Friday, March 25, 2011

SPORTS>>Big money does trick; Anderson on way

Leader sportswriter

What many sources said Tuesday was a “done deal” became official Wednesday night.

Mike Anderson is the Arkansas Razorbacks’ new head basketball coach.

The former Arkansas assistant and head coach at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri was announced as Arkansas’ coach in a press release Wednesday night and will be introduced to the public at Walton Arena at 10:30 a.m. today.

Anderson replaces Arkansas fourth-year coach John Pelphrey, who was fired March 13 after the Hogs missed the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

Anderson was Arkansas’ top candidate from the get-go. He received a hefty counter offer from Missouri to stay before accepting what is believed to be a seven-year contract at $2.2 million a year to come to Arkansas.

Anderson assisted Nolan Richardson at Arkansas from 1985-2002. In that stretch ,Arkansas won a national championship and was runner-up in three trips to the Final Four.

SPORTS>>Hogs call, fans haul to fill seats

Leader sports editor

I have never been a fan of the random Hog call.

Arkansas natives appear to have taken calling the Hogs, once a nice, little pregame football tradition, to a whole new level. No longer is “Woo pig sooie” reserved for sporting events; it now appears to be a sort of state rallying cry, a way for Arkansans to identify themselves to each other and to bond.

It sure beats Kansas’ “rock, chalk, Jayhawk” — whatever that means — but I can’t say I approve when the random Hog call erupts without any Hogs in the vicinity, like at restaurants or, as I once heard, during an Arkansas Travelers game at Dickey-Stephens Park.

But where Dickey-Stephens is concerned, I am going to have to back off my stance a little bit. After Tuesday night’s latest, rousing success, it looks like the Hog call is going to be a fixture there for years to come.

In their second appearance at the Class AA Travelers’ home park, the Razorbacks beat Memphis 7-2 thanks to a five-run eighth inning before a turnout of 10,062. In their appearance last year, the Razorbacks beat Louisiana Tech 5-4 before a similar-sized crowd.

The 10,000-plus easily tops the best night at the gate the Travelers turned in at their modern home.

A crowd of 7,943 came to see Dickey-Stephens Park open in 2007, and the Travelers haven’t come close to that turnout since, not even on Clunker Car Night or when disgraced major leaguer Jose Canseco boxed 60-year-old UALR associate athletic director Gary Hogan last season.

It’s amazing what a little fan loyalty can do for you.

This isn’t a knock on the Travelers as a baseball club. Arkansas has drawn a solid average of better than 5,000 since its ballpark opened, but I guarantee you only a third come for the baseball.

The Travelers are affiliated with the distant Los Angeles Angels and their best players are usually around for no more than a half season before being promoted to Class AAA.

Occasionally a former Razorback or player with state ties will pass through as a member of the Travs or one of their opponents, but the overall situation is not conducive to the kind of loyalty commanded by the state’s premier athletic program in Fayetteville.

Like most minor-league operations, the Travelers entertain a more casual fan base and must compete with the multiple distractions of summer. While Travs fans turn out for pregame midget wrestling, in-game libations at the beer garden or postgame diamond digs and fireworks, Razorbacks fans, bless their hearts, come for the baseball.

And I never thought I’d say that in a football-mad state like Arkansas.

It wasn’t always this way. Baseball has been kind of a second-class sport in Arkansas and there was a time not that long ago when the high schools didn’t even field teams and the best players could be found in American Legion programs.

Give credit to the Hogs’ own plush headquarters — Baum Stadium, opened in 1996 — and Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn, who has crafted his team into a perennial College World Series contender since he took over in 2003.

In 2007, Arkansas set a then-NCAA ticket sales record with 8,069 a game. Compare that to the then-Arkansas record 3,328 that came to Baum’s 1996 opener and you can see how the Razorbacks program has grown its fan base.

Not to say the Travelers and the Texas League haven’t helped a little with baseball’s resurgence in the state.

Whatever it takes to get them there, more fans are coming to Dickey-Stephens Park than to Arkansas’ previous home at Ray Winder Field, and since the arrival of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in Springdale in 2008, the state has a professional, wood-bat rivalry to savor.

The Travelers beat the Naturals in the playoffs on their way to the 2008 Texas League championship, while Northwest Arkansas, affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, won its first league championship last year.

But there is no substitute for home-grown fans supporting a home-grown program, so just like the football team’s annual appearances in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, get used to the baseball Hogs having a presence in Dickey-Stephens Park for years to come.

And the Hog calls won’t be random.

SPORTS>>Jayhawks staff stifles Trojans

UALR Sports Information

The University of Kansas ran out to a 4-0 lead Tuesday and held UALR hitless over the final four innings to pick up a 5-3 non-conference victory at Hoglund Ballpark.

UALR scored three runs in the top of the fifth to cut it to 4-3, but three Kansas relievers combined to retire the final 13 Trojans in order and secured the victory at the Jayhawks’ home field.

Kansas starter Wally Marciel (3-2) got the victory after holding the Trojans to four hits and two runs over 4 1/3 innings.

Marciel opened the game with four straight scoreless innings, but ran into trouble in the top of the fifth after allowing a leadoff home run to sophomore Myles Parma, his first of the year.

Walks to juniors Greg Garcia and Sean Bignall set the stage for a two-run single by senior Jake Rowell, which brought the Trojans within 4-3.

Kansas’ Thomas Taylor induced an inning-ending double play and then combined with Jordan Jakubov and Frank Duncan to hold UALR hitless over the final four innings.

Duncan worked a perfect ninth to pick up his first save of the year.

SPORTS>>Razorbacks home on Travelers’ turf

UA Media Relations

The Arkansas Razorbacks earned a come-from-behind, 7-2 victory against Memphis on Tuesday in front of 10,062 fans at Dickey-Stephens Park.

It was the Hogs’ second visit to the North Little Rock ballpark, home of the Class AA Texas League’s Arkansas Travelers, and the second rousing success, judging by the attendance.

“It’s fun,” said coach Dave Van Horn of the crowd that packed the beer garden, filled the outfield berms and stood on the concourses to see the Razorbacks post a five-run eighth to break the game open.

“I guess when you get one game a year from the Razorbacks, a lot of folks want to come out and be a part of it, and we appreciate it.”

Before a similar-sized crowd, Arkansas beat Louisiana Tech 5-4 at Dickey-Stephens Park last year.

The Razorbacks (17-4) completed their tour of minor league ballparks Wednesday when they won the rematch with the Tigers, 7-3, at Memphis’ AutoZone Park, home of the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds.

In Tuesday’s game, Arkansas broke open a tie game in the bottom of the eighth, batting around against Memphis (11-8) and scoring five runs on four hits. With the sudden, big lead, sophomore and former Sylvan Hills standout DJ Baxendale pitched a perfect ninth in his return to central Arkansas.

Randall Fant (1-1) got the victory after pitching four relief innings.

Pinch hitter Tim Carver got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth inning and recorded his 50th career RBI in the process.

With the score 2-2 and Collin Kuhn on second and Matt Reynolds on first, Carver hit for Kyle Robinson with no outs. On a 2-2 pitch, Carver showed bunt and then knocked a single through the drawn-in infield to score Kuhn and advance Reynolds to third.

Dominic Ficociello drove in another run with a double to left field that scored Reynolds. Bo Bigham increased the lead two batters later when he hit a ground ball to third base and Carver beat the throw to the plate.

Bigham then stole second for his fifth steal of the season. After Matt Vinson worked a walk, Jarrod McKinney came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly deep to center field that scored Ficociello.

Jacob Rice provided the final margin with a single to right that drove in Bigham.

Randall Fant, the sophomore left hander from Texarkana, Texas, faced 13 batters, just one over the minimum, and struck out three.

Fant sat down 12 consecutive batters after allowing a single to the first Tiger he faced.

Memphis’ Dane Sharp (0-2) got the loss after allowing four runs in two-plus innings of relief.

Memphis scored first when Chad Zurcher hit a two-out single up the middle to score Drew Martinez, who had worked a walk and stole second, in the top of the third.

The Tigers added another run in the top of the fourth on a one-out RBI double to the left-field corner by Phillip Chapman.

SPORTS>>Honors keep coming for Goodwin

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills junior Archie Goodwin has been named Gatorade Arkansas Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Goodwin is the first Sylvan Hills High School player to earn the honor and joins recent Arkansas selections Preston Purifoy, of Conway (2009-10), and Fayetteville’s Fred Gulley who won consecutive awards in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court.

Goodwin, a 6-5 guard, averaged 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game this past season, leading the Bears (25-4) to the Class 5A state final where they lost to Alma.

Goodwin is a first-team All-Leader choice, a two-time All-State selection and is rated the nation’s No. 17 junior class recruit by ESPNU.

Goodwin has maintained a B average in the classroom.

SPORTS>>Polished Appleby boosts Red Devils

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville boys basketball coach Vic Joyner had to interrupt his spring break to talk a little shop Friday.

But when the subject is senior guard Raheem Appleby, it is more vacation than work.

Appleby is The Leader Boys Player of the Year after averaging 19.7 points a game and leading Jacksonville to its second state championship game in three seasons.

“We knew he had it in him as a sophomore,” Joyner said, recalling Appleby’s smaller role in the Red Devils’ 2008-09 season that ended with a 6A state final victory over Little Rock Hall. “We were just trying to get him to come out of his shell and let it go. It was just prime time for him.

“He was a senior and there wasn’t anybody to take a backseat to. He took the reins and went for it. He always had that potential to do what he did this year.”

Appleby injured his ankle during the state tournament — after a grueling run to the 6A-East Conference championship — and though slowed somewhat he still managed to score a game-high 19 points, though conference rival and 6A-East co-champion Little Rock Parkview scratched out the 50-44 victory.

It was the last in a series of gutsy performances by Appleby, who fought through illness, a compressed schedule brought on by weather postponements and opposing defenses configured to stop him.

“A team is running defenses to stop you,” Joyner said. “And to still come out and put up big numbers and then make it to the state tournament, twists his ankle and guts it out and walks around with a boot for four, five days and to still play in a state championship and end up with 19 points, that says a lot about the kid right there.”

Before the season, the 6A-East was being touted as the toughest conference in the state, then the league proved it by sending four teams to the 6A semifinals. Additionally, 6A-East members West Memphis and Hall moved to the 7A tournament for the postseason as part of the Arkansas Activities Association’s last reclassification and reached the 7A final.

So night in and night out, including a stretch in which Jacksonville twice played three games in a week because of the postponements, Appleby was going up against the state’s toughest teams.

“I mean you take a team like we had in that conference, as tough as it was,” Joyner said. “And to come out and put up the numbers every night that he put, and especially toward the end of the season — we had those two weeks with three games in a week.

“Just the energy, and of course you’ve got to have to do that and your class work and do the things that you do, and it takes tremendous will and intestinal fortitude to stay focused like that.”

Jacksonville had a deep roster in which each player brought a little something different to the court. As skilled as he was with the ball, Appleby also had no problem involving the post players and the perimeter shooters in the offense.

“Raheem is one of those quiet leaders,” Joyner said. “You have certain kids that are vocal and always out there loud, and Raheem, he’s a soft-spoken kid and he led by example. Usually when he said something, those guys listened to him.”

Appleby’s leadership was most visible in practice, Joyner said. Unlike other seniors of the past, whose roles are assured and who tend to take it easy in workouts, Appleby continued to go full bore.

“I’ve been coaching 20-something years,” Joyner said. “When seniors get senioritis they kind of burn out on everything. Raheem never got that. He came to practice every day and practiced harder than anybody out there.”

Appleby, who added 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists to his nightly averages, now turns his attention to his studies to get the grade-point average he needs to be eligible for the NCAA Division I offers that may come his way.

If not, Appleby, 6-2, who has drawn interest from UALR, which reached the NCAA Tournament this year, and Missouri State, will go the junior-college route to get the grades he needs before transferring to a bigger program.

“I think I can play with all of them,” Appleby said of the college talent. “I don’t know. I just play. I’m not worried about it.”

EDITORIAL >>Bibles, guns side by side

If Jesus chased the money-changers from the temple, would he have invited the gunslingers in?

It is a popular school of thought that the Prince of Peace wants churchgoers armed, or at least that he does not mind if they are. The Arkansas legislature has once again taken up the issue of fortified houses of worship and it looks like zanier heads will prevail this time. The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives approved a bill by Rep. Bryan King, the Berryville Republican, to repeal the law banning guns from churches and the full House promptly ratified it, 65-23.

Each church could designate the members it wants to carry guns to worship services or to Sunday school. Dissident factions would have to come to services armed only with their prayers. If the church leaders chose they could let everyone with a permit come armed.

Does this sound like madness? It does to us. But it is part of an expanding movement to put guns into as many hands in as many circumstances as possible. The idea, expressed repeatedly now in legislative committee meetings, is that the more weapons there are—on the streets, in churches, at public meetings, on the road—the less likelihood of violence. The theory is that thugs and the deranged will be less likely to attack people if they suspect that someone else may also be armed. The news every day from our own neighborhoods to the far corners of the globe suggest that it simply is not so. Weapons, concealed or open, prove to be more an invitation to violence than a deterrence.

This has nothing to do with the individual right to keep arms at home for self-defense or for sport or to bear them in defense of the country, as the Second Amendment intended, but rather the right of people to live in a civilized order. The vast majority of legislators know that bills like King’s are lunacy, but it is dangerous for anyone to vote against guns, no matter the question. You will be targeted by the National Rifle Association in the next election and few survive that in the South. We can still hope for sanity in the Senate, or the governor’s office. —E.D.

EDITORIAL >>How much for roads?

The legislature early next week will put the finishing touches on a big highway program—make that a potential highway program—and you can choose to celebrate or mourn. There are reasons for both.

Let it be said that Arkansas could use a modest highway-finance program. More fuel-efficient engines in new vehicle fleets have kept highway revenues from climbing as a result of the natural growth of travel and commercial transportation, so state revenues are not going to keep pace with the deterioration of roads, bridges and streets and the rising cost of road materials. Gov. Mike Huckabee raised gasoline and diesel taxes 10 years ago, but the burst of Interstate road improvements is past. The widely despised federal stimulus money from President Obama, which has funded road-improvement projects all over the state the past 18 months, is about exhausted and there clearly will be no more.

So a modest highway program is in order, but nothing of the magnitude of the plan sailing through the legislature. Sure, the state Highway Commission projects that the state needs $15 billion more in highway funds than it will get from taxpayers the next 10 years, but it has been making pie-in-the-sky estimates for 60 years. It would be nice to spend twice that sum and put a superhighway at the service of every community in the state, but if we allow ourselves to dream of a great modern state, glittering highways and bridges would be only a part of the dream. We would like to see first-class schools and colleges, accessible equally to all, a health-delivery system that meets or exceeds that which is available to people in nearly all other industrial societies. Those cost money, too.

We need not sound so alarmist. None of the plans that the legislature is approving will take effect without a vote of the people. Each will be subject to the voters’ veto at the general election in 2012, and we suspect that they will take some selling. People are supposed to be in an anti-tax mood, which is why the legislature referred the plans to a popular vote rather than the customary way laws are passed in a representative democracy. Legislators are elected to make those decisions.

If voters approve, there will be two tax increases: a half-cent general sales tax and a 5-cents-a-gallon tax on diesel fuel. The trucking industry, which would largely pay the diesel tax, actually supports the tax increase but, in exchange, the legislature is exempting their big rigs from sales and use taxes. The effect of that swap is to take money away from public education and give it to the Highway Department, although you will never hear it described that way.

The sales-tax increase will be in a constitutional amendment, which will be on the 2012 ballot. Voters also will have a chance to vote on a big highway-bond issue. If they approve the bond issue, the diesel-tax increase and the sales-tax exemption for big rigs will take effect. All the new taxes would retire the bonds. A new superhighway would be built in each quadrant of the state, no matter the need.

The sales-tax ought to be especially anathema. It will be the first incursion of the big highway constituency into a source of funding that has always been reserved for the general needs of the state: education, prisons, law enforcement, health care and social services for the disabled, blind, aged and poor.

There were better and fairer ways to do it: a real severance tax on the rapid depletion of the state’s vast natural gas reserves (the drilling companies, after all, are the ones tearing up the roads) or a sales tax on motor fuel to take the place of the inelastic excise tax. Road taxes ought to be paid by those who use them and especially those who abuse them.

But you will have your say next year.                   

TOP STORY > >Classical music April 10 in Jacksonville

IBLA, an international classical music concert series, will take to the stage at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 10 at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville.

The performers are winners of an international competition that is under way, so the playbill has not been determined. The musicians tour the country after performing at Carnegie Hall in New York, where tickets cost $200. The Jacksonville concert is free.

Concert organizers hope to fill the pews again this year. The church seats about 600 people.

An IBLA concert will be held in Little Rock the night before the Jacksonville show at 6:30 p.m. at St. Andrews Anglican Church, 8300 Kanis Road. It is also free.

“It is exciting to help bring this caliber of musical entertainment to our town and even more exciting for me to be part of the program and play with these incredible musicians,” said Dr. Alan Storeygard, the Jacksonville physician who organizes the event and will also perform.

The performers will stay in central Arkansas for about four days, visiting schools and teaching young people about music.

The Alan Storey-gard Trio will perform April 5 at Carnegie Hall. The group features Storeygard on piano, Dave Rogers on drums and Brian Wolverton on bass. They will perform two pieces, “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Wade in the Water.”

“In 2006,” Storey-gard recalled, “I was a judge in the IBLA Grand Prize Competition in Ragusa, Sicily. When I got there, before the competition started, Salvatore Moltisanti, the director of the competition who invited me to play in New York in 2003, asked me, ‘Alan, do you know how to play ‘The Star Spangled Banner?’”

“I said to him, ‘No, I’ve never played ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ never had a reason to. I like to play jazz.’ He said to me, ‘Well, we need to have someone play it in three days in a concert here and no one has the music, and no one knows it, and most of the competitors are not from the United States. You’re from the United States, so do you know it?’

“I said again, ‘No I’ve never played it.’

“Then he said, ‘Well you’re a composer. Can you make up an arrangement of it and play it?’

“I got to a practice piano and made up an arrangement of it and played it for him two days later. He said, ‘I like it. Play it tomorrow night in the concert. I’ll have about a dozen of the competitors play their competition pieces.’

“The concert was called IBLA Africa — a fundraising concert for African famine relief. The piece went over very well.

“We are excited about playing in New York. Then we’ll come back to Arkansas with a number of the current IBLA winners from 2010 to play for four days in Arkansas,” Storeygard said.

It’s not the first time for Storeygard to perform there. In 2003, he was invited to perform his rendition of “Amazing Grace” after his first CD won best piano composition in the IBLA Grand Prize Competition in 2002 in Ragusa, Sicily, Little Rock’s sister city.

The performers will be announced soon. Most are expected to be from Europe.

Joan Zumwalt and Sherman Banks also help to organize the Jacksonville concert.

First United Methodist Church is at 200 W. Main St. Call 501-982-8176 for more information.

TOP STORY > >Family starts ASU scholarships

Cathy Eoff of Eoff and Associates Realty has established the Eoff Family Scholarships at Arkansas State University at Beebe and ASU at Jonesboro. The endowment is a memorial to her family, who taught her the importance of hard work and education.

“My parents and their generation inspired me to establish this scholarship. I want to pass on the lessons and encouragement, in the form of this scholarship, to students at ASU-Beebe and ASU-Jonesboro,” Eoff said.

Life in the Delta was hard in the early part of the 20th Century. Mechanized agriculture was a few years down the road. The Great Flood of 1927 was a major setback to many families, and then the Great Depression hit.

Ben T. Eoff and his wife Edith came from large families. Originally from Morrilton, Ben was one of eight children whose family moved from Pope County to the Delta during the Depression. Edith was one of 11 children who grew up as a part of a farm family in the Mississippi County community of Lost Cane.

The couple married in 1940 and opened a general-merchandise store in Lost Cane. When World War II erupted, Ben left on a tour of duty to Germany and then on to the Philippines, returning home with a Bronze Star.

Eoff’s father died at the age of 47, leaving her mother to run the family farm. “My father wanted us to finish our education. He always told me that education was something that can never be taken away,” Eoff said.

She and her brother Rick followed their parents’ advice and attended Arkansas State University; he graduated with an agriculture degree in 1969. After three years at ASU, Eoff finished her degree work in central Arkansas.

The brother and sister became teachers—he at Blytheville, she at Jacksonville—before moving on to other occupations. Rick built a career as a successful lobbyist, first in Florida, and then in Little Rock for the Arkansas Education Association, and worked for President Bill Clinton, while Cathy moved to Beebe, where she owns a successful insurance and real estate business.

“I have lived in Beebe since 1975, and the community has always been good to me,” Eoff said. “ASU-Beebe is the center of Beebe and a great benefit and growth opportunity to the community. ASU-Beebe does a great job of educating people from all areas.”

When not working at her business, Eoff is an active volunteer. She is on the board for Centennial Bank and on the Foundation Board at ASU-Jonesboro.

Eoff has been a dedicated member of the Development Council at ASU-Beebe since its inception in 1997.

She was recently inducted into the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she hopes to donate her time in the near future. She loves singing in the choir at First Baptist Church of Beebe.

“Cathy Eoff has been a tremendous supporter of Arkansas State University-Beebe and education as a whole. This scholarship will allow students an opportunity that they may never have had without this type of financial support. We are truly blessed to have friends like Cathy,” said Keith Pinchback, vice chancellor of Institutional Advancement at ASU-Beebe.

She also is a large part of her nieces’ lives, Christina and Heather. Christina is a senior at UCA in Conway with Heather being a freshman at Central High in Little Rock.

Following the death of her brother in 1997 and her mother in 2005, Cathy Eoff said she wanted to do something that would make a difference in the lives of others.

Her family’s love for learning prompted her to create the Eoff Family Scholarships at ASU-Beebe and ASU-Jonesboro to benefit future teachers.

“I hope these scholarships help students accomplish goals that might not have otherwise been possible. My family would be very happy this is being used to help someone else’s education,” Eoff said.

For more information about establishing an ASU-Beebe scholarship or contributing to an existing scholarship, contact the ASU-Beebe Office of Institutional Advancement at 501-882-8855.

TOP STORY > >Bluesmen from Delta passing on

Leader staff executive editor

Joe Willie (Pinetop) Perkins, who was the oldest living bluesman and Grammy winner until he passed away Monday at 97, sat recently in a wheelchair in a little alcove just offstage at Stickys Chicken Shack in the Rivermarket District in Little Rock.

It was late Saturday night at the end of February. He wore a dark suit and a hat and had a blanket on his lap to keep him from catching pneumonia. His young valet had pushed the wheelchair in through the front door. It was a bit chilly outside, but not too bad for February.

Although he looked fragile, Pinetop smoked several cigarettes, lighting up as if he were a youngster. He and his valet kept puffing away as Willie (Big Eyes) Smith and the band warmed up onstage.

They won a Grammy last month for “Joined at the Hip” as the best traditional blues CD of 2010, making Pinetop the oldest Grammy winner ever.

They had both played with Muddy Waters in the 1970s — Pinetop on piano and Smith on harmonica — and now they were touring the country and winning over young fans.

Smith was born in Helena, where Pinetop, a native of Belzoni, Miss., played with the King Biscuit Boys on KFFA in the 1950s. Later, they both wound up in Chicago, where they hooked up with Muddy and toured the world together.

Even though the Little Rock show started late — it was around 11 when Pinetop got up from the wheelchair and walked onstage with the help of his valet — the crowd loved him as he played blues standards for almost an hour.

It was to be one of his last shows — a week later, he appeared at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, where he’d been living for several years — and then two weeks later, Pinetop died in his sleep, apprently from a heart attack.

You can’t tell an old man to stop smoking or drinking. Several years ago, I helped Pinetop get onstage at a blues festival in Clarksdale, Miss., when he was in his early 90s. He had just finished a Big Mac and had washed it down with bourbon.

Pinetop had worked hard — he had picked cotton for much of his life — and he lived it up. You could say that about all the great old bluesmen: Life was never easy, but when the sun went down, it was time for fun.

Pinetop made a fine record a few years ago called “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen — Live in Dallas,” recorded in 2004 with Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Lockwood and Henry Townsend.

The youngest in the group were Lockwood and Edwards. They were both born in 1915, a couple of years after Pinetop: Lockwood near Marvell in Phillips County, and Edwards near Shaw, Miss., not far from Pinetop’s home.

Lockwood died in 2006, but Honeyboy is still alive and playing concerts at the age of 95.

Townsend, the oldest, was born in 1909 in Shelby, Miss. — about 50 miles as the crow flies from the others — making him 95 when the recording was made. He was nearly 97 when he died two years later.

Pinetop will be buried April 2 in Clarksdale. He had worked at the nearby Hopson Plantation around the time the mechanical cotton picker was first introduced in the 1940s.

He’d often go back there and play the piano in the old commissary, which is now a bar.

More sad news about another Delta musician passing away: Big Jack Johnson, a great Clarksdale bluesman who died a week be-fore Pinetop, was buried there last Saturday. He’d been in poor health for several months and died at a Memphis hospital at the age of 70.

We saw Big Jack several times in Clarksdale and spent a New Year’s Eve with him in front of a juke joint waiting for his band to show up. They never did, and it was a cold night, but Big Jack passed around his bottle of corn whiskey to keep everyone warm.

He made several fine re-cords. A couple of them were recorded not far from where we were standing: “Rocking the Juke Joint Down” at the Red Top Lounge and “Oil Man Got Drunk” at Stackhouse Studios, both excellent and rare but worth tracking down.

They called him the Oil Man because for a long time, he made his living driving an oil truck around the Delta. But he never got drunk and could play his guitar and sing for hours like a bluesman from an older generation.

He knew many of the old-timers and learned from them. Starting in the 1960s, he was part of the Jelly Roll Kings with harmonica player and keyboardist Frank Frost, who was born near Auvergne in Jackson County, and drummer Sam Carr, who was born near Marvell and was the son of Robert Nighthawk, who was from Helena.

Frost and Nighthawk are buried in Helena, and Carr is buried across the river in Clarksdale. Their “Big Boss Man” CD from Sun Records is terrific and was a favorite of Sam Phillips, the label’s owner.

Phillips is also gone, but enough of the obituaries. Their music is timeless.

TOP STORY > >Church plans to buy Bancroft

Leader staff writer

The old Bancroft Cap Com-pany in Cabot, closed since December 2006, may not find new life as an indoor shooting range as expected. Instead, it could become the new home of New Life Pentecostal Church.

The ordinance to allow indoor shooting ranges is supposed to be ready for approval by the city council’s police and fire committee Monday, which would make it ready for approval by the full council in April.

Contacted Thursday, Alder-man Rick Prentice, committee chairman, said he hadn’t heard about the church’s plan to buy the property.

The price of the building was originally set at $1.4 million according to real estate websites. Then it dropped to $539,000.

But recently, the price dropped to $299,000 and New Life Pentecostal Church agreed to buy it. That price could not be found online. Contacted Thurs-day, Ted Arnett, of Arnett Realty and Investments, said the church found out about the lower price before it was actually public.

Although the church agreed to pay the full asking price, Arnett said the property is still on the market. The purchase price was only part of the sale, he said. The owner didn’t agree to the other terms the church offered and the church didn’t agree to the owner’s counter offer.

Tim Gaddy, pastor of New Life Pentecostal Church, said the only real holdup to the purchase is that local banks want the prop erty tested for chemicals before they commit funds.

The testing should start Monday or Tuesday and be completed within two weeks, Gaddy said.

Although it looks like a factory now, Gaddy said the property is everything the 12-year-old church needs.

With almost 56,000 square feet under one roof, it could be remodeled into a sanctuary, Sunday school rooms and gymnasium, and still have room for Hope’s Closet, one of the church’s ministries.

The factory is located on 7.2 acres which would give room for the church to expand even more, he said.

The church was originally expected to approve the purchase during a business meeting on Monday, March 28. But Gaddy said that approval will have to wait until the testing is completed.

Bancroft Cap Company opened in Cabot in 1967. When it filed bankruptcy on Jan. 16, 2007, it was the only company under contract with the Department of Defense to supply black berets to Army and Air Force personnel.

By federal law, the clothing worn by military personnel must contain only American-produced components. The financial problems that led to the factory closing stemmed from allegations that some of the berets contained foreign materials. The DOD refused to pay for some of the berets that were shipped and demanded repayment for others.

The fire and police committee discussed amending the city’s firearm ordinance last year to allow for indoor shooting ranges but took no action.

Discussion started again in January when it became clear that someone was eyeing the Bancroft building.

Prentice recommended special meetings to have the ordinance passed by February, but after further discussion, it was decided that all the prospective new business owners needed was assurance that the ordinance would be changed to accommodate an indoor shooting range.

Earlier this month, the council’s public-works committee heard from city planner Jim Von Tungeln, who told them they shouldn’t rezone the property commercial to allow the shooting range. Leave it industrial and give the shooting range a special-use permit, he said, because industry doesn’t like to locate next door to commercial.

Bancroft is located at 1122 S. Second St.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Stopping Obamacare

It is hard for political animals, Democrat or Republican, to put the public interest above politics, and we are all accustomed to a considerable degree of partisan posturing when legislative bodies assemble. Arkansas Republicans should be forgiven for wanting to embarrass President Obama whenever they can and to deal him and his celebrated national health-insurance law a setback but they stretch it to hypocrisy.

Perceiving the big insurance law still to be on the unpopular side, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to try to prevent its many reforms from taking effect in Arkansas. The bills happen to be constitutionally impermissible. John C. Calhoun lost that jurisdictional battle a century and a half ago.

But the Republicans are liable to prevail on one issue at the legislature and they are just plain loco. They flout their own principles and the clear interest of everyone they represent, all in the hope that it will appear to be an embarrassment for the president.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as the Republicans like to call it, establishes a market of private health-care plans, where small-group employers and individuals will be able to shop for an insurance plan that is suitable for them and affordable. It will be organized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although all the plans will be offered by insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna and the like. But the health law allows states to set up the markets themselves if they choose. If a state chooses not to create its own insurance exchange, individuals and employers in that state will shop in the national exchange. And the federal government instead of the state would regulate the insurance and serve as the consumer protector.

Gov. Beebe wants Arkansas to set up its own exchange. The insurance plans would be regulated by the state Insurance Department, the same as it regulates all the other health, casualty and life insurance sold in the state. He makes good sense. Since medical care tends to be cheaper in Arkansas than in many states, the insurance companies ought to offer less expensive policies for an Arkansas market than those offered in the national exchange.

That sounds like it should be a perfect Republican plan: Get the federal government out of it as far as you can and let us run the program in a way that suits Arkansas’ health-care needs. Beebe was not a fan of the health-insurance reform law because he thought that in nine or ten years it would impose large new Medicaid burdens, but he thinks Arkansas can run the programs better than Washington.

But his bill to authorize the state Insurance Department to put together the insurance exchange (it will all take effect Jan. 1, 2014) ran into solid Republican opposition in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. Sen. Gilbert Baker, the Republican leader, explained the Republican stance. If the legislature defeats the bill, it should prevent the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from being implemented in Arkansas. He also expected the law to be declared unconstitutional and, anyway, nothing needs to be done until that is settled.

He spoke from either ignorance or malice. Defeating the governor’s bill (HB 1238) will have absolutely no effect on whether the uninsured in Arkansas will be able to buy insurance in 2014, as the law requires. Its defeat will have one effect and one only: If the federal law is upheld and takes effect in 2014, some 200,000 Arkansans or their employers will have to buy health insurance through the national exchange, not one designed by and for Arkansans, and if they are victimized by the insurance companies or agents, they will have to take it to Washington for relief instead of to the consumer advocates at the state Insurance Department.

The Republicans are saying, in effect: Let’s let Washington run this program for us because they’re better at it. They could be right, but they should be straight up about it and not bluster about stopping Obamacare. The president, we would guess, would cheer the Republican position. —E.D.

TOP STORY >> Beebe schools to renovate

Leader staff writer

The Beebe School Board last week approved renovation plans for the General Cooperative Education and agriculture buildings.

The estimated cost of the remodeling project is $780,000. The state will fund $239,511 to remodel the GCE building and $270,486 to remodel the agriculture building. The school district will spend $281,000 for the renovation projects. Delk Construction will be the construction manager and Lewis Architects Engineers are the architects for the project.

The GCE building will be turned into a physical-education room. New restrooms will be built outside of the building. The agriculture building will be converted into a band room with three classrooms and storage. The renovations are scheduled to be completed by summer.

Board members approved adding a large awning over the courtyard of the $7.5 million career and technical center for $163,000.

School board secretary Harold Davis said it would be more costly to add the awning later. The awning will give students protection from the weather.

Board members approved the purchase of $25,511 for technology. The district will buy a computer, a video camera, printer and a fax machine. The district will be reimbursed for the cost of the new equipment with a workplace-readiness grant.

The board also approved adding a position to the gifted-and-talented program to oversee seventh through 12th-grade students. The new position would also work as an Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science coordinator to help students improve AP and pre-AP science and math test scores.

The coordinator will also help students with testing preparations for ACT and SAT college-entrance exams.

Beebe School District gifted-and-talented coordinator Karla Tarkington was recognized during the school-board meeting as the Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education state-educator award winner. Tarkington is also Badger Elementary School principal.

The board also recognized Beebe Middle School sixth-grade gifted-and-talented students Josh Mitchell, Toby Hampton and Carson McNeill. The students won first place in their region during the Economics Arkansas’ Stock Market Game. During the 10-week program the students had an imaginary $100,000 portfolio to manage by trading stocks on the New York Stock Exchange and American Stock Exchange.

EDITORIAL >> Don’t keep voters away

Arkansas’ long history of voter fraud has begged for reform, but it has not begged for the state to make voting an ordeal. That is what the House of Representatives has decided to do.

Monday, the House approved a bill to require every voter to present a government-issued photo identification before he or she can vote in any election. Without a passport or a current driver’s license a person would be an illegal voter, regardless of the validity of a permanent voter registration. Tens of thousands of Arkansas voters do not have a passport or a driver’s license, owing to a disability, age, poverty or the simple choice not to own a vehicle.

Rep. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, said the bill would take care of those people by requiring the state to set up photo-identification equipment in the counties to provide identification cards for people who didn’t drive or have passports and still wanted to vote. In other words, if they really, really, really want to vote, a person can go to the trouble and expense of getting an official photo ID. If voting is much of a hassle, lots of people will not bother. If there is going to be a scene and they are forced to cast a “provisional” ballot to be adjudicated later, they won’t bother.

Imposing such a burden on the poor and elderly might be worth it if there were evidence that a consequential number of people were sneaking in and voting under someone else’s registration or a fraudulent registration. Arkansas still has a problem with voting fraud in some parts of the state, but fake or phantom voters are not a problem.

No, this is not about correcting rampant voter fraud but discouraging certain people from voting, mainly minorities who are less apt to have a current driver’s license and are certainly not going to have a passport. Republicans got such a law passed in Indiana, which was having too many people vote and voting too often for the wrong party.

Needing 51 votes, King’s bill passed 53-36. Let’s hope the Senate stands up for the disadvantaged and defeats this anti-democratic scam. We must maintain an election system that makes voting easy and honest and punishes election officials who corrupt the process. That would be real reform.

TOP STORY >> Loofah plants help local groups

Leader staff writer

Cabot resident Cathy Staton is using her flower beds to grow more than plants—she is cultivating the seeds of Loofah Life, an organization raising funds to help children in need.

Staton is growing loofah plants to help make a difference. She said funds raised by Loofah Life will be donated to organizations helping children such as United Methodist Children’s Homes, Baptist Children’s House and Family Services, Hot Springs Church of the Open Door, which feeds the needy in the city, Heifer International and Integral Justice Mission. Staton is working on obtaining nonprofit status for Loofah Life.

She will be looking for crafters, jewelers and paper-craft makers to develop loofah products to sell after the crop season.

Staton is looking for volunteer gardeners to grow loofahs during this year’s growing season, which starts soon. She has growers in Cabot, Conway, Fox, California and South Carolina interested in her endeavor. Growers will keep 10 percent of their loofah crop and donate the rest.

The dried loofah fruits will be sent to Staton’s home.

When a gardener grows loofahs, he will be eligible for a tax deduction.

A portion of the money raised from selling the loofah products will be returned to the seller. The remaining will be used to support organizations that help or care for abused, neglected or abandoned children.

“My gardeners will have different input on where they would like to donate,” she said.

Staton said it is still early enough in the year to plant loofah seeds.

“Gardeners are the foundation of the organization,” Staton said.

A loofah is a fruit that grows on a vine and is part of the cucumber family. Loofahs have a growing season of 140 days.

Seeds are planted around April 15 and the loofahs are left to dry on the vine until October. The fruit’s skin dries out and inside a sponge is formed.

Approximately 10 loofahs grow on each vine. A loofah can produce over 300 seeds. The seeds are kept and used for next year’s planting and the cycle continues.

Staton said the seeds can be used in crafts and jewelry.

The loofah fruit is edible.

“I heard they are bitter. I have not tried it,” Staton said.

The whole plant can be used.

“I became aware of using resources, looking for those things that are naturally self-sustaining. If it has more than one use, I am a fan,” Staton said.

The dried loofah skin is removed by soaking the loofah in water.

She is planning to sell the loofah sponges for around $2 or $3. The sponge is used for bathing and a kitchen cleaner. Staton said the loofah lasts a lot longer than synthetic scrubbers. When a loofah sponge loses its cleaning effectiveness it can be put into the compost pile. The sponges can be used in children’s art projects.

The skins and vines are cooked. They are mixed with old newsprint to make art canvases, greeting and thank-you cards.

Staton grew up in Texas and was raised by her grandparents.Her grandfather grew fruits and vegetables. Staton started gardening seven years ago after her daughter Victoria was born. She said her father-in-law, Bill Staton, was a master gardener.

Her husband, Shane, is a youth pastor at Cabot First United Methodist Church. He builds raised flower beds for Staton. Their daughter helps with watering the plants.

Staton was a Garland County master gardener before her family moved to Cabot over a year ago. She has a master’s degree in world mission from the Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

She is working on a doctorate degree in counseling psychology at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

“I’ve become more aware of the need in the state especially for children,” Staton said.

She said she loves growing things and using that love to help others.

Volunteer gardeners who want to assist Loofah Life can call Staton at 501-617-5678 or visit the Loofah Life page on Facebook for free seeds and more information on the organization.

TOP STORY >> Dictator fooled by coverage?

Leader executive editor

Did Fox News goad President Obama into taking action in Libya?

Every hour until the missiles started flying, Fox showed Obama goofing off: Doing everything except his job, but there was a reason to the March madness, and it had nothing to do with basketball.

Fox may have been part of a grand strategy to deceive the dictator into thinking he wasn’t on Obama’s radar. Did White House aides ask Fox to keep telling viewers Obama was “too disengaged” to care about Libya? A lot of people thought so.

This could be the start of a new era of cooperation between the White House and Fox.

All month, Fox News kept telling viewers the President was too much into college basketball to pay attention to the uprising in Libya.

Is Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi now on the ropes because of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by the White House and Fox News? Did they fool Qaddafi into thinking coalition forces wouldn’t come after him because America was too busy with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, not to mention the NCAA tournament bracket?

A clever disinformation campaign may have lulled the colonel into complacency. Everyone knew President Obama seemed too distracted to do anything about Libya. With two wars and a disaster in Japan, why pick a fight with another Arab dictator?

If Qaddafi watched Fox News, he would have seen President Obama playing golf, attending family outings and filling out March Madness brackets. If he didn’t fill out the brackets, he would have been called un-American.

The democratic spirit has caught on in the Muslim world, thanks to the Internet and instant worldwide communication. Old dictators like Qaddafi should not expect to rule for another 40 years.

It’s no surprise that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late last week pressed President Obama into taking action against Col. Qaddafi.

Considering her husband’s decision to go to war in Bosnia almost two decades ago, Bill Clinton may have channeled his feelings through his wife to persuade Obama that the time had come to target Qaddafi.

The administration has deftly used the United Nations’ no-fly resolution to go after Qaddafi once and for all. Fortunately, U.S. involvement appears limited.

American officials say they’ll finish the job in a couple of days and let France lead the military action against the aging dictator.

He could stick around for a while in a divided Libya, but the bombings have destroyed the country’s air defenses and sent Qaddafi into hiding—perhaps in a spider’s nest, like his cohort Saddam Hussein before he was captured.

Obama and his team were slow to catch the revolutionary wave sweeping across the Arab world. The Tunisian and Egyptian dictators have been deposed and more are on the verge of going down and out. Dictators and monarchs are watching their backs and bank accounts, wondering if they’re next. From Libya to Bahrain, from Syria to Iran, the spirit of freedom is spreading.

There are different kinds of dictators: Those who die in bed, perhaps the rarest of the breed, and there are those who escape overseas with billions in suitcases.

Those who don’t flee or die in their bunkers get caught in spider holes and die on the gallows. None of these are pleasant prospects for the longtime dictator and his sons.

TOP STORY >> Error keeps funds away from Cabot

Leader staff writer

In his state-of-the-city address, Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said Monday night that Cabot, the third fasting-growing city in the state, is doing well, except for a bureaucratic mix-up that cost the city more than $1 million in federal funding for a north interchange at Hwy. 67/167.

But the schools and air base will continue to bring in people and small businesses, and as industry develops in central Arkansas, Cabot will benefit, the mayor said.

“If Lonoke gets a factory with 1,000 employees, half of them are going to live here,” Cypert said. “Anything that develops in central Arkansas is going to add rooftops to Cabot.”

And that includes the Little Rock area. Cabot is in the right location to benefit from out-of-state firms looking for friendly tax structures and a high quality of life for employees, he said. Because of its assets, Metroplan has projected that Cabot’s population will almost double from the current 23,776 to 45,085 by 2050.

But there is one glitch in the plans he included under the subhead “2012 and Beyond Initiatives.” The $1.1 million of federal money that was supposed to be earmarked for engineering and right-of-way acquisition for the north interchange, which has been talked about for a decade, was given by mistake to the Chalk Bluff Road project in Clay County in northeast Arkansas.

Cypert said he learned about the problem from state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who got a call in December (his last month as the mayor of Cabot) from then-Rep. Marion Berry’s office.

Cypert said that on a recent trip to Washington, he spoke to Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman and Rep. Rick Crawford and asked them to try to get the money back. The Arkansas Highway Department, which would oversee the project, also is watching with interest, he said, adding that all those involved say the money should be returned to the Cabot project.

The city currently has $3.5 million in reserve, the mayor said in his address, adding that the number is significant because several proposed projects like the federally funded interchange will require matching money from Cabot.

Initiatives for 2011 include the completion this summer of a long-term, strategic transportation plan, identifying drainage basins and keeping the ditches clean that feed those basins to help stop flooding, increasing to two lanes the southbound Hwy. 5 on-ramp to relieve congestion from the Greystone area, and the dedication possibly in April or May of the new armory.

Also in the planning stages for 2012 and beyond is a move to a better location for the central fire station and construction of a fire station for the Hwy. 5 area at Hwy. 5 and Mountain Springs, expansion at the community center to include an exercise center, and cloverleaf ramps at exits 16 and 19 on the freeway.

The mayor also wants a traffic signal at Hwy. 5 and Magness Creek and Hwy. 5 widened to four lanes from Hwy. 89 to White County as well as other street improvements to help traffic flow more smoothly across the city.

In all, he has identified about $60 million in projects that he hopes to complete over the next four years. To fund those projects, he proposes refinancing the bonds supported by a one-cent sales tax approved by voters under former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh. That $30 million bond issue paid for the city’s new sewer-treatment plant and some street improvements. It also helped pay for the community center and animal shelter.

The tax is supposed to go away when the bonds are paid sometime in 2015, and to extend the tax would require another vote of the people. But Cypert said he believes voters will approve it when they understand how important it is.

TOP STORY >> Group wants crowd at hearing on gas bills

Leader staff writer

The Citizens First Congress, a grassroots coalition of 49 community groups from across Arkansas that works on progressive reform at the Arkansas Legislature, is asking for help to ensure that several bills aimed at reform in the gas industry that go before the House Agriculture Committee today get a fair hearing.

“It is very important that as many people as possible come out and support the passage of the gas bills. Bring posters. We need to let them know that Arkansans are very concerned about our safety and our rights in this matter,” said a mass email that went out earlier late last week.

Committee meetings on the gas bills are going to be held at 10 a.m. today in Room 138 at the state Capitol.

Tom Kimmons from Shirley, a member of the Van Buren County Gas Advisory Board, talked this week about why people living in The Leader’s coverage area should care about their problems.

For one thing, the drilling is moving into the area, he said. And for another, drilling is a threat to Greers Ferry Lake, which provides both enjoyment and drinking water.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We all breathe the same air and drink the water.”

Kimmons said he lives about 1,000 feet from a compressor that wakes him during the night, so the noise-abatement bill is very important to him. But he said no one in the coalition wants the gas industry out of Arkansas. What they want is for the industry to follow the best practices it holds to in other states.

Imagine living with a 70-decibal vacuum cleaner day and night, he said. That’s what living next to the compressor is like for him. The noise-abatement bill asks that the noise from compressors be lowered to 55 during the day and 45 at night.

“We’re not against drilling. We just want them to do it right,” Kimmons said. “We want the legislature and the governor to do their job and protect the people with best-management practices.”

About two weeks ago, a group of state legislators from the gas-producing areas, including two from White County, formed the Fayetteville Shale Caucus to oppose the bills the Citizens First Congress supports.

This is the statement the caucus issued on March 10:

“We all have issues that our constituents want addressed. Sometimes, however, people file bills with good intent that affect the lives and jobs of people not in their district. It’s become pretty clear the Fayetteville Shale Play has become a target for a lot of recent

“The Fayetteville Shale is an economic engine that we must protect. Our goal is to protect the economic impact of the affected counties while working with the industry folks to encourage good corporate citizenship. We think we can do that without a ton of
legislation. Hopefully, the people will appreciate the bipartisan cooperation and the unity between members of different chambers.

“We, and many of our colleagues, agree that we need to send the right message to the business community that we appreciate their business and can find ways to work pro-actively through issues.

“The Fayetteville Shale Play is important to the long-term economic future of our districts and also the State of Arkansas. We are confident this will be a constructive working group that will strengthen the relationship between this important industry and the people of Arkansas,” the pro-industry group said.

The caucus members in The Leader’s coverage area are state Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia and state Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe. The group also includes state Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Conway, and state Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway.

This following information was included in the mass e-mail from Citizens First Congress:

“We have introduced a package of legislation to support responsible natural gas development in Arkansas. These seven bills are intended to ensure that natural gas development be balanced in a responsible approach that takes advantage of the economic opportunities but also protects Arkansans’ individual property rights and the air, land, and water which we all depend upon for survival.”

n SB314 (Salmon) The Landowners Bill of Rights – “Arkansas landowners should have a voice in decisions about well siting and other plans on their property, full disclosure and adequate notice of all company activities on their property, and accurate information about their rights as mineral and/or surface owners.”

n HB 1396 Webb) Natural Gas Drilling Disclosure – “Gas companies should reveal to the public and state agencies volumes of water used and the source of the water, chemicals and volumes of chemicals used, quantity of fluid (water and chemicals) used in a well that remained in the well versus returned to the surface, and disposal methods for all drilling and fracturing fluids.”

n HB 1399 (Pierce) Rural Good Neighbor Noise Abatement – “Gas companies should reduce noise to below 55 db at 1,000 yards of distance from a house during the day and 45 db at night.”

n HB 1395 (Leding) Natural Gas Drilling Air Quality Protection – “Natural gas drilling, production and transportation releases a myriad of hazardous air contaminants that have limited monitoring in Arkansas. Air quality from wells near homes and of wells concentrated within small geographic areas should be monitored and agencies should evaluate their ability to adequately provide monitoring in the Fayetteville Shale region and ramp up efforts.”

n HB 1394 (Lenderman) Natural Gas Drilling Water Quality Protection – “Arkansas lakes, rivers and streams like the Little Red River, Cadron Creek and Greers Ferry Lake are threatened with pollution from gas development. Gas companies should be required to follow best management practices when building roads, pipelines and drilling pads. Waste pits containing toxic fluids from the drilling process should have strict requirements for construction, maintenance, and closure to prevent leakage and runoff. Casing standards should be strengthened to prevent contamination of groundwater. Gas companies should be responsible for testing private water supplies near drill sites for contamination.”

HB 1392 (Leding) Improving Inspections and Enforcement at Gas Drilling Sites – “Gas wells are not inspected often enough, and there are far too many cases where violations have gone unremediated and unpunished. Gas wells should be inspected at least annually and more often during drilling or fracturing, when millions of gallons of chemicals and contaminated water are handled on site. More must be done to hold polluters accountable for correcting problems they’ve created and to prevent them from repeating mistakes again.”

n HB 1393 (Webb) Increase Bonding to Protect Arkansas from Holding the Toxic Bag – “Gas wells remain productive for 10 to 30 years, after which they must be closed and remediated.

“We must protect Arkansans from companies who may go bankrupt or fail to meet their obligations to clean up their mess. Assurance bonds to pay for closing and remediating abandoned wells must be significantly increased. Requirements should be strengthened for idle wells, which have a higher risk of becoming the responsibility of the state,” the group’s statement said.

SPORTS >> Final at-bat does job for Trojans

UALR Sports Information

The UALR Trojans scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth and senior Casey McCollum hit the game-winning single as the Trojans beat rival Arkansas State 7-6 on Sunday.

For the second straight day, UALR won in the final inning to take the Sun Belt Conference series 2-1.

UALR (10-9, 2-1 SBC) went into the bottom of the ninth facing a 6-4 deficit, but rallied after junior Cameron Bentley reached on a fielding error to start things off. Bentley stole second, and the Trojans followed with back-to-back RBI doubles by seniors Jason Houston and Jake Rowell, to tie it.

Arkansas State reliever Cory Kyle took the mound and issued consecutive intentional walks to load the bases. Then McCollum roped the game-winning hit to left to drive pinch runner Hector Acosta.

UALR outhit the Red Wolves 10-7 while junior Niko Navarro was 3 for 4. Houston was 2 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and one RBI while junior Nick Rountree hit a two-run homer in the first. It was his second home run of the year.

Senior John Maler got the victory in relief by holding the Red Wolves (10-11, 1-2) hitless over 2 2/3 innings. Maler (1-2) took the mound in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and one out, and retired the first two batters he faced to escape the jam. He closed out the game with a scoreless eighth and ninth.

Arkansas State reliever Wes Dagestad (0-1) took the loss after allowing one hit and one run in his ninth-inning appearance. Dagestad faced just one batter and gave up the tying double to Rowell.

Todd Baumgartner went 2 for 4 to lead the Red Wolves, while Jordan Castaldo hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

Arkansas State starter Brandon Allen retired the first two he faced before walking Rowell on four pitches. The walk proved costly as Rountree followed with a two-run home run to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead.

SPORTS >> Green Bay holds on, tops UALR

UALR Sports Information

WICHITA, Kan.— Green Bay ended UALR’s season with a 59-55 victory in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Chastity Reed led UALR (23-8) with 24 points and scored 21 in the second half while Marian Kursh scored nine points and had a team-high nine rebounds.

After a jumper by Reed, Green Bay made consecutive three-pointers for the Phoenix’s largest lead of the game, 51-41, with 4:39 left. A jumper by Kursh sparked an 8-2 UALR run that cut the lead to 53-49 with 1:25 on the clock.

Green Bay made three free throws before a three-pointer by Reed with 14.8 seconds remaining cut the Phoenix’s lead to 56-52.

In the remaining 12.5, Green Bay scored on three free throws, while Taylor Ford made a three-pointer for the Trojans as the Phoenix held on.

Green Bay opened the game with four straight points before Kursh converted a three-point play for the Trojans with 17:58 left. A steal by Asriel Rolfe followed by a three-pointer from Reed sparked a 7-2 run to put UALR ahead 10-6.

Over the next three minutes the Trojans outscored the Phoenix 6-4, getting a three-pointer from Janette Merriex, for the 17-10 lead with 11:51 left until halftime.

With 10:48 left, Green Bay’s Adrian Ritchie made a three-pointer to spark a 9-0 run. Kursh made a layup with an assist from Rolfe to tie it at 19 and end a six-minute scoring drought by UALR.

The teams exchanged points, then the Phoenix scored on a layup and free throws to take a 25-21 lead with 2:33 left in the half.

Rolfe scored on a jumper with 2:04 to go and Green Bay answered with a three-pointer by Julie Wojta for the 28-23 half-time lead.

Merriex opened the second half with a three-pointer but Green Bay responded with a layup for the 30-26 lead.

After UALR’s Shanika Butler drew her fourth foul, Reed scored six-straight points to go ahead 32-30 with 15:33 left.

The teams exchanged points, with four coming from Reed, before a layup by Green Bay’s Kayla Tetschiag with 9:33 left sparked a 9-2 run that gave the Phoenix a 45-39 lead.

It was UALR’s second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans got an at-large bid last year and beat Georgia Tech in the first round before losing ot Oklahoma.

UALR won the Sun Belt Tournament to win the automatic berth this year.

Reed concludes her career as the Trojans’ all-time leading scorer.

SPORTS >> Wolves show up for scouts

ASU Sports Information

Ten former Arkansas State football players, including five All-Sun Belt Conference selections from last season, worked out for scouts from eight NFL teams Friday at ASU Stadium during the Red Wolves’ Pro Day.

The all-conference players were offensive linemen Sifa Etu and Derek Newton, linebacker Javon McKinnon, defensive lineman Bryan Hall and defensive back M.D. Jennings.

Hall and Newton were named All-Sun Belt in 2009 and 2010 and Newton recently participated in the NFL Scouting Combine.

The players evaluated Friday were offensive linemen Kiano Prater, Drew Hilton and Dominic Padrta, defensive back Walter Moody and wide receiver Jonathan White.

The Red Wolves have had a player taken in the NFL Draft each of the last four years. The group includes fullback Oren O’Neal (Oakland Raiders), safety Tyrell Johnson (Minnesota Vikings), tight end David Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers) and defensive end Alex Carrington (Buffalo Bills).

The event began just after 10 a.m. at the football weight room.

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills’ Johnson hits baskets, books

Leader sportswriter

Ashley Johnson does not shy away from achievement.

The Sylvan Hills senior guard and team captain helped lead the Lady Bears to three consecutive state tournament appearances and will graduate as valedictorian later this spring. She was also a three-time all-conference volleyball selection.

Johnson, who averaged 19 points and seven rebounds a game this past season, has been selected Leader Girls Player of the Year.

The soft-spoken Johnson is humble about her accomplishments, which included an 11-point, eight-rebound performance as she wrapped up her high school career in the All-Metro Game last week.

It marked a triumphant final moment for Johnson and Sylvan Hills coach Bee Rodden, who was on the sideline for her final game before her retirement.

Johnson’s All-Metro appearance was one in a long list of accolades, which includes making the all-tournament team at Pulaski Robinson and Central Arkansas Christian this past season. She was also one of KATV Channel 7’s Full-Court Award winners and an Arvest Player-of-the-Week selection.

Johnson had 10 or more points and rebounds five times her senior season and had a career-high 33 points in a non-conference game against Beebe, and 31 in a 5A-Southeast Conference game against Monticello.

If her athletic numbers don’t impress, there is also Johnson’s list of academic accomplishments.

She has had a GPA of 4.0 or better, a No. 1 rank in her senior class of 168, she is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, BETA Club, student government and is president of the Senior Executive Committee.

Johnson capped it all off with an ACT score of 30.

“Ashley Johnson is the child that every parent hopes for, the student that every teacher enjoys, and the player that every coach dreams about,” Rodden said.

“To say AJ is an overachiever is an understatement. Her strong work ethic, positive attitude, enthusiasm and dedication combine to make her what every coach wants in a student-athlete.

“I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to coach Ashley Johnson.”

The years before Johnson emerged in basketball were lean ones for Rodden and the Lady Bears. Rodden, who began coaching in the Sylvan Hills system in 1993 and took over the varsity program in 1998, had success early last decade with standout players like Courtney Brown and later Kimberly Maxwell.

But Maxwell’s graduation in 2005 left a void on a team that always thrived on having a go-to leader. The Lady Bears suffered three straight losing seasons without a state tournament appearance.

But a scrappy group of juniors and the addition of Johnson, then a sophomore, helped turn things around. The Lady Bears finished second to Beebe for the 5A-Southeast Conference championship in 2009 and returned to postseason play.

Johnson was hesitant to share in any of the responsibility for the renewed success of the program.

“I hope so,” Johnson said. “But it was really a group, because the seniors that graduated last year carried the team, too. It was just a team effort.

“I was just more encouraging of others. I think I expected more out of the other players than I have been, because I knew we needed to step it up this year. Just pushing them to do their best.”

Johnson, who plans to pursue a career in physical therapy, is in the rare position of being able to accept either an athletic or academic scholarship. Ouachita Baptist, Sam Houston State, the University of Arkansas -Monticello and Lyon College have shown interest in Johnson as an athlete.

With Rodden in the last of her 13 years as varsity coach, the past season had a sentimental quality. Rodden announced her pending retirement from teaching and coaching at the beginning of the year.

She could have retired after last season but wanted to stay on to see Johnson through.

“It’s great,” Johnson said. “I love her to death, and when she announced she was leaving, I was very upset. Even though I’ll be gone, I always expected her to always be here, you know, it’s just her and Sylvan Hills.

“And she’s put a lot of trust in me and guided me.”

While Johnson is headed for the college classroom and Rodden to an upscale retirement/recreation community in Florida, the impact of their time together should make for a successful transition to the next era.

“Believe me, she could have accomplished everything she did this year whether I was here or not,” Rodden said. “I was glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”

SPORTS >> Lions fatten up on Bears’ errors

Leader sportswriter

Michael Maddox’s triumphant return to active duty was the only bright spot for Sylvan Hills as Searcy clubbed the Bears 12-3 at Mike Bromley Field on Friday.

The Lions (6-1) dominated the non-conference game with eight hits. Searcy, which reached the 6A state championship last year, also benefited from five Sylvan Hills errors, which accounted for all but three of Searcy’s scores.

The Bears (3-5) had chances to keep up with Searcy in the first two innings but left four runners on base.

Maddox gave the Bears hope in the bottom of the sixth inning when, with David Carrasquillo and Nick Baioni on base, he drove a fastball from Lions reliever Reed Haggard over the left-field wall to make it 9-3. It was the first swing in game conditions for Maddox, who spent the winter recovering from a football injury.

Searcy had made it 9-0 at the top of the inning when it took advantage of two Sylvan Hills errors to score four runs.

“It’s kind of been our story this year — we’re trying to break it,” Bears coach Denny Tipton said of his team’s slump. “We’re having trouble getting three outs, and we keep letting people get runs. Tonight, if you go back in the game, they had three earned runs in the second inning, so technically, it ought to be 3-3.

“But we’re not making the plays, and when you give a teams as capable as Searcy five outs in one inning, they’re going to make you pay.”

Joe Formel got the victory for the Lions as he gave up three hits in five innings. Haggard finished the job for Searcy and gave up three hits, including the home run from Maddox in the sixth.

Formel flirted with disaster early as he walked three batters in the first two innings, but the defense held up with just one late error after Searcy had its commanding lead.

“I was proud of our team,” Searcy coach Clay McCammon said. “Our pitching, we got behind in some counts, we walked some guys, but they battled hard and found a way to get out of the inning. We got some timely hits offensively.

“A couple of innings, they gave us some extra outs and our guys were able to take advantage of it.”

The offense came by committee for Searcy, which had only one player with multiple hits.

Haggard’s 2-for-4 performance included an RBI double in the top of the second that scored Mike Brown. Brown drove in the first two runs with a double to right that sent in Dillon Howard and Hayden Mercer, who drew walks from Sylvan Hills starter Blake Rasden.

For Howard, who recently signed to play at the University of Arkansas, the first score was an offensive highlight in and otherwise quiet game.

Howard went 1-for-5, popping up to right and grounding out before he singled to center in the top of the sixth. Preston Tarkington hit a two-run home run for Searcy in the inning.

“He’s been a little slow offensively this year,” McCammon said of Howard.

“In the summer, he basically just pitches and doesn’t get a lot of swings. He did the same thing last year; he starts slow at the plate and finishes strong.

“He hit .454 last year, so we’re not too concerned about him right now.”

Howard was one of Searcy’s pitching leaders last year but missed the state championship loss to Lake Hamilton with a sore shoulder.

He had drawn the interest of several major league clubs and was well-scouted before opting to sign with the Razorbacks, who already boast former Cabot slugger Sam Bates and former Sylvan Hills pitching standout D.J. Baxendale.

Sophomore southpaw Jimmy Sandefur gave the Bears a brief bolt of energy in the top of the fifth when he relieved Rasden. Sandefur battled Howard, the first hitter he faced, and got him to ground back to the mound.

Sandefur then got Hayden Mercer to fly out to third while Brown fouled out behind the plate.

It was the only 1-2-3 inning for the Bears defense, and Searcy retaliated the following inning with four unearned runs.

“Everybody’s frustrated, so they’re letting their defense affect their hitting and their hitting affect their defense,” Tipton said. “That’s just what we’re dealing with right now.”

Tipton vented his frustration late when he argued a few calls with the umpires.

He briefly appeared to win one battle in the seventh when Howard was sent back to the plate after drawing an apparent walk on a 3-1 count.

The umpires conferred and ruled Howard had checked his swing on the pitch from Bears senior reliever Greg Atchinson, but on 3-2, Howard walked anyway.

Tipton was frank regarding his team’s early-season progress.

“Right now, we’re playing bad defense,” Tipton said. “Right now, we could play a whole lot better than what we’re playing.”