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History of Cass County

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In the classroom or on the court: In so many ways, Williams and Mt. Pleasant inseparable By JOHN DILMORE


ongtime educator, coach and school administrator Willie Williams attended a meeting of the Mount Pleasant School Board in 2014 with the intention of supporting Judd Marshall’s appointment as school superintendent. He had no idea there were other big changes afoot that evening — specifically, that the idea of naming the Mount Pleasant High School Gymnasium after Williams would be brought up. “It was a surprise, Williams said. “I had no idea that that was going to happen. ... When I went to the school board meeting that night, I went supporting Judd … having no idea that they were going to name the gym after me that night. “It was humbling, surprising — but I consider it a great honor and privilege, because normally you don’t get a chance to see those things happen.” But few others would call it a surprise that an accolade like that has come Williams’ way — that now, when Mount Pleasant Tigers athletes and their opponents take the court here in town, they’re playing in the Willie Williams Gym. After all, Williams has been a part of the local landscape for decades, leaving a mark not only in the area of education, but on the community as a whole. His journey began in nearby Pittsburg — and it might surprise some to know he wasn’t focused on a career in education from the beginning. After graduating from Douglass High School, he attended Texas College in Tyler with the intent of going into the civil service field.

Willie Williams stands in the gym at Mount Pleasant High School that bears his name. Photo special to NETX Crossroads

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“That was my primary objective,” Williams said. “But I had an advisor at Texas College that was insistent on my taking educational courses along with my business administration major.” The idea was, that would provide other career options. The education courses came in handy after Williams graduated — and the only civil service position available at the time was in Washington, D.C. “I could have gone to Washington, D.C., but my family said, ‘no’ — not at this time,” he recounted. “Therefore I just had to look to see what was available.” While doing some factory work in Pittsburg in the summer, an opportunity to teach business in Mount Pleasant, at Booker T. Washington High School, came along. He began in the 1957-1958 school year, and, “I’ve been here ever since,” he said. He was 21 at the time, and the kids he was teaching were in their late teens. “So we kind of grew up together,” Williams said. “That was my start in the teaching field.” Coaching came next. Williams attended basketball practices and got to know the players. After the coach at that time passed away, he was given an opportunity to take over the team. There were 10 games left in the season — and the squad went 9-1 in those games, losing only to Naples, which won the district. It was just the beginning, as Williams continued to coach. That continued at Mount Pleasant High School after integration, which came in 1968, Williams said. “We were very fortunate in our integration process, we didn’t have any major problems,” he added. “We were able to move from Booker T. to the high school and it was a smooth transition. “This was because of the administration and the people wanting to make it work in the community. I consider myself real fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with those individuals and those staffs, and the support

continued throughout my high school career. The coaching memories are many — shaping the lives of student athletes while compiling some truly outstanding records; tough rivalries, especially against powerhouse teams in Daingerfield; and all along the way, support from the community that resonates to this day. “I can’t say that everything was smooth, because when you’re coaching there are going to be some ups and downs. … But I had tremendous support, a great community support group of people that followed me with my high school basketball coaching career,” he said. In the late 70s, Williams transitioned first into the assistant principal’s position at P.E. Wallace Middle School, then very quickly became principal, and continued on with the school district until 1992. But his “retirement” was exceptionally active. Williams served for years on the local hospital board, has long been involved with the chamber of commerce, and remained a part of the sports scene as a recognized voice on local radio, calling countless games. His radio work has only tapered off over the past couple of years. “I told them (this year) I’d help out when they needed somebody to come and help them — but don’t need anybody,” he said, laughing. Along the way, since coming to Mount Pleasant, there’ve been many milestones. Williams has been the citizen of the year, the chamber’s ambassador of the year, and was once named outstanding principal/middle level by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. And family has been a big part of his life. He’s been married to his wife, Martha — also a retired MPISD teacher — for 49 years, and they have a daughter Antionette Sheppard, and a grandson, Justin Sheppard, who’s attending Sam Houston State. All in all, it’s been quite a journey — but in some ways, Williams has stayed close to where it all started. He’s still one of the Tigers and Lady Tigers staunchest backers, and can be seen in the stands regularly. “I still go to all of the home games,” Williams said. Right there in the Willie Williams Gym.

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History of Cass County By TIM EMMONS


Cass County is layered in history much like most other counties in the state with stories of how the counties were formed, named and how they stand in present time. Cass County was whittled out of Bowie County April 25, 1846 and organized July 13, 1846. The county was named in honor of Gen. Lewis Cass who was a United States soldier and statesman and a strong advocate of annexation of Texas. Linden, near the center of the county, was named the county seat. The Caddo Indians, an agricultural people with a highly developed culture, had occupied the area for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, but disease and threats from other Indians forced them to abandon the region in the final years of the eighteenth century. Anglo settlement in the area that became Cass County began in the 1830s. Among the earliest settlers was Reece Hughes, who built a cabin near three mineral springs which later became known as Hughes Springs. Other towns or communities in Cass County and the surrounding area were named after towns in Georgia by settlers from that state such as Atlanta, Douglassville, Smyrna and Marietta to name a few. Cass County also has the distinction of connecting Texas with the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. The area is known as Three States which is an unincorporated community in Caddo Parish, La., Miller County, Ark., and Cass County. Three States has the distinction of being perhaps the only community in the United States that is part of two metropolitan areas. U.S. Highway 59, which runs from Mexico to Canada, connects Linden, Atlanta, and Queen City and the county’s transportation needs are also served by State highways 8, 11, 77, and 155 and by two rail lines, the Mis-



souri Pacific and the Louisiana and Arkansas. The Eagles lead singer Don Henley was born in Linden and even entitled his last album Cass County in which he grew up in. Here is a brief look at historical records of some of the towns, communities or ghost towns in Cass County. Atlanta – was named after the city in Georgia by early settlers from that state in 1871 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad arrived and the post office opened. Avinger – was a settlement called Hickory Hill in the early 1840s. Dr. H. J. Avinger, who also operated a store, had the town renamed in his honor. Bloomburg - was settled before the Civil War, but it didn’t take off until the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway arrived in 1895. When the post office was granted (1896) the town was named for a railroad official. Bryan’s Mill - is at the junction of Farm roads 994 and 1766, seventeen miles northwest of Linden in northwestern Cass County. In 1873 W. C. Bryan and W. T. Stewart constructed a sawmill at the site. Cass - was settled in the early 1890s, when the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway was built through the county. The first post office was established in March 1894 and named Sheffield, but the name was changed to Cass in 1896. Cornett - was settled before the Civil War and was first named Hamil’s Chapel and then Troup, for Troup County, Georgia, the original home of many of its early settlers. The name was changed to Cornett in honor of the G. T. Cornett family, who owned land in the area. Domino - was established in the late nineteenth century as a flag stop on the Texas and Pacific Railway. Douglassville – was first settled in the 1850s, settler John Douglass is the community’s namesake. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

Downtown Marietta

Huffines - was settled in the 1870s. When the community received a post office in 1881 it was named for R. M. Huffines, a surveyor who lived there. Hughes Springs – was formed in 1839 when Reese Hughes built the first cabin in the area near three mineral springs. Lanier – was named after Lanier, Georgia, the birthplace of an early settler, and had a store and a population of thirty in 1884. Linden - is the county seat of Cass County, and was established in 1852 after a re-division of territory had given the old county seat, Jefferson, to Marion County. Marietta – was once called Oak Ridge, but the name was changed when the community was granted a post office in 1880. The name came from early settler Marietta Wommack. Milner - was settled in the early 1870s and named Milner, in honor of William J. Milner, an early settler. Bivins - was named after J. K. and Frank H. Bivins – owners of one of two sawmills in the area around 1889. Kildare - was named after a railroad official when the post office opened in 1874. Kildare consolidated its school district with Linden thus becoming Linden-Kildare. Fant - was named for James C. Fant, who ran the post office, which was established in 1894 but discontinued in 1901. Queen City – was founded in 1877. The name was a favorite title bestowed on a variety of towns - for reasons of promotion. Galveston was once referred to as the “Queen City” of Texas. Rarely, however, was a town ever officially named Queen City. Antioch – was originally called Anti, Texas, the community grew around a church that was established in 1856. Viola - was named after the daughter of William Cobb, gristmill and cotton gin operator. The community was granted a post office in 1879. Smyrna – was settled in 1880s and named so in honor of the early Christian church that suffered much persecution in the ancient Turkish city of Smyrna. Red Hill – was named by William Lambert, an early settler, for the red, clayey bank of Frazier’s Creek, upon which it is located. A post office operated there from 1878 until 1905. Cusseta - was settled in the early 1850s and was named for Cusseta, Alabama, the hometown of John Robin Heard, an early settler. A post office was established there in 1856. Munz City- was named after the Munzheimer brothers, the founders of the community. In the late 1800s two wealthy brothers, Gus and Harry (or Herman) NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

Downtown Avinger

Munzheimer from Texarkana bought a large tract of timberland in the northern Cass County area along the Sulphur River, but Munz City was destroyed by a tornado in 1914. Dalton – was formed in the period following the Civil War. Sardis - was settled just before the Civil War, and the oldest known grave in the cemetery there dates from 1862. O’Farrell - was established in 1886 and remained in operation until 1905. Roach - was named for the family of Dr. J. Roach, a Cass County physician. Hermitage - was on the banks of Kelley’s Creek fifteen miles northwest of Linden. Lanark – was a settlement which began in the early 1870s, when the Texas and Pacific Railway was built across that portion of the county. Pleasant Hill - is one of the oldest African-American communities in Texas and as of 2009 the school was restored and is used as a community center. The school was named a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2010. Law’s Chapel – was founded in 1853 by George Law and wife Martha, pioneers from Georgia. The towns, communities and ghost towns are rich in history just like Cass County is overall. Muscadine Vines at O’Farrell Vinyards



Special Olympics




very special group of local athletes is gearing up for a busy spring and summer. Bowie County Special Olympics will kick off their annual spring and summer games in May, and compete in the areas of track and field, softball, and tennis throughout the summer. Bowie County Special Olympics was organized during the 2003-04 school year, and originally consisted of a few schools in Bowie County. Soon the Atlanta Co-Op joined, followed by other organizations in Cass County. In around 2005, they joined with Texarkana area schools, at the request of Connie Thomasson, who held a meet every year in Liberty-Eylau in honor of her late son, Carson. Thus, came about the Carson’s Crossing/Alford’s Athletes (named for the late Buddy Alford) meet in New Boston, which draws nearly 400 athletes from all over Bowie and Cass counties, as well as some from Southwest Arkansas. This local meet is the first of three track and field meets, the next being the Area 10 meet, held in the Dallas Metroplex, and the State Games at the University of Texas in Arlington. There are also area and state softball tourna-



ments, as well as a summer tennis clinic. The athletes that choose to participate in area and state competition are called Bowie’s Best, and softball director and long-time Special Olympics sponsor/coach Diana Melton says the athletes, families, coaches, and chaperones that participate in these events bring back more than just medals and the lessons of competition. “It’s amazing what you see,” said Melton, “It’s just like any other extra-curricular activity,

when you all travel together, and spend so much time together, the parents bond and the athletes make lifetime friends. We never realized when we started this how much more would come out of this than just athletes competing.” Bowie County Special Olympics and Bowie’s Best depends on the generosity of local merchants, community groups, and private donors to fund their travels. The Texarkana Dart Association and Texarkana Elks Lodge also sponsor a fundraiser every January

featuring a silent auction and dart tournament. One hundred percent of these funds go to Bowie’s Best athletes, to help offset the cost of the overnight stays during competitions. This year’s Carson’s Crossing/ Alford’s Athletes meet will be held on May 11, 2018. It is open to the public, and anyone who wishes to attend is encouraged to do so. Volunteer opportunities are also available. For those who would like to volunteer, or for sponsorship information, contact Dianna Melton at (903)628-8536. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

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State Park brings unique winter experience for anglers


Story & photos by TONI WALKER

tate parks are destinations known for a variety of activities. From nature trails and camping, to educational programs and fishing, it can truly be said that state parks have something for everyone. In January, the Daingerfield State Park broadened the scope of opportunity for anglers visiting the park when they stocked 4,000 rainbow trout in Little Pine Lake. During the week of Jan. 11, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department- Inland Fisheries Division brought the coldwater fish to Daingerfield. According to park officials, stockings of this nature typically consist of one or two thousand fish. Park Superintendent Steve Killian approached the Daingerfield City Council as well as the Morris County Commissioner’s Court, asking for a partnership to bring more fish to the area. Through the partnership of the two municipalities, TPWDInland Fisheries and TPWD-Daingerfield State Park, Little Pine Lake saw its largest stocking of rainbow trout in recent years. In conjunction with the stocking of rainbow trout, the state park planned two “Free Fishing Weekends” for anglers to take their chance at harvesting some of the freshly stocked rainbows. The two weekends, held Jan. 13-14 and Jan. 20-21, gave anglers free entrance to the park as the $4 admission fee for adults was waived. The park also offered free bait, loaner gear, and demonstrations throughout the day during the event. Demonstrations were given on how to clean the trout, as well as how they could be prepared over a campfire. Park officials did not forget children who came during the event, either. Staff offered activities for children ranging from practicing their casting with the “Backyard Bass” game to exploring the ecosystem of Little Pine Lake with “Underwater Discovery.” Although no entrance fees were collected during the two-weekend event, counts were made of vehicles and visitors for park records. According to Killian, 465 visitors took part in the Rainbow Trout Family Fishing Weekends. “The large numbers of anglers had a fun time experiencing the outdoors while learning about fishing and the natural world,” said Killian. Morris County, City of Daingerfield, park staff and park volunteers made this event a big success. The smiles of happy kids make it all worthwhile,” Killian added. If you missed the free fishing weekends, don’t worry. According to Killian, trout



will be available to be caught through late spring. Opened in 1938, Daingerfield State Park was a Civilian Conservation Corp project which focused on the 80-lake originally known as Little Pine Lake. Killian and his staff has worked to bring back much of the old glory of the park,, including restoring the CCC Island, originally built in the 1930s, for boaters to picnic. Park staff is also planning a future hiking trail around the park boundary, with a possibility for primitive camping, as well. In 2017, the park brought back another favorite activity from days gone by: the State Park Dance. After last year’s success, dances will be returning to the park every Saturday evening beginning in March. There will be a special Valentine’s themed dance Feb. 10, as well. Other activities already scheduled for 2018 include: Freedom Fest (June 30), Back to School Bash (Aug. 18) Search for Bigfoot (Sept. 28-29), Halloween Funfest (Oct. 19-20), and Christmas in the Park (Dec. 12-15). If you are interested in helping with activities at the state park, there is a new non-profit organization that helps staff events, known as Little Pine Friends of Daingerfield State Park. The group was established to support the park for the betterment of the park and the community. For more information on the Little Pine Friends or any activity at the park, contact the park at 903-645-2921. To make reservations at the park, visit tpwd.texas.goc/state-parks/daingerfield to register online or call 512-389-8900. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

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Four-legged member of CASA staff helps in healing process Enya may not have a voice in the way most of us think of having a voice. But Enya, the local CASA program’s facility dog, has proven remarkably adept at helping children find their own voices — and thus in her own way, spoken volumes about the power of trust and unconditional affection in the lives of kids.

Story & photos by JOHN DILMORE

Each year Enya, the local CASA facility dog, helps distribute Christmas presents to kids. Shown here are Michelle Cobern, executive director of CASA of Titus, Camp and Morris Counties, and Enya, along with some of the gifts on hand at the CASA office.



Enya relaxes at the CASA office in Mount Pleasant.



s CASA of Titus, Camp and Morris Counties’ only fourlegged staff member, the trained service dog has often reached kids in ways her human co-workers have found remarkable. In doing so, she’s fulfilled the hopes the local program had for her when she was first brought on board in 2016, when she was the first CASA facility dog in the State of Texas. Her handler Michelle Cobern said, “To see the work she does is phenomenal. I just knew, because I’m a trauma educator, that there was something we were missing with our kids — that we were able to get so far with them, but we couldn’t actually help them in the healing process other than the basic cognitive therapy sessions. “The dogs go a lot deeper. … The warmth they give them, they just make them feel so comfortable. ... It also empowers children, because Enya will do as she’s commanded.” Cobern, executive director of CASA of Titus, Camp and Morris Counties, underwent extensive training with Canine Companions for Independence, a group that trains service dogs and places them in the situations to which their skills and temperament are best suited. At Canine Companions’ Irving facility, Cobern was matched with Enya — whose full name is “Enya II.” “A matching team watches your behaviors, how you handle your commands, takes into consideration what you’ll be using the dog for — the best temperament dog for that person,” Cobern said. “They matched me with Enya the third day.” The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program and its volunteers work to represent the interests of kids placed in the foster care system because their own homes are unsafe. As such, Enya provides comfort mostly to local kids who’ve been abused and/or neglected. Through every step of the process, including appearances in court, Enya is there for them.


“Every time we’re in court, which is three times a month, Enya’s there,” Cobern said. She has also worked with autistic children and kids facing other specialneeds challenges. As a trained service dog, her skillset is wide-ranging. But in each instance, the process is about trust. In one recent case, a local child, a victim of abuse, was having a difficult time opening up in therapy sessions. After several sessions that were unsuccessful, Enya was brought in to sit alongside the boy. A therapist asked him, after he’d petted and played with Enya for a short time, how he felt. The child responded with one word: “Safe.” “Our kids don’t trust people — they just don’t,” Cobern said. But Enya, “helps show them that someone does love and understand them.” The canine has also proven successful in helping kids during parent-child visits. “Most parents get to visit their children at the CPS office,” Cobern said. “But we offer our facility for parents to visit their children, and a lot of times they’ll say, ‘Can Enya be there?’ because Enya can help break the ice if, let’s say, the parents haven’t seen their children in a few months, because they’ve been incarcerated, or they’ve been in a rehab. So there’s that moment in which it’s very awkward for the child, the child’s very concerned about the parent ... so we’ll use Enya for parent-child visits also, and that’s been fun to watch ... it’s wonderful.” Enya has her own uniform (a vest) and her own business cards. But her life is not all work. She can be seen in local parades and other fun events, and is a fixture at Mount Pleasant’s Annual Fairy Dust Princess Ball. But regardless of setting, her story is far more than her own. It’s also the story of countless local kids who’ve needed a friend and confident they could trust and connect with. “Remember,” Cobern said, “when these children come into care, they leave behind their beds, their schools, their friends — and a lot of times they have to leave behind their pets.” “It means everything to the kids, it really does.”



Wildfler Trails

offers more than just Bluebonnets Story & photos by TONI WALKER

Any native Texan thinks of the beautiful bluebonnet as the quintessential Texas wildflower. Oh, but there are so many more the state has to offer besides the state flower.





ccording to Texas Highways magazine, there are more than 5,000 species of flowering plants that are native to Texas. Many can be found throughout the state, while some prefer a certain region or in particular environmental conditions. From the jagged 8,000plus feet high mountains, to East Texas, which is drenched with more than 55 inches of rainfall annually, even to the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas, there are wildflowers that paint the Texas landscape in beautiful colors, shapes, and sizes. March, April, and May are prime blooming months for Texas wildflowers, which would explain why there are festivals throughout those months, all over the state. The annual Wildflower Trails Festival, held on the final full weekend in April, highlights a signed wildflower route between the towns of Avinger, Hughes Springs, and Linden. The route showcases dozens of beautiful wild species that are common in the area. Each of the three cities on the Wildflower Trail offers their own festival and activities on the last full weekend in April each year. Avinger’s activities center around downtown and include art shows, baking contests, a treasure hunt and a variety of children’s activities. Linden features the Cass County Championship Rodeo. Visitors to Linden’s festival can also find a variety of activities ranging from a 5K race and games to a classic car show. Hughes Springs features carnival rides, performances at the Community Theatre of East Texas, and more. Each location offers up a variety of food and drink choices for festival goers, as well as live entertainment through most of the events, as well as having a parade for local enjoyment. Two events that connect all three festivals are the “Tour de Wildflower” Bicycle ride and the “Miss Wildflower Trails” Pageant. The bicycle ride typically begins at the courthouse in Linden. Cyclists have four routes that range from eight miles to 50 miles in length. The trails take riders through the marked Wildflower Trails en route back to Linden’s finish line. The Miss Wildflower Trails Pageant is open to any student who attends Linden-Kildare, Hughes Springs, or Avinger schools. The pageant offers scholarship opportunities for girls in the upper age categories while giving all ages ranges an opportunity to compete in the pageant. As the Annual Wildflower Trails Festival approaches at the end of April, the focus of many residents will be on the wide variety of wildflowers that Texas, specifically East Texas, has to offer. As you travel along the route from city to city, partaking in the events each has planned for the special weekend, take a moment to look around, and take in the beauty and splendor that makes the East Texas Wildflower Trails. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE




Dr. Kyle Groom of DeKalb, Texas considers himself a very lucky man, though he says it was a “series of accidents” that got him where he is today.

D I liked everything,” Kyle says. “I would get bored if I kept doing the same thing over and over….so when I rotated through the emergency room, I caught on really quickly, and enjoyed treating all the different types of cases, and I decided this was what I needed to do.” Hunter, Kaden, and Ty Groom



r. Groom was born, raised, and schooled in Texarkana, Texas, spending weekends, holidays, and summers on his grandparents’ farm in DeKalb. After his sophomore year of high school, he and his parents moved to DeKalb, where he completed his last two years and graduated. At the time he graduated, Dr. Groom was unsure of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. His father, an electrician employed with the local paper mill, wanted Kyle to follow in his footsteps and go to trade school, but something in him was resistant to that plan. He instead enrolled in Texarkana College, where he spent two years getting his basics. On a whim, he applied to Wadley Regional Medical Center School of Radiologic Technology, and much to his surprise, was accepted. “At the time, I was leaning toward biology or criminal justice - I thought I might want to be a game warden,” Kyle said. “But I was accepted into x-ray school and I actually liked it. I started considering going on to study radiation therapy or nuclear medicine, while I finished up my bachelor’s degree.” This was still the plan, when a conversation with Texarkana neurosurgeon Dr. Freddy Contreras put a bug in Kyle’s ear that sent him in a slightly different direction. “Dr. Contreras said ‘Kyle, why don’t you go to medical school? You have all the requirements!’” Kyle recalled. “I told him there was no way I could do that. I didn’t have the money to go to medical school.” But Dr. Contreras wasn’t deterred by a little thing like money. He told Kyle that if he got ac-

cepted into medical school, there were “all kinds of folks that would give him money.” After further encouragement from Dr. Royce Granberry, and an eloquent and detailed letter of recommendation from DeKalb’s Dr. A.J. Keller, Kyle began applying to medical schools. In the meantime, Kyle married his high school sweetheart, Leann Barrett, and when he was accepted to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, the newlyweds packed up and moved to Fort Worth. While Kyle completed his medical training there, Leann worked at the college, and the couple started a family. Their first of three sons, Hunter, was born during their second year in Fort Worth, followed by Kaden a couple of years later. Upon graduation, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where Kyle completed his residency at Oklahoma State University - Tulsa Regional Medical Center and their youngest son Ty was born. It was during his time in Tulsa that Kyle realized his true calling within the medical field. “I liked everything,” Kyle says. “I would get bored if I kept doing the same thing over and over….so when I rotated through the emergency room, I caught on really quickly, and enjoyed treating all the different types of cases, and I decided this was what I needed to do.” After four years in Tulsa, Dr. Groom and his family returned home to DeKalb. They bought a house, Kyle went to work in the ER at Wadley Regional Medical Center, and the Grooms began living the life they had dreamed NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

of for so many years. They were just five months into the rest of their with a population of 1,656 and employees 13 people. To say he’s making lives, when by “accident” their lives were changed forever. a difference in the small town is putting it mildly. It was December 7, 2003. Dr. Groom had just completed a night shift Dr. Groom has continued to practice emergency medicine as well. in the ER and was just a few miles from home on Highway 259 in DeKalb. He left Wadley soon after his cancer diagnosis and went to work for It was a cold morning, and he cracked the window slightly to get some medical director Dr. Matt Young in the emergency room at Christus St. cool air on his face, and reached down to adjust Michael’s. After seven years there, Dr. Groom his radio. When he glanced back at the road, accepted a job as director at Titus Regional Kyle and Leann there was a truck stopped dead in the middle Medical Center’s ER in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Groom of the highway. Kyle barely had time to hit his It was during his time at Titus Regional that his brakes as he ran dead-center into the back of the former director Dr. Young approached him with truck. Amazingly, neither Kyle nor the driver of the opportunity to join a group of local doctors the truck were critically injured. Kyle refused to form Texarkana Emergency Center. In 2015, ambulance transport from the scene, but when this group opened Texarkana Emergency Center, his wife arrived, she insisted that he let her take the first free-standing Emergency Room in the him in for a once-over. In the ER, x-rays showed Ark-La-Tex. At Texarkana Emergency Center, a fractured sternum, and at the insistence ofDr. patients receive the same level of care as a Mark McCrary, Kyle agreed to a CAT scan to rule traditional ER, with all testing done quickly and out any internal injuries. on-site by local doctors who, as part-owners, The results of the CAT scan were alarming. are not just covering a shift. “I can do a patient Though Kyle had suffered no internal injuries as a result of the accident, work-up that would take me six hours at one of the other hospitals and his liver showed to have multiple spots of an undetermined nature. In be done in an hour and a half,” Dr. Groom says proudly of his newest an additional scan two days later, the spots appeared to be tumors. A venture. “I can focus on taking care of people, without all of the conliver biopsy determined that the spots were carcinoid cancer. “My liver straints of a hospital situation.” had spots all over it,” Kyle said. “I’d had it for quite a while.” And taking care of people is exactly what Dr. Kyle Groom plans to Kyle still recalls word-for-word what the oncologist told him. “I continue to do, for many, many years to come. A man once handed a said ‘What would you do if you were me?’ and he point-blank told death sentence, who, when given a glimmer of hope, was able to turn it me,‘There’s nothing you can do. Your cancer is too far along. You need around, continues to bless his family, his friends, and his many patients to go back to work and make some money for your family while you still all over the Ark-La-Tex. can- you have a year, maybe two, left that you can do that.’” To say that Dr. Groom was devastated would be a grave understatement. “I was 34 years old,” he remembers emotionally. “I had drug my family all over the country trying to get my education. we’d just bought a house, just bought a new Suburban for my wife to haul the kids in, we still owed for my education, and I had been out of residency for five months - and they’re telling me I have a year or two. How do you process that? Here I have three baby boys, and one of them is not even old enough that he will remember me before I’m gone.” For two weeks, Dr. Groom continued to work, all the while battling deep, crippling depression. He was at his wits’ end, with barely the energy to keep on. After all the years he had spent, the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices it had taken for him to become a doctor, he was now at the mercy of doctors who didn’t believe in him, who gave him zero hope. That’s when, all in the same day, a stranger with a message, 510 Loop 50 • Atlanta, TX 75551 and a neighbor with a plan, once again, changed his life forever - for the 903.796.8100 second time in as many weeks. Dr. Groom is saving the details of the miraculous day that hope was returned to him for an upcoming autobiography, but the products of that message and that plan, are what you 3410 Moores Lane • Texarkana, TX 75503 see today. 903.223.8100 In about a month’s time, Dr. Groom was in Houston recovering from surgery to remove half his liver, his appendix, his gallbladder, a third of his small bowel, and half of his large bowel. Today, his cancer is stable. He takes monthly shots, and goes to Houston every six months for check-ups, but he is, for the most part, healthy and enjoying life. He has watched his children grow up, and he has helped countless patients, both in the emergency room, as well as in the private practice he opened in his hometown of DeKalb in 2005. DeKalb Physician’s Clinic boasts a caseload of 12,500 charts in a town

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Remembering Radar TEXAS-SIZED A legend of a horse

Radar, the world’s tallest horse from 2006-2009 and an east Texas legend, is shown with one of his handlers.

Photo special to Crossroads Magazine



riefert Farm, Ranch and Rodeo has called Mount Pleasant home since August 1962, when Marvin Priefert relocated his family to the area from McAllen. He invented the first gliding-action, fully opening head gate — and the rest is history. Marvin Priefert’s son and grandchildren have carried on the traditions that put Priefert on the map. There have been many notable events along the way — including the arrival at Priefert Ranch of a giant of a horse still remembered fondly by those who met him. In 1998, a legend that would forever be associated with Priefert was born: His name was Radar — a 2,300-pound Belgian gelding draft horse who stood 19 hands and 3.5 inches high. Radar was born in Iowa, and he made his way to the Priefert Ranch in 2006. He held the Guinness Book of World Records title for Tallest Living Horse from 2006-2009. The big horse traveled the country, making countless stops — and not only at Priefert Dealers and Priefert-sponsored events. He appeared on the Today Show, Animal Planet, Oprah and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as well. Typically, a Belgian horse stands 16-18 hands high, can pull a wagonload of 6,000-8,000 pounds and can work from eight to 10 hours per day. A Belgian foal weighs approximately 125 pounds at the time of its birth. Radar’s diet consisted of 40 pounds of hay, 18 pounds of grain and 20 gallons of water per day. In 2010, Radar appeared as a special guest at Breyerfest, a well-known, three-day family festival with model horse activities and a horse fair. A



limited edition Breyer model horse — bearing the name “Roy the Belgian” — was created using Radar’s likeness. Breyer’s tribute to Radar was released as a special-edition run in 2010, with production limited to 750. The model featured Radar’s subtle dapples, four socks and beautiful face markings. Radar passed away peacefully on Oct. 5, 2016. He had countless admirers and will always be remembered by the people who saw and met him. Charles Woods and his wife, Guilda, were Radar’s traveling companions as he made his way around the country. According to the Woods, Radar was a unique, individual horse — as gentle as they come. He had a willing temperament that was at times full of mischief. “It was our pleasure to haul him, especially to New York City, where we appeared on the Today Show — a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We will treasure the memories he gave us,” said Charles Woods. “Radar had a kind and playful spirit and he loved people,” said Priefert Director of Marketing Courtney Dyer. Dyer oversaw Radar’s scheduling and promotion. “He always took full advantage of any opportunity he had to be adored by the public. It was a true pleasure to get to share him with the rest of the world.” Bill Priefert said after Radar passed away, “Radar was a gentle giant and he will be missed by our family and our company. He will remain on the Priefert Ranch and will be honored with a special memorial so that he will continue to be remembered for generations to come.” Today, a special monument stands at Priefert Ranch — to observe the final resting place of a local legend. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

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Beach Club


Story & photos by PAM KUMPE

ids Beach Club is an after-school ministry at Crestview Elementary in New Boston, Texas and is offered to students in grades 3-5, and the program began its 9th-year back in the fall of 2017. This means some of the earliest students are now freshman in college. Jill Whittington, the Club Leader, who has held this position for the past five years, loves seeing God at work in the program and in the lives of the children. “I also served as a Team Leader during those first four years, and that’s when I really got to know the children. Our Team Leaders really know our kids.” Each week more than 30 volunteers teach and love on the more than 90 children, and each volunteer wears a Kids Beach Club T-shirt. “I wear my shirt around town and children will recognize the logo. I love that they love this program. This program helps them begin a lifelong personal relationship with God, and this changes their lives, and our world. We’ve witnessed hundreds of children make Jesus their forever friend over the years.” The goal of the program is to reach children and families for Christ, who may not have a church home and also instill a foundation in the hearts of the children rooted in the Bible.

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The club is a fun, high energy meeting, and yet, a formatted ministry geared for children with reviewing of the week’s prior lesson. They learn a new memory verse each week and a new Bible story, with counseling from individual team leaders. The Club meets Tuesdays after school and lasts until 4:30 p.m., and is sponsored by First Baptist Church in New Boston, but volunteers come from many different churches. “We couldn’t do what we do each week without our volunteers who love and care and teach our kids.” Whittington welcomes adults who long to serve to reach out to her and to pray about becoming a part of the program. “We feed the children a snack each week and give away Bibles. And the children become a part of our extended family. If they don’t have a church home, we invite their families to come see us at First Baptist Church.” Over the years, they’ve had numerous Crestview staff say that the students bring their Bibles to school and that they see the kids praying at school. But, Whittington is quick to say that most importantly the children are accepting Jesus as their Savior, a forever friend. “We all need Jesus and we live in such a busy world with so many activities competing with church time, and Kids Beach Club is easy and convenient for busy families.” Five elements are present in Kids Beach Club. There’s the connection time where they enjoy a snack, or have a fun activity or object lesson as they get ready for club. They also have a worship time, a hip-hop style where they can move to the music since they’ve been sitting at school all day. Next, the children have Bible time with their verses followed by a Bible story told through drama, storytelling or role play. And they also enjoy fun active games as they review their lessons. And although a child may come to play a game, he or she ends up finding acceptance, love and a place to belong. Whittington goes on to say, “Another great part for me is getting to love the kids while watching them grow and gain insight into living for God. Our first group is now in their first year of college, which is hard to believe, and I love seeing the kids out and about, and hearing them say I remember you from Beach Club. Of course, the absolute best part is seeing kids and their families come to know Christ, through Kids Beach Club.” Kids Beach Club is about planting seeds of faith and sharing the gospel, and Whittington loves it when a sibling or friend of a Kids Beach Club participant wants a new Bible, too. “And I do love all of their hugs.” To learn more about this after-school program, you can check out Jack Terrell’s website out of the Dallas Fort-Worth area, The leader says in summary, “We are blessed to have the support of the school and its staff and that of our community. I have to say, I believe we all love Kids Beach Club, and I pray that it continues as long as God continues to open the door.” NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

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Story and photos by BEN WOODS

Linden Public House isn’t the average business; they don’t mind if you come to the back door, in fact they would prefer you to. “We want you to feel like you are home,” said Clay Eddings. Clay explained the meaning behind the name Linden Public House.

“A public house is traditionally a place to have libations and food. They are very popular and are part of the social infrastructure in Europe, predominantly the UK and of course in Ireland, but in many places the public house is the focal point for the community. It is a house where people go to socialize and bring their families and have impromptu meetings or just

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“For the past seven months we have spent many nights and weekends working on the house,” said Clay. The Linden Public House will serve a few appetizers and drinks until the construction of the kitchen is finished. Clay estimates that the kitchen could be finished in a few weeks. The public house will also offer grain and gluten free menu options. “Due to my personal dietary restrictions, I understand the struggle many have with different food and eating away from home. We are working to provide an option for everyone,” said Anna. Clay & Anna The current operating hours are 3 p.m. till 10:30 p.m., Thursday through Eddings Saturday. “We will be available for private events, we have seating for 26 plus four with the bar,” said Clay. have a bite to eat,” said Clay. Clay and Anna did hours of research on this historic home and found The Linden Public House is a very unique business for the Northeast some very interesting facts. Texas region. This house was built in the 1910’s by an outstanding Linden native, Anna and Clay Eddings moved to Linden in Nov. of 2017 from Denton, Lester Looney Harper. Texas and after settling into Linden they fell in love with the town and In Harper’s long career in Linden he served as a teacher, president of the pursued the dream of opening their business. bank, Cass County Clerk and later as the Cass County Judge. “We wanted to move out of the Dallas metroplex, we were tired of the The Linden Public House not only serves drinks and food but it also city,” said Clay serves as a working art gallery. They searched and researched for a building or structure to rent and “We want to showcase local artists in our gallery,” said Anna. took a leap and purchased an older home close to downtown Linden. Artists can contact them through their Facebook page to have their work “We began in May trying to find a place on the square. We did a lot of considered to be commissioned at Linden Public House. research and we found the Harper house. So many of you remember what Before and after photos along with updates to the house can be viewed it did look like, and I thought my wife had lost her mind but we got on the on their website or their Facebook page. inside of the house and the inside of the house was sound from a structural The food and drink items will change seasonally with the exception of point of view but the outside was in very poor repair,” said Clay. some menu staples. The house has gone through a major transformation over the past seven The Eddings plan to use the farm to table aspect, utilizing local ingredimonths as it was being remodeled. ents from local farmers.









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Rodeo Program Set apart by level of competition, facilities By CARLY SCOTT


ince 1990, the Northeast Texas Community College (NTCC) Rodeo Program has helped rodeo athletes succeed in college while pursuing their passion for the sport of rodeo. Since the program was implemented on campus it has earned recognition for excellence and level of competition throughout the college rodeo world. The NTCC Rodeo Team is a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). The NIRA, established in 1949, sanctions more than 100 college rodeos annually and represents more than 3,500 college rodeo athletes. NIRA participants compete in regional rodeos as well as the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) each June. “I really love watching these kids work hard to achieve their goals and go after their dreams,” said NTCC Rodeo Coach Skylar Hunnicut. Hunnicut is 2007 NTCC Alumnus. He came on board as assistant coach when an opportunity to work with fellow team roper CJ Mohl presented itself. “I actually worked for the NTCC stock contractors and I would help with practices at the college,” said Hunnicut. “I came on as assistant coach, and then when CJ Mohl resigned I took over.” Tanner Jenkins, an NTCC sophomore from Orange, is currently ninth in the steer wrestling regional standings. Jenkins chose NTCC not only to pursue his degree in Farm and Ranch Management, but for what he believes is the best practice facility in the state. “I was good at football, so I decided to be a linebacker of rodeo — no, but really, I thought NTCC had the best practice facility,” said Jenkins.



The facilities Jenkins speaks of consist of a 350 x 170 practice arena, divided into three sections, with practice stock provided. A 37-stall horse “dorm” is located next to the arena on campus, which provides the perfect lodge for Sassi Thompson’s horse. Thompson, a Colbert, Okla. native, transferred from Connor State College in Muskogee, Okla. for the opportunity to be part of the NTCC Rodeo Team. “She’s an all-around cowgirl,” said Hunnicut. Thompson is a Business Management major who’s been involved in rodeo since she was a child. “I’ve done it my whole life — since I was three,” said Thompson. “I’m a sophomore this year.” Thompson competes in barrel racing and goat tie-down competitions. For some student athletes, the NTCC Rodeo Team is a family affair. Abby McCallie, of Morrilton, Arkansas is majoring in Nursing while actively pursuing her favorite sport — breakaway calf roping. “I have a lot of family that attend here, and it’s a great school, so that’s why I’m here,” she said. Cooper Christopherson, son of Riley Christopherson, is a Clarksville native — and a second generation NTCC Eagle, following in his father’s footsteps. Christopherson is a freshman at NTCC, Photos special to the Tribune/NTCC majoring in Agriculture Management. NETX CROSSROADS MAGAZINE

“I’m a tie-down calf roper,” he said. “I’ve been in rodeo since I can remember. I decided on NTCC because of the good practice facility and the coaching.” Conner White is a DeKalb freshman at NTCC. White is majoring in Farm and Ranch Management while pursuing his career in team roping close to home. White is the nephew of Mike White, who made 43 90 point rides in the Professional Bull Riders Association (PBR). White won both the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) world title and the PBR Rookie of the Year in 1999. NTCC holds the Annual NTCC Special Needs Rodeo in April and the NTCC College Rodeo in the October.

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