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This Time They Took Stairs

After getting stuck on the elevator down one floor at a local bank, Cecil and Fran Miles decided they would take the stairs when they went back upstairs. (Photo by Robert Neel)After getting stuck on the elevator down one floor at a local bank, Cecil and Fran Miles decided they would take the stairs when they went back upstairs. (Photo by Robert Neel)

By Robert Neel, Reporter

Fran Miles often prays for an exciting day, and on Thursday, Aug. 28 a routine trip to a meeting of the Houston County Historical Commission turned into quite an eventful day for her and her husband, Cecil.

The couple's single story elevator ride to the basement of a local bank turned into a 20-minute adventure when it malfunctioned.

"The doors just would not open and let us out," Cecil reported.

"We pushed a button that called 911 and was told help was on its way. It took a long time to get help and we thought they may have forgotten about us," Fran said.

With help of numerous firefighters, police officers and bank employees, the couple was rescued and proceeded to the meeting.

Cecil and Fran took the stairs after the meeting adjourned saying, "We've had enough excitement for one day."

Crockett Board Celebrates CJH Student Achievement

By Robert Neel, Reporter

When the Crockett Independent School District Board of Trustees held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Aug. 25, Superintendent Terry Myers reported on the first day of School.
Myers enthusiastically described meeting the kids as he visited every classroom in the district.

"The kids were excited; the teachers were on task; and the principals on cue," he said.

As business got underway, Assistant Superintendent Wendy Tullos made a presentation on the 2014 Academic Ratings. While Crockett ISD received an overall rating of "Improvement Required," it "Met Standards" on Student Achievement, Student Progress and Closing Performance Gaps. It failed to meet standards only on Postsecondary Readiness. Elementary, junior high and high school campuses all met standards.

Crockett High School earned distinctions in Academic Achievement for Reading, Mathematics and Social Studies.

CJH Principal Judy Leediker presented the CISD Board of Trustees with shirts like the one she is wearing in celebration of her students’ 2014 academic ratings. (Photo by Robert Neel)CJH Principal Judy Leediker presented the CISD Board of Trustees with shirts like the one she is wearing in celebration of her students’ 2014 academic ratings. (Photo by Robert Neel)Crockett Junior High School (CJH) Principal Judy Leediker presented members of the board with shirts to celebrate the achievements of the junior high school. These shirts already are being worn by teachers and staff.

CJH earned distinctions in Academic Achievement for Mathematics, Top 25% Student Progress and Postsecondary Readiness.

Leediker said, "No other school in the county achieved more than one distinction and we got three."

CJH tied for second place in Student Progress when compared to similar schools in the state.

In other business:
• A public hearing was held on the 2014-2015 school budget and tax rate. No public comments were heard.
• Myers discussed the success of the backpack program.
• Myers stated that East Texas Youth Association has obtained liability insurance for its use of school property.
• The 2014 Certified Tax Roll was approved. Taxes are expected to generate $437,035,530 this year, which is about $11,000,000 more than last year. The additional revenue is due to increased land evaluations and not higher tax rates, Business Manager Gail Hanson explained.
• The 2014-2015 CISD budget was approved. The budget is up about $13,000,000 over last year.
• The 2014-2015 tax rate was approved. The rate of 1.25 is unchanged from last year.
• The 4-H organization was approved as an extra-curricular activity.

Grapeland FFA Reaps Rewards

Grapeland FFA

Ten members of the Grapeland FFA chapter recently returned from participating in their state convention in Fort Worth. The chapter received a Gold rating, the highest rank a chapter can earn. Grapeland was the only Division 1 school in Area 9 to earn this ranking.

Grapeland Chamber To Honor Pharmacist As Icononic Business Prepares To Close Its Doors

Daniel Walling, at age 87, has decided to retire and close the doors of his family business one last time on Saturday, Aug. 30. (Photo by Sherry Driskell)Daniel Walling, at age 87, has decided to retire and close the doors of his family business one last time on Saturday, Aug. 30. (Photo by Sherry Driskell)

By Sherry Driskell, Reporter

History is what you feel and see as Daniel D. Walling sits down at a "tuck away" seat of an ice cream parlor table from his father, Otto E. Walling, People's Drug Store of Grapeland.

"Soda Skeet, Soda Jerk or Drug Store Cowboy is what I was called in the beginning of my career," Daniel Walling said.

As a teenager he started working in the drug store serving ice cream and found an interest in the practice of pharmacy.

After graduating from Grapeland High School, Walling went to the University of Texas School of Pharmacy in Austin, and received his license in 1951. Before he could use his license, Walling enlisted in the United Sates Air Force and served four years. He later returned with his wife Elaine to Grapeland.

Walling and his wife have two daughters, Laura and Teresa. Laura Walling went to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and after graduating from there went to Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS where she is the director of recreational sports.

Teresa Walling Bennett started working for her father as a teenager and has continued with the family business.

"Teresa is the straw boss and manager,"Walling said. Teresa and husband Allen have two daughters, Mollie and Laura, and live in the home Walling spent most of his younger years.

In his 63 years of being a pharmacist, Walling said he has seen breakthroughs in medicines for mental health, heart disease, infectious diseases, cancer and many other illnesses that are effective in curing and controlling diseases.

With all the state and federal government control in the practice of pharmacy for prescription drugs, the cost of medicines increasing rapidly and insurance companies not adjusting their payments to cover the inflated drug costs with the result that those of us who are primarily dependent on prescription sales find it difficult to cover the cost of business, Walling said.
"For this reason of not making profit and the governmental and insurance companies' interference, along with the 85 years of age, I have decided to officially close", Walling said.
Walling also said he has enjoyed being in front of the public to talk to and see the faces of his customers, not in a chain filling prescriptions and only telling the customer the information they need about the medicines.

In 1927 Wade L. Smith sold "People's Drug Store" to Walling's father which was located a few buildings south of the present location and the name was changed to "Walling's Drug Store" on Oct. 1 of the same year, Walling explained.

In 1963, Otto Walling purchased the building where the business in now located, and in 1965 Walling and his father began a partnership business. At the passing of his father in 1973 Walling became the sole owner of the drug store and changed the name to "Walling's Pharmacy" in 1974.
The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a special mid-morning coffee on Friday, August 15 (tomorrow) at 10 a.m. at Walling's Pharmacy to honor of the years of service to the Grapeland and surrounding communities.

On Saturday, Aug. 30, Walling's Pharmacy will be closing its doors, an icon with over 87 years of service with three generations of a family-owned business service to customers and a community.

LaDeanne Smith Loved Reporting

LaDeanne SmithLaDeanne SmithIn 2010, LaDeanne Smith considered returning to the Houston County Courier as a reporter.
At that time she wrote, ". . . what I love best, writing for a newspaper and helping readers know what's going on."

On Thursday, July 31, the retired Courier general manager/editor passed away in Palestine. Funeral services were held yesterday, Wednesday, Aug. 6, in Palestine.

Smith was a true journalist. Former colleagues say she was a stickler for accuracy, meeting deadlines and for following the Associated Press Stylebook (a journalist's bible for spelling, punctuation and other grammatical details that differ from how traditional English teachers train their students). It could go without saying she had a real "nose for news". She understood community journalism and what Houston County wanted to read.

Smith began her career as a journalist when it was difficult for a woman to make it into the newsroom, much less attain a position as general manager or editor - and she earned both those positions at the Houston County Courier.

There’s A Snake In The Chicken House!

Watching Nature: Backyard And BeyondBy Jim Renfro

Texas Master Naturalist
Contributing Columnist

TEXAS RAT SNAKE (Photo by Jim Renfro)TEXAS RAT SNAKE (Photo by Jim Renfro)The Lady of Birdsong Hill raises chickens for eggs and for other things. Last year she bought a state-of-the-art, commercially built hen house termed a chicken tractor. It has wheels, can be moved around and truly is ideal for a small flock of layers.

However, that house, the high tech feed and other stuff brings the unit cost of an egg for breakfast in at about $2 each. Plus, a couple of our hens are in retirement and produce no eggs; never name your chickens!

With only five active laying hens, measuring production is easy; it is usually about six eggs per week per laying hen. When production drops off, like to one total per day, some outside factor must be at work.

Recently, production yield was down to one or two per day, for about three days. On the fourth day, the head hen (spouse) announced "there's a snake in the chicken tractor behind the nest boxes." Yes, there sure was a snake in the chicken tractor behind the nest boxes.

After extraction from the hen house with a modified one-iron, alive, the intruder was identified as a Texas Rat Snake. This species is common in our area, and a known carnivorous predator, rodents and the like. An agile climber, Rat Snakes are particularly famous for raiding bird nests, even high in trees. Non-venomous; they are not dangerous to humans.

Rat Snakes can and will bite in self-defense; their teeth are small and are designed for swallowing prey (like our eggs). Texas Rat Snake is probably the one we colloquially refer to as "chicken snake". They are long, slender, have a rounded head, and are generally dark with a blotchy, cross hatch body pattern. Six feet in length is about the longest I've seen.

Our captive was a young one, a little over 3 feet long and maybe an inch in diameter. It was far too small to harm the hens but had been consuming eggs.

Later, the snake was relocated far away from our place; it was not killed. The very next day a second and larger Rat Snake...almost 6 feet...was captured entering the chicken tractor through the one inch mesh, welded-wire side walls. Rat Snake Number 2 likewise left the property and egg production was restored to normal.

Another truly harmless species encountered around that same time was an Eastern Hognose Snake. This one was about 24 inches, heavy set and was found under some shrubs.

Our specimen was almost black, had a red belly and discernable cross-hatch pattern on its back. Its head was the width of the body and featured an up-turned "hog" shaped nose. Hognose snakes can also be much lighter in color. When moved with the snake hook, this guy became agitated. It hissed and spread its head as we see cobras do in nature shows. Hognose Snakes will also play dead when attacked. They feed primarily on toads. Without a dangerous bite capability, this species defends itself by acting mean followed by faking death. Hognose Snake is sometimes mistakenly called a Puff Adder, which is a dangerous, venomous species native to North Africa.

It is not my intention to be a snake groupie (herpephile), or even their cheerleader. Most people become uncomfortable when snakes are near.

However, snakes have a very important place in the environment, and on our place. It is sometimes necessary to dispatch venomous snakes, near people, such as coral snake, copperhead and cottonmouth.

When confronted with any snake, stand clear, try to identify, move away and leave them unharmed to fulfill their niche in nature.