Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fandangle players start from the cradle

'Summer just isn't right without it'

By Mary Garvin
Special to the Reporter-News
Saturday, June 21, 2008

ALBANY -- Nine-year-old Grant Head is not himself tonight.

Tonight, he is a cowboy -- one who wears leather boots and shoots things with his brand new (fake) shiny pistol. Tonight is the Fort Griffin Fandangle, and it's "go" time.

"Being a cowboy is awesome!" Grant said. "I'm a cowboy 'cause cowboys are tough and get to play with guns, and that's cool."

The Fandangle is an annual outdoor musical based on the history of West Texas held in Albany each summer during the last two weeks in June. The show's cast of animals and characters includes cattle, horses, cowboys, Indians and saloon girls. Cast members ages range from 6 months to 90 years old, and they're groomed from the cradle.

"Albany kids are raised in Fandangle. They know that as soon as summer hits, its Fandangle time," said Fandangle veteran Lorna Ayers. "My family definitely revolves around Fandangle. This year my daughter is playing Sally Jane in 'Canyon Courtin'', just like I did at her age and just like her older sister did."

Between acts, tiny Indians and cowboys as young as 2 run wild backstage, their bare feet caked with dirt and wild excitement fluttering in their eyes. With about 150 kids, two "pens" have been created to corral the children so they don't get hurt by horses or moving sets.

"My daughter will run off to one of the pens with all her friends, and I won't see her all night. They have so much fun," said cast member Pam Cope. "Even after Fandangle is over, my grandson is still excited and hyper. They both absolutely love the Fandangle."

One act that high school and junior high students participate in is "Huppi Hi," a couples dance. When May rolls around and practices begin, gossip fills the halls of Albany junior and senior high schools about who will dance with whom in the show. Will they be paired with a partner of their dreams or one that makes them scream?

"I got luckier than some of my friends this year and got to dance with my boyfriend," 16-year-old Lindsey Presley said, laughing. "In the dance there are lifts and spins, and I had to trust that he wouldn't drop me. I loved dancing with him because it made us closer."

With almost 50 high school students involved, weekly practices served as a great study break from finals.

"After being so busy with studying and sports all year, it's great to have the chance to hang out with my friends," Lindsey said. "Fandangle is always something to look forward to. We work hard, but it's fun and definitely worth it."

Recent Albany High graduate Megan Schooler has been singing in the Fandangle for five years. Since her first performance in eighth grade, she has sung in every show. Megan, who has also competed in vocal competitions, was recruited by Texas State University's choral department, which she will attend in the fall.

"Fandangle is a great opportunity to perform, and since a lot of important people come, it's a great way to get noticed," she said. "I owe a lot of my stage performance to Fandangle -- without it I wouldn't be where I am today."

When Fandangle's artistic director, Betsy Black-Parsons, was in high school, the Fandangle was the center of social life for teens in Albany. So when Robert Nail died, and Fandangle was put on hold, she said she felt an emptiness. Like Black-Parsons, Laci Boyett, 19, said she would feel a gaping hole in her life without Fandangle.

"Even though I graduated last year, summer just isn't right without it," Boyett said. "Without it, I would be lost."

Artist battles back after tumor removed from head

By Mary Garvin
Special to the Reporter-News
Saturday, August 2, 2008

ALBANY — One August night in 2003, sometime around 2:30 a.m., 66-year-old Sam Davis of Abilene turned over in bed to see his wife, Brook, 63, gasping for air.

Her whole body strained as if trapped under enormous weight, every muscle painfully tense. The next minute, she was having extreme convulsions and jerked rapidly. She wouldn't respond when he said her name. Her glazed eyes didn't even blink.

Sam called 9-1-1. His wife was having a grand mal seizure. According to, the seizures can be caused by a brain tumor, stroke or even physiological trauma.

"It's the worst kind someone can have," Sam said.

Brook was hospitalized immediately. A CT scan revealed a meningioma brain tumor in her left frontal lobe. She needed surgery but was at too high a risk for a blood clot, as she had recently been hospitalized for a countless amount of blood clots in her lungs.

But through hard work, rehabilitation and a reliance on religious faith, Brook has resumed one of her passions: china painting. And she's using her art to share her story.

A life of art

In 1987, Brook was inspired by the china painting of Albany native Joy Harris, who got Brook started and introduced her to her first porcelain painting teacher. Although Brook has had other artist hobbies such as crocheting -- she owned her own shop in Abilene called "Brook's Stitchery" -- once she was introduced to China painting, she had found her life's work.

"I am so drawn to its beauty," Brook said. "The delicate, intricate patterns and beautiful flowers painted on such light but strong, porcelain -- I fell in love with it," she said. "I love it because unlike acrylic or oil paintings, porcelain art will never be destroyed in the sun or other severe weather conditions. It is beautifully permanent."

Brook's prayer partner Joyce Collins explained that Brook's painting is like her relationship with her Lord. She said Brook does not paint for her own glory but for the glory of the Lord. Since her first lesson in 1987, china painting has become as much a part of her day as reading her Bible.

After only three years of lessons, Brook began teaching classes and still does after almost 18 years. Brook is active in five porcelain art organizations such as the Big Country Porcelain Art Guild and the International Porcelain Art Guild.

But shortly before her seizure, Brook started to forget the steps to china painting. She knew in her head what she wanted to do. She just didn't seem to know how.

China paint comes as a dry powder pigment that the artist mixes with oils such as lavender or essential oil to make the paint. But Brook couldn't remember what the powdered pigment was supposed to be mixed with or how much oil to add when she did remember.

"I remember looking at my old paintings and thinking, 'How did I do that?'" she said. "But I kept going. It wasn't that I couldn't physically hold a brush; I couldn't remember how. I didn't remember how I made the tiny details or how to shade the different colors."

A medical crisis

Brook had experienced health problems before. A year before her grand mal seizure, she had been having frequent seizure activity that doctors thought were only panic attacks.

But after her grand mal seizure, a scan taken at Hendrick Medical Center showed a golf ball-sized tumor was lodged between her skull and brain, dangerously close to her left eye. She needed surgery, even if it meant causing blindness in her left eye.

But Brook had another problem. Only weeks before her seizure, she was hospitalized for numerous blood clots in her lungs. She was at high risk for another blood clot.

"On my lung X-ray, it looked like someone did this," she said, jabbing her hand in the air as if holding a dripping wet paint brush. "One will kill you, you know. So I had to be on a blood thinner for six months before surgery, just in case."

In February 2004, Brook was sent to Zale-Lipsky University Hospital in Dallas for the operation. There, a full team of surgeons would remove the tumor during a surgery scheduled to last 14 hours.

While there, Brook was constantly prayed over and anointed with oil by prayer partners and family. Her tiny hospital room was often filled to capacity with up to 10 people praying for her and for the surgeons that would operate on her.

"It turned out that the surgery lasted less than nine hours, and I was cancer-free," Brook said. "Frankly, I think it was prayer that made it not cancer, but that's just me."

"We were never discouraged," said prayer partner Annie Lou Harris. "We were not angry at God for her tumor because he has shown his glory through her."

Despite the success of the surgery, Brook still had a problem. Her brain tumor had stolen her painting abilities and coordination from her. She had to stop teaching her classes and start reteaching herself.

Every paint stroke, the stillness of her hands required to make the "perfect line," it was all familiar, yet at the same time very new and challenging.

"I remember looking at my old paintings and thinking, how did I do that?" she said. "I was bound and determined to be able to do all the things I could before. I would paint again."

Joyce said Brook experienced days of complete frustration, and she thought of giving up. But she also had days of hope. After two years of constant practice, Brook can paint just as well as before her seizure and is teaching classes again.

Telling her story

To share her journey, Brook has created a presentation called "The Rose."

During the presentation, she paints a rose step-by-step on a porcelain plate. The rose represents her life, every petal having separate meaning, such as faith, love and hope.

The rough-edged petals demonstrate every hard time that formed her into the person she is today. The center of the rose where every petal meets represents where Jesus Christ is, holding her life together.

As long as it stays that way, Brook believes her life is complete, and the rose will live.

"At the end of the presentation, she always wipes the rose off from the porcelain and every woman in the room goes crazy because they wanted to keep it," Joyce said. "But she never feels it is worthy to be fired, the process that makes the painting permanent. She thinks it was done too quickly."

Brook never stopped believing that God would heal her. She consoled others when they cried for her; she told them that the surgeons were chosen by God to do her surgery and that she would be healed.

"We always tried to encourage her, but instead she encouraged us. She lifted us up, telling us that she had faith in these doctors and the Lord to do His will," Joyce said.

"She never gave up, never doubted that she would be OK and paint again. She is truly a miracle."

New mall rule not friendly to all teens

By Mary Garvin
Guest Columnist, Abilene Reporter News
Sunday, November 9, 2008

As an Albany High School junior who lives 30 minutes away from Abilene, the new "Family Friendly @5" hours at the mall, while I believe were made with good intentions, are extremely inconvenient to out-of-town teens, like myself, and our families.

I understand that this is a private business that has the complete right to make its own rules and policies, but it must know that this policy affects more than the people of Abilene, who have access to the mall every day of the week. This also affects the out-of-town students who can only get to the mall on Saturdays after 5 p.m. due to work and extracurricular activities.

Also, many of our parents work in Abilene and don't want to spend their time off driving back to Abilene only to wait on their mall-deprived teenagers who want to soak up every unnecessary moment of Wet Seal they can get.

It is true that the mall is open to anyone of any age group all week long, and that Saturdays shouldn't be much to sacrifice. From a small town girl's perspective, it's not so much a sacrifice, but an inconvenience.

Living in a town like Albany means that every time we need clothes for an athletic event, party, or just clothes, there's a trip to Abilene. The highlight of a 16-year-old is getting his or her license and taking a trip to Abilene to see a movie and shop with friends and, for once, not their parents. Trust me, the parents are just as happy.

As soon as we get our licenses, our parents don't have to take off work just to take their mall-deprived child shopping for school clothes and spend their Saturdays as a chauffeur.

While there are other places to shop in Abilene, there is no place like the mall. Although the policy probably wasn't made with "punishment" in mind, that's sort of what it is to out-of-town students who simply cannot get to Abilene until Saturday afternoons.

If the reason for this new policy really is because of children who cause disruption, then security should have stepped it up and gotten rid of them, not banned their entire age group on Saturdays. If this is the case, that sounds more like how parents ground their children when they do something right and need to learn from it. But this is like a permanent grounding, so how do we know that the problem will get any better?

While I think that this policy was made with good intentions, the mall is going around the problem, and not directly assessing it. To me, directly assessing it would be asking security officers to do more than card teens, but to actually kick them out if they really are causing trouble and then call those children's parents. This way, it will let the parents do something about it and hopefully teach the kids that unless they get their act together, they will not be allowed in the mall.

It is very encouraging and amazing that the mall has chosen to support family time, and I am happy that people are taking advantage of this. But again, not all teenagers will give up their Saturdays to spend time with mom and dad and the siblings they can't wait to get away from. And not all families see this as an advantage, but an inconvenience.

Also, the mall is a safe place for teens to spend their weekends. In a time where parents are constantly worried about their children falling into peer pressure, the mall is one of the best places for them to be -- public and safe.

Saturday night is not like every other night of the week, it is usually the big party night. With teens not being allowed in the mall without their parents, some might turn to other activities to fill their social time slots on Saturdays, like the parties that the majority of parents would rather not have their children go to. Not public, and not safe.

I respect the owners' right to make their own decision for their business, I just would like them look at it from a small town perspective as well as Abilene's. If you agree that the policy should be changed, write a respectful letter to the owners encouraging them to reconsider.

Mary Garvin is an Albany High School junior and the feature editor of her high school's newspaper, The Lion's Roar.

Abilene Reporter News reports on Albany's journalism teacher

Abilene Reporter News

Donnie Lucas, adviser to the Albany High School Lions Roar student newspaper, understands first-hand the challenges of covering small-town news.

He and his wife, Melinda, have owned and operated the weekly The Albany News since spring 1977.

After graduating from Angelo State University in 1976, Lucas joined the Albany High School faculty and started a student newspaper printed on a duplicator. At the end of the school year, Lucas left teaching to concentrate on The Albany News.

In 2000, Lucas returned to the classroom and revived the school newspaper a couple of years later. Two years ago, at the Interscholastic League Press Conference, the paper won a Bronze Star, and last year it captured a Silver Star. Both awards put the newspaper in the top 10 percent of the state's student publications.

"There's not a better journalism teacher in the state," said Albany High School Principal Tommy Terrell.

One of Lucas' responsibilities as adviser is ensuring that the publication avoids libel and other legal issues.

"Keeping them (the students) focused is the biggest thing I do," Lucas said.

-- Laura Gutschke

Abilene Reporter News reports on Albany's highschool newspaper staff Gold Star award

Covering the community

Albany newspaper students win awards, build relationships

By Laura Gutschke
Special to the Abilene Reporter-News
Sunday, May 11, 2008

In a town where everyone knows everyone else, and at a school where many of the 187 students are involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities -- including student journalism -- publishing a newspaper presents a few challenges.

"I don't know" and "kind of" are two frequent responses to questions when the student journalists interview their classmates, teammates, friends or cousins -- not much to build a story on, said Albany High School sophomore Kaitlyn Wiloth, 16, sports writer.

"Or they'll say, 'Just write what you want,'" said editor Robin Wiloth, 17, Kaitlyn's older sister.

But with hard work -- and support from their teacher and principal -- students on the Albany High Lions Roar school newspaper staff have gone from covering small-school news to making headlines themselves.

The three fall issues of the 12-page newspaper -- packed with stories and photos on depression, cervical cancer vaccine, summer jobs, new policies, student life and much more -- garnered a Gold Star Award at the Interscholastic League Press Conference state convention last month at the University of Texas in Austin. It just so happens that this is the first year the newspaper is able to publish in color throughout each edition.

The seven-member staff at the Lions Roar was one of six to receive the award out of more than 300 schools, many of which are larger-division schools with staffs of up to 50 students.

"We are fortunate that we have a board and administration that supports a journalism program in a (Class) 1A school," said adviser Donnie Lucas.

All the Albany students also received individual awards -- totaling 11 first places, 16 seconds, three thirds and one honorable mention -- in the Class 1A division for their articles, entertainment reviews, cartoons, page designs and photographs. About 1,100 students attended the convention.

Usually outgoing sophomore Mary Garvin, 15, features editor/cartoonist, turned embarrassed when called to the stage to receive the Tops in Texas Award for her article on senior Kirstin Noble's struggles to walk again after a vehicle accident. Garvin prefers highlighting students' accomplishments to the personal honor of writing the best of all the Class 1A to 5A feature writing entries.

"I know they have poured their hearts and souls into this with Mr. Lucas. The hours they have spent you couldn't put on a clock," said Albany High School Principal Tommy Terrell.

Seeking balance

Lions Roar is published at the end of each six-week period, six times each school year. About 750 copies are printed (on the Abilene Reporter-News press) and distributed at all the Albany schools and around town. The Albany school district underwrites the cost of the advertising-free publication.

Terrell said he looks at the project as a way for Albany to get "an insight into the attitudes of the kids."

In addition to teaching English and history, Lucas leads basic journalism and newspaper classes. In the latter, the student staffers brainstorm, write, edit articles and photos and design pages. The students work on computers with Adobe Creative Suites software, which is industry standard, and use Nikon D70 cameras.

"The quality of student photography has improved with digital equipment," Lucas said.

Terrell, who is legally considered publisher, reviews each issue just before publication. He has nixed only a couple of story ideas and pulled only one item -- a letter to the editor -- over the years, Lucas said.

The principal said he welcomes the students' broaching hot issues because writing about them "is a way to get input to things that need to be adjusted or changed. One of the strengths of these kids is their balance. They explore the good things as well as the other."

Colt Keller, 17, a staff writer and photographer, remembers one topic in particular.

"We covered STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) last year," he said, "and that was a big deal."

The student journalists have learned to manage the administrative review by discussing the coverage of a controversial subject early in the planning stage instead of waiting until the story is written and on the final proof.

But covering a small, tight-knit school in a small, tight-knit community presents still other challenges, the students said.

"On a story like teen pregnancy, you can't do anonymous or undercover stories because the school is so small everyone knows everyone. You can't keep that anonymity," Lucas said.

This does not mean stories such as teen pregnancy are ignored. Instead, they are covered from an informational angle, he said.

For the article on the cervical cancer vaccine, staff writer Molly Wisdom, 17, junior, interviewed school nurse Monica Cleveland, who was photographed during a presentation to juniors about the vaccine. Wisdom also included comments from a junior who received the vaccine because of relatives' battles with the disease.

Some of the issues covered in the spring edition include energy drinks, dating, a prayer box on campus and driver's education. Because of the gap between sports events and publication date, the staff is trying to devote more space to profiles of athletes and coaches instead of recapping competitions.

Lucas said working on the newspaper hones important life skills beyond journalistic principles: time management, communication, people relations and critical thinking.

The students also say that the newsroom drama featured in the MTV show "The Paper," which chronicles student journalists at a Florida high school, eclipses their competitive but amicable and collaborative environment.

"We inspire each other," Albany student Kallie Noble said.

Tops of Texas story

Beautiful Opportunity

Mary Garvin
School Paper
October 12, 2007

Tommy Noble checked the road one last time before he let his oldest daughter, Kirstin, have permission to leave. Kirstin would be one her way to Sylvan learning center in Abilene, for help in math. It was January 13, around 8:30 a.m., and cold. The road was dotted with thin ice patches, and her breathe turned into little clouds when she exhaled.

“It was weird, because my little sister Kallie was supposed to come with me,” Kirsten said. “God totally spared her from what was about to happen.”

The road was fine until nine-mile hill, then something life changing took place. At the top of the hill, Kirstin’s white pick up lost control, slipping on thin ice and flipping once before sending Kirstin through the driver’s seat window.

“It was a good ten or fifteen minutes before anyone found me,” Kirstin said. “So I just laid there.”

Kevin Hudson was on his way home from Abilene when he saw a fireman running up a hill, that’s when he saw Kirstin’s pick up.

“As soon as I saw the truck I pulled over,” Hudson said. “The fireman said it might be Kirstin Noble, and when I saw those distinctive eyes, those bright blue eyes, I knew it was her.”
Hudson called 911, and quickly covered Kirsten with his jacket as the off-duty fireman immobilize Kirstin’s legs to prevent her from further injury.

When Kirstin arrived at the hospital, she had developed hypothermia from the low temperatures. She had suffered compression fractures in two vertebrae, a broken back, and two broken ribs which collapsed one of her lungs.

The younger of the two blue eyed sisters, Kallie Noble, said that she was scared, but also releived God had a plan just for Kirstin.

“Even though it seems like something horrible, I think that God has been so good to my family.” Kallie Noble said. “She knows that God is going to heal her, and I think that’s how she’s been so strong.”

After five weeks in the hospital, Kirstin faces challenges she never thought she would have to face. Like learning to walk again.

“At the beginning of physical therapy, I couldn’t sit up in a chair without passing out.” Kirsten said. “I literally had to have two big guys holding me up just to function. But I had to keep on fighting.”

Simple things like walking, cleaning her room, favorite stores and places or certain walkways, and even spending time with friends have become a new challenge in everyday life for the seventeen year o ld senior. Even some restrooms that claim handi-capped accessible, aren't.

“Its so aggravating sometimes. Things that my friends want to do, sometimes I can’t do them, and I have to say no.” Kirstin said. “But I mean I cant blame them. It’s the kind of thing you never think about it unless your in that situation.”

Things have changed, and have gotten more difficult for her, but she says that although this was indeed a disaster, it has also been an opportunity. She says that has learned so much, and her family will agree that this has pulled them closer together. It has been a beautiful disaster.

“It was a disaster, but it was also a beautiful opportunity. I’ve learned so much, I've learned so much,” Kirstin said. “It’s made me so much stronger. I want people to know that I’ve learned many lessons through this.”

Throughout her highschool years, Kirstin has maintained a high grade average, been a varsity and JV cheerleader, member of the school volleyball team, state vocal finalist, participant in rodeos, and just this school year she has been nominated for student council Vice President. She also preforms the Star spangled banner at schol pep rallies, and rodeos.

“She is wonderful, beautiful, and strong woman.” Kirstin’s boyfriend Bucky Nail said. “Her spirits have been so high through this whole experience. She’s definitely the toughest girl I know.”

Kirstin is now back at school, and doing undergoing physical therapy and driving again.
“I was so worried I wasn’t going to get to drive. I like to be independent, and I was just so excited and glad I had something to drive! Especially something that nice.” Kirstin said. “My parents were scared, but when I drive it was just like before, and its alright. I know someone’s looking out for me.”

Kirstin said that what kept her going through all of the pain, was the dream she had kept in her heart since she was in kindergarten; being a veterinarian. She knew that if she could just get through physical therapy, even with a brace on her ankle, she could achieve her dream. Kirstin received a scholarship from the Lions Club as their elected sweetheart, and plans to go to Tarelton State University for her Pre-med next fall, and then go on to Texas A&M for her full med.

“Yeah, its disappointing to not be able to cheerlead or play volleyball, because it is my senior year.” Kirstin said. “But I know that high school isn’t everything and that I get to move on and live my life. I’m so fortunate that I’m alive.”

Kirstin’s mom Karen Noble said that Kirstin has never asked why, or complained that God allowed something to go wrong. Karen said that her daughter has always known that God was going to use this experience to give him glory, and that he would heal her.

“I know that people on the news talk about brokenness a lot…and I know there are a lot of bad people out there.” Kirstin said. “but what I want people to know is that for every one ‘bad person’, there is at least five ‘good people’, you just have to know where to look.”

'Home' for the Holidays

By Mary Garvin
School paper, Lions Roar

Eighth grader Justin Strauser was used to selfishness, to men who hit him and to teachers who didn’t believe in him. So when he arrived at the Ben Richey’s Boys Ranch in Albany, a home for at-risk teenage boys, he was only expecting more of the same, and not the new family and life he got.

Justin was born in Arkansas to a father who was imprisoned for drugs and a mother who would often work two jobs to support him and his older sister Jodi. Justin met his father for the first time when he was five years old under a court order that allowed Justin and Jodi to visit their father’s new house and wife shortly after he was released from prison. On his third visit, Justin’s father beat him. That was the last time Justin saw his father.

“He never hit my sister, it was just me,” Justin said.

After he told his mother about his visit with his now abusive father, he and his sister were soon moved to Texas to live in Merkel with their grandparents. Weeks before their departure, Justin’s father often drove by their house making death threats to Justin and his family. Justin’s mother stayed behind in Arkansas to pay off a local church that had been helping the family pay their bills, but soon followed her children to Texas.

“I love my mom. She’s the only one who has always been there for me,” Justin said. “When I saw her pull up in my grandparent’s drive way, it was the best feeling in the world.”

While the mutual love remained the same, the relationship between mother and son started to change.

“She drank sometimes, and had a lot of boyfriends,” Justin said. “I love my mom and I always will, but after years of not having a father you begin to feel a lot of hate and start hating every man you see. We began to fight a lot.”

Justin’s mother, Ami Israel, worked two shifts at the Abilene State School to support Justin and his sister. In the mean time, Justin let his anger towards his father bubble up and over flow onto his attitude towards school.

“The doctors said I had ADHD and put me on pills for it, but I really just didn’t want to do the work. I didn’t care,” Justin said.

Israel was still working and struggling as a single parent, and leaned on her sister and mother for help raising her two children. But Justin’s behavior was so out of control that he was not allowed at her mother’s house or sister’s. Israel couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that she was abandoning her child, but she knew something had to change.

“Even when he was little I threatened him with boot camp. The doctors agreed with me too, he was so out of control the only thing that could save him was extreme discipline,” Israel said.

Justin had earned a reputation at is previous school as a “bad kid” and was paying multiple visits to the office for behavior problems. Things got so bad that Justin's mother, at age 10, told him it was either boot camp or the Ben Richey’s Boys Ranch.
Justin began living at the boys ranch in Abilene and enrolled in Madison Middle School. It took a few months for Israel to see a change in her son, but it was there. The visits to the school office became weekly instead of daily, and his interaction with people was improving. But Justin wasn’t happy.

“I think living in a big town was really hard for him to adjust to,” Justin’s grandmother, Linda Coffin said. “He had grown up in a small town environment, and that’s what he needed to get back on his feet.”

One of Justin’s house parents suggested that he move to the Albany campus because of the football program and small town environment Justin had grown up with.

During math class one day, an office aid walked into Justin’s class and asked for him. That’s when he saw his house parent out in the hall waiting for him, and when he knew he was leaving for Albany.

When he got to the house to pack his belongings, he saw a tall sturdy man with a handle bar mustache and glasses waiting for him in the foyer. After packing his belongings into dozens of trash bags and accidently throwing his “good clothes” bag away due to nerves, he found this man to be his new house parent, Mike Bean.

A dustry truck ride later, Justin entered his new home knowing four of the eight boys from previous interactions with the Albany ranch. The atmosphere at Albany’s ranch was much different to Justin, as it was too many of the boys at first. It was more like a big family than he had expected.

“Everything in Albany is different. The teachers are nice and treat me like I am any other kid,” Justin said. “We’re not bad kids at the ranch. Some are just less fortunate than others. It’s nice to actually be treated that way.”

The goals set by the Ben Richey’s Boys Ranch are to learn boundaries, respect, ethics, and how to work hard and keep a household. The boys have daily chores and are taught to say yes ma’m and no ma’m and to call men sir.

“When I first came here and I would do something wrong, I faced punishment and was put to work-I wasn’t used to that,” sophomore Brandon Luckey said. Luckey has been living at the ranch for almost two years. “Now I can see the pro’s and con’s of every decision I make before I make it and avoid punishment.”

Justin missed his family, but like the boys home in Abilene, holidays were dedicated to spending time with the family. Each year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Albany ranch hosts a Thanksgiving feast prepared by Pam and the boys for the boys and their families held at the First Baptist Church. After the feast, the boys go home when their families for the holiday if possible. In the past, many of the boys who have graduated high school have come back to share Thanksgiving with their Ben Richey family.

“These people are my family, so I came back this year for thanksgiving,” Andy Henson, a 2008 Albany graduate said. Henson now runs track for Abilene Christian University and is majoring in Environmental Science. “I wouldn’t be where I am, or who I am, without the ranch.”

Coffin, who accompanied Justin’s mother to the Ben Richey Thanksgiving dinner, says that like Henson, Justin wouldn’t be where he is today without the ranch.
“Before Ben Richey, Justin was so high strung he didn’t know that he was scaring people with his behavior,” Coffin said. “Since being here he’s turned into a real gentleman. We’re very proud of him.”

The annual Thanksgiving dinner in November gives parents like Justin’s a chance to witness the change their boys have undergone.

“I used to send Justin to his room and not let him out until he cleaned it, and four hours would go by and he’d still be sitting there, screaming away,” Israel said as she watched her son wash dishes while other boys scurried around the First Baptist kitchen cleaning up after the meal. “And now to see him cleaning? That’s crazy.”

Ben Richey Boys Ranch President Kerry Fortune feels that the small-town environment Albany offers plays a big role in the success of the ranch.

“Pam and Mike have created a great environment in their home,” Fortune said. “The community has such a warm and caring heart for the kids, not just the Ranch’s kids, but all of them. Coupled together, it allows for success and growth for the boys.”

Each Christmas the community donates generously to provide presents for the boys. Along with fundraisers held by the ranch, the presents are provided by groups like the sherrifs department and the Albany Chest. Each boy gets $50 to buy a present for their families back home, and one present for a family in need in Albany.

“I feel ten times better having Christmas here. We are just as much a family as anyone else,” Luckey said. “Christmas last year was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Even with the holidays and weekend visits, it’s still hard for Israel to be away from her son.

“Even now I just want to take him home with me,” Israel said. “But I know that that’s selfish and that he’s doing too well for me to take him home. I love my son, and I want what's best for him, and right now that’s Ben Richey’s.”

Keeping the legacy alive

By Mary Garvin
School paper, Lions Roar

Junior Kolby Lowe stands before a 100-foot hunk of metal, exhausted. He’s been working in the West Texas summer heat with his father in the oil field since 7 am, and 10:30 pm is approaching fast. He returns home with a smile on his face, covered in oil and dirt. He flops onto his bed, only to rise the next morning and do it all again.

Albany has never been a town with skyscrapers and men in business suits. Albany’s history has been dominated by farming and ranching since the early 1880’s, it’s biggest economic boom coming in 1910 when settlers stuck oil.

Even in today’s modern society, the thrilling search for oil and the riveting life of a cowboy has not disappeared. Kolby is one of the many students keeping West Texas’s traditions alive.

“My dad wants me to go to college and get a good education,” Kolby said. “I don’t think he wants me to end up like him, having to work constantly. But I like it. I like working outside and I like this lifestyle.”

Kolby has always been fascinated by the way things work. When he was three years old, his Grandfather, Hugh Lowe, or “Pops” as Kolby calls him, made him a mini-spudder (oil rig). His mother, Leigh Lowe, always found herself tripping over the deep holes in their yard, only to turn around and see Kolby with a huge grin stretched across his mud-covered face.

“Kolby definitely grew up around the oil field, and he’s learned to respect it,” Leigh said.

When Kolby was only 8 years old, he spent his entire summer break working with his older brother, senior Keelan Lowe, his father and grandfather in the oil field.

“Kolby wanted to work more than anything,” Leigh said. “I’d go out to where they were working and bring lemonade and cookies. Kolby always looked so happy to be working outside.”

Now as a junior, Kolby goes to work right after school while his brother goes to football practice. Kolby is currently working on preparing a rig and scouting out its new location with one of his family's three businesses, Tabor Creek Oil.
“Football won’t get you anywhere after high school, work will,” Kolby said.

Kolby spends his weekends with his friends riding bulls and horses, and preparing for stock shows. He has also been working with juniors JT Bowman, Dusty Goble, and K.C. Jones, to get a roping area cleaned up so they can train for rodeos.

“Kolby and his friends have been up at Billy Ayer’s area plowing it and riding bulls every weekend,” Ag teacher Chris Beard said. “Those boys have really turned into responsible, polite, hard working young men who love to have fun.”

Beard says that Kolby’s hard work in the oil field has carried on to his participation in Ag, stock show, and FFA. Last year, Kolby competed against about 360 students and snagged first place at the Weatherford College Livestock Judging. Lowe has been on many Wild Life judging teams, and shows hogs in stock show every year.

“Kolby is smart and can grasp all aspects of what he is doing,” Beard said. “I know I can call on him outside of class and ask him to do something and he’ll get it done right without a lot of help from me.”

Kolby also has been participating in rodeos since he was five years old. He has won numerous awards in bull riding and roping and was even a bull riding finalist in 2001 at the Pro-Youth Rodeo Association.

Although Beard, like Kolby’s parents, believe that College is not for everyone, they still desire for Kolby to get an education outside of high school.

“If you go to college all your doin’ is spendin’ money,” Kolby said. “But if you don’t go, your just making money. Makes sense to me.”

Junior Dusty Goble is one of Kolby's good friends who also works in the oil field during the summer. Goble shares somewhat of the same philosophy.

“All you do in school is sit and be bored. It’s kind of pointless for me,” Goble said. “I don’t use history or English out in the oil field.”

Senior Keelan Lowe, Kolby’s older brother, has also been working with his family in the oil field since he was young, but his views on school and work are much different.

“The oil field is so unstable. One year, the business is going good. The next, your out of business because the need for oil isn't as high,” Keelan said. “There is more money to be made by going to college and having that education, more stable options to chose from.”

Keelan is working towards getting into Texas Tech in Lubbock and majoring in either business or accounting while Kolby plans to take over Tabor Creek Oil and maybe start his own business and ranch someday.

“Right now there is a shortage of welders and these young guys could get a welding certificate and make $60,000 or more a year,” Beard said. “I’m proud of their hard work and dedication in Ag and I am Confident they will do well in whatever they do.”

As for Kolby, he will keep living “cowboy” style, spending his weekends hunting, roping, and riding horses. He will continue working with his family until he either takes over Tabor Creek Oil, or begins his own business.

“Why read a book when you can watch a movie? Why stay inside during school and be bored when I can be workin’?” Kolby said. “Being inside is just wastin’ one of God’s wonderful days.”

Small town Politics

By Mary Garvin
School paper, Lions Roar

The seventh period art class is in an uproar.

“Obama for president? Are you kidding me! He’s the Antichrist!” shouts sophomore Ryan Campbell, sending the entire room into a raging presidential debate.

In the middle of a war, a “troubled” economy, and energy crisis, the 2008 presidential election has proven itself very important to the American people. Not just the eighteen-year-old voting seniors, but even the seventh period art class of mostly sophomore and junior students.

“No, I don't want Obama for president. I just agree with him on pulling out of Iraq,” said sophomore T.J. Cooley. “The only reason we’re having a war is because we’re in Iraq’s business when they don’t want us to be. If we get out of their business, they’ll get out of ours.”

Sophomore J.J. Garcia has been sitting in his desk propped up against the wall with his hands folded in his lap, listening to the group of students around him debating politics. At this comment, he jumps in.

“Pulling out of Iraq ain’t the answer,” said Garcia. “If we pull out of Iraq now, we basically surrender, and then Al Qaeda’s gonna come and kick our butt. We need to finish what we started and Mc Cain would get it done.”

Upon graduation from the United States Naval Academy, McCain served in the Vietnam war as an aviator. While serving, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for years, often enduring torture. His naval honors include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart.

“McCain’s military record is impressing because it shows that he will go to any length to serve our country,” said student body president Amanda Vinson, a senior. “He endured torture for his country. That’s the kind of man I want for president.”

After retiring from the Navy, McCain was elected to the House of Representatives and later into the Senate. Mc Cain professes to be a Christian and says he believes in serving someone greater then himself- his country.

If elected president, McCain says he would strive for independence from foreign oil, make health care more accessible, boost economic growth by lowering taxes and ending welfare. And while he will not pull out of war in Iraq immediately, he will seek to end it in victory.

“The way I see it is I can go with the guy who has a military record, experience in the Senate and House of Representatives, or the guy who barely has any experience,” said Vinson. “Obama has little experience with our country, but yet he wants to run it?”

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, graduated from Columbia University in 1983, and also professes to being a Christian. After taking time off from school to work as a community organizer and volunteering with local Christian churches, also graduated from Harvard in 1991 with a law degree. There, he was the first African American to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review. In 2004, he was elected as the fourth African American in history to serve in the U.S. Senate.

As president, Obama states he plans to end the war in Iraq and raise taxes to support America. Obama is a Christian and promotes “change” with stances like seeking partial independence from foreign oil by supporting hybrid car manufactures and other renewable sources for energy as well as promising health insurance to every American.

“I’m for Obama because he is for bettering the population and making hybrid cars and clean energy,” said junior Samantha Lucas. “I like that Obama is for community and helping people.”

Lucas is one of the only 16 of 140 students polled who said they would vote for Obama, and only five people said that they considered themselves Democratic.

“I just think its creepy that his middle name is Hussein,” said senior Bruce Holson.
“He’s a great speaker and all, but I wouldn’t vote for him.”

Obama has made strong attempts to contradict the media’s “attacks” on his religion and patriotism. Yet more trendy magazines like People and Ok! and internet rumors claiming “Obama as the Antichrist,” still seem to have more of an effect on student’s political views than the mainstream media, or even the candidate’s themselves.

“When I hear Obama speak, I think he sounds great and reasonable,” said Holson. “but I can’t get past how people say he really is a Muslim and won’t pledge to the flag. He seems different every where he goes.”

Another “first” for the American people was when Democratic Hillary Clinton became the first woman to run for president. But when Obama won the nomination and Clinton was out of the race, some might have thought that the woman’s chance of being elected into office in the election of 2008 was over. But then came Governor Sarah Palin, McCain’s nomination as his vice president.

“I think all the people who were going to vote democratic just to have Hilary as the first woman president are now going to vote for Mc Cain to have a woman as Vice President,” said senior Shelby LaBonte. “She’s a really good speaker and is not afraid to speak her mind. It was a good move.”

Palin portrays herself as an “average Hockey Mom from Alaska,” who started out on the PTA before being elected to the Wasilla City Council. Shortly after, she became Mayor of Wasilla. She also served as the Ethics Commissioner and Chairman of Alaskan Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and as Governor of Alaska.

“Palin seems like she could do anything,” said Vinson. “I like that women are running now, especially her.”

Of female students polled, 58% saw a woman running for president as liberating, while 42% felt that presidency is only for men. Many students commented that they were fine with having a woman as president as long as it was not Clinton.

“I think Hillary is crazy. I feel like she was running just to be the first female president, not because she wanted to serve America,” said senior Suzette Viertel. “I’m fine with a woman president, as long as she is treated like the president, not a woman, and it’s not Hilary.”

But Holson, along with 48% of the male students polled, believe that women, Clinton or not, should not be president under any circumstance.
“A woman should not be president, ever,” said Holson. “I just don’t think a woman is suited for wars and terrorism.”

No matter who wins the election, the outcome will result in either the first black president or the first female vice president.

Eighteen year old seniors like Courtney Wheeler will be voting on November 4. Voters must be registered by Monday October 6. Voting machines will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the courthouse. Early voting is open from October 20 to October 31 at the courthouse.

“This election matters very much to me, even if I can’t vote,” said Viertel. “I know that the next president will determine how I live during college, and after that as well. Voting is a privilege. It’s a say in how our country will be run. If you don’t vote when you have the opportunity, you don’t have a voice.”