Farming for gold

*State AP Wire

GRAND SALINE – Dust from Tony Phillips’ sweet potato fields fills the leather creases across the toe of his workboots. Along the soles, salt from his second job cakes the rubber bottoms.

photo by Chris Vinn for Tyler Morning Telegraph

During harvest season, he easily puts in 20 hours a day – a full night at the Morton Salt Mine and a full day in his field.

Like the dwindling number of sweet potato farmers in East Texas, he kept a second job to have a backup to the exceedingly risky farming industry.

“I’ve got to be a farmer, an accountant, a salesman and a weatherman,” Phillips said, standing outside a warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with hundreds of crates of his sweet potatoes. Continue reading Farming for gold


Saint Nick look-a-likes enjoy Christmas-time attention

With his white beard and hefty size, Tom Sorrels often is mistaken for Santa Claus.

This summer, he was leaving a Mexican restaurant when a little girl told him he looked like Santa.

The remark left an impression, and that led to him dressing the part and helping the big guy from the North Pole during the holiday season.

Sorrels is among dozens of East Texas men who sport a Santa look not only around Christmastime but year-round or a big part of the year. Their looks garner stares and frequent inquiries from innocent children.


Tom Sorrels, photo by Chris Vinn for Tyler Morning Telegraph

Sorrels said playing Santa now has become his “civic duty.”

He had previous Santa experience – a Santa internship from in the 1970s at Lamar University when he worked for a Rent-A- Santa – but had not given much thought to playing Santa since.

All that changed this summer after one child’s remark.

Continue reading Saint Nick look-a-likes enjoy Christmas-time attention

East Texan Nurtures Big Volkswagen Bug Collection

photo by Chris Vinn for Tyler Morning Telegraph

ATHENS – Old, rusty, broken-down Volkswagens are as good as gold to Don Carter.

After more than 30 years in business, The Bug Barn is reaching an international market through online sales that’s keeping business bustling.

Dustin Carter, the second-generation behind the Volkswagen lot, has taken a vested interest in the company and his father’s legacy.

“My entire life is right here,” Dustin said. “I didn’t want his empire to rust away.”