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Posts published in “Day: August 7, 2007

The school of hard knocks

Back in the sixties yours truly graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. In continuing my education, I attend classes several times a year or so it seems with the knots, scars, and bumps to prove it. You go to classes too?
Google’s Wikipedia describes School of Hard Knocks as an idiomatic phrase meaning the (sometimes painful) education one gets from life and wisdom imparted by life experience.
The older you get the smarter you get or that is the way it’s supposed to happen anyhow.
Walked out on the back porch under the cover and felt like water dripped on the back of my hair do. Wiped at it and felt nothing but did feel what came next.
A yellow jacket got me above the right eyebrow; felt like I got shot with a flaming arrow and hurt all mighty. Knocked my glasses off swinging and swatting at whatever it was.
Looked in the mirror after a bit, looked like a tap from a ball-peen hammer, felt as bad too.

Of course, I already knew to stay away from a yellow jackets nest but this was a surprise attack and it cost them.
Yellow jackets generally are local wasp building the smaller nest around your house and in the ground.
Hornets are wasp too but generally nest out in the woods in the hollow of a tree or hanging from a tree in the huge nest.
If you ever been popped or stung by one of them, you surely remember the occasion.
This is the time of year for the wasp as they are most plentiful in the back and front yard around the house. Did some hunting with a can of the long spraying wasp stuff yesterday got five and it was in the heat of the day.
One really should wait till it’s getting close to dark to go after wasp. Be sure to have your running shoes on too.
Back when I was a dumb little boy in Georgia, my neighbor dummy and I were in the storage area out back of the house where potatoes and onions were kept on the shelves. We proceeded to chunk potatoes at a fairly large nest up in the corner.
They got both of us and fly out of there we did and hollering to all get out.
My mother came out to see what all the hollering was about, soon to find out what happened.
We both got daubed with snuff over the stings. It is suppose to draw out the poison and get your mind off the sting with all that spit on you.
How many of us have to learn the hard way?

The story behind the “Little Brown Church in the Vale”

The Rev. Dr. Gail Harrelson is a newcomer to Crosby. She relocated to Crosby in early June to become minister of the Crosby Methodist Church were the Springer’s call home during our Crosby visits. She was reassigned from the St. Matthew’s Methodist Church in Houston. Linda and I are anxious to meet Dr. Harrelson during our next trip to Texas.
As is the custom in that church, the Pastor always provides a short three or four column message at the beginning of each Crosby Methodist semi-monthly Newsletter. Being over 1,200 miles away our copy comes late and we received our July 18 Newsletter about a week ago.
I found myself much interested in Dr. Gail’s message of that issue and thought you might find it interesting as well. I quote from her message:
“I often hear people talk about the hymns we sing in church as being irrelevant, old, and boring. It may surprise many Christians to learn…(these hymns) have interesting stories behind them.

“…One of my favorite hymns is the ‘Little Brown Church in the Vale.’ The hymn was written by Warren Pitts, who was traveling by stagecoach to…Fredericksburg, Iowa. When the stagecoach made a stop in Bradford, Pitts walked about the area to stretch his legs. He walked by a grove of trees that Pitts thought would make a perfect setting for a church.
“He couldn’t forget the peaceful scene, so he wrote the words and music to “Little Brown Church in the Vale” after he returned to his home in Wisconsin. He filed it in some of his papers.
“Five years later, Pitts…relocated to Iowa to be close to his wife’s elderly parents. He was completely surprised to find a church building sitting in the very spot he had imagined five years earlier. Christians in the community didn’t like meeting in abandoned stores and built themselves a small church. The Civil War was raging and times were hard, but by 1862, the building was up. It was painted with the cheapest paint available, which happened to be the color brown.
“When Pitts saw the little brown church, he rushed home to find the hymn he had written so he could sing it at the church’s dedication in 1864. William Pitts sold his music score for $25 to a publisher in Chicago. He used the money to attend medical school. He spent the rest of his life as the town doctor in Fredericksburg, about 14 miles from Bradford.
“The Little Brown Church in the Vale still stands today and has a membership of about 100. It’s best known for the hundreds of weddings and thousands of tourists who travel there each year to see ‘the church in the valley by the wildwood’….
“….I ask you to remember that stories of Christian faith and Christian theology are the foundation for each hymn in our hymnals. As we learn the background for the hymns, we gain a different appreciation for the gift of this music to the church of the ages….”
Thanks Dr. Gail Harrelson for this story that I add to my library. Many Christian hymnals have stories of inspiration that moved the writers of the poems and/or the music to compose such. Certainly this was the case for the most popular of all Christmas Carols, “Silent Night, Holy Night!” but that is a story for another time.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer is a writer for the Charleston, West Virginia newspapers, but he and his wife often visit in Texas. He can be reached at touchlife@

Postal Service at Jed’s

Post Office patrons now have a new option for their Postal services on the Northeast side. A contract postal unit, with complete post office services, has opened in the Jed’s ACE Home Center at 5415 Aldine Mail Route at the Eastex Freeway. Extended hours, from 8 am. to 8 p.m. make this an especially convenient place to combine shopping for Home Center items, and to buy postage or mail a package. And the best news is that there are no long lines or waiting at this post office unit. ABOVE, Cynthia Rios waits on a customer.

MacArthur HS rates “Recognized”

MacArthur students got a pat on the back last week, earning the Texas Education Agency’s “Recognized” campus designation in the annual Accountability Report.
The report is based on the percent of students who pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.
To be recognized a campus must not only have 70 percent of students pass all four tests, but break the 70-percent floor in each of the four subgroups: African American, Hispanic, White and Economically Disadvantaged.
From 2006 to 2007, MacArthur improved in the passing rate in every category expect one. The school saw a drop in the percent of White students passing the math portion of the test, although the actual number of students failing each year remained the same. In both years 11 students failed the test. The difference is that in 2006 there were 63 White students who took the test and in 2007 43 students took the test, altering the overall percent.
By test style, MacArthur ranged between 89-96% passage in reading, 92% in social studies, 75-77% in math and 70-71% in science.
Aldine HS is Acceptable
Aldine High, like Aldine the district, received an acceptable ranking this year.

The high school showed marked improvement in nearly every group except for non-Hispanic White students. This ethnic group saws decreases in reading, math and science.
Like MacArthur, the low number of students taking the test created a larger shift in the percentage when one student fails. For example, if one additional White student had passed the reading test then the high school could claim improvement in all four subgroups.
Holding the school back from being a recognized campus (or the 70% floor) were the math and science scores. Math passage rates ranged between 47 and 64%. A score of 45% is required to be acceptable. In science the rates ranged between 52 and 74%. They needed a 40% to be acceptable.
Mixed results for Aldine ISD
As a district, campuses were mixed. Eight made it exemplary. These were Harris, Raymond, Anderson and Thompson Academies and Mendel, Worsham, Olson and Stephens Elementaries.
Of the district’s six middle school’s only Hoffman and Shotwell failed to become recognized.
AISD’s Unacceptable Campuses
Eisenhower’s Ninth Grade Campus was ranked unacceptable. The school saw drops in every subgroup in reading and math, the only tests that the state provided data. The school showed the highest difficulty in the math tests, with passage rates ranging from 37% to 52%. While White students had a 65% passage rate, only 17 students took the test with 11 passing.
African American students showed poorly on the test with 210 of 334 students taking the test failing. Of the 403 Hispanic students taking the math test, 193 failed.
The Hall Academy, which is classified by the state as an Alternative Education Accountability, was also ranked as unacceptable.
Sam Houston unacceptable again
Sam Houston holds a distinction that it would likely not want to brag about.
They have been found academically unacceptable for five straight years, the most in the state.
Sam Houston was one of three campuses the Houston ISD threatened to shut down if it did not shed its unacceptable label. The other two campuses, Kashmere and McReynolds, reached the acceptable level.
District Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said that Sam Houston had showed improvement and will not be closed down this school year. He noted that if 15 more students had passed the math test the school would have made Acceptable.
Among other Unacceptable Houston ISD campuses were Furr, Lee, Sharpstown and Scarborough High Schools.
Five NFISD schools unacceptable
While North Forest ISD can claim less unacceptable campuses in 2007 than they had in 2006, nearly half of the district is in the state’s bottom category. Despite this, the district as a whole earned an acceptable rating.
Five campuses: Forest Brook and Smiley High, Oak Village and Elmore Middle and Hilliard Elementary were rated academically unacceptable.
Smiley’s troubles
Math and science continue to plague Smiley High. According to the TEA report only 33% of students passed the math portion of the test while 37% passed the science portion of the test.
Despite this, from 2006 to 2007 the student passing rate for math, science and social sciences saw improvements across the board while reading passing fell.
Forest Brook on decline
Forest Brook failed to meet the state minimum on all four tests. Like Smiley, students also had trouble in math and science with an average passing rate of 30 and 38% respectively.
The school also saw drops in every subgroup or each test with the exception of Hispanic students. Hispanic students saw no change in reading, a 12% increase in math and an 11% increase in science.
Tidwell is exemplary
One shining spot in the district is Tidwell Elementary, which is the district’s one exemplary campus.
The passing rate for reading ranged from 80 to 93%. In writing there was an average of 79% to 86% passage. Math saw an average of 775 to 98% and in science between 92 and 99% of students passed the test.
The only drop the school saw was in one subgroup of writing which fell 15% from 2006. The actual figures, however, show that just three of 14 students failed the test.

Fire destroys murder scene

Houston Fire Department arson investigators are looking into the cause of a fire which occurred at the site of a June homicide in Northeast Houston.
Firefighters were dispatched to a metal building around 4 p.m. on July 31. The building housed a tire and auto shop as well as J&W Fashions. J&W Fashions was the site of a June 10 homicide.
According to an HFD spokesman roughly 50 firefighters from 17 units were called to the scene. Like other petroleum-based products, tires create a thick black smoke which makes fire suppression even more difficult.
Homicide Division Sgt. J. Padilla said that they are working with the arson squad to determine if the fire might be related to the death of businessman Willie Earl Scott.

On June 10, a customer visiting the clothing store discovered Scott’s body in the back storage room of the clothing store.
Padilla said that Scott, 42, of 718 Corvette Court suffered a gunshot wound to the neck and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Initially Scott’s vehicle, a 1996 white Ford van, was reported missing from the location. On July 12, police recovered the missing van at a home on Reddy Road near Clark Spring. Police continue to search for suspects in the case.
Padilla said it is possible the fire was intentionally set in order to damage the crime scene, but they cannot be sure until the arson investigation is complete. Typically during an arson investigation officers will use either specially trained dogs or electronic devices to detect accelerants.
However due to the nature of the auto shop, investigators would expect to find accelerants at the scene, so other clues must be discovered.
Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-721- TIPS (8477). All callers can remain anonymous.

Diet is a four-letter word

Four letter word!
Four letter word!
Four letter word!
Gotcha to wondering, eh? Its diet and a word most people don’t mind, they just mind doing it.
Dropped 13 pounds by not eating a lot but think a bunch of it found its way back since the kids have been here. Sure did feel good to get in a pair of britches that I’ve not been able to get in for a while; even the pleats came back.
Tis most difficult to do lunch without having something fried or excessively fattening especially if you eat out every day like yours truly.
Oh, salads are great but not worth a flip unless they have several dollops of blue cheese (Marie’s™) over the top.
Special K™ has sure been a life saver as it is eaten twice on some days and not a lot of it at that (with 2% milk).
Not made a midnight raid to the freezer for Blue Bell™ since, but have rediscovered the chocolate bar Crunch™ and Chunky™ if you remember it; I love chocolate.

Soup helps a lot and the cup tortilla soup and salad from El Toro has been eaten sometimes three times a week. Fortunately the one on Bayway does not have blue cheese so just the soup will do.
Bottle water sure helps and it helps with the exercise of numerous trips to the head.
Aquafina™ bottle water has been the drink of choice even if it comes out of the tap.
They say it is purified using their state of the art HydRO-7™ system. Reckon that is a big word for hose pipe?
While talking to the granddaughters from Pennsylvania (soon to be 11 and 13), told them that foods from white all go to the rear end. Foods like rice, bread, potato, pasta and anything made with flour. You wouldn’t believe the look I received.
Anyway, if you want to lose weight, don’t eat so much and watch what you eat not merely looking at it when you stick the fork in it. Cutting back helps as well as laying off the fried foods and out of places like Dairy Queen™ and Fuddruckers™.
Another thing, if it tastes good, spit it out.
Bon Appetite!
Charlie A. Farrar is author of many columns of homespun Georgia thoughts, that have appeared in local newspapers. He has published a book with some of the best, “Two Cents Worth.” To purchase a copy, send $12.95 to NEWSpaper, PO Box 405, Highlands, TX 77562.

Healing pro sports’ ‘Black Eye’

Since the early days of my youth, longer ago than I like to think about, sports have been an interest of mine. Over the years I have been far more of a spectator than a player. During my school days I did play a little baseball and basketball in local leagues but little else. We once had a pick-up football team in my hometown but we were never very good. Horrible would probably be a better way of putting it.
Even in basketball I wasn’t missed when I wasn’t at a game. Only in baseball would I ever hear, “Hey Don, are you going to play Saturday?” I grew up in a very small town of about 600 so I’m not certain such inquiries were because they needed my bat or glove (I played first base) as much as they needed my body to meet the body count.
None-the-less I have maintained an interest in most sports down through the years. Exceptions are auto racing, boxing and professional wrestling (that last one is terrible.) It is bothering me a bit today as I see so many of my favorite leisure time activities under duress. Drugs and lawlessness are taking a toll.

It was a breath of fresh air as I watched Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn taken into the Baseball Hall of Fame. To me they represent the side of baseball that says lets play hard, play to win and play within the rules. I don’t think I have ever heard controversy surrounding either of these new Hall of Fame Inductees. I say again; it is refreshing.
We are more than 200 miles from my old high school, which hasn’t really existed due to consolidation for a number of years and my kids long ago graduated from our local high school. For these reasons I have lost some of my zeal for high school sports.
However, college athletics, particularly football and basketball, are high on my list of interests and I follow rather closely professional football, basketball, baseball and only slightly less, track, soccer and cycling. To my knowledge of those listed above only soccer has escaped getting black eyes and cuts and bruises, because of bad behavior, or at least accusations, from its players.
Right now I hope Michael Vick and “Pac-man” Jones never get into a professional football suit again. Yea, I know all about innocent until proven guilty but those two have too many problems at hand.
Professional football is really taking a beating and there aren’t many teams that have escaped without at least one of its players getting on the wrong side of the law. Right now it is a referee in professional basketball that has created a stir but several players have been in the soup in the recent past. Baseball and cycling have both been damaged by drug use of one sort or another over the past several years and there seems to be no end in sight.
My disgust with all of this has dimmed my interest some but I still pull for my favorite teams and players. Controversial as he might be, I’ve always been a Barry Bonds fan and I’m pulling hard for him to win the home run crown. He could easily do that before this column sees the printed page.Should he stay with San Francisco or end up as a designated hitter in the American League I think 800 home runs is within his grasp.
In the meantime let’s hope the black eyes, cuts and bruises heal and such players begin walking to a different drummer.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer is a writer for the Charleston, West Virginia newspapers, but he and his wife often visit in Crosby. He can be reached at touchlife@