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


Family Picking Up With Help From Red Cross After Christmas Eve Blaze Destroys Home

Brushing aside charred upholstery and shards of glass, Maria Avila takes a deep breath and holds back tears.

The pungent aroma of smoke lingers as a reminder of the holidays and of a Christmas Eve her family will never forget.


Photo by Rachel Seymour for Tyler Morning Telegraph

After an out-of-control chimney fire destroyed the family’s home Christmas Eve morning, off Texas Highway 31 between Tyler and Chandler, the family of four thanked the American Red Cross for helping them regain their lives.

“They’re keeping my family from being homeless,” Mrs. Avila said. Continue reading Family Picking Up With Help From Red Cross After Christmas Eve Blaze Destroys Home

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

ETexan Nurtures Big Volkswagen Bug Collection

photo by Chris Vinn for Tyler Morning Telegraph

While Dustin is set on liquidating the Volkswagen “empire” his father, Don, built, Don isn’t ready to let it go. He keeps adding to his collection of more than 300 Beetles, flat backs, buses and buggies.

This story ran in the Friday, Nov. 26, Tyler Morning Telegraph. If you’re ever in Athens, Texas, stop by Don’s Bug Barn.

Story copyright Melissa Crowe and Tyler Morning Telegraph

ATHENS – Old, rusty, broken-down Volkswagens are as good as gold to Don Carter.
When the bug lover opened his Bug Barn, he remembers it taking a while for people to catch on.
“They thought we were exterminators,” he said.
But 30 years later, thanks to the Internet and his son, Dustin, the business is flourishing.
People who think “a bug is a bug is a bug” are mistaken, Dustin said.
For bug enthusiasts like the Carters, Volkswagens are a timeless, cultural icon.
“Every bug’s got a story,” Dustin said.

Life: An outline with no picture?

Last week, NY Times published an article about how 20-somethings are not moving on with their lives — not making themselves “into something.” It’s scary. That is to say, becoming “something” is frightening. How does one decide what to study, where to work, quality of life versus quantity of pay, where to live or where to visit, who to date, who to spend your nights with and what it all might lead to.

Maybe they should be simple questions, maybe the stress is exists only in my mind. Maybe I make it too difficult. Is it all connected? Or is each scenario its own separate entity, completely detached from the next decision?

There’s the “be here now” sentiment I’ve heard and read for years — Take it as it comes, see where it goes. “It’ll all work out… or maybe not.”

I started reading my third Milan Kundera book late last night. He’s a Franco-Czech novelist with an impeccable way of observing and drawing out complex dreams and intense emotions.

It’s not static reading, Kundera induces some serious thought.

This passage is powerful:

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come. Was it better to be with Tereza or to remain alone? There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can live be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, “sketch” is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture….”

-Milan Kundera

How a retreat into nature might reverse how we behave

A friend linked this New York Times article on Facebook and it really struck a chord with me.

I grew up catching crawfish hiding underneath rocks in the creek a few blocks behind my house. My parents humored my brother and I and let us pick up every “lost” turtle we saw on the road. We built tree houses, camped, cut bamboo, raced our bikes and usually made it home by dark

While I’ve noticed an increase in reports touting the importance of nature/child relationship (to which I agree) — this brought up an idea I hadn’t really thought of, but have seen all too often.

Continue reading How a retreat into nature might reverse how we behave