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Special Report: Keeping Friends Close: The Battle over Bully Breeds

April 15, 2011


Spotlight on Agriculture The Photo Issue: “The Simple Things”

In This Issue

Editor In Chief Christian Keitt Managing Editor Melissa Greene

Design Editor Natalie Kushner

Feature Editor Audrey Westby

News Editor Kelly Shorette

Photo Editor Chantel Martin Special Report Team Leader Jad Dusek

Contributing Writers Coshandra Dillard, Hattie Kemp, Jennifer Harris, Mary Parsons, Haylee Story Photographers Tiffany Drake, Clay Ihlo, Jake Waddingham Adviser Dave Weinstock

Comments or questions can be directed to Vol. 1, No. 3 - April 15, 2011 The Pine Curtain Magazine is an online publication created by journalism students at the University of Texas at Tyler. Content may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from The Pine Curtain Magazine. ©The Pine Curtain Magazine 2011

2  •  The Pine Curtain

In This Issue 6


The T-Bone Carving the Truth from Political Rhetoric. This issue: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) Photo courtesy

Special Report 8

Keeping Friends Close Why Texas’ lawmakers and dog owners are battling to keep their bully breeds.

Features 16

Cream of the Crop: Spotlight on East Texas Agriculture Stories about East Texas’ agricultural businesses. April 15, 2011  •  3  

In This Issue

Vol. 1, No. 3    April 15, 2011

In This Issue

Contents Art + Life 36

Photo Journal: The Simple Things A glimpse of serenity captured through a lens: Some of UT Tyler’s most promising photographers offer a peaceful view of life in Texas. Students featured:


Chantel Martin


Brandie Covington


Melissa Greene

4  •  The Pine Curtain


hen I was on the hunt for an apartment in Tyler last year, I was forced to narrow my search to apartments that were “pet friendly” because I have a dog. However, I soon found that most apartments aren’t “friendly” toward all pets. After telling the staff member that I had a dog, I was always immediately asked, “What kind of dog?” Most apartment complexes have strict rules that prohibit “aggressive” dog breeds, including Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinchers and, most of all, Pit Bulls. Apartment complex breed restrictions are only one example of recent controversy and legislation aimed at dogs and their owners. In this issue, we take a look at how state and local governments are attempting to regulate everything

from the number of unspayed females breeders can own, to two separate pit bull attacks that ignited local and state debate. Agriculture is a way of life here in East Texas. In this issue, we explore businesses that embrace the dirt and soil of the Piney Woods region. We even found one farm with an equine celebrity in their midst. Many readers might notice a graphic that resembles a bar code on the bottom left part of the Pine Curtain’s cover. This is a QR code, short for “Quick Response” code, and it allows readers to access the magazine on the latest generation smartphones (iPhone or Droid). With a QR client (from your app store) you can be taken to The Pine Curtain Magazine on and browse all the issues there.

Christian Keitt

The Pine Curtain welcomes letters to the editor via e-mail. E-mails should be as concise as possible due to space limitations and must include your name and telephone number, so we can verify authenticity. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to

Editor in Chief

Like Us on Facebook April 15, 2011  •  5  

In This Issue

Editor’s Letter

In This Issue

By Melissa Greene

Take your average T-Bone steak. Carve away the fat and the bone and the little that remains is meat. Take your average politician. Carve away the bluster and rhetoric and you just may find the truth…or not. In our T-Bone, we’ll look at political quotes that make us wonder where the meat is, closely examine their value and grade them just as a meat inspector might grade cuts of beef: Prime, Choice, Standard or Canner. Then we’ll serve it up to you for your consumption.

‘Prime’ Truth: Top shelf—Grade A goodness.

‘Choice’ Truth: Mostly true, depending on the bull it came from.

‘Standard’ Truth: Run of the mill bull—more gristle than fat, less meaty than most.

‘Canner’ Truth: Don’t eat this meat.

On the Senate floor April 8, during a speech calling for $300 million in cuts from Title X for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, ostensibly in order to reduce the number of abortions:

“...[abortion is] well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” ‑Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R- Ariz.)

Politicians sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment while delivering an impassioned plea, but truth is the truth, no matter how emotional you get about it. Title X is the family-planning portion of the 1970 Family Planning Services and Population Research Act, signed into law by President Nixon. In 2010, $317 million went into Title X, about 25 percent of which goes to Planned Parenthood and its 95 affiliates operating 865 health centers. To begin with, it’s against federal law for tax dollars to fund abortions. That’s a no-brainer. Sen. Kyl’s statement about “90 percent” sounded fishy to us, so we paid a visit to the Planned 6  •  The Pine Curtain

Parenthood website and took a look at the 20082009 Annual Report, the latest data available. The largest part, 37 percent, provides contraception to the public; 31 percent is testing for and treating STDs and 17 percent is dedicated to cancer screening and prevention. The report said abortion is 3 percent of their business. The House passed the bill 240-285, but it was defeated in the senate 58-42. We labeled this statement Canner Grade and decided that’s a difference even a career politician can’t spin. And then we heard this:

“…that remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

‑Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)

We asked ourselves, each other and the Magic 8 ball, “then what was it intended to be?” Sen. Kyl, had to be aware his remarks would become part of history via the Congressional Record. He had to know he would be held


accountable by fact-checkers all across the nation. This statement is simply an insult to the integrity of the United States Senate. Surely Sen. Kyl has learned the lesson, we thought. Then we heard this:

Sen. Kyl’s April 14 response after admitting he misspoke on Planned Parenthood, and was questioned about the press release from his office:

“That was not me - that was my press person.” ‑Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) The Blame Game is never professional. Sen. Kyl earned Canner Grade for the entire debacle. Perhaps the most factual statement Sen. Kyl made this

year was back on Feb. 10, when he said he will not seek reelection in 2012.

In an April 12 Twitter posting from Sen. Nancy Pelosi’s Twitter:

“It’s 2011, but American women still don’t earn = pay for = work. Paycheck Fairness Act intro’d today #EqualPayDay” -House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Forty-eight years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law, women are still not earning pay equivalent to men. With tax day hovering near, we’re already feeling a little down in the paycheck. Being a mostly female staff, this tweet from the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives sparked our curiosity. What we found was discouraging. A report in the 2008 edition of the Employment

Outlook report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found women are paid 17 percent less than their male counterparts. Here in Texas, the National Partnership for Women & Families reports a woman working full time is paid $32,578 per year, while a man working full time is paid $40,621 per year. While we can’t tie this discrepancy directly to discrimination, it is something everyone should be aware of. This quote earns a Prime Grade. April 15, 2011  •  7  

In This Issue


Statement released by Sen. Kyl’s office April 8, a few hours after his Senate speech:

Clay Ihlo

Special Report


friends close

A new rash of state and city legislation aims to take closer control of man’s best friend. Do the facts match the hype? 8   •  The Pine Curtain

T by:

Jad Dusek Jennifer Harris Natalie Kushner Kelley Shorette

By Kelley Shorette

April 15, 2011  • 


Special Report

exas dog owners are celebrating a small but decisive victory after state legislators dropped one of four dog enforcement bills. State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D – San Antonio) recently decided not to pursue—following heavy opposition—a mandatory $100,000 dog-bite insurance policy for un-neutered male dogs weighing more than 20 pounds. Tom Lundberg, president of the Lone Star State American Pit Bull Terrier Club, predicted the bill would not pass because he believes hunters and search-and-rescue workers who depend on large dogs would aggressively lobby against it . “It’s very unpopular. [McClendon] probably realized that she had clearly made a mistake, and backed off to stop to stop her phone from ringing off the hook,” Lundberg said. The remaining proposed dog bills are also drawing negative feedback from outraged dog owners, breeders and sportsmen. One bill, named “Justin’s Law” for a 10-year-old Kilgore boy who was attacked and killed by two pit bulls in June 2009, would make it a third-degree felony to own a pit bull in Texas. The bill, written by the family’s lawyer, Cynthia Kent, hasn’t been sponsored yet. Lundberg said he doesn’t expect it to go far because state law prohibits breed-specific legislation. “The Legislature would first have to rescind the original law to get this one passed, and that’s not going to happen,” he added. Rep. Chuck Hopson (R – Jacksonville) is the author of another bill drawing attention. Under this legislation, the owner of a dog who attacks and kills a person could be charged with a second-degree felony. If the victim is between the ages of 15 and 65, the penalty increases. The owner could be charged with a first-degree felony which is punishable by five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 under Texas Penal Code. Hopson could not be reached for comment. Sheri Lapina with the Humane Society of North Texas said dogs aren’t naturally vicious but rather are made that way

Special Report through neglect or abuse. She believes it is the owner’s responsibility to train the dog and so the owner should pay the price if that dog attacks someone. A different bill, written by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D – Houston), targets dog breeders. Under this bill, anyone one who owns 11 or more female dogs would be classified commercial, which would entail licensing, inspections and criminal background checks for which they must pay the state. Many dog owners who breed show dogs or hunting dogs as a hobby will commonly have more than 11 females. In Lundberg’s opinion, the bill was co-written by members of the Humane Society, whom he believes wish to “eliminate breeders” in favor of pet adoption. Lapina said that is untrue, adding there is public demand for both breeder and shelter dogs. He said what matters most is how that dog is cared for. “It’s not breeders that cause overpopulation of dogs, it’s having dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered,” she said. 10   •  The Pine Curtain

“Justin’s Law,” named after a 10-year-old Kilgore boy who was attacked and killed by two pit bulls in June 2009, would make it a third-degree felony to own a pit bull in Texas.

Local attack prompts city reaction By Jad Dusek

Summer Adams before and after the pit bull attack. The two-yearold was treated at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas after a family friend’s seven-month-old pit bull broke its chain and pinned her to the ground.

the dog had never seen her

Photos courtesy of Adams family

April 15, 2011  •  11  

Special Report

Several East Texas cities are evaluating policies While the Adams family said Summer’s recovery on dogs within city limits after a pit bull attacked a was their primary concern, the attack created two-year-old Van child last October. about $70,000 in medical bills. Summer was airlifted to Children’s Medical Legislation was proposed at last month’s city Center in Dallas after a family friend’s sevencouncil meeting in Van that would require photo month-old pit bull broke its chain and pinned registration of dogs 40 pounds or more, require her to the ground. Her injuries, including a skull dogs be kept in a fenced yard, and force owners fracture doctors said was caused by the dog’s to take out a $100,000 insurance policy to help penetrating teeth, required 250 stitches and several staples. Doctors Summer had been over there before; it wasn’t put her in a drug-induced coma to keep her calm like . and assist in the healing process. “There were 73 centimeters of open lacerations to her back and to with expenses in the event of an attack. her head,” said Tina Adams, Summer’s aunt. The issue is complicated by the fact Texas Health William Adams said the dog that attacked and Safety code section 822.047 states cities and his daughter had never shown signs of being counties may only place additional restrictions on aggressive. dangerous dogs if the rules are not specific to one “Summer had been over there before; it breed or several breeds of dogs wasn’t like the dog had never seen her,” he said. Michael Warnick, a local hunter from Mineola, “According to the dog’s owners, the dog had never said the insurance requirement isn’t feasible for acted aggressive before and they hadn’t seen many hunters who breed dogs. signs of that coming from their young dog.” “I would do anything that I could to not let this Although Summer Adams’ wounds have healed, bill pass,” Warnick said. “I know that I and others incidents like this have sparked local and state would protest this as long as possible.” governments to examine dog policies in an effort “The money doesn’t matter I’m so glad that my to reduce the number of attacks that happen each baby girl is doing great,” Adams said. year.

Jennifer Harris

Special Report

Local professionals point to lack of training, socialization By Natalie Kushner The nurture versus nature debate is at the forefront of dog ownership ordinances under consideration by local city officials. “There’s a combination of fault,” Dr. Marcus Alexander of North Tyler Veterinary Clinic said. “You have a dog that’s well-suited that probably hasn’t been socialized well, and then you take that dog and don’t contain it well. That’s the person’s fault.” A veterinarian for more than 25 years, Alexander agrees certain breeds are inclined to attack more than others, but argues less stigmatized breeds such as Chihuahuas and Chow Chows are more likely culprits. The scope of injury is the biggest difference 12   •  The Pine Curtain

between breeds, Alexander said. According to an Associated Press-Petside. com poll conducted last October, 71 percent of Americans believe dogs with proper training are safe, and 53 percent believe pit bulls are safe living in residential neighborhoods. “The bull breed dogs are known for their single-mindedness,” Alexander said. “It’s unfair to the breed as a whole to label them as evil dogs, because there are some very sweet pits out there.” Other professionals experienced with handling different breeds believe there is no difference between breeds in likeliness to attack. “If you train a dog positively and you have a

You have a dog that’s well-suited that probably hasn’t been socialized well, and then you take that dog and don’t contain it well.

That’s the person’s fault.

“A little kid in a dog’s eyes probably isn’t going to be another person,” Alexander said. “ I don’t think I’d trust a small child with them because a dog may not view that as a human. They view small children as another part of the pack.” “Children run,” Reed agreed. “They run quickly. They’re in the dog’s face a lot quicker. They’re seen more as litter mates as opposed to an actual adult. Unfortunately, kids don’t understand to take it easy or take things slow with dogs sometimes.” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims much of the stigma surrounding pit bulls and larger breeds results from outdated information exaggerated by media. The ASPCA cited a 1994 Center for Disease Control survey claiming more than half of the 800,000 victims seeking medical treatment each year are children. However, about 10 fatal dog attacks involving children occur each year, according to the ASPCA. “A long time ago there was some flap about some pit bulls who chewed up some people,” Alexander said. “And there was an article that came out in some magazine that said ‘Dog bites man’ is not news. ‘Pit Bull bites man’ is news.” Alexander explains people are getting what they’ve asked for through decades of specific breeding. “You can choose genetic lines that are not as aggressive,” he said. “But in some ways we want aggression in our Dobermans and our German Shepherds because we want our guard dogs. It depends on what we’re using them for.” April 15, 2011  •  13  

Special Report

strong pack leader, meaning a confident owner, you’re going to have a good dog,” Karen Reed, an accredited pet training instructor for PetSmart in Tyler, said. “It’s all in the temperament of the dog and how you train and raise the dog.” Reed is an obedience trainer for PetSmart and works with Therapet, an organization using animal assisted therapy and rehabilitation. She uses large dog breeds, including pit bulls, in both training and therapy classes. “I’m not a believer that there’s one breed worse than another breed,” she said. “I’ve gotten bitten a lot more by Chihuahuas and small dogs than big dogs, so it’s all in the training of the dog.” Alexander said he agrees it’s not fair to singleout pit bulls because any of the larger dogs are capable of massive damage. “I had a lady come in one time with a Rottweiler,” he said. “She came in and said, ‘This dog is dying today,’ because it took her son down. I don’t know how many stitches he had in his head. And she was a Rottweiler breeder.” Both Alexander and Reed believe socialization, or teaching a dog what is appropriate within an environment with new people and animals, is an important factor missing in aggressive dogs. “A lot of people have their dogs in their house, on their property,” Reed said, “so when someone new comes to the property, they react out of fear because they don’t know the person. The more you get a dog out and socialize it, the more confident the dog is.” Alexander and Reed admit there are dangers associated with pits that owners must responsibly consider, especially when trusting a pit with other dogs or small children.

Local pit bull rescue owner supports recent ordinances By Jennifer Harris

Jennifer Harris

Special Report

BHUB is an animal rescue for pit bulls that are unwanted, unloved or found astray. They accept all pit bull and pit bull mixed-breeds as spaces are available

14   •  The Pine Curtain

New legislation may lead to a definitive change for dog owners in Texas regarding all male dogs of every breed. Jennyfer “Brooklyn” Keohane, owner of Brooklyn’s Home for Unwanted Bullies, is a firm supporter and thinks this is “an amazing idea.” East Texas has recently been flooded with controversy concerning pit bulls. The latest attacks bringing additional unwanted notoriety to the breed, said Keohane. “It’s not a dog problem. What we have is an owner problem,” she said. Keohane said the problem is that we need owners that actually take care of their pets, have them

“There’s a bigger issue here than just male dogs. We need to make people accountable,” said Gail Helms, director of the Humane Society of East Texas. Both Keohane and Helms said dog owners are to be responsible for their animals and the actions of them. Often, incidences of attacks concerning male pitbulls happen when the animal is unneutered, unrestricted or is not properly cared for, said Keohane. “They’re animals. Animals are unpredictable and owners need to be aware of that. We can’t blame a dog for a human’s carelessness,” she said. Proposed city ordinances address these very problems, but many fear it will be hard to enforce. Helms said local police departments are normally in charge of implementing policy and they have better things to do than chase after dog owners. “Many dog laws left unenforced currently plague legislature. Until we start holding people accountable, this is all just a big waste of time,” she said. Keohane agrees having to take insurance out for a dog is a good deterrent but does not think that it is going to work. Regardless of the outcome, both Keohane and Helms said owners should be educated, counties should become proactive and everyone should be responsible.

It’s not a dog problem. What we have is an owner problem.

Special Report

properly contained and know how to be good owners. BHUB is an animal rescue for pit bulls that are unwanted, unloved or found astray. They accept all pit bull and pit bull mixed-breeds as spaces are available. State officials dropped a bill last week that would have required owners of unneutered male dogs over 20 pounds to obtain a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance coverage for their dog, but similar ordinances are being introduced in cities across the state. Keohane said she supports these measures and that she makes sure to have all her “bullies” spayed or neutered as soon as possible. She said neutering male dogs allows them to have a calmer temperament and might help with future issues concerning dog attacks. The American Temperament Test Society said that specific dog legislation and the growing negativity associated with many breeds, particularly the pit bull, are what make their research so important. This national not-for-profit organization promotes temperament evaluations of both purebred and spayed or neutered mixed-breed dogs. In last year’s ATTS Temperament Test, 772 pit bulls were tested. Results show 86 percent earned a passing grade, a significantly high rate for any breed.

April 15, 2011  •  15  

Cream of the

Photos by Christian Keitt


Showcasing East Texas agriculture

16    •  The Pine Curtain



Texas Llama Co.


By Christian Keitt

April 15, 2011    •    17  


ith her petite frame, most people might think Malinda Norman wouldn’t be able to handle a herd of six-foot-tall, 300-pound llamas by herself. They’re wrong. “The llamas are very gentle,” she said, brushing her side swept bangs away from her grayish-blue eyes. “They really trust me.” Walking briskly to the barn, the strong wind tousling her shoulder-length hair, she stops and points at her parents’ house just across 100 acres of pasture. “This is why I live here,” she said, gazing across the acreage dotted with yellow dandelions, a herd of llamas grazing peacefully in the distance. “We live within walking distance [of my parents’ house],” she said. “We can see each other from our living rooms.” Malinda is the third generation of her family to live on Gin Springs Ranch in Goodsprings, just outside of Henderson. During World War II, Malinda’s grandfather was stationed in Guam, building roads and bridges. When the war ended he returned to Texas, where he bought 100 acres of land and built a house for his family. After Malinda’s grandparents died, her parents moved into their house, and she and her husband built a house right across the pasture. Malinda has been running Texas Llama Company almost singlehandedly for the past 12 years, breeding show quality llamas for profit. Her herd of 50 llamas includes 35 females, five intact males and 10 geldings. This is a decrease from this time last year when she owned 80 llamas. “I don’t ever sell anything off of the farm that would have a baby that’s not show quality,” she said. Due to the economy, Malinda hasn’t bred any llamas in two years. “When the economy fell apart, nobody knew what was going


Malinda Norman bought her first llama on Mother’s Day in 1999. She now cares for, trains, and sheers llamas.

to happen,” she said. “We didn’t know if there was going to be disposable income in the world left. I’m not an irresponsible breeder, therefore I just didn’t breed any.” Malinda doesn’t breed any of her female llamas until they are about 3 years old. “Some people breed them at a year or 18 months, but I think that’s just way too early,” she said. “At two years old, they’re just teenagers. I don’t want them burdened with a baby, I want them to have fun.” For the last year, Malinda has kept the business going by selling her adult females and gelded males. “I probably won’t breed again until this next fall,” she said. “At that time, it will be one year out, and then it will be six months after that before I can even sell them.” The prices for her llamas vary depending on breeding quality and temperament. Malinda sells her male llamas that are “normal 18    •  The Pine Curtain

quality” and “not very tame” for $500. She sells “good quality, tame” males for $1,500. The prices for her female llamas also vary. “I always tell people I have $10,000 females here and I have $1,500 females here. It all depends on what you want,” she said. Along with breeding and selling llamas, Malinda also shears her customers’ llamas for $60. Last year, she sheared almost 90 llamas for customers who came from as far as Dallas. She also trims their toenails, makes sure the llamas don’t have any health problems and gives injections, if necessary. She said business really picks up in the spring. “I love this time of year because I get to see people I haven’t seen all year,” Malinda said. Malinda cares for most of her llamas’ veterinary needs herself. She said she works closely with a Dr. David Corley, a local veterinarian. Malinda has had many different types of people buy llamas from her.

“I’ve had retired people who have come, and they’ve sold their horses or their cows, but they still have land and they still want animals,” she said. “The llamas are so tame that they won’t hurt them and they won’t hurt the grandkids.” Customers come from as far as Amarillo for her llamas. “They wanted tame llamas to use in 4H, and I donated the two llamas to them,” she said. She said she also deals with people who want to show llamas competitively. “They’re looking for the very best llama they can find to go into the ring,” she said. All of her female llamas are grand champions and all of her males have grand champion ribbons, also. From an early age, Malinda said she knew she wanted a llama. Her father owned an auction barn in Longview and her family had cows and horses, so she was always around the livestock business. “When my husband and I were building our house, I would tear pictures out of magazines of

what I wanted it to look like, and I realized that everything I tore out had llamas in it,” she said. “I had eight or nine articles about llamas in my house building book.” On Mother’s Day in 1999, Malinda, her husband, mother and father went and bought her first llama. “That llama was the wildest llama that’s ever been on the planet,” she said. “It never calmed down.” The next weekend, she and her husband returned to the place where they had bought the first llama. “I told them, ‘I want the most tame llama you’ve got,’” Malinda said. “She was the ugliest llama I’ve ever seen and she was halfway crippled.” Malinda named her Dolly, Dolly Llama. “That was where it all started. I don’t know how to get back to there,” David Norman, Malinda’s husband, said, laughing. She frequently takes the llamas to show at many schools, day cares, nursing homes and churches. Malinda also allows handicapped and mentally disabled to children to visit her ranch and interact with the llamas.

Features Malinda feeds her herd of llams everything that a horse can eat, including good quality grass, hay and good quality horse food.

April 15, 2011    •    19  


“They’re wonderful with those kids,” she said. “When they see a child in a wheelchair, it’s like they just know, and they’re perfect with them.” Her husband said living with 50 llamas isn’t difficult. “They’re very docile,” he said. “We have a lot of people stop by. You never know who’s going to come driving up around here.” David said his wife doesn’t need much help. He sometimes assists her by lifting heavy feed bags or driving with the trailer. “The llamas are a big part of her life, no doubt about that,” he said. “She definitely loves them.” Malinda’s only child, Mac, grew up around the llamas. “I always told him the llamas took a lot of heat off him,” Malinda said. “He should be glad we had them!” Mac, who is now a freshman at Texas A&M University, began showing llamas at competitions when he was about 12 years old. “It was pretty cool, but the aspect of being called the ‘Llama Boy’ was slightly less than appealing,” he said. Malinda’s acreage is surrounded by five-strand barbed wire, although she admits it should probably be at least “horse quality.” “Thankfully, I’ve never had a problem with it,” she said. Malinda feeds her llamas anything a horse can eat, including good quality grass, hay and good quality horse food. She buys feed once a month and her last feed bill was $230. The llamas also eat a roll of hay every six weeks, which is about $65. Llamas are considered livestock in Texas, so Malinda gets a tax exemption on her land. “They’re not exotics, they’re livestock, just like a cow,” she said. “Because I do show an income, 20    •  The Pine Curtain

everything I do for the llamas is tax deductible.” Malinda said her favorite part about what she does is caring for the crias, or baby llamas. Unlike horses or cows or goats, the baby llamas, or crias, are always born from the time the sun comes up until about three in the afternoon. “It’s really convenient,” Malinda said. “If the llama hasn’t had the baby by about three in the afternoon, its system shuts down and they go with the herd and they’re fine. But when the sun comes up the next morning, you better go look because you’re fixing to have a baby.” Llamas have a vast array of coats: light wool, classic wool, medium wool, heavy wool, silk wool, and suri. Malinda tries to raise and breed suri llamas, which have long hair that hangs in dreadlocks. “I like lots of color,” she said. Malinda also interbreeds llamas. “It makes the cutest little animal you’ve ever seen,” she said. “It seems that the cuter they are, the more likely I can sell them.” Malinda shears all 50 of her llamas by herself, at least once a year. Some llamas’ hair grows faster than others, so she has to shear them more than once. Malinda said she begins shearing her llamas around mid-May. Malinda said there are really no difficult parts to caring for the llamas. “They are so easy!” she said. “With cows, you’ve always got a bull jumping a fence and cows are always hard on the ground with their hooves. Not with llamas.” Unlike cows, the llamas have a padded hoof with two toenails, so they don’t cause any damage to the turf. “Cows are real bad about digging holes and making erosion, but llamas just don’t do that,” she said.

Although it is commonly thought that llamas have a tendency to spit, Malinda said they use this tactic as a defense mechanism. “If I put out a food bowl and there are three llamas, somebody’s gonna get spit on,” she said. She said spitting is a llama’s last resort. Malinda said the only time she has ever been spat on was when she was “in the direct line of fire” during feeding time. Malinda cited another reason why a llama might spit. “After two llamas have bred and you take the female to the male three days after the breeding and she spits at him, then that means she’s bred,” she said.

Malinda trains all of her llamas to walk on a halter and exposes them to other animals. “One day, they may leave here and go to another home, so they need to be able to interact with other animals,” she said. When Malinda isn’t taking care of the llamas, she’s works at Norman Communications in Henderson, an electronic communications business she owns with her husband. She also designs Web pages for political action committees and statewide candidates. “In the afternoons as soon as I get home, I’m in the pasture,” she said. “If it was up to me, I’d be in the pasture all day long.”


Melinda Norman leads a llama out into the pasture of her 100-acre farm. Norman’s herd consists of 50 llamas.

April 15, 2011    •    21  

Tiffany Drake


Ben Wheeler

Ben Wheeler Community Garden

22    •  The Pine Curtain

By Coshandra Dillard


April 15, 2011    •    23  


hen developer Brooks Gremmels had an idea to create a community garden in the middle of Ben Wheeler, he brought in Master Gardener Jim Bundscho to help manage it. The town’s wide-open landscape is perfect for most gardens, like the blueberry farm just a few miles south of town. Gremmels rebuilt the small unincorporated town by opening restaurants and reviving homes and parks. The garden is another dream realized. Gremmels is pleased to have a blend of healthy living, education and community revival all in one place. Bundscho didn’t just want to throw together a few rows of crops. He created an organic farm to help teach that practice to the community. He also ventured out to show Ben Wheeler residents how to make produce into healthy meals. The garden sits on one acre of land and has 16 rows of fresh crops, including squash, cabbage, carrots, peas and tomatoes. The vegetables are nurtured without pesticides. A system to cultivate earthworms is constantly in progress on the edge of the property in a small shed. Nearby, large bins of recycled waste also provide “food” for the soil. Bundscho works the manicured rows each day, sometimes with the help of volunteers, and recently, an intern. His strengths are sharing and experimenting with farm and garden techniques. He teaches nutrition classes to the town’s residents on the third Tuesday of each month. He said the classes have been well received and

he recently set up a stand to sell produce from the garden. “We do not have anyone who needs space for gardening, but lots of people who think the garden is wonderful and should be part of the Ben Wheeler story of honoring the values of the past,” Bundscho said. He takes pride in organic gardening or farming because it is economical and gentle on the environment. He said organic techniques are a reflection of nature, mirroring life cycles. Bundscho uses compost to feed the crops, building healthy, live soil so the plants will have more access to micro-nutrients and organic compounds. The compost, consisting of food and paper waste, sits in two large bins in front of the garden. “The natural decomposition processes in the soil will give it more capacity to hold water and creates the conditions for both beneficial organisms and fungi to exist in the soil,” Bundscho said. “Using natural organic fertilizers also puts less demand on fossil fuels, such as natural gas, used to create chemical based fertilizers.” Earthworms are used in the garden’s operation. They create worm castings and worm tea from the castings. These castings, or digestive secretions, are full of nutrients vital for the life of plants. “We use small amounts for some soil mixes in our micro green sprouts,” Bundscho said. “I am also interested in demonstrating worm composting for kitchen waste, either in the home or commercially.” Gremmels is the garden’s financial supporter. He pays for the water and power and also owns the land. He pays Bundscho, who is an employee of the Ben Wheeler Development Company. Bundscho is applying for national grants to create more educational opportunities for the community. The garden was established in Sept. 2009 by Brooks, who not only saw another opportunity to rebuild the community, but also to reintroduce healthy living as the American obesity epidemic hits rural areas the hardest. “It’s about trying to add another layer in building the community,” Gremmels said. “The idea, even though we’re in the country, is to remind people where vegetables come from. Sometimes we forget, even out here.”

Photos by Chantel Martin



R&T Quality Nursery


By Haylee Story

riving along U.S. Highway 69 just outside of Lindale, it’s easy to miss R&T Quality Nursery . A short dirt drive leads to a humble little shed covered in dust. Inside, all of the planning, coordinating and transactions of the business takes place. On one wall, stacks of home grown assorted berry and fruit jams and jellies are displayed. The other walls bear published stories about the business and pictures of the family. There is even a wooden plaque commemorating the nursery’s 1998 creation. 24    •  The Pine Curtain

It’s a small operation, but the love of farming runs generations deep. Farming has been in the Wells family since as far back as the battle of the Alamo. William H. Wells fought in the Alamo, and as a result the state gave his heirs land. That is how the Wells family came to settle in Lindale. Ronny Wells, owner of R&T Quality nursery as well as Wells Berry Farm, said his family is no different than most were back then. “If you go back that far, 70 to 80 percent of the country farmed.” Lindale, from 1950 to 1960, was a hub for blackberry growing. At one time, there were 18,000 acres of blackberry bushes in the area.


Ronny Wells’ son, Adam, assists customer Jim Hutton in loading his truck with trees from R&T Nursery. Wells farm, in operation for decades, sells berries bushes as well as nut and fruit trees.

April 15, 2011    •    25  


Eventually, demand died down, and so did the profit that went along with it. Most people stopped farming blackberries. Not the Wells, though. “For some reason, my granddaddy stuck with it,” Ronny said. Wells’ grandfather expanded the business to fruit and nut trees, along with the berries, said Ronny’s wife Tanya. “Your grandpa really started selling trees,” she said. Wells grew up at his grandfather’s orchard and then worked with his father, Bob Wells, at his nursery until he retired in 1996. In 1998, Ronny and Tanya started R&T Quality Nursery. Ronny said initially it wasn’t a huge investment, “only about $50,000 or so, but it’s grown into much more now.” A well was later installed so the couple could irrigate crops when rainfall wasn’t an option. Tanya said water wells can cost up to $20,000, and that’s not including the electricity. For the health of plants though, well water and self-irrigation is a must, as well as good weather. At this time of year, some of Ronny’s plants are in full bloom, but the chance for a late freeze is still possible for another few weeks. “The general public doesn’t realize the risk involved with getting food from us to where you can pick it out and eat it,” Ronny said. Not only do the plants have to be watched carefully for late freezes, but also protected from hail, too much rain, not enough rain and wild hogs. Hogs almost took out an entire new crop at Wells Berry Farm about two years ago. The two businesses are a large undertaking , the couple said. R&T Quality Nursery has four acres of trees and Wells Berry Farm has 25 acres of assorted berry bushes. In the summer, businesses require 14-to-16-hour work days. “We work from daylight to dark,” Ronny said. He said he sells on location, but also ships wholesale orders throughout the country. Tanya runs their website and puts together catalogs as 26    •  The Pine Curtain

well as newspaper and magazine advertisements. They both agree, though, that there is no better form of advertising than word of mouth from a satisfied customer. In the spring and summer months, the Wells also sell at area farmers markets in Tyler, Shreveport and McKinney. The market is where Hersey purchased six blueberry trees from the Wells. “I knew I would get my berries from the Wells,” she said. The family said they have had a lot of success at farmers markets recently. “It’s getting to be more popular, probably because they know they’re getting local produce, which is healthier,” Ronny said. Despite the hard work and long days, Ronny doesn’t see himself retiring anytime soon. The Wells enjoy what they do, which is lucky for area fresh fruit lovers.

Photos by Tiffany Drake

Chuck Arena inspects the bushes at his U-pick farm in Edom. To meet demand, he has a second farm in Ben Wheeler.



By Hattie Kemp

huck and Sherri Arena used to take their daughters to local farms to pick fresh fruit. They particularly liked to pick peaches, strawberries and blackberries. One of these family excursions led to the small town of Poyner, where they stopped to pick blueberries . After filling eight baskets, the owner said, “Y’all need to own your own blueberry farm.” This comment proved to be prophetic for the Arena family. “I saw that light go off in my wife’s head, and I

knew I was in trouble,” Chuck said. Afterward, they bought a book about how to operate a U-pick farm and carefully studied it. The Arenas decided to buy a small three-acre farm and give it a try. In 1999, Sherri spotted an ad in the Dallas Morning News for a blueberry farm for sale in Edom. On the same day, they drove from their home in Dallas to the farm, arriving just before sunset. “We didn’t even see the orchard,” he said. “We sat down with the owners, and an hour later, we put a deposit down and bought it.” The farm was a wholesale business when the April 15, 2011    •    27  


Blueberry Hill Farms


Arenas purchased it. Despite not being what they really wanted, they tried it for a while, but said it was a lot of work with little income. As a result, they changed the operation to a U-pick farm and built their first country store. Blueberry Hill Farms is located at 10268 Farmto-Market Road 314 in Edom, Texas. Their slogan, created by Sherri Arena, is “Pick ‘n Edom,” which many people mistakenly think is the name of their business. “It just fit, you know,” Chuck said. “People remember us.” The U-pick farm and country store are open during picking season. Business hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, including July 4 and Father’s Day. Opening and closing dates fluctuate. “We’re usually only open in June and July, but, twice in 10 years, I’ve been able to open the last week in May,” Chuck said. “Last year, I opened on the first of June and stayed open through August.”

28    •  The Pine Curtain

After July 4, he usually takes an assessment of the field because people have picked all the berries during that holiday weekend four times. “July 4 is my busiest weekend, and I have counted as many as 400 cars in one day,” he said. “They park down the street, in front of the store and in my front yard.” To meet the growing demand for blueberries, the Arenas purchased a six-acre farm in Ben Wheeler, where they planted blueberry bushes five years ago. Although it is not open to the public, its blueberries help to supply their Edom location. In 2003, the Arenas planted one acre of blackberries at the Edom farm. These berries are U-pick only, but the blueberries are available two ways: U-pick or pre-picked. The Arenas give each customer a half-peck wooden basket, which holds as many as eight to nine pints of blueberries. If a customer picks less than a full basket, the price is $3 per pound, with a

emitters at each bush. In June, they will increase the watering to 16 hours a day. Last year, they mulched the entire field with organic pine bark mulch. It helps to control the weeds, helps to prevent the shallow root system from getting too hot and feeds the bushes as the bark deteriorates. “We do use a manmade fertilizer, which is high nitrogen,” he said. “We inject it into the water system to feed the plants.” Chuck said he always prunes at the end of the season, in August, when it is the hottest. Pruning gives new growth to the bushes, which is where next year’s berries will develop. They also have bee hives on the property, where the bees wait for the bushes to bloom. The bees pollinate the blooms, or flowers, on the bushes. Once pollinated, the flower base will become the berry. About 5,000 pounds of blueberries is the normal yield for an acre of land. Therefore, not including their Ben Wheeler farm, their farm in Edom should produce about 50,000 pounds of blueberries. Although women, men and children—even entire families—come to pick berries, their average customers are women. “Women definitely seem to enjoy it more than men,” he said. “I think it goes back to the caveman days of hunters and gatherers. Women are much better at gathering than men will ever be.” April 15, 2011    •    29  


maximum price of $14. “Fifty percent of everything we sell is already picked,” he said. “Those are $20 a basket.” Customers who purchase prepicked berries are paying for the labor of having someone else pick them. Sometimes, customers call ahead to place orders. Chuck said people have called and said they are coming Saturday and want as many as 25 baskets. When this happens, the couple said it puts a lot of pressure on them to get that many berries picked in time. They hired several teenagers to help them pick berries, mostly students from Brownsboro and Van high schools who want to make extra money. These helpers make $5 per basket. In 2003, Bob Phillips featured the Arena’s farm on, “Texas Country Reporter.” While his crew was there filming, Phillips told the family they would be really busy the following year. He was right. Later that year, the Arenas built a new and bigger country store, equipped with a bakery to accommodate their expanding clientele. Customers can purchase their famous Blueberries ‘n Cream Pies, as well as blueberry muffins, blueberry frozen yogurt and blueberry lemonade. In addition to those bakery items, an assortment of preserves and jams are available. Besides blueberry, they have fig, peach, apricot, cherry, blackberry and cherry blueberry, to name a few. When it comes to running their country store, it’s a family affair. Entire families, nieces, nephews and all three of their daughters have worked in it. The Arena’s mission statement for their business is to deliver a product that exceeds their customer’s expectations of quality and sweetness. “They want sweet berries,” Chuck said. In order to fulfill their mission, the Arena’s work hard all year long by mulching, fertilizing, pruning and watering their crops. They started watering at the beginning of March and are doing it twice a day now, which takes about eight hours. They have drip

Chantel Martin


The Veggie Stand



By Mary Parsons arming is not a new concept to Tyler farmer Dennis Oefinger. “I didn’t grow up on a farm,” Oefinger said. “Before I went away to school at Texas A & M though, we always had a

garden.” These days Oefinger enjoys reading about the subject and gaining as much knowledge as he can. He also enjoys talking with 60 and 70-yearold farmers and learning from them. “There’s a wealth of information that they have,” Oefinger said. Along with owning and running Pro-Image Printing of Tyler, Oefinger operates The Veggie Stand. Located on Spur 248 between Tyler and Chapel Hill, seasonal fruits and vegetables are for sale at the stand, and hanging baskets are for sale during the off season. Oefinger helps coordinate a farmer’s market, The East Texas State Fair Market, which meets at the Tyler fairgrounds from May 1 until July 31. The market offers members the opportunity to pay a set amount up front and in return they are guaranteed a portion of what’s being grown by that farmer throughout the year, typically enough food for 40 weeks. Oefinger and his wife began growing produce for the public almost by accident, he said. “We actually started a small garden on the 30    •  The Pine Curtain

bottom corner of our land and had more food than we knew what to do with,” Oefinger said. “Well, one of my uncles is an agriculture professor at North East Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant. He and I started kicking ideas around.” At first, they built a few stands to sell vegetables they had grown, and did reasonably well. They decided the following year to start developing three acres they owned. It began with an 800 ft. open-air vegetable stand with an 8x30 ft. walk-in cooler. Today that has resulted in more than 16 acres of land being cultivated for the sale of produce in the East Texas area. Oefinger has an acre and a quarter more than he is currently cultivating on his own land, where he is growing tomatoes, three different varieties of peppers, eggplant, okra, two different types of squash, zucchini, and strawberries. Although he said he mostly plants vegetables, he also has some peach and plum trees. A neighbor has allowed him to cultivate nearly an acre of land. Israel melons and cantaloupe are grown on the adjoining property. Oefinger has two partners in Chapel Hill, one with 12 acres and another with an acre. The 12 acres is currently cultivating watermelons, onions, pumpkins, potatoes, with an additional stand of 400 tomato plants. Oefinger admits that his situation is a unique one. “These are all friends of ours,” Oefinger said.

Chantel Martin

whether or not it’s organic,” Oefinger said. Oefinger remembers there being less pests in years past than there are today. “There are a bunch of viruses and natural born pathogens that they didn’t have back then,” he said. “The chemistry is constantly changing. I had to get my private applicators license because it’s hard to get anything over-the-counter that’s going to be effective to treat these new viruses.” Oefinger said many of the treatments farmers used have been taken off the market. He said it seems like the government tightens up regulations more and more each day. Despite the new regulations, Oefinger has managed to find other ways to effectively cultivate his land. The Veggie Stand will begin selling fruits and vegetables for the season in Mid-April.

April 15, 2011    •    31  


“They just want to help us out, make a little extra money, and grow a little.” While Oefinger tries to keep his farming methods as organic as possible, he admits that it is not as “health-friendly” as some people would like. “We stand reasonably close to being organic, without getting out of hand on the regulations. There are all kinds of pros and cons about it,” Oefinger said. “I recycle everything I can,” Oefinger said. “We also have chickens, 65 laying hens that we sell eggs from. We use the compost for manure from our hens.” Oefinger’s goal is to use as many natural practices as possible, but often finds that to be difficult with all the fungi and pests farmers are constantly battling. ”Really, around here, people are far more concerned with making sure it’s locally grown than

Photos by Jake Waddingham



Cherokee Hills Farm


By Audrey Westby

he long and narrow dirt road leading to Cherokee Hills Farm will almost convince any visitor he is lost and should drive back to the highway. Relief comes once the visitor drives under an archway in front of the Troup home. The country home is surrounded by horses, cattle and chickens. There are also guineas acting as the farm’s watchdogs, killing snakes and ticks. Behind the house, potatoes, green beans, squash and bell peppers grow in a garden while close by is an orchard filled with apple, pear, peach and plum trees. Two tall birdhouses next to the garden are 32    •  The Pine Curtain

designed to attract Purple Martins, birds that eat mosquitoes and other harmful insects. Trees surrounding the 20-acre farm create a peaceful and welcoming environment away from city life. Fifteen horses, ranging in age from two to 24 years, gather along the fence line to greet arriving guests. Jack and Brenda Sheridan are fifth-generation owners, and they both say they love the quietness and serenity of the farm they’ve called home for the past 17 years. “You don’t accidentally come out here,” Brenda said. The property was overgrown with trees when they took over, so it required a great deal of work to


clear the land for their horses. The couple met 43 years ago and both have been around horses since they were born. Jack is a typical cowboy, complete with Southern drawl, black cowboy hat, a relentless work ethic and a spirit of adventure. “I’ve cowboyed all my life,” Jack said. “I’ve been thrown from more horses than you’ve been on.” He said he has a bad habit of thinking there’s nothing he can’t do, “and that gets me in a bind sometimes,” Jack said. Jack’s recent knee replacement surgery has only mildly slowed him down. It’s the third time he’s had the surgery, a result of dislocating his knee while serving in the Vietnam War in 1963. Both Jack and Brenda graduated from University of Texas at Tyler, and together they have two children and six grandsons. Brenda raises Arabian Horses while Jack raises American Quarter Horses. Arabian Horses are an historic breed, dating from 5,000 years ago in Arabia. The horses have one less vertebra in their backs, making them stronger and better suited for long journeys and high-endurance rides. The Arabian Horse Association named the Cherokee Hills Farm a Discovery Farm to educate the public about the Arabian breed. “We do enjoy sharing our horses with people,” Brenda said. Brenda said Arabians love human contact and are sensitive to, and aware of, their riders. She said one of their Arabians refused to move when she placed her 2-year-old grandson in the saddle. “She knew he was too young,” Brenda said. “She didn’t want to chance hurting him.” Brenda and Jack are the proud owners of Duchess, the only living daughter of the horse in the 1979 film Black Stallion. Duchess has a daughter named Stallion, and Jack vowed to never sell either of them. Brenda said horses are a luxury item, unlike a cow that can be eaten. She feels responsible for ensuring that a horse they bring into the world will have a good home. They do not hesitate to say no to a buyer if he or she is not compatible with the desired horse. Like many breeders across the country, they TOP: Brenda Sheridan, a fifth-generation horse owner, feeds her horse Dark Whispers. BOTTOM: Brenda grooms her horse Beau.

April 15, 2011    •    33  


haven’t been able to breed in three years because of the market. She said they currently sell horses for around $500, when Arabians should cost at least $2,000. “It’s a buyer’s market right now,” Brenda said. Their job as breeders is to evaluate the mare and pick a stallion that will improve the mare’s bad traits. There is no artificial breeding at their farm, because they trust in the natural breeding process. “Man is messing with nature way too much,” Jack said. Imprinting a horse immediately after it is born is an important part of horse training. Imprinting involves daily physical contact with the horse and blowing in its nose so it gets accustomed to the trainer’s scent. “And they never forget it,” Brenda said. Most of the physical labor is Jack’s responsibility. He feeds the horses every night and puts up the hay while Brenda takes care of dinner, marketing, record keeping and income taxes. Jack uses two types of feed and spends an average of $700 each month. One is 14 percent protein, and the other is sweet, which helps keep the horses from choking. “As you can see, I have no skinny horses,” Jack said. “I will go hungry before my animals do.” 34    •  The Pine Curtain

Jack said he enjoys riding his favorite yellow mare in every local parade, whether it is Christmas or for Veterans Day. The couple also brings their horses to the veterans’ clinics, fairs and petting zoos simply because they believe horses make people happy. Brenda and Jack helped start two cowboy churches in the area. Cross Brand Cowboy Church, located on the north side of Tyler, and Trail to Christ, located in Jacksonville. “It’s a good ministry and service,” Brenda said. “It attracts people who don’t normally go to church.” They say owning the farm is hard work, and they have to remind themselves to stop and enjoy the results of their labor. “There are people who work all their lives and never do anything,” Jack said. “I don’t want to be one of them.” This desire to enjoy their surroundings led Brenda to move a glass table outside, so they can take advantage of nature’s beauty during meals. They say they always admire the breathtaking pink and purple sky at sunset just above the trees to the west. “Out here, we love seeing God’s handiwork,” Brenda said.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Dark Whispers grazes on grass at Cherokee Farm, Horses Barbie Doll and Joy pose for a close-up, Owner Brenda Sheridan takes care of Beau and Diva.

April 15, 2011    •    35  




a photo collection featuring art from UT Tyler students

“It is the sweet,

Art + Life

simple things

of life which are the real ones after all.”   —Laura Ingalls Wilder

36    •  The Pine Curtain

Chantel Martin Junior, Journalism Major

Art + Life April 15, 2011  •    37  

Art + Life 38    •  The Pine Curtain

April 15, 2011  •    39  

Art + Life

East Texas Vistas Chantel Martin Junior, Journalism Major

Art + Life

Red Tractor Chantel Martin Junior, Journalism Major 40    •  The Pine Curtain

Art + Life April 15, 2011  •    41  

Art + Life

Dallas Botanical Arboretum Brandie Covington Junior, Art Major 42    •  The Pine Curtain

Art + Life

Texas State Fair, Fair Park, Dallas Brandie Covington Junior, Art Major April 15, 2011  •    43  

Art + Life

Dallas Botanical Arboretum Brandie Covington Junior, Art Major

44    •  The Pine Curtain

Art + Life April 15, 2011  •    45  

Art + Life

Main St. Fort Worth Melissa Greene Senior, Political Science/Journalism Major 46    •  The Pine Curtain

Downtown After Dark Melissa Greene Senior, Political Science/Journalism Major

Art + Life April 15, 2011  •    47  

Art + Life

Fort Worth Sights Melissa Greene Senior, Political Science/Journalism Major 48    •  The Pine Curtain

Art + Life April 15, 2011  •    49  

#3 - April 15, 2011  

IN THIS ISSUE: Texas' proposed animal legislation, spotlight on East Texas agricultural businesses, photo journal of Texas in bloom

#3 - April 15, 2011  

IN THIS ISSUE: Texas' proposed animal legislation, spotlight on East Texas agricultural businesses, photo journal of Texas in bloom