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February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close
TABLE OF CONTENTS Gentleman Farmer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Living large in Lantana . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Duck Creek Blackberry Farm . . . . . . . 15 A family farm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 The finer things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Life at Good Samaritan . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Downtown mini-mall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Contributors: A special thanks to Professor George Getschow and Dr. Mitch Land, professor and interim dean respectively with the Mayborn School of Journalism for allowing the Denton Record-Chronicle to work with their journalism students in the production of stories for this publication. Kudos also go to teaching assistant Beth Langton for her help in editing stories and conducting workshops with the students. This year’s edition includes “slice of life” features of the people who live, work and play in Denton County - from business men and women to retirees to farmers and much more. Thanks again to all. Dawn Cobb, managing editor, Denton Record-Chronicle
On the cover: Photographer Barron Ludlum captures the train passing through Denton with the silhouette of the Denton County Courthouse in the background during a recent wintry storm. The photo was selected for the cover for symbolism of the moving train showing growth, the icy fog depicting uncertainty and snow representing new beginnings. The courthouse has become an iconic symbol of the city with its architectural design and history.
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
Gentleman farmer Man combines love of land, life at styling salon By Amber Bell Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
PONDER—Bleary-eyed, Jeff Brown crawls out of bed at 5 a.m. each morning – sometimes after spending half the night tending to a sick horse or baling hay or handling many other chores around his 10-acre ranch. He’ll put on his cowboy boots and dash out to his barn to check on his horses and feed them. Then he’ll dash back to his house, dress, kiss his wife, hop into his truck, pit-stop at Starbucks for his daily Frappucino, drop his baby daughter off at day care, then scramble across the winding gravel roads that lead to Interstate 35 and his day job 40 miles away in North Richland Hills. By 7 a.m., he’s settled in at Avatar Salon, styling, clipping or coloring hair for clients, who along with his coworkers, like to tease “rancher-boy Jeff” about his double-life as a hair stylist and horse rancher. He’ll spend the next 12 hours on his feet in his crocodile-belly boots, styling hair, exchanging gossip and contemplating all the work waiting for him when he gets back to Ponder just in time for dinner. “Our dreams take a lot of work,” says Brown, showing a visitor around his tiny spread. “There is no ‘take a break.’ You take a break when you pass out.” He sighs as he passes through the threshold of his quaint home, a house he built with his own hands, and stoops to pet one of the cats slinking around the couch. “I’m beyond stressed out.” Brown is one of a growing number of socalled “gentlemen farmers” in Denton County, ex-city folks who live on tracts smaller than 50 acres that can support small-scale agricultural operations, such as raising chickens, goats or horses. As the grip of urbanization has spread across North Texas over the last decade, these tiny farms and ranches that encompass some 350,000 acres in Denton County have supplanted some of the large ranching and farming operations. “They know that going in, 10 acres is not going to support their lifestyle, but they like that lifestyle,” says Eddie Baggs, an agent with
Ponder resident Jeff Brown combines his love of the country baling hay and caring for horses - with his day job at an area style salon.
the Texas AgriLife Extension office in Denton. Indeed, of the 2,575 Denton County farms surveyed in a 2007 Census of Agriculture, over half of them – 1,498 – earned less than $2,500 per year. The majority of the county’s gentleman farmers and ranchers like Brown hold day jobs to support their standard of living.
For Brown and other gentleman farmers, the wide-open spaces and fresh air of the countryside more than compensate for the stress and strain of the long commutes to their day jobs in the congested, polluted urban centers far from home. But they pay a steep price for their choice of lifestyle. The constant fixing and upkeep of the ranch is trying, says Brown, who sports a per-
manent sunburn on his neck from the long hours spent outdoors handling chores. As he commutes to work at the salon, he groans at the thought of the next thing that could go wrong back home. Suddenly his cell phone rings. “You’re not going to believe it. We See FARMER on Page 8
February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
From Page 6
Campus Theatre Events
Farmer have no water,” says his panic-stricken wife, Melissa. “Who is up at this hour and will work on a well?” Brown asks himself. He is a mere 10 minutes from the salon. “I promise I’ll get someone to fix it,” he says calmly. He quickly dials a local plumber. “Please! You gotta go to the house. I’ve got a wife and a baby and the water doesn’t work,” he exclaims. The groggy plumber says he’ll fix the plumbing, “but waking me up is gonna be an extra charge,” he says. A snake, it turns out, had slithered into his well’s control box, shutting down the water well. The critter cost him $250 in plumbing charges. “The snake had exploded,” laughs Brown, months later. “I had put it in the well house to eat the mice.” Stressful moments like this, Brown says, aren’t what he expected when he shed his fancy Gucci and Armani clothes and BMW and replaced them with jeans, cowboy boots and a Ford pickup truck. Brown learned the hard way there are only two ways that people will succeed on a farm. “You either have to have a whole lot of money and pay everyone else to do it, or do it yourself.” There is no in-between he emphasizes, and acknowledges that the local education classes in farming and agriculture offered by the Denton County Agrilife Extension were a big part of his learning a do-it-yourself way of life. Aside from the stressors of the land and his own animals, Brown often boards other people’s horses for a monthly fee to provide extra income. When the slaughter houses left Texas, there were many families who could not afford to send their dying or expensive horses to Mexico, so Brown feels like he is helping to maintain Denton’s horse country by boarding horses that others can’t always afford. Others who have chosen the country lifestyle are charitable in their own way – next door, Jerry Koltes and his family opens their home to the church. Brown says the neighbors do whatever they can to help each other out. Four times a year, Brown bales five acres of the Costal Bermuda on his land. Brown piles the hefty round bales in his shop as high as the ceiling, where it is stored for his horses. What isn’t used is sold for some extra income. When he
“A lot of people go to work, but at the end of the day they didn’t make something. They can’t come home and ay, ‘I built this house.’ I can.” — Jeff Brown
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comes home from his day job, he says, it’s not uncommon for him to stay up all night on the tractor. “We all do it,” Brown says of the farmers in his neighborhood, and mentions he can always identify the familiar hum of neighbors’ tractors at work. “Hay baling is very tricky. I don’t have any control over a pasture. If it starts raining while I’m bailing, it’s ruined. It’s totally out of our control. I’ve had one of the balings get molded, basically ruined.” Baggs says it isn’t unusual to hear of someone who can’t sustain the “dream life” they had expected when deciding to move to the country. “Everybody has to work,” Baggs stresses, and “everybody has to have a place to live.” At Avatar Salon, Brown stands out, but his clients don’t mind. Sporting a John Deere cap and clunky cowboy boots, they say, just give him character. Brown is so loved as a stylist that his appointment books overflow with names and numbers; he hasn’t accepted a new client in years. Still, Brown wouldn’t move back to the city for anything. Life on the farm is a sense of accomplishment to Brown, and regardless of his love for the county, he believes he will retire doing hair for a living. He loves the way the land and work will pay him back when he’s put in the right amount of care and patience to see a project through, despite the lack of guarantees that being a farmer provides, but he’s also fond of the smiles he puts on client’s faces with a few snips of his scissors. As he inhales a large whiff of the country air, a robust blend of manure, hay and horses, his broad grin says it all. “A lot of people go to work, but at the end of the day they didn’t make something. They can’t come home and say, ‘I built this house.’ I can.”
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February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close
The entrance to Lantana in southern Denton County depicts the rustic yet lush
By Narath Khieu Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
Sculptured trees spread across rolling hills like a sea of emerald green. Lush plants and shrubs create a tranquil retreat for rabbits, squirrels and a variety of insects. A young couple strolls hand in hand down a quiet grassy trail while a father swings his 2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter at a nearby park. Neighbors convene on front lawns and sidewalks to share their stories. Every spring, wildflowers bring a rainbow of crimson, turquoise, saffron and fuchsia. And every year, families move to Lantana, a 1,718-acre master-planned community in North Texas that continues to grow despite a slow economy. People come to Lantana because of its location, community appearance, and homes ranging in prices from $250,000 up to $2 million. Residents view the community as a quiet refuge, a gathering place for friends and a place to nurture a family. “We are one of the best master-planned communities in Texas,” Lantana General Manager, Kevin Mercer says. “I have always loved the Austin area, so being
able to get a little bit of that Texas Hill Country feel here is very rewarding.” Acquired in 1999, Lantana sits eight miles south of Denton in unincorporated Denton County. The first residents moved in on July 31, 2001. As Lantana’s fourth resident, Mercer says that living in Lantana is like returning to his childhood when neighborhoods were safer. “It’s just a comforting feeling of being able to let my kids run around outside without worry until dinnertime,” the Fort Worth native says. Josiane Janbaziane moved to the area five years ago with her son. She agrees with Mercer and says that safety was a big factor in her decision to move. Mercer says the cost of living in Lantana is generally no different than the cost of living in Denton County. As members of the Homeowners Association, residents pay an annual fee of approximately $1,300 to $1,700. The fee is used to sponsor several events aimed at building and strengthening community involvement. Events include a spring festival, fall festival, Easter egg hunt, chili cook-off and community-wide garage sales. Other events include the Monster Mile, a speSee LIVING on Page 10
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
From Page 9
Living cial trick or treating event and Music on the Green, an annual event in the spring that features a different a band each week. As part of the HOA dues, residents also receive basic cable television, 24hour security monitoring and system installation, front yard and common area maintenance and state-of-the-art amenities that include an amenity center, five swimming pools, fitness facilities, a water spray park, eight playgrounds, two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, hike and bike trails and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Jay and Carter Morrish, one of the nation’s leading golf course architectural firms. “It’s all about getting the community involved,” Lantana Marketing Coordinator Nicole Hale says. “By offering so many different events and amenities, residents feel involved in part of a community where they know their dues are going into something other than maintaining a facility.” The manicured greens of the Lantana Golf Club surround the community and separate Lantana from neighboring towns. The design of the course utilizes the community’s natural terrain and
“There are wide open spaces - almost like meadows - and there are heavily wooded holes with changes in elevation.” — Jay Morrish about the Lantana golf course
heavily wooded areas. “One of the best things about the Lantana course is the wide corridors we included in the design,” Jay Morrish says. “Players won’t see big homes just looming over the fairways. The homes are tucked away and don’t detract from the overall aesthetic appeal of the course.” Morrish explains that playing the Lantana course is like playing two different courses. “There are wide open spaces – almost like meadows – and there are heavily wooded holes with changes in elevation,” Morrish says. “The high faces of See LIVING on Page 11
February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close 11
From Page 10
Living the bunkers not only add to the beauty of the course, but they improve the playing experience.” Before the economic downturn, Lantana grew at a rate of approximately one new household per day. “Now we are at a rate of approximately half of that, which is still better than most other districts in Denton County,” Mercer says. Despite the economic downturn, Lantana continues to flourish. Bulldozers and excavators plow through the streets to widen the two-lane roadway of FM 407 to a four-lane divided thoroughfare from Chinn Chapel Road to Briar Hill Road. Today, Lantana has grown to approximately 7,500 residents. In the midst of growth, Lantana faces challenges. Mercer says that the area’s biggest obstacles are related to the economy and that its residents are stretching every dollar to make ends meet. “We are providing an exemplary level of service with limited staff,” Mercer says. “We are faced with providing the same level of services with minimal increases in rates even though our costs for utilities, goods and services continue to increase.” Mercer works with seven full-time employees. He says that his greatest challenges are finding ways to maintain current level of services, create new programs and services and operate as efficiently as possible without adding additional staff. As GM of the community, Mercer is the chief executive and administrative officer responsible for the overall management and direction of the fresh
“For the first couple of years I was able to meet everyone that moved in, but now, with so many people moving in very quickly, it’s hard to keep doing it.” — Kevin Mercer, general manager at Lantana
water supply districts in Lantana. He also provides administrative direction and coordination for planning, building inspections and code enforcement. Lantana is located within a county development district and two fresh water supply districts that provide residents with wastewater services, streets and drainage. “To be unincorporated means that we are absent from any municipal government,” Mercer says. Mercer received his degree in architecture from the University of Arlington in Dallas in 1983. He worked for the city of Euless in development. Mercer says he came to Lantana for the opportunity of building a community from the ground up. “It was such an intriguing project that I wanted to be a part of it,” Mercer says about the diversity of his job. “I may be See LIVING on Page 13
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
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February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close 13
From Page 11
Living reviewing a set of plans for future development, looking at how the water system or a street is laid out, issuing permits or planning a review.” Mercer’s finds enjoyment in the development of a new community. He says that being a part of Lantana from the inception through what it has become today gives him a feeling much like that of an artist. “I can step away from my canvas and view what I have created,” Mercer says. Mercer enjoys meeting local residents as often as possible, but with the fastpaced growth of the community, he finds
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
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February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close 15
A place to pick them fresh from the bush
Duck Creek Blackberry Farm: By Megan Radke Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
SANGER – Many of the commuters roaring down Interstate 35 can’t believe their eyes. Amid litter, dead weeds and grass along the highway is a lush, 10-acre farm brimming with picnic tables, waist-high plants and a horde of bucket-toting children and their parents nibbling on something that turns their faces into a deep-purple mask. Welcome to the Duck Creek Blackberry Farm. For many of the families who flock here from the surrounding Metroplex, the 6-year-old farm offers not only their first taste of fresh-picked blackberries, but also their first close encounter with the glories and travails of farm life. “It’s an experience that something like Six Flags could never provide,” says Marilyn Kesseler, who coowns the farm with her husband, Charles. In January of 2004, Charles Kesseler, a retired high school science teacher, and former Denton Post Office employee, along with his brother, Randy, invested in 700 tiny hybrid blackberry plants from an Arkansas grower who was licensed by the University of Arkansas. The plants were said to not only contain the same amount of antioxidants as other blackberries, but to have no thorns, making them much easier to pick. “We had heard of other blackberry farms and just decided, why not give it a try,” says Charles Kesseler. The farm is situated on property that has been in the Kesseler family since the 1960s. Charles grew up in
the house that he and Marilyn share today. Blackberries begin blooming two years after being planted, so when the first crops of berries arrived at the end of June 2006, Charles and Randy picked the berries themselves, packaged them, and began selling them at the Denton Farmers Market on Carroll Avenue. Through selling the berries and by word of mouth, local residents began to take note of Charles and Randy’s farm and its popularity began to grow. This led the Kesselers to develop a “pick your own berries” business plan for their farm, allowing visitors to leave the farm with as many berries they can fit into a gallon-sized bucket. “The picking, packaging, and then hauling the berries to Denton was a lot of labor, so we decided that having more plants and allowing people to visit the farm and pick the berries for themselves was a better idea,” says Charles Kesseler. During the berry picking season, underneath the Kesselers’ 100-year-old Mesquite tree, Charles and Marilyn set up picnic tables and benches, brightly painted green and yellow, so families can relax and take in the quiet and fresh air of the farm after they pay for the berries they’ve gathered. To make picking and packaging simple for visitors to the farm, each gallon bucket is lined with its own plastic bag. The price for a bag of berries has remained at $15 since the opening of the farm. Kids visiting the farm, who want their own bucket for picking, are given quart-sized buckets and bags that can be purchased for only $4. According to the USDA National Nutrient
Database, blackberries are said to have more antioxidants per serving than any other fruit, including blueberries. These statistics work in the favor of Duck Creek, as each season seems to bring a bigger crowd to the farm than the last. Today, the Kesseler family has five different varieties of blackberry plants on the farm. With plants with names like Arapaho, Natchez, Ouachita, Apache, and Kiowa, which is the only variety on the farm with thorns, visitors have no shortage of berries. Randy died in February in 2009, leaving the farm to Charles and Marilyn. Randy’s death didn’t stop the farm from growing in the way the brothers imagined it would, however. Since they are both retired, Marilyn and Charles are able to devote themselves to the farm. The Kesselers daughter, Christy, and her husband Nathan, live on the farm property as well, helping to care for and trim the large blackberry crop; making the farm a true family business. Christy says that she helped to plant the most recent crop of berries, 400 plants of the Natchez variety. Although the planting and the care of the berries would seem like hard labor to many, Christy and Nathan enjoy helping Charles and Marilyn and see the payoff of happy customers worth the work. Kesseler, a former physics, chemistry, and biology teacher at Sanger High School, was able to put his knowledge of science to use while growing his blackberries. Kesseler says that it is imperative that the plants be trimmed year around. Keeping the plants See BLACKBERRY on Page 19
Denton Record-Chronicle Denton Record-Chronicle
Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close 17
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
A family farm By Mary Gallagher Williams Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
AUBREY – From the front porch of her country store, Myra Smith once gazed upon an oak grove. Now a blue and gold marquee announcing “Glen Oaks of Aubrey” obscures the aging farmer’s view. A developer chopped down the trees, replacing them with a modern subdivision. Urbanization keeps advancing on Aubrey, which nearly doubled its population to 2,867 between 2000 and 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The Smith family started farming in Aubrey in 1952. Smith’s husband, Bill, planted orchards, berry patches and peanuts on several hundred acres. He died in 1999. Now his widow keeps the place going. “I used to be the farmer’s wife,” Smith says. “Now, I’m the farmer.” Some of Smith’s neighbors surrendered – selling acreage to pay taxes or because the next generation didn’t want to stay in the family business. But Smith, like others, refuses to quit, even though suburbia eyes her homestead from across the country road. The few remaining farmers supplement their incomes by selling produce at the Denton County farmers market, growing hay for nearby horse ranches or running seasonal businesses. “No person depending on farm income could make a living, today unless he has thousands of acres,” Smith says, noting that her farm is smaller than it once was. Smith relies on her retirement pension to keep her farm running. And each October she continues what her husband started in 1990 – opening The Pumpkin Patch and Katie’s Country Market. “There was nothing else like this around,” Smith says with a Southern drawl. Four-foot walls of baled hay line two sides of the grassy parking lot. Children squeal on the other side as they pick pumpkins to take home as souvenirs. Carolyn Kacena sits at a small folding table waiting for customers to drive up, listening to the hypnotic buzzing of jumping grasshoppers. “Myra works from mid-August until September preparing The Pumpkin Patch,” Kacena says in a nondescript Mid-Western accent. Kacena knows from experience about the shrinking family farm — she spent her childhood vacations and holidays at her uncle’s family farm in Iowa. A conglomerate bought the farm as well as other surrounding farms, and Kacena says Iowan farms no longer resemble the American dairy farms of the early and mid1900s. “Conglomerates were so foreign to us growing up on a family farm,” Kacena says, remembering how only corn was grown after the Iowa buyouts. Last year’s rainy season left Smith in the red, forcing her to finance this year’s operation with her personal income. She expects to make money this year – a little better than the break-even point. A retired school teacher, Smith concedes there are not many produce farms left in Aubrey. She credits that change to homebuilders. And horse farmers drawn to Aubrey for its climate and sandy-loam soil have gradually replaced peanut growers, said Eddie Baggs, an agent for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Farmer Roy Lantrip, a lifelong Aubrey native, mowed grass along the highway to supplement his income. That is, until 2002, when the bidding for government contracts got too competitive. That same year the government allotment for peanut farming stopped, so he started growing coastal hay for horse farms. The quiet, yet friendly farmer chuckles when he says “raising hay’s not farming.” Sitting on a 1950s-style two-seater lawn chair, 70-year-old Lantrip spits tobacco on the ground in his yard near downtown. He says that hay farming only requires fertilizing, growing, harvesting and baling in the summer. In the winter he does coastal grass planting, called sprigging, with the hay he raises. And like most farmers he’s always had cattle. ‘ See FAMILY on Page 19
At left, Myra Smith assists several customers at the Denton Farmer’s Market.
February 27, 2011
From Page 15
Denton Up Close 19
Teaching Denton’s Future Stars for Over 20 Years! trimmed allows for water to better circulate throughout the plants and grow more effectively. The family tries to use the least amount of pesticides as possible, but Kesseler says that at least once or twice a year, spraying the plants is necessary to protect them from stink bugs. The farm is complete with its own stock tank that provides water to all of the plants. Kesseler has constructed an irrigation system that has a constant flow of water through small PVC pipes that line each row of blackberries. Blackberries are resilient plants, and most survive the freezes that hit North Texas a few times a year without being covered or protected from the cold. In the last year however, a hard freeze killed approximately 10 percent of the plants. A family friend who is a beekeeper,
suggested temporarily putting a bee hive on the farm in an effort to better pollinate the berry plants faster after the freeze. To his surprise, Kesseler said, this technique worked and revived the berry crop and allowed for a great 2010 season. The Kesselers hope to open a new season in early 2011. The family opens their farm to visitors on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. as well as on Saturdays, from 7 to 10 a.m. or until sell out, as the farm is run on a first-come, first-served basis. Marilyn says that she feels the farm provides a peaceful setting for families to experience that is far from the surrounding city life. “I feel like we’re giving back to residents. Visiting the farm isn’t only rewarding for visitors, it’s rewarding for us as well.”
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From Page 18
Family “The horse people came in first and bought a lot of the farms,” Lantrip shouts above the chugging engine of a hay baler that’s being tinkered with in his yard. He says the horse farms have kept the Aubrey economy going. Back at The Pumpkin Patch, elementary teacher Cliff Brogdon and his preschoolers wave goodbye to Smith as they pull away on a hay-filled trailer. Nearby, hinges squeak on the wooden screen door at Katie’s Country Market, which Smith’s husband crafted from a vegetable/fruit stand that once served as a goat shed. Adults and elementary school children wearing matching maroon T-shirts swarm inside. They chatter while flitting about searching for a souvenir or baked item to take home. A closed-off room next to the retail store is divided into three areas: a kitchen area, a woodcarving area and a craft area. Inside, another helper sits at a table cutting pears. Smith will add other ingredients to them for Myra’s Pear Mincemeat Jam, a secret family recipe. “My jams are very famous around Denton,” Smith touts. “Hello. Come in,” Smith chirps to a young family entering. “Have you gotten you a pumpkin yet?” she says to the children, and then asks the family if they’ve had a hayride. “Not yet,” the parents answer in unison
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as their son fidgets and skips around the store. “How did you know about us?” Smith asks. “I’ve been coming since they were little,” the woman says holding her palm face down as if measuring the height of a small toddler. In the early afternoon, Smith waves goodbye from a golf cart as school buses depart. She then drives it over a small wooden bridge and up a slight incline toward the country store and past the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins don’t grow well in Denton County soil, but she maintains the patch for display. She still buys most pumpkins from other growers, as did her husband. Though Smith’s family members have other full-time jobs, they help with the farm chores and heavy work as needed. Smith says they assist during the picking season, calling it “a family affair.” She still collects the peaches and berries herself, but says there will come a day when she’ll be unable to operate the farm. Ectropion, a disease that causes dry painful eyes, affects her lower eyelids, turning the inner surface of the lids outward. Arthritis has gnarled her fingers. She wants her family to keep the farm operating once she’s gone. But signs of change loom across the road.
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
The finer things
Cellar 22 one of many downtown specialties By William Walsh Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
“Honestly, I just tell The wrought iron sign above the Cellar 22 would rest comfortably in an upscale customers what I like.” urban environment. Nestled just off the — Amanda Espinoza eastern side of Denton’s Downtown Square, an area known for its bars and venues, the little wine shop has established itself as a refuge of calm for Denton patrons foster during business hours. residents weary of the club scene. “I really don’t know much about wine,” Virgil Ward, a familiar face to the store’s says Espinoza laughing. customers, began working at “Well, she drinks a lot of it,” her father Bushwhackers Wine Safari in 2002 as the jokes. store’s manager. Learning that the owner “Honestly, I just tell customers what I was interested in selling it, Ward formed a like,” Espinoza continues, composing herbusiness partnership with his wife, Susan, self. “We try everything we sell here.” and daughter, Amanda Espinoza. Days at the store are quiet, customers Together the family bought Wine Safari ambling in to peruse bottles and stogies and slowly shifted the business’ focus until they make their selections and leave; from retail. Easy chairs and restaurant but after dusk customers stay hours at a tables appeared in spaces once occupied time, drinking, laughing and talking over by racks of wine, while ads appeared in their wine. newspapers offering tastings to the com“We have people come in, just start munity. talking to the other customers there. Wine Safari officially closed its doors in People make friends fast here,” Espinoza May of this year, leaving only a note on its said. glass door saying that it The atmosphere in the would reopen later that Cellar 22 is radically differ“We have people ent from those of the bars summer. The Wards had come in, just long since decided that the that surround it. start talking to Conversation is encouraged, space on the western side of the square gave them and patrons seem to seek a the other little opportunity to posiexperience — a few customers there. fuller tion themselves as a gathhours spent away from work People make ering place instead of a and stress, sharing time friends fast traditional store. When with friends. space opened on the other Ward stands behind the here.” side of the square, the oak bar and talks with — Amanda Espinoza family saw the opportuniguests, acting more in the ty to reinvent the store capacity of a party host than with a new name and aesa bartender. In the smoking thetic. room, men gather under the hum of a Though smaller than Wine Safari, the ventilator, sitting at tables built from wine Cellar 22 boasts a kitchen and smoking barrels and watching their favorite sports room. Cheeses and food are offered along- teams as their troubles disappear in rich side a customer’s wine as cigar connois- blue wisps. seurs enjoy a large smoking room Laughter often erupts, echoing off the equipped with a flat screen television. wine bottles and narrow walls until the Despite the fact that the wine bar is the store finally closes and new friends only of its kind in Denton, it shares the exchange numbers and handshakes. The city’s distinctive lack of pretension. The light radiating from behind the iron sign Cellar-22 is a bar only in the loosest sense fades, and the refuge closes for the night, of the word. Alcohol takes a back seat to waiting to offer solace to its weary patrons the sense of community its owners and again tomorrow.
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Denton Up Close 21
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Feeling love, value and at peace key to happier living, some say By Brooke Nottingham Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
A Tuesday morning yoga class at Good Samaritan Village has a handful of seniors slumped over in their chairs. The instructor tells them to straighten and imagine that their necks are balland-socket joints, to let their heads roll gently, coaxing out the tension. Heads begin tilting. The instructor takes in a deep breath and lets it out. The seniors mimic her. “You can really feel the tension go away,” one senior says, her chin tucked into her chest. Her classmates murmur their agreement. Good Samaritan Society Denton Village, known as “Good Sam” to the locals, is painted cozy colors such as sandy shoal and warm peach and smells faintly of cinnamon. It has a heartbeat of clicking walkers and orthopedic shoes shuffling over closely-cropped carpet. The retirement village houses more than 200 members of Denton’s growing population of seniors. Seniors are
swathed in community and care while retaining the respect and independence they spent their lives earning. Virginia McDaniel, director of resident services, believes the village’s deeprooted faith and variety of living options sets Good Samaritan apart from other retirement homes. “The key is to make people feel loved, valued and at peace,” she says. “If we can create that, we’re miracle workers. No one can live up to it 100 percent, but if that’s your goal, you’re going to work at it.” McDaniel was raised by her grandmother, who was lost after her husband’s death. She had spent her life as a homemaker who had never written a check or driven a car. “It concerned me so much that such a good person would run into these kinds of problems,” McDaniel remembers. “I wanted to dedicate my life to helping seniors and making people aware of planning for their future.” See FEELING on Page 22
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
From Page 21
Feeling At Good Samaritan, that means providing varying levels of care and independence for seniors. Different levels include duplexes and apartments, where the residents are unsupervised and receive services such as housekeeping, transportation and meals. “It gives residents privacy and independence,” McDaniel explains. “We may never see them. We act as though they own their homes.” The next step is Assisted Living, which provides residents with a single-room unit and supervision by a universal worker. In health care center living, residents are supervised by a skilled living nurse 24 hours a day. There are a variety ways to leave Good Samaritan, says assisted living manager Barbara Gouge. A resident may move if they feel they require a different level of care. A resident may move to his or her own home, a smaller group home, leave to be with family or move into hospice. When she mentions passing away, Barbara Gouge pauses sadly. She continues in a lower voice, “Losing a resident is like burning down a library. You lose so much knowledge.” Good Samaritan provides meticulous health care to its residents to ensure a longer and high quality of life. “For some, this may be the last move they ever make,” says Katrina McPherson, director of resource development. “We make sure that this is a place that can provide security, services and safety.” Residents see a nurse twice a week for a brief check-up. An optometrist and audiologist are provided to clean eye-glasses and hearing aids free of charge. “And you think, ‘that’s so minor,’ ” says Becky Proctor, wellness coordinator. “But if you think about it, 90 percent of us who live here wear glasses or hearing aids. If [the residents] can’t hear or they can’t see, that’s going to cause a lower quality of life, which means more falls and more problems.” A podiatrist visits residents regularly. Proctor says the doctor performs routine bunion and corn care, but also pays special attention to how the seniors feel on their feet. “If their feet are hurting, they’re not going to be up and moving around. They’re not going to be exercising as
much,” Proctor explains. “If they’re not moving around, they tend to go downhill very quickly.” To keep residents active, Proctor introduces them to cardio machines such as treadmills. “They say, ‘I can’t do that. My kids do that stuff,’ ” she says, chuckling. “And I tell them, ‘Well, you can, too.’ ” Good Samaritan offers a variety of fitness classes, ranging from low-impact cardio to yoga that focuses on stretching, breathing and easing tension. If the exercise and medical attention make the residents feel at peace, then it must be the staff’s dedication that makes the residents feel loved and valued. The staff’s compassion runs much deeper than check-ups or smiles worn during duty hours. Gouge and her colleagues saunter down the hallways, touching residents on the arm and personally engaging them. The staff considers the residents to be family. Gouge can remember whose spouse died and when. She knows how the surviving partner is coping. She can recite intricacies of the residents’ lives – this man was forced to trade in his four-poster bed when it was deemed too dangerous. This woman is a former professor and has the loveliest singing voice. Gouge knows their Wii bowling strengths and weaknesses. She can name almost all the faces smiling out from the clusters of photographs cluttered on resident’s end tables. Gouge became involved with senior care after she retired from being a school counselor to take care of her ailing parents. Her work at Good Samaritan reminds her of that time. Although she is several years younger than many of the residents, she acts as both a daughter and a mother, pointing out the residents’ artwork that hangs in the hallways. McDaniel says that every resident at Good Samaritan has an amazing story. “We have a very high level of respect for our residents,” she says, but it’s a quote that could come from any staff member. “We want to get to know people,” McDaniel says. “We understand the huge contributions they made to our community. We don’t have a job without them.”
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Denton Up Close 23
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Treasure trove gazes to Denton’s past By Graciela Razo Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
A musty smell and Nina, the manager, greet customers at the door of the Downtown Mini Mall. The trek down the aisles of 1920s gemmed jewelry, hand-painted juice glasses, splintered wood furniture and boxes of pins yelling “VOTE NIXON” seems to last forever. Turn to the left, and there are guitars. To the right, pill box hats. Every inch of the Downtown Mini Mall is blanketed with pieces of merchandise. The 30-year-old Downtown Mini Mall serves Denton as a kind of bustling museum where vendors and artisans hawk antiques and collectibles from Denton’s past life alongside handmade lotions, jewelry and other modern-day wares. This marketplace showcases the talents of local craft makers and customers’ adoration of all things old-fashioned. The matriarch of the mall, Nina Mullinix, stands behind the long stretch of glass display cases housing pocket knives, key chains and sale jewelry. She rings up customers as the cash register yelps out a loud “Ding!” She stuffs the treasured purchases in old grocery bags. Nina peers over the edge of glasses sitting at the tip of her nose to get a closer look at a stack of dinner plates adorned with blue flowers placed in front of her for purchase. “Wow, that’s a nice one,” she says with a smile. “I hadn’t seen those before.” First-time visitors Kami Higbee and Renee Whitehead from Little Elm stroll down aisles taking a look at crazy, over-the-top fashions from the 1970s. Higbee jokes that the two are trying to find Whitehead a new look in the piles of old denim, leather purses and spectator heels. Then something catches Higbee’s eye immediately. “Hey, look at these jeans. They’re by Michael Kors.”
Then, in even more excitement she emphasizes, “And they’re only $10.” The two then spot a stack of old straw hats, some trimmed with colorful ribbon and others embellished with an abnormally large brim. As the women try on the hats, they point and laugh at what the other is sporting like two little girls playing dress-up in their grandmother’s closet. “The hats are always my favorite part!” Higbee says. They amble down more aisles to try on clothes from previous decades that now look like costumes. “How about some fur?” Higbee jokes. “Ha!” Whitehead laughs. “Didn’t you wear these in the Seventies?” Higbee asks, pointing at some chunky platforms. Mullinix has watched customers play dress up and take trips into the past at the Mini Mall for 12 years, first as a vendor, then working her way up to manager. She keeps 14 different booths in the mall as her own. She sells mainly collectibles, art and glassware found at estate states and pulled from her personal collection of antique items at home. She has grown a large personal array of merchandise since she started hunting down special pieces 35 years ago and began selling them 17 years later. Mullinix jokes that she must be part raccoon. “Everything that sparkles gets my attention,” she says with a laugh. As a child, Mullnix dusted her grandmother’s antiques and matched her earrings together. From this experience, she began to distinguish the old and valuable from the just plain old. “I learned what quality stuff looked like. Soon, I had collected so much stuff, I had to have a store for it all,” Mullinix says. The Mini Mall is where she has made a home for her hobby. Mullinix is a modern-day treasure hunter and
finds her excursions exhilarating. It’s the hunt and the work that goes into finding the perfect item she cares about. Mullinix recalls when her love of the hunt first began. “You’re 12 years old and too old to go Easter egg hunting,” her mother would tell her. Mullinix carried that love to estate sales, thrift stores and garage sales. “I had to find another means for my hunting, so this is what I started doing,” Mullinix says. That same exhilaration is what draws people to the Mini Mall, she says. Everyone wants a treasure, and they find it here. The Mini Mall vendors have grown into a spider web network of antique collectors. They play the part of the museum tour guides and historians of the area. Most have been manning their booths here for decades, Mullinix says. Gloria Morgan, 72, is an antique mall veteran. She sold glassware, jewelry, hats and collectibles for more than 40 years. Morgan has a booth at the Mini Mall called Heaven Sent. “I think it’s just a fascination, in a way, to go to a mall like this and see so many different booths and different tastes in things,” Morgan said. From San Diego, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla., Morgan has come to know the ins and outs of the antique business. Her interest in treasure hunting also rubbed off on her son, who sells furniture at the local flea market a few weekends a month. She hunts at garage sales for most of her merchandise. Morgan even says her children and grandchildren tease her about her love for a good bargain. “My kids say it’s an obsession,” Morgan says with a shy See TREASURE on Page 25
February 27, 2011
Denton Up Close 25
From Page 24
Treasure laugh. Now she takes her grandson to thrift stores to find inexpensive clothing and toys for him, telling him to put down the khaki shorts for $2.99 because an identical pair hangs on the 79 cent rack. “I always tell my kids, ‘When I pass on, don’t be putting me in no fancy clothes because you know I shop at thrift stores,’ ” Morgan says. She brings her penchant for anything one-of-a-kind to the Downtown Mini Mall. Morgan said she specifically tries to gear her items toward college students in Denton. Many younger people are finding a fascination with the antiques and “wacky” pieces she has to offer. “I sell a lot of crazy, funky looking hats,” Morgan says. “They go wild over those things.” She becomes attracted to certain items from her past. Plates with flowers painted on them and scarves with psychedelic prints from the 1960s remind her of her mother and grandmother. “This kind of stuff just stuck with me,” Morgan says. “I just really like them, but if something once belonged to my mother or grandmother, I can’t part with them and sell them.” Morgan’s booth and the others that display items from the past welcome visitors from all over the area. Customers can feel leather belts worn five decades ago. They can see gas masks that were made before television was invented. Guests can take home dinner plates used to serve food as their original owners watched the Ed Sullivan Show. Morgan says the Mini Mall morphed into a Denton landmark that has become one of the main characteristics of the Downtown Square. It has grown into a huge tourist attraction as well, she says. “I think it does bring a lot of visitors to Denton,” Morgan says. “It’s just a lot of fun to go through here if you like that sort of thing.” While out-of-town visitors are scavenging for lost treasures in the Mini Mall, local storeowners also cherish the antique mall for its cozy charms. Jennifer Boncyk, owner of 2nd Street from Urban to Vintage on the Square, sits just two storefronts down from the mall. Boncyk says she always visits to grab a few items to use in her store as decorations. She found the red bicycle
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“You are taking little looks into the past to see what’s going on” at the Downtown Mini Mall. — Nina Mullinix
displayed in her store window, the crates that hold vintage T-shirts and cabinets that showcase locally made jewelry at the neighboring store. “It really talks about the individuality and diversity in this area,” Boncyk says. Between the coffee shops and office buildings off the downtown square, the Mini Mall gives window shoppers a venue to take a break from the stresses of daily life, she says. “The mall definitely adds a place here where people can relax,” Boncyk says. “It’s not a place for hustle and bustle, but a place for exploration.” The tourist attraction caught the attention of self-proclaimed thrift store junkie and University of North Texas student Linda Pedraza last semester. Pedraza came in with her sister to start their hunt for one-of-a-kind pieces from the past, specifically jewelry and art pieces. Old advertisements, black and white photographs of families, and grimy mismatched doll parts begged Pedraza to pick them up for a closer look. “It’s a lot of cool, nifty things,” Pedraza says. “They have kind of creepy, old things, but I think all of it is really cool.” With people of all ages and cultures managing their own booths, the place offers a certain diversity, rather than just attracting one type of buyer like some antique malls, Pedraza says. Each item has its own charm and story to tell, she says. Products aren’t made now like they used to be. “A lot of that stuff was made in the United States back then, and now it’s all cheaply made somewhere else,” Pedraza says. “It has that old granny feel because it’s already been used.” Even customers who aren’t ready for the trek through thousands of vintage items flock to the Mini Mall for a chance to gaze at the old days, Mullinix says. “You are taking little looks into the past to see what’s going on,” she says.
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
UNT professor travels to find lost languages By Alyssa Scavetta Special Contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle
Some of her colleagues think of Dr. Sadaf Munshi as a modern-day Indiana Jones – a daring explorer of the lost languages of Islam. The soft-spoken University of North Texas professor often immerses herself into some of the most remote and inhospitable regions of the Middle East in search of endangered cultures and dialects. On a recent trip to Hunza, Nagar, Yasin and other isolated villages in the Gilgit Valley, Sadaf faced harrowing encounters with massive floods, asphyxiating dust storms and wary natives, all in the name of preserving the language of Burushaski. In some of the most isolated villages, “getting to talk to a man about the language was difficult,” she says. Despite her easy-going manner, ready smile and fluency with Burushaski, Munshi recalls, “I had to visit year after year, build up a rapport, until eventually I found a man who was convinced all women spoke the language wrong that would talk to me. He wanted to show me how the language was spoken the right way.” But she persisted and slowly began winning over the natives. A nobleman of the village named Wazir Shafi became her friend and main source of information. He came to see her not as a threat, but as a savior, determined to help the natives preserve their fading language, their culture and, ultimately, their identity. As she gained their trust, the anxious inhabitants of the politically volatile region began to flock to her in droves, hoping to preserve any piece of culture with their language that they could. “They were very excited to see me,” Munshi said. “They sang and danced. The songs were very old, but they wanted to document those songs.” Linguists and cultural anthropologists familiar with Munshi’s, “Documenting Endangered Languages Project,” granted by the National Science Foundation, contend that the success or failure of her efforts has significant consequences, not
“The reason we should preserve languages is because they preserve us.” — Dr. Haj Ross, syntax linguist and professor at UNT
just for the remote villages in the Middle East, but for any part of the world, including North Texas, where local dialects play a pivotal role in culture, commerce and way of life. “The reason we should preserve languages is because they preserve us,” says Dr. Haj Ross, a friend of Munshi’s and a syntax linguist and professor at the University of North Texas. “Language is the closest thing we can come to mind, and mind is the closest thing we can poke at with science to get to the spirit or soul. And, of course, the greatest writers, they’ve managed to say soul. They say words which can start revolutions, which can make us weep, which can take us through battle. In profound ways, the ability of the estimated 100,000 Middle Eastern tribe members to speak Burushaski sets them apart from all the other inhabitants of the region — shaping their songs and dances, their poetry and their way of life. As Sadaf discovered in recording, documenting and studying the language over the last seven years, there are no words in English or any other “foreign” language that can truly capture the meaning of Burushaski. Words are absorbed into other languages that are more dominant in the region, such as Urdu. Without any written documentation of the language or previous preservation efforts, Burushaski could quickly dissolve into the ranks of extinct languages. Within its lavish beginnings, Burushaski bears a lively history. The ancestors of the Srinagar Burushaski dialect were from a royal family brought to Srinagar and put under arrest by British and Dogra troops in 1890-91, See LOST onPage 28
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Denton Up Close February 27, 2011
From Page 26
Lost before India had even become an independent state. This is just part of the history that Sadaf Munshi stumbled upon in the beginnings of her study. Munshi grew up in a traditionalistic area known as Kashmir, India. She graduated from the University of Kashmir, and soon after became interested in linguistics. She lived and went to graduate school in the modern Delhi for four years before coming to the United States. “My first visit to the U.S. was quite a bit of a cultural shock and a great adjustment,” she says. “It was a totally new experience in terms of knowing the people who I was only familiar with through film and TV. I got to know that my perspectives about the Western society were quite different from what I actually experienced in reality.” Her culture shock seems to go both ways, however. As Munshi travels back to her now politically volatile hometown, she’s found that she is forced to lead something of a double-life. “Whenever I go back, I find myself putting on my usual conservative dress. Not only is it looked down upon to not have your head covered but...” she strains her voice to find the right term. “I feel as if I stick out like a sore thumb.” This cultural diversity doesn’t stop the determined linguist and a pregnant mother of one from accomplishing what she flew across the world to do. She arrives in a small town in the Gilgit valley, where cars may go, but phones and Internet access are scarce. Every man is called by the surname Raja, or King, and women tend to intermingle only with their gender. She sets up in one of the many mudroofed homes of the underdeveloped town and gets right to work. Gently setting her recorder onto the kitchen counter, she meets with Wazir and scrupulously goes over words. For many minutes, she simply asks him to say what he knows about the language, and Wazir repeats words, songs, poems. “Milk. Tree. Friend.” Over and over again. In a language that has never been written, all poems are oral, reminiscent of pre-Beowulf times, and must be recorded and documented by Munshi. This process is repeated with each member in the town willing to present
Associated Press An overnight downpour causes damages in Kashmir, a normally arid region last August. his or her best knowledge of the language, starting with men of all ages, and then moving to the women. Pause, play, pause, play, from 8 a.m. until midnight for two weeks. This may sound like daunting work, and perhaps unnecessary, but this woman and these people who are caretakers of the endangered language know why it needs to be done this way. They are preserving their livelihood, and Wazir seems to be the leader of the pack. However, these weren’t the only trials she faced. During the summer of 2010, the valley near Gilgit where Munshi was studying was hammered by vicious rainfall, creating a massive flood within hours, washing away the mud-roof homes of the town. “It was as if dust was raining from the mountain,” Munshi said excitedly. “It got so dusty, we all went inside and closed the doors because it was getting suffocating. And then we closed the doors and windows and we were sitting in the room. Still recording, it was like choking into the microphone.” That night, she says, the rain started falling over the sleepy town. By the next morning, the water was gushing down, and “there was no way our car could have gone through the roads.” The car Munshi and her associate were using was flooded by the rapidly rising tide within the valley. They decided to abandon the car and hitch a ride with someone else to safer ground. Munshi was able to find solace for a night at a hotel. However, by the next morning, the hotel had started flooding.
She quickly escaped and found herself at a University guest house in Gilgit City only five hours down the road. “Over the phone, they were welcoming, but upon arrival, they turned me away. The guest house said, “Sorry ma’am, we don’t have any water here because the mortar that pumps up water to this guest house in the main city has been damaged by the floods, so you cannot stay here.” The linguist was able to stay with a contact in Gilgit City for the night. She ignored the rhythmic click, click, click as the water seeped through the ceiling, falling behind her in the house, and continued documenting her recordings. As the storm dissipated, she continued scrupulously recording everything the native speakers of the language would say, until her final days in the MiddleEast. Coming back from her studies across the world, it’s back to a normal life of a professor in the Western culture for Dr. Munshi. Waking up at 6 a.m. to get her 5-year-old old son ready for the school day ahead, and getting ready for her job at the university. Daily chores include teaching, research and phoning her husband, who currently lives across the country doing his residency in Minneapolis. Afterward, she picks up her son from his school, feeds him and reads him stories. Yet, the process of documenting and recording Burushaski is not over. The transcription process begins. Five minutes of recordings and video log
could translate to several tedious hours of work and study, and Munshi knows she can’t do this alone. Munshi’s friends and associates have nothing but praise for her work. Dr. Timothy Montler, a University of North Texas professor of linguistics, was eager to talk about his colleague. “She is the leading expert in the U.S. on Burushaski, and she is uniquely qualified to study the language,” Dr. Montler says. “She is a brilliant young scholar with a wealth of knowledge to share. Her work will have the attention of scholars around the world.” With a glow in her eyes, Dr. Munshi says, “In our university, they focus on working not only in local areas, but in far-flung areas where much research has not been done before. It’s good for the University because we are able to work on new research in far-away remote areas.” The professor still has her work cut out for her. But by preserving such a tenuous language as Burushaski, she’s helping preserve not just a form of communication, but also a culture. “The linguistic data could be historically very important, and thus, a contribution to several fields in social sciences globally — not just linguistics, but cultural anthropology, sociology, and history,” Munshi insists. She preserves an identity among the people who still speak Burushaski. A piece of history that she knows may soon be forgotten in an ever-growing world.
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Published on Feb 22, 2011