May’s monthly total.

The storm appeared in the north moving east on Monday afternoon and at first looked like it would miss Roscoe although it was raining north of town. However, another part of it was approaching from the west, and at around six o’clock the rain began to fall. Like the storm two weeks ago, the downpour came mixed with hail and plenty of thunder and lightning. Like the first storm, the hail—at least where I live—was only marble-sized, but it was larger than golf balls west of town. Thankfully, though, none was as large as the softball-sized hail that hit east Snyder on Sunday and reportedly damaged roofs and totaled several vehicles there.

Around seven-thirty or eight, something knocked the electricity out all over town. I’m not sure when other parts of town had their electricity restored, but mine didn’t come back on until shortly after midnight. So, I spent Monday evening dining by candlelight in a dark house while listening to the frog serenade going on out in my yard and nearby ditches while more rain fell.

Yesterday morning, I found 2.3” in my rain gauge while Roscoe weatherman Kenny Landfried reported an official 1.75” in east Roscoe. He also reported getting 1.8” at his farm on Cottonwood Creek northwest of town. Randall Bankhead said the Champion area got from 2.2” to 2.5”, and I heard that over 2.8” fell several miles south of Roscoe with some unconfirmed reports of 3" and more. It appears that the rain was general over the whole area and that the hail damage was not devastating anywhere like it was on Sunday in Snyder. It was welcome precipitation, which adds to the deep moisture that will be useful for crops later on.

Besides the rain, temperatures this past week were milder and skies cloudier than what is normal for this time of year. The high for the week was 88°F on Sunday with other days topping out in the low to mid-eighties. Lows were in the fifties or low sixties.

The forecast for today is a high of 76° with scattered showers and a 60% chance of more rain this afternoon. Skies will be mostly cloudy with wind from the east-southeast. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with southeast winds and a high of 82°, and Friday will be similar. Saturday’s high will reach only about 78° with a 30% chance of showers, and the following three days will also be mild with cloudy skies and high temperatures in the seventies with 20-30% chances for rain.



A memorial service was held for Derwood Blake Box, 63, formerly of Roscoe, at the Pecan Baptist Church in Robert Lee on Monday, May 17, at 10:00am. A private family burial is planned for a later date. He passed away on May 11.

Blake was born in Sweetwater on June 28, 1957. A former Plowboy, he graduated from Angelo State University in 1978 with a degree in Education and completed his Master’s degree at Sul Ross State University in 1980. He spent 18 years as a schoolteacher in Sweetwater and later moved to Robert Lee and operated the family ranch.

He was a member of the Pecan Creek Baptist Church in Robert Lee. He loved supporting his nephews and nieces as well as being involved with all their activities. His other passions included trapping, hunting, and competing in barbecue cooking contests.

He is survived by his two brothers, Marcus Box and wife Phyllis of Fort Worth, and Powell Box and wife Joyce of Breckenridge; three nephews, Brandon Box and wife Erica, their children Andrew, Chloe and Mikey of Maryland; Kevin Box of Dallas, and Blaze Box of Greenwood; and his two nieces, Hannah Box; daughter, Hayden Box; and son, Grayson Adames of Sweetwater; Rikki Box and daughter Dani Welborn of Breckenridge.

He was preceded in death by his father and mother, S. V. Box and Bobbie Box of Robert Lee, as well as his sister Dona Nell Box.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Pecan Baptist Church in Robert Lee.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

RCHS Names 2021 Valedictorian, Salutatorian

Hannah Ward                                           Elizabeth Rubio
At Roscoe Collegiate High School, the grades are in and have been averaged. The valedictorian for the Class of 2021 is Hannah Ward, and the salutatorian is Elizabeth Rubio.

Hannah’s final four-year average is 103.27 and Elizabeth’s is 99.49. Hannah plans to continue her education at Lubbock Christian University, while Elizabeth will go to West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

Both have already received their Associate Degrees from Western Texas College, where both were members of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.

RCHS graduation ceremonies are scheduled for this Friday at 7:00pm at the RCISD Special Events Center.



At WTAMU, (l. to r.) Veronica Cuellar, Kadee Martinez, Blake Dean, Jose Ortega, Nicholas Limones, and Austin Lara. At Texas Tech, Iris Gonzales.
Seven students enrolled in the RCISD P-TECH program were awarded their bachelor’s degrees this past weekend, six at graduation ceremonies at West Texas A&M University in Canyon and one at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

All seven completed their work here in Roscoe without incurring any tuition debt. They earned their associate degrees while students at Roscoe Collegiate High School and then fulfilled requirements for their bachelor’s degrees through the P-TECH program with its offices on 3rd and Main Streets.

The program is the first of its kind in the country, and 18 students are currently enrolled. Eleven students from this spring’s graduating class of 2021 will remain here to complete post-secondary certifications or bachelor’s degrees through Texas State Technical College, West Texas A&M University, or Angelo State University. There are also five adults enrolled in the program.



Hayden Baker & his art teacher, Carolyne Walker.
Editor’s note: This article was conceived and written as a class project in Jamie Sasin Maloney’s Principles of Business class at RCHS. Contributing students are Marcella Saenz, Marta Herrera, and Kaiden Perez. Hayden Baker is a member of the class.

When you think of your average Roscoe student, art might not be the first extracurricular activity that comes to mind. But for Hayden Baker, 17, a junior at Roscoe Collegiate High School, art is his passion. On May 1st, he exhibited his paintings at an art show at the Sweetwater County-City Library. He introduced 35 original paintings and sold all but 10.

“I couldn’t believe how amazing it turned out,” says Hayden. “We had 120 people show up and sold over two-thirds of the paintings. The support from the community was so encouraging. This was my first show ever, and I don’t think it could have been a better introduction.”

Hayden began his adventure while taking art classes with Mrs. Carolyne Walker, who teaches art in Colorado City. “I discovered that I was absolutely terrible at painting landscapes that the rest of the class was thriving with,” he claims. “I had decided to try to paint a blue-streaked aurora sky for a contest and accidentally created my first abstract piece of art.”  At this point he discovered that abstract art was the genre he was interested in pursuing.

“I knew I enjoyed art as a kid,” Hayden says, “but I had never considered myself an artist. I didn’t think about art or what it meant to me, until Covid. Covid gave me perspective and I found a love of painting that led me here today.” His favorite is a painting of a comet coming down from space and lighting up the sky. “I love the colors and it was one of my first paintings,” Hayden explains. “It gives a sense of calm and grace that the Covid season was sorely lacking.”

Along with his parents, Hayden says that Mrs. Walker has been his “biggest supporter and source of inspiration” and the person who introduced him to the techniques and thought processes behind creating art.  He also says that without his parents and Mrs. Walker it would not have been possible for him to have progressed into the artist that he has become.  “They supported me in a way that not many have the privilege of knowing.  I couldn’t have done it without them.” In addition, He says he has a strong support system among his church family, teachers, and friends, who have all encouraged him and contributed to his success.

Hayden hopes to pursue a degree in animation from David Lipscomb University in Nashville. However, he plans to keep painting and following his passion for art. “I have new pieces every week,” he says. “I won’t be running out of paintings anytime soon.”

His paintings are on display until May 30 at the City-County Public Library.



Mayor Pete Porter swears in Robert McBride and Edwin Duncan to new terms.
At its regular monthly meeting yesterday evening at City Hall, the Roscoe City Council heard reports from the City Manager and Police Chief, swore in two members to new three-year terms, and approved several measures.

City Manager Cody Thompson said city workers are busy getting the City Swimming Pool ready for the summer and expect to be ready by the end of the month. Several repairs are required due to this winter’s hard freeze, which damaged commodes and plumbing as well as piping in sand filters.

The water-line improvements scheduled for Roscoe’s south side continue to be delayed by the state logjam. Two state agencies, the TCEQ and TWDB, now have a backlog of up to 24 months for which they blame the pandemic. These delays are blocking progress and costing municipalities needed funds.

The purchase of fireworks for the July 4th celebration has also been negatively affected by the pandemic, and since most are imported from China, they will be more expensive this year. Nevertheless, they are still part of the plans for the celebration. The music performances have also been booked with Mike and the Moonpies as the headline act, along with Kody West, and local favorite Lyndall Underwood and the Dusty Creek Band.

Plans for spraying for mosquitoes have been made. The recent rains are bringing them out in large numbers and work will begin soon. Gordon Nemir of Sweetwater has been engaged for the project.

Roscoe Police Chief Felix Pantoja updated the Council on police activity during the month of April. The Roscoe department handled 89 calls, recovered a stolen 18-wheeler at the game room on Broadway, and dealt with two fights there. It also installed a laptop computer in the department’s Dodge police truck.

District Attorney Ricky Thompson purchased two refurbished Motorola in-car radios for the Roscoe department at a cost of $1,935 each.

Pantoja also gave the report for the Roscoe Volunteer Fire Department, saying that it handled 1 house fire, 6 medical emergencies, 2 grass fires, 4 minor vehicle crashes and 3 major ones, 2 vehicle fires, and one other fire. It handled a total of 19 calls.

Mayor Pete Porter then swore in the two newly elected Council members, Robert McBride and Edwin Duncan, both incumbents, to three-year terms.

The Council accepted the 2019-2020 City audit as presented by City Accountant Ricky Bowman, CPA, and approved payment of the audit. 

It also approved a swimming pool contract for management of the pool this summer. The swimming pool operator will be Inez Leanas, whose phone number is 325=378-9799.



The annual Co-op meeting at the RCHS Cafetorium yesterday.
The Central Rolling Plains Co-op held its annual membership meeting yesterday evening at the Roscoe School Cafetorium with a ribeye supper catered by Rough Creek. Approximately 200 members attended, including industry guests.

Items of business included the manager’s report, regional reports, audit report, and election of two  directors. Kenny Landfried and Rolan Petty were re-elected to three-year terms on the Senior Board.

The $100 prize of the annual bale guess in which members guess how many bales the gin will produce was won by David Strain.



Around the country, news concerning the pandemic continues to improve as numbers of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations all continue to drop. States most recently identified as Covid-19 hotspots, such as Michigan, Arizona, and Minnesota all reported drops in numbers along with most other states. Many are relaxing restrictions as the situations become more normal.

In Texas, Covid-19 numbers remain low and essentially flat. Hospitalizations have dropped to 2,508 from 2,603 last week, and new cases also remain around 3,000 per day. Yesterday had 2,859. The number of active cases has dropped to 56,743 from slightly over 62,000 the past two weeks. Fatalities averaged 41 daily this week, 8 fewer than last week.

The numbers also remain relatively flat in the Big Country and Abilene. The number of active cases in Taylor County has grown to 223, a gain of 5 over last week’s 218, and Covid-19 hospitalizations in Abilene are now at 16 patients compared to 15 last week. Also, 1 more death was reported, so the total for Taylor County now stands at 404. The percentage of Covid-19 patients in the Abilene trauma service area is at 1.53% after last week’s 2.29%.

In our four-county area, the numbers remain low. Nolan County now has 4, the same as last week. Mitchell County has only 1 after 3 last week, and Fisher County also has 1, after 2 last week. Scurry County is reporting only 2 cases after having 18 last week. Once again, none of the four counties report any Covid-19 deaths this past week.

Here are the Big Country’s estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Howard, 33 (49); Brown, 14 (13); Coke, 9 (8); Erath, 4 (8); Nolan, 4 (4); Jones, 3 (8); Eastland, 2 (5); Scurry, 2 (18); Comanche, 2 (2); Runnels, 2 (2); Mitchell, 1 (3); Fisher, 1 (2); Callahan, 1 (1);  Shackelford, 1 (1); Stephens, 1 (1); Coleman, 0 (1); Haskell, 0 (0); Kent, 0 (0); Stonewall, 0 (0); Knox, 0 (0); Throckmorton, 0 (0). The total of all these counties for this week is 80, 45 fewer than last week’s 125.
Selected west Texas counties’ estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Ector (Odessa) 313 (328), Midland 268 (272), Lubbock 190 (156); Tom Green (San Angelo) 77 (76); Wichita (Wichita Falls) 59 (35). This week’s total for these counties is 907, 40 more than last week’s 867.

Texas now has had a total of 2,490,481 cases (2,478,241 last week), 56,743 currently active cases (62,517 last week), and 49,527 total deaths (49,362 last week).



Yesterday's fog.
The weather unfolded in two distinct phases this past week. First, from Wednesday through Saturday, the drying out from the big rain proceeded as expected with sunshine, wind, and warm temperatures with highs in the 80s and 90s. The hottest day was Saturday which reached 94°F.

Then on Sunday, a cold front blew through dropping the afternoon high to 78°, and Monday was even cooler with cloudy skies, a high of only 61°, and a brisk north breeze that made it feel even cooler than that. Yesterday was similar, and after last week’s warm weather, seemed more like March than May. The forecast for both Monday and Tuesday had been for showers—and, while both were damp along with some fog yesterday afternoon, the rains never materialized, not around here anyway. This morning’s low was all the way down into the 40s.

The forecast is for continued cool weather today with mostly cloudy skies, a high of 64°, and a cool north wind along with a slight chance of rain. Tomorrow will warm slightly with a high of about 72°, and only a light breeze. Friday will be cloudy but warm up to 82°. Saturday brings a chance (34%) of showers along with a high of 78°, and Sunday will warm up to 84° with a 16-mph south wind.

Then, early next week we’ll have a good chance of more rain (50%) as temperatures remain mild, about 80°.



Holy Mass for Thomas Fernando Castro, 30, of Brazoria, Texas, was held at 10:00am on Friday, May 7, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Sweetwater. Interment followed at Sweetwater Cemetery under the direction of McCoy Funeral Home. He passed away Monday, May 3.  

Thomas was born February 14, 1991, in Sweetwater and attended school in Roscoe. He was the son of Mary Castro. He enjoyed making people laugh, being with family, and most of all, he loved being a father to his son, Westin.  He was a hard-working welder who enjoyed spending down time at the beach with his family.

He is survived by his son, Westin Thomas Castro, and significant other, Karly Beech of Brazoria.  He also leaves behind his mother Mary Castro of Roscoe; sister, Vanessa and her husband, Chris Aguilar of Hutto; and maternal grandmother, Josefa Castro of Roscoe, as well as many aunts, uncles, and primos.

Pallbearers were John E. Castro, Johnathan Castro, Christopher Castro, Philip Castro, Aaron Pequeño, and Adam Muñoz.

Honorary Pallbearers were Westin Castro, Chris Aguilar, John A. Castro, Kaden Castro, Christian Castro, Emilio Pequeño, and Benjamin Pequeño.

Donations to help with interment services can be made through this link:  Your assistance is appreciated.



Funeral services are pending with McCoy Funeral Home for David Martin Vierus, 34, of Roscoe, who passed away on Thursday, May 6.

David was born December 14, 1986, in Sweetwater. He is a graduate of Roscoe High School and was co-owner of JAL Contractors in Big Spring. David had worked for Ivey Pump and Supply in Roscoe, Charles Burnett Construction, McGlothlin Construction, and Price Construction. He was a crane mechanic and inspector. David grew up in Roscoe, loved farming, cattle ranching, and playing golf and was working toward becoming an airplane pilot.

He is survived by his wife; Jana Vierus of Big Spring; daughters, Maddie Robertson of Snyder and Hanna King and husband Sam of Needville, Texas; parents, Don and Teresa Vierus of Roscoe; sister, Lucrecia Dawn Vierus of Roscoe; maternal grandmother, Barba Kingston of Roscoe; paternal grandfather, Don Martin Vierus, Sr. of Castell, Texas; nephews, Korbin Vierus and Kamden Clark; and his special friends, Daniel and Randa Drake of Roscoe.

David was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather, Charlie Kingston; paternal grandmother, Dora Mae Vierus; and niece, Kayleigh Dawn Vierus.

Honorary pallbearer will be Daniel Drake.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

School Board, City Council Election Results

The results are in, and the winners of the School Board and City Council elections have been named.

In the Roscoe Collegiate ISD School Board election, the winners of the four regular four-year terms are Eloy Herrera, Kenny Hope, David Pantoja, and Allen Richburg. The winners of the two open two-year positions are Aaron Brown and Jerad Alford.

Winners of the two open three-year positions on the Roscoe City Council are Edwin Duncan and Robert McBride.

Roscoe Collegiate ISD School Board

This is the final vote tally. The first four below are the winners of the four regular four-year terms.

Eloy Herrera — 117
Kenny Hope — 111
David Pantoja — 102
Allen Richburg — 89
James Arnwine — 61
Jose Ortega — 42

The first two below are the winners of the two two-year terms:

Aaron Brown — 112
Jerad Alford — 96
Jason Freeman — 73

Total number of voters: 160 (64 early, 96 on May 1)

Roscoe City Council

The first two below are the winners of the two three-year terms:

Edwin Wilson Duncan — 59
Robert Ray McBride — 48
Larry John Clements — 36

Total number of voters: 97



These RCHS seniors graduated from WTC yesterday (l to r): Hannah Ward, Gabriella Dyck, Vidal Aguayo, Alexis Arce, Caleb Reed, Lisa Tollison, Georgia Bowers, Elida Aguilera, Ezekiel Murphy, Elizabeth Rubio, Megan Boren. 

Several high school and junior high school students received honors at the annual RCISD Academic Banquet held last Tuesday evening in the Roscoe School Cafetorium.

Eleven seniors were recognized for graduating this year with Associate Degrees from Western Texas College in Snyder:

Vidal Aguayo                                       Gabriella Dyck
Elida Aguilera                                     Ezekiel Murphy
Alexis Arce                                           Caleb Reed
Megan Boren                                       Elizabeth Rubio
Georgia Bowers                                   Hannah Ward  
Lisa Tollison

The top boys and girls from each of the four high school classes and three junior high classes were also named. There were two categories for each grade, Best All Around Student and Outstanding Work Ethic. Here are the students who received the awards:

High School

12th Grade Best All Around              12th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Hannah Ward                             Girl: Georgia Bowers
Boy: Arthur Villa                                 Boy: Vidal Aguayo

11th Grade Best All Around              11th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Marissa Solis                               Girl: Isabel Ortega
Boy: Reese Kiser                                  Boy: Bryan Marquez

10th Grade Best All Around             10th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Carson Greenwood                    Girl: Aryana Zarate
Boy: Ismael Islas                                 Boy: Zain Jackson
9th Grade Best All Around               9th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Mia Mondragon                         Girl: Kaidy Ornelas
Boy: Jax Watts                                     Boy: Christian Turnbow

Junior High

8th Grade Best All Around               8th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Daniella Vela                              Girl: Ana Islas
Boy: Dimitrio Pantoja                        Boy: Jose Mondragon

7th Grade Best All Around                7th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Sophie Gleaton                           Girl: Daisy Talamantez
Boy: Jace Arnwine                               Boy: Braxton Bartee

6th Grade Best All Around                6th Grade Best Work Ethic
Girl: Ivy Morris                                     Girl: Elise Toothman
Boy: Mason Alford                               Boy: Isaac Galindo

In addition, awards were given to the best students in each of the class sections offered in high school and junior high.          



Students, parents, and coaches were on hand at the RCHS Athletic Banquet in the Cafetorium Thursday evening to see the annual awards bestowed on Plowboys and Plowgirls for the various school sports.

Here are the this year’s awards for Plowboys and Plowgirls listed by sport:


Plowboy of the Year in Football - Zeke Murphy
Fighting Heart - Kolten Hope
Britt Paty Memorial - Caleb Reed
Clyde Jay Memorial Scholarship - Zeke Murphy, Caleb Reed, Vidal Aguayo


Honorable Mention All-District: Antonio Aguayo, Parker Gleaton, Jax Watts, Seth Wilcox
Academic All-District: Parker Gleaton
Plowboy Basketball Mr. Defense: Jax Watts
Plowboy Basketball Plowboy of the Year: Parker Gleaton

District Honors
Impact Player of the Year - Carson Greenwood
Co-Defensive MVP - Shauna McCambridge
1st Team All-District - Cameron Greenwood
2nd Team All-District - Kaidy Ornelas, Jacey Rodriquez
School Awards
Miss Defense - Cameron Greenwood
Plowgirls of the Year - Shauna McCambridge, Carson Greenwood

Fighting Heart Award
- Kaidy Ornelas

Editor's Note: Shauna McCambridge and Carson Greenwood were selected last week to the second team of the Abilene Reporter-News' All-Big Country 2A Girls Basketball Team.


Regional qualifiers: Xander Moffett, Lupe Leaños, Keller Vinson, Seth Martin, Britt Justiss, Peyton Friedman, Diego Vela, Zeke Murphy 3rd place, David Diaz 3rd place, Xavier Lopez 5th place.
Plowboy Powerlifter of the Year: Zeke Murphy

Track & Cross Country

Regional Qualifiers: Caleb Reed: 1600m, Antonio Aguayo: 200m,
4x200m: Tyler Guelker, Antonio Aguayo, Seth Wilcox, Julian Cuellar, (Alternates: Lupe Leaños Jax Watts)
Track Captains: Jake Gonzalez, Lupe Leaños
Track Plowboy of the Year: Caleb Reed

Track Regional Qualifier: Kaidy Ornelas
Track Plowgirl of the Year: Kaidy Ornelas

Cross Country Regional Qualifiers: Yaniez Aguilar, Mahailia Calderon, Mia Lavalais, Kaidy Ornelas, Candy Ortega, Itzel Ortega-Solis, Jissel Rodriquez, Carson Greenwood, Jacy  Rodriquez

Cross Country Plowgirl of the Year: Jissel Rodriquez



Jayden Gonzales as a Plowboy.
Former Plowboy Jayden Gonzales, now an athlete for McMurry University in Abilene, helped his team win the American Southwest Conference track and field title by clearing 4.35 meters (14’3¼”) to win the Pole Vault at the 2021 Track & Field Conference Championships. In doing so, he was also named to the All-Conference First Team.

The American Southwest Conference is composed of teams from eight universities, six of them from Texas: McMurry, Hardin-Simmons, Concordia, UT-Dallas, East Texas Baptist, and LeTourneau—along with Belhaven in Mississippi and University of the Ozarks in Arkansas.  McMurry won the title with 215.5 points and Hardin-Simmons finished second with 174.5 points. The meet was held at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, April 29-May 1.

Gonzales, a sophomore at McMurry, is a 2019 graduate of Roscoe Collegiate, where he participated in all sports.



The Roscoe Collegiate Junior High Cheerleaders are having a fundraiser bake sale and garage sale this Saturday, May 8, at 900 Cypress Street in Roscoe. They are earning money to attend cheer camp. The sale begins at 8:00am.



The 9th Annual Beat the Street for Little Feet Benefit races will be this Saturday, May 8. Three bike races will head north on FM 608 from Highland and turn east on Broadway and heading to Sweetwater to 274 this Saturday. These races benefit the Cornerstone Christian School.

If you are interested in participating or want more information, go to the event’s Facebook page for details by clicking here.



Around the country, news concerning the pandemic continues to improve as most states report a decline in new cases with only a few reporting increases, such as Arizona, Wyoming, and Oregon. But even in those states, the number of deaths remains low as most older people have been vaccinated, and the increases are mainly of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, who tend to have milder and less serious cases. Even so, there are still many hospitalizations and needs for ICUs.

Since the Covid-19 vaccinations began in December, this is the first week that supply has exceeded demand, so starting this week Texas is asking only for doses providers have ordered instead of asking the federal government for as much as it can get. Many other states share the same situation. At the peak of vaccinations, the US was giving almost 3.5 million shots a day. That daily number is now about a million less. One of three adult Texans 1s fully vaccinated and 2 of 5 have had at least one shot.

In Texas, Covid-19 numbers remain low and essentially flat. Hospitalizations have dropped slightly from 2,718 last week to 2,603 yesterday, and new cases also remain around 3,000 per day. Yesterday had 3,217. The number of active cases also remains around 62,000. Fatalities averaged 49 daily this week, the same as last week.

The numbers also remain relatively flat in the Big Country and Abilene. The number of active cases in Taylor County has grown to 218, a gain of 4 over last week’s 214, and Covid-19 hospitalizations in Abilene are now at 15 patients compared to 16 last week. Also, 2 more deaths were reported, so the total for Taylor County now stands at 403. The percentage of Covid-19 patients in the Abilene trauma service area is at 2.29% after last week’s 1.43%.

In our four-county area, the numbers have increased slightly. After several weeks with no active cases, Nolan County now has 4. Mitchell County is also up to 3 after only 1 last week, and Fisher County still has 2, the same as last week. Scurry County now has 18 active cases after reporting 19 last week. Once again, none of the four counties report any Covid-19 deaths this past week.

Here are the Big Country’s estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Howard, 49 (45); Scurry, 18 (19); Brown, 13 (18); Jones, 8 (2); Erath, 8 (4); Coke, 8 (7); Eastland, 5 (3); Nolan, 4 (0); Mitchell, 3 (1); Comanche, 2 (3); Runnels, 2 (0); Fisher, 2 (2); Shackelford, 1 (1); Coleman, 1 (4); Callahan, 1 (0); Haskell, 0 (0); Stephens, 1 (0); Kent, 0 (0); Stonewall, 0 (0); Knox, 0 (0); Throckmorton, 0 (0). The total of all these counties for this week is 125, 16 more than last week’s 109.
Selected west Texas counties’ estimated active cases (with last week’s in parentheses): Ector (Odessa) 328 (249), Midland 272 (237), Lubbock 156 (92); Tom Green (San Angelo) 76 (77); Wichita (Wichita Falls) 35 (44). This week’s total for these counties is 867, 168 more than last week’s 699.

Texas now has had a total of 2,478,241 cases (2,461,831 last week), 62,517 currently active cases (62,206 last week), and 49,362 total deaths (49,022 last week).


Monday's storm cloud in the west.
In last week’s Hard Times weather report, I mentioned how a 3½ inch rain on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning broke our extended dry spell, but as it turned out, that wasn’t the end of the rain. Thursday night .3” more fell and then Friday night another 1½ inches brought the total to 5.3”. Saturday, I added .35” more to bring my total to 5.65”. All that rain brought the frogs out and late that night we had a frog serenade.

Then late Monday afternoon, a big thunderhead made up in the north, and even though I got a storm warning on my phone, I didn’t pay too much attention to it because I could see the cloud was moving east and figured it would miss us. But then, with the sun shining in the west, I heard noises of something hitting the roof and my cars in the driveway. I was surprised to see hail falling, which preceded the rain. Thankfully, it was only about marble size and not big enough to damage the cars’ exteriors, but I was glad I hadn’t yet transplanted the tomato and pepper plants I’d bought because the hail would have decimated them. I believe it was the first time I’d ever seen hail falling in the sunshine—and, in the beginning, without any accompanying rain. The rain did come shortly afterwards, though, and I found about .27” more in my rain gauge. So, my total for all the precipitation we got from Tuesday to Monday evening adds up to just over 5.9” inches.

Amounts varied in the Roscoe area, but the rain was general enough and the spell long enough that everyone I talked to was well satisfied with the amounts they got. It was a great week for all the farmers and ranchers in the area.

The forecast is for warmer and sunnier weather for the next few days. Today’s high is expected to reach 81°F with a light southeast breeze and mostly sunny skies, and tomorrow should be the same. Friday will be a little warmer with a high of 87° and Saturday will climb all the way to 93° with a strong southwest wind. Sunday the wind will shift to the north, and the high will be around 85° with sunshine. So, expect things to dry out and lawns to need mowing soon as the grass shoots up.

There is no rain in the forecast at least until next week, and even then the chances are still pretty low.


Funeral services for Jimmie D. Burke, 79, of Champion will be held at 10:00am Saturday, May 8, at Champion Baptist Church with Pastor Bruce Parsons officiating. Interment will follow at Sweetwater Cemetery under direction of McCoy Funeral Home. He was called home on Wednesday, April 28, at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Jimmie was born May 6, 1941, in Sweetwater to William “Bill Pete” Burke and Mary Emma Payne Burke. He married his wife of 52 years, Janey, on August 31, 1968. Jimmie graduated from Sweetwater High School in 1959 and earned an Industrial Engineering degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock in 1968. He proudly and honorably served in the U.S. Army National Guard of Texas from 1963 to 1969. He started his career in 1968 as an industrial engineer first with Susan Crane Packaging in Dallas and then with Varo Semiconductors in Garland. In 1985, Jimmie returned to Nolan County to start Burke Farms in Champion. He supplied local grocers as well as farmer’s markets with hydroponic tomatoes and fresh produce.

Jimmie loved his family, Janey’s pies and cooking, Red Raider sports, classic country music, fly fishing and the outdoors. In recent years, he could be found enjoying RV life with Janey, fishing in streams across Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado with his beloved dog Lacey by his side. A man of strong faith, he served as a Deacon at Champion Baptist Church beginning in 2000.

Jimmie leaves behind his cherished wife, Janey, his children and their spouses, Dale and Christy Burke of Rancho Santa Margarita, California; Cody and Terri Burke of Manhattan Beach, California; Joni and Scott Carswell of Austin; and Stoney and Josefina Burke of Washington, D.C., as well as his treasured grandchildren, Alyssa, Ryan, Jacob, Lorelei, Dixon, Aiden, Rigby, Benjamin, Matilda, and Theodore.

Jimmie is preceded in death by his father and mother, Bill and Mary Burke of Sweetwater, as well as his sister and brother-in-law, Billie and Carl Jones of Stamford.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Champion Baptist Church or Texan by Nature (


A private family service will be held at a later date for Richard Earl Rogers, 78, of Camp Verde, Arizona, who passed away April 20 in El Paso after a trip with his wife to the Texas hill country to see the bluebonnets.

Rick was born in Comanche to Robert (Bob) and Ora Rogers on February 23, 1943. He attended both Highland and Roscoe Schools while growing up here and was a member of the Roscoe High School Class of 1961. He was also a graduate of Clark County Community College in Vancouver, Washington. He served in the Engineer Corps in the US Army and was a Vietnam War veteran 1965-67. He and Michele, his wife of over 53 years, were married on May 20, 1967, in Houston. He was a master woodworker and electronics engineer. During his life, he lived in Texas, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, and Arizona.  

He is survived by his wife, Michele Rogers; son, Mark and daughter-in-law Alice Rogers; and grandchildren, Emma, Cooper, and Mason.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Ora Rogers, and siblings James (Pete) Woods and Bryan Rogers.

The family is requesting no flowers or contributions.


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