Friday, August 03, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Free advice to Romney

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t have a subscription to The Leader, but maybe a supporter will get this to him in time.

This is an open letter to Mitt Romney.

Dear Mitt:

I understand you want to become president of the United States. You have a good chance, especially if you follow the advice offered here.

First, you have to understand where you are on the political spectrum. It’s true that you are a Republican and conservative on many issues, but you are perceived as just right of the middle, and in politics, perception is reality.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to understand that is where you are, and you will garner the moderate or centrist Republican vote and even a lot of the Democratic vote, but any voters more than an arm’s reach to your right — the hardcore conservatives — are beyond your fingertips at the moment, and those to the left of you won’t be voting for you anyway, so focus on securing all those on the right.

Which brings us to the second point: You will get the entire right side of the spectrum if you make a sincere and proper vice presidential pick.

Your pick needs to be perceived as a conservative — someone to the right of you — and if it is a woman or a minority, all the better. Condoleezza Rice, for example. But the key is conservative.

Who exactly? It’s up to you.

But pulling a senator or representative out of Congress could leave you one short of an important legislative vote. A choice like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would look popular initially, but he sits in the space on the spectrum as you do. Two people from the same part of the political spectrum may have been the ticket decades ago, but not now.

Also don’t look at grabbing someone like Sen. Rob Portman just to make sure a certain state (like Ohio) will vote Republican. Clinton picked Gore and it did get him Tennessee, just barely, and that was all. Clinton had to do the rest all on his own.

You have a lot going for you, but, sorry to say, you don’t have the gravitas to pull off a one-man show. That’s why your VP pick is the key. Make it a conservative to fire up the base. Then you take care of the middle (you’re already there), and the next letter addressed to you will begin “Dear Mr. President.”

Will you heed this important advice? No one will know until you announce your running mate.

Then everyone will know that you either listened or you need to buy a subscription to The Leader to make sure you get good advice in time. —Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Firefighters are thanked

Leader staff writer

Making use of the sheriff’s address book, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin on Thursday e-mailed every reporter who covers the county, thanking the county’s firefighters for their efforts during the drought.

The mass e-mailing was the judge’s first. Asked why he wanted to call attention to firefighters, Erwin said they are unpaid and unrecognized and this is the driest summer in 32 years.

“I’ve lived here for 56 years and this is the driest it’s been since 1980,” he said.

Since May, volunteer fire departments in territories outside city limits have responded to 200 fires, he said.

In his e-mail, the judge mentioned a residential fire Wednesday on Sandhill Road, in territory covered by CS and Z Fire Department near Cabot, where Carl Stracener has been chief for 28 years.

That fire burned a mobile home, some large oak trees and a neighbor’s yard and required four fire departments to contain. But despite the heat, dry grass and low humidity, Stracener said fire calls in his territory are about average for summer. And that, he said, is because the county judge ordered a burn ban and the sheriff is supporting the ban by ticketing anyone who burns.

Lonoke County has been under a burn ban since June 28.

“People have paid attention to the burn ban,” he said. “The sheriff and county judge have said if they’re burning, it’s a ticket.

“It don’t do any good to put on a fire ban if you don’t put some enforcement behind it,” he said.

Burn ban signs are common in Lonoke County when rain is inadequate. But Stracener said this is the first time since he’s been CS and Z fire chief that a county judge has declared a ban. Before, the bans came from the state forestry service, not the county and since the county didn’t impose the bans the county didn’t necessarily enforce them.

Rita Schmitz — Stracener’s sister-in-law, a firefighter with CS&Z for 28 years and Erwin’s assistant — said before Erwin imposed the ban, she and other family members were unable to carry on normal lives.

“We couldn’t go out to eat because we had to stay home and wait for a fire,” Schmitz said.

“I hate for anyone to get a ticket,” she said, “But when that gets in the media then everyone knows they can’t burn.

“The burn ban is a wonderful thing,” she said.

Erwin said “I was putting it off as long as I could knowing the Fourth of July was coming, hoping it would rain.”

The county follows state law when ticketing those who ignore the ban. Burning during a ban is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

“It’s unfortunate that you have to do that to get people’s attention,” Erwin said. “But in the north end of the county, we’re so populated; you could wipe out a whole subdivision if you’re not careful.”

TOP STORY >> North Belt still real possibility, Metroplan says

Leader senior staff writer

The Metroplan board Wednesday took what one board member called “baby steps” toward the completion of the North Belt Freeway.

But taking any steps at all is progress, according to Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie.

The board agreed to remove construction of the $700 million freeway from the financially constrained long-range transportation plan. The state Highway Commission has said it doesn’t have the money to build it. In its place on the constrained list, the directors put engineering and right of way acquisition for the North Belt.

Meanwhile, Metroplan will contribute $250,000 toward a professional feasibility study of making the freeway a toll road. Toll revenues could be used to secure construction bonds.

“It was just sitting there, on the plan, with nobody doing anything and developers starting to build in the right of way,” McKenzie said Friday afternoon. Now the Highway Commission is looking for money to do additional engineering, to put $6 million into the protection of critical right of way and to do the toll study.

“Now it’s not just sitting there,” he said.

McKenzie said that the Highway Department and Metroplan seem to be pulling in tandem to find a way to do the project.

By removing actual North Belt construction from the constrained plan, there was more than $100 million to put toward other projects, including $15 million for the widening of Hwy. 67/167 from Jacksonville to Cabot and $67 million to continue widening on I-40.

The board approved an amendment to the 2030 long-range transportation plan to include those projects.

One thing that has changed is that the central Arkansas business community got energized about the project.

The two central Arkansas highway commissioners had been “supportive, but not engaged,” McKenzie said. Now they are engaged.

“We’ve got some movement. It may take another 50 years to get the road built (not an actual estimate) but if we don’t protect the right of way, it can’t be built.”

He said that in 30 or 40 years, when the population of central Arkansas is one million, people are going to wonder why the right of way wasn’t protected.

Sherwood has been ordered by a court to change its master street plan to allow developers to build on land that had been reserved — but not purchased — for the North Belt.

Mayor Virginia Hillman noted Thursday, “We’re beating a dead horse a little bit. If there’s no funding, there’s no commitment.”

TOP STORY >> Saving Ebenezer Cemetery

 Joseph Boyd, a Civil War veteran, was laid to rest in Ebenezer Cemetery
with his wife, Martha, and their son, Jesse.

Leader staff writer

“I served about two years in the army that broke me verry fast I moved from Miss 2 years ago and stoped hear I am verry well pleased.”

— Joseph Boyd wrote to his wife’s uncle on Oct. 10, 1869.

Boyd is one of several Civil War veterans buried in the 1800s at Ebenezer Cemetery, a mostly forgotten piece of history near East Republican and Peters roads in north Pulaski County.

Forgotten until now.

Rob Laxton of Jacksonville is working to restore the “horribly overgrown” site.

A cleanup will be held at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.

About 80 men, women and children were laid to rest at the cemetery.

Among them were Laxton’s great-grandparents, uncle and cousin. His uncle and cousin fought in the Civil War.

The family attended Ebenezer Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which burned down in 1987.

Unfortunately, the church kept no records of cemetery and several graves are marked by nothing but smooth rocks.

On top of that, Laxton said, vandals have broken and stolen tombstones.

So he has a lot of work ahead of him.

But Laxton has already started researching Ebenezer’s interred.

He is hoping the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History can help.

Laxton found Joseph Boyd’s great-grandson, Bob Boyd, of Mayflower.

The two men share a descendant, James Washington Boyd, Joseph Boyd’s brother.

James Washington Boyd is probably buried at Ebenezer with his wife and children, according to Bob Boyd, who knows that Joseph Boyd, his wife Martha and their son, Jesse William Boyd, are there.

Joseph died in 1876 at the age of 55.

His son, Jesse, died in 1891 from pneumonia at the age of 45.

He had been chopping wood in the freezing rain for a family who didn’t have anyone to do it for them, Bob Boyd said.

Bob Boyd says Jesse told his wife Josephine to write everything down which has helped with family history.

Josephine wasn’t just a chronicler. Bob Boyd said he wished he could have met her.

He said she hid in a corncrib when the Yankees came to ransack her home and climbed a tree once to get at a beehive so that her children could enjoy the sweet honey.

Josephine used to look after the cemetery by bringing a wagonload of volunteers to keep it clean, Bob Boyd said.

Jesse joined the cavalry at age 16 while his brothers — Thomas Lindsey Boyd, 19, William Armstrong Boyd, 18, and George Washington Boyd, 17 — went into the infantry.

George is still missing in action. Until her last day their mother, Martha, would look down the road looking for him, Bob Boyd said.

He said his father told him that Martha had “a map of Ireland in her face.”

The Boyds moved to Arkansas from Mississippi. They built an 80-acre homestead on Tadpole Road between Hwy. 89 and McClellan Drive in the Jacksonville area.

The land is still family-owned, although the log cabin Joseph and Martha built there burned down in 1961.

Bob Boyd said he hopes what he knows will put a face to the effort to preserve the resting place of his relatives, which he hopes to help Laxton with.

“They deserve our respect,” he said.

One roadblock to that effort is that the cemetery is on private property, and there is a dispute over who owns it.

A recent survey shows that about a third of the site is on Tom Salmon’s land while the other two thirds is on land owned by Larry Holman.

But Holcomb fenced the cemetery and he says his deed confirms the entire plot is his. He said he would love to deed the cemetery over to Laxton so that it can be taken care of.

Salmon said he’d do all he could to help open a road to the site and he is also interested in having the cemetery preserved whether he owns part of it or not.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls have senior leadership in volleyball

Leader sportswriter

There are still a few questions when it comes to exactly who will be the starting six for the Beebe Lady Badgers as they prepare for another season of 5A East Conference volleyball.

But there is no question that this year’s team will be improved in all areas. The Lady Badgers, who narrowly missed earning a spot in the 5A state tournament last season under first-year coach Ashley Camp, are bigger, stronger and have extra depth with the addition of several talented sophomores.

Camp has found the preseason much easier to handle this time around with the help of four seniors and one junior who are acclimated to her system, which will now feature a more aggressive 5-1 offensive court setup.

“I’ve been impressed, particularly with the varsity group,” Camp said. “We’ve had several sophomores to step up. We’ve been working hard and dealing with the heat. I think we’re much better off from where we were at last year.”

The senior group is made up of Sachi Graham, Brittany Mitchell, Destiny Britt and 6-0 standout hitter Stephanie Pollnow. Madison Richie is the lone junior on this year’s team, and the only multi-sport athlete as a guard on the Lady Badger basketball squad under her father Greg Richie, as well as a standout track athlete

Camp said there has been no conflict between basketball team camps and practice time on the volleyball court for Richie, who will work as both a setter and hitter depending on the game situation.

Underclassmen take up over half the roster of 15, led by sophomore setter Brittany Gentry.

“We’re going to be stronger offensively and defensively,” Camp said. “We’re going to a 5-1 for our primary offense as opposed to the 6-2 we used last year. That gives us one primary setter, so we have to be smart about the game. Defensively, we have a lot more ball control this year. We’re already better than what we were last year, and we’re not even through with camp.”

Pollnow impressed last season with her size, athleticism and technique, but had a tendency to be timid at the net at times in situations where she could have most likely dominated. But a year of team camps and offseason Junior Olympic volleyball in Conway has given her more experience, and more ability.

“She’s come along even more,” Camp said. “She’s more aggressive when she needs to be now. We look for her to be a strong player and a strong leader for us this year. She is using her size and taking advantage of it a little more.”

There is both in-state and out-of-state college interest in Pollnow, but Camp was unsure of the status when it came to going on record with naming any school.

Another new addition to the Lady Badgers this year is assistant coach Alyson Boone, who will also lead the freshmen group. Boone grew up playing in Cabot under legendary coach Terry Williams, and played college volleyball at Lyon College in Batesville.

“We have very similar philosophies,” Camp said. “We work really well together. She will focus more on offense, and I will handle the defense.”

The Lady Badgers will open the season with a home non conference match against Lonoke on Aug. 21.

SPORTS STORY >> Few Carlisle starters return

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison football team was all business Wednesday evening in the third official day of fall practice. The Bison players were in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads during the practice session that went from 5 to 7:35 p.m. next to Fred C. Hardke Memorial Field.

Even though it wasn’t a full contact day, the intensity was there as both the coaches and players were ready to get on the practice field after an active summer.

The Bison have participated in multiple team camps as well as 7 on 7 tournaments throughout the summer in hopes to build on last season’s success, where the Bison finished 13-1.

The team’s only loss came in the class 2A state championship game when the Bison fell 45-20 to Strong.

“Football now is a year-round sport,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire. “Our kids are really dedicated. They’ve worked hard during summer workouts, and we’ve participated in team camps at UCA and Pulaski Academy. We also had a 7 on 7 tournament at Pulaski Academy. So, we’ve had a good summer and kept the kids active.”

Twelve players from the 2011 state runner-up team graduated, but the Bison return five starters on defense and three on the offensive side. Senior all-state tackle Clayton Fields returns to anchor the offensive line, and junior all-state running back Bo Weddle, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore, returns as well.

When asked who has emerged as one of the leaders and playmakers for the Bison, who have 38 players on the roster, Waymire was quick to point out senior quarterback/defensive back Chris Hart, who split time at quarterback last season with graduated all-state performer Zach King.

Last season, King’s leadership and consistency was key to the team’s success. But when the Bison wanted or needed to move the ball through the air, Hart was often the one under center. In 2011, Hart completed 31 of 53 passes (58 percent) for 528 yards and 11 touchdowns to one interception. As the full-time starter now, Waymire expects big things from the athletic senior.

“I’ve been very, very proud of him,” Waymire said of Hart. “His character and his leadership – that’s what we need out of him. We know he’s a good athlete and a smart football player. But we need him to take control of the team and be that guy. Be that guy that everybody knows is going to do the right thing. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a 17-year-old, but he’s done a great job so far.”

The fast-paced practice Wednesday started with an emphasis on the Bison defense. Waymire worked with the defensive backs while the linebackers and defensive linemen worked separately with assistant coaches through various drills.

Weddle led the Bison in tackles last season with 113 at linebacker. Junior Deron Ricks, an all-conference linebacker in 2011, is a force at shedding blocks and making tackles in open space. Fields is expected to lead the Bison front four. Hart returns at corner, where he was named to the all-6-2A team. Austin Reed mans the other corner spot.

Although the Bison were in shorts, the shoulder pads were popping during form-tackling drills. When it was time for the defense as a unit to come together and get its work in, each play run by the scout team wasn’t blown dead until all 11 Bison defenders were where the ball was.

In large part due to the scorching heat, significant rule changes have been made this summer regarding how teams can prepare for the upcoming season.

The new guidelines set by the Arkansas Activities Association have limited the amount of practice time for teams around the state.

These new guidelines have changed the practice routines of some teams, but according to Waymire, the rule changes haven’t changed the team’s approach for practice all that much.

“It really hasn’t,” Waymire said when asked if the new AAA guidelines have affected his approach to practice. “We’re kind of fortunate we get another week of practice before our scrimmage, because we got three weeks before school starts. So, it really doesn’t affect us. Our number one thing is the welfare of our players and coaches. That’s what we’re going to put first and foremost.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons choose a quarterback

Leader sports editor

The first week of football practice at North Pulaski saw one major change from spring and summer practice. There’s a new leading candidate for starting quarterback. Head Falcon coach Teodis Ingram listed four players who were vying for quarterback duties on this year’s team, but a fifth person has been handed the reins, senior Austin Allen.

“He’s definitely the leading candidate,” Ingram said of Allen. “With him back there, you could just see the offense clicking a little better. The young guys we were trying out were doing a good job and were making progress, but they just aren’t there yet. Things started running just a little smoother with Austin at quarterback.”

One of the plans since off-season began was to find ways to get the ball into Allen’s hands, though he was primarily a receiver. The decision to move him to quarterback not only solidifies that spot, but also gives the other candidates opportunities to concentrate on the other positions they can play and contribute to.

Just knowing who the quarterback is likely going to be is helping us in a lot of areas,” Ingram said.

According to Ingram, Allen isn’t yet where he needs to be as a passer, but has shown tremendous improvement since the decision was made in last July to move him to quarterback.

“When we first started, he wasn’t hitting his receivers in route very much at all,” Ingram said. “He still has some work to do on his throwing motion. He’s played so much baseball we’re still working on that football motion. He’s probably hitting his target about 60 percent of the time right now, and I expect that to get better and better.”

Two Thomases are working at running back. Damon Thomas and Fred Thomas have excelled, according to Ingram.

“Both of those guys have looked very good running the ball,” Ingram said. “Derek Hart was a really good running back for us last year, but I really believe Fred Thomas could be the best running back people have seen around here in a long time. He’s not as strong as he needs to be because he missed so many lifts playing baseball and basketball, but he has a great deal of natural athleticism.”

North Pulaski isn’t plugging in an entirely new offense this year, but they are tinkering with the scheme. They’ll still be in the wing T, but it will be more spread out, and they will be going without a huddle.

“We’re working on snapping the ball when the official puts it down and takes his hand off of it,” Ingram said.

The new offense will be on display for the first time on Aug. 31. That’s when the Falcons open the season at J.A. Fair.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot offense looks set

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers are 91 strong as the first week of summer practice wraps up today. The Panthers go in full pads for the first time this morning. Like most other teams, Cabot started Monday with helmets as the only equipment used. On Wednesday they added shoulder pads and will have live contact for the first time today.

Head coach Mike Malham has been pleased with how his team has performed so far, but wishes he could see more. With new, even stricter regulations regarding practice time, teams are only allowed to practice once per day until the second week of practice. That means Cabot has only practiced half as much as it has in years past.

“You can’t have two-a-days at all until the second week, and even then you can only do it every other day,” Malham said. “It’s like a picnic here now.”

Despite not practicing as much as Malham would like, the team has looked pretty good in the early going. The offense has looked particularly improved from where it was at this time last year. Several sophomores started on the offensive line last season, meaning everyone is back with a year of experience under their belts.

“The offense should be in pretty good shape,” Malham said. “They’ve looked pretty sharp so far. With all the returning starters on the line, and of course we had Launius, who as a sophomore, came on for us at fullback later in the year, we should be set for the next couple of years really. If everybody stays healthy.”

The injury bug has already bit the defense. Returning defensive back starter Chris Luna broke his ankle during 7-on-7 this summer. He is out indefinitely. Other projected starters in the secondary have missed practice for nagging injuries. The secondary was an area Cabot struggled greatly in last season. Despite the injuries, Malham thinks this year’s group will be improved from last year.

“We had to start some young guys back there too last year,” Malham said. “So we have guys coming back who are a little better than they were. So we should be better in the secondary. And we need to be.”

Cabot is replacing almost the entire defensive line. One player returns who got a good amount of playing time, but most are new to the starting role.

“I think we have some pretty good football players to step in there,” Malham said. “We’re just not going to have much experience right off the bat.”

Cabot’s first game will be Tuesday, Aug. 28 at War Memorial Stadium against Jacksonville.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

EDITORIAL >> A skeptic converts

It’s hot outside, and most of the state is in a drought and faces extreme fire danger. Even climate-change skeptics are jumping ship and looking for a place to cool off.

Richard A. Muller, a physics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, didn’t take global warming seriously until last year. But now he’s a self-described “converted skeptic.”

In a shocking op-ed column in Sunday’s New York Times — startling because he was commissioned to do a global-warming study funded in part by the Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers, both notorious climate-change deniers — Muller has concluded the globe is warming “and humans are entirely the cause.”

“Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years,” Muller writes. “Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

And it will get much worse. Muller writes, “As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.”

As part of their Berkeley Earth analysis, Muller and his research team used sophisticated statistical models that confirm many of the environmentalists’ worst fears, although Muller parts company with some of the most alarmist claims: “Hurricane Katrina,” he writes, “cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago,” when there was another warm period around the world.

Muller doesn’t even think this summer’s record temperatures necessarily prove global warming because it is cooler elsewhere. But as “carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise.”

“I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes,” Muller writes. “Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.”

It’s unlikely politicians in this country or in China and elsewhere will heed the warnings. As Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist, said in a recent interview, it would be “miraculous” if we made a commitment to stop global warming.

“Let’s suppose that the scientific consensus is correct: global warming is happening, and it will have some catastrophic consequences,” Kahneman told the British Spectator magazine. “By the time it becomes obvious to everyone that it’s a danger, it will probably be too late to do anything that will be effective in combating it. As a species, our brains have just not evolved to deal with threats whose effects will be felt in what, for us, counts as the remote future. We respond to them by ignoring them.”

Can’t scientists marshal evidence of global warming and convince a skeptical public that something terrible is going on? “The way scientists try to convince people is hopeless,” Kahneman told his interviewer, “because they present evidence, figures, tables, arguments and so on. But that’s not how to convince people. People aren’t convinced by arguments. They don’t believe conclusions because they believe in the arguments that they read in favor of them. They’re convinced because they read or hear the conclusions coming from people they trust. You trust someone and you believe what they say. That’s how ideas are communicated. The arguments come later.”

Here’s hoping a powerful communicator will step forward and convince a skeptical world that we’re in trouble. Rising temperatures are only a small part of a global crisis that’s unfolding before our eyes: Extreme weather is becoming the norm. Lakes are disappearing and fish are dying. Crops are wilting and prices will skyrocket. Oceans will rise and flood those living nearby.

Doing nothing is not an alternative. Our grandchildren deserve better. It’s time to heed the warnings of experts like Richard Muller and Daniel Kahneman.

TOP STORY >> Record hot, dry spells

Leader staff writer

With 21 days of 1o0-degree plus temperature, no one can doubt this summer has been hot and dry.

But where does it rank among all-time heat waves in central Arkansas? Number one? No, not even close. In the top five — not yet. Number six? Yes. But if the 100-degree days continue, this summer could easily make its way into the top three.

According to local meteorologist Tom Brannon of Cabot, 1980 is number one with 47 days of 100-degree or higher temperatures; 1954 is second with 46 triple-digit days; 1998 is third at 27 days; 2000 with 25 days; 1943 with 23 days, and then 2012 with 21 and counting.

With all of August to go yet, I can see this summer ending up third on the list,” Brannon said.

On average, Arkansas sees five 100-degree days in a year.

Here’s a look back at some of the worse heat waves and dry spells in the state:

 In 1980, a heat wave covered most of Arkansas from June 22 through Sept. 17, producing the hottest July on record. Little Rock saw 47 days of 100-degrees or more during this heat wave.

 The drought of 1953 saw Wilson (Mississippi County) go 101 days without measurable rainfall, which is, according to the weather service , the longest dry spell in the state.

A summer-long heat wave in 1954 caused 74 out of 75 counties to seek drought relief because of severe agricultural losses. Forest fires destroyed thousands of acres of timberland and the forestry commission said the dryness has forests in their most incendiary condition in 20 years. Late in June, Searcy and Conway saw temperatures hit 107 degrees. In July, almost every reporting station in the state hit 103 or more during the month. Ozark tied the state monthly record, hitting 116 on July 13. Little Rock hit 100-degrees or more 10 days in a row and 16 out of 17 days during the month.

 In August 1935, Hot Springs saw five days in a row with temperatures of 110-degrees or more, topping out at 113 degrees.

 A summer-long hot, dry spell in 1936 set state records. On Aug. 10, the heat wave hit its peak with a recording of 120-degrees in Ozark ( a state record), 118 in Booneville, 117 in Texarkana, 113 in Fort Smith and 110 degrees in Little Rock.

 In the summer of 1934, Ozark saw 54 straight days with 100-degree plus readings from June 20 through Aug. 12, a state record.

 In 2000, the state saw a late summer heat wave and dry conditions that started in July and continued through October. Little Rock had one of its hottest Augusts ever and recorded 11 consecutive 110-degree plus days from Aug. 25 through Sept. 4, including 109 degrees on Aug. 30.

 The summer (June-August) of 2010 was one of the hottest on record for Arkansas. Little Rock saw 90 consecutive days of 90-degree or warmer, beating the old record of 57 days set in 1980. The average summer temperature (a combination of the high and low) was 85.8, breaking the record of 85.4 set back in 1954.

 The summer of 2011 was drier and hotter than 2010, becoming the hottest on record for central Arkansas and many other portions of the state. On Aug. 3, the heat wave peaked, as almost all stations reported 105 degrees or more. Little Rock hit 114 degrees and Fort Smith reached 115 degrees. A week later a cold front moved through breaking up the heat wave.

TOP STORY >> Fireman’s death called a murder

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville firefighter Jason Bowmaster watched from the front row Monday as lawyers delayed the trial of Bryce Allen in Judge John Longston’s crowded courtroom in Little Rock.

Allen, 47, has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder. He allegedly drove around emergency vehicles and struck Bowmaster, Capt. Donald Jones and police officer Daniel DiMatteo with his van in March.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, died from his injuries. He was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Allen was originally accused of second-degree murder. He is being held at the Pulaski County Jail.

As the defense attorney, the prosecutor and others rescheduled Allen’s hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 20 because his mental evaluation isn’t complete, the accused killer’s eyes darted back and forth quickly.

Allen’s back was stooped over. His hands and feet were cuffed with a cable connecting the restraints.

He talked over officials as they worked, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

Allen said the jail guards were abusing him and changing his medications in an attempt to kill him.

His list of charges, according to the inmate roster on the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office website, include aggravated assault on an employee of a correctional facility.

As Allen was escorted out of the courtroom, he said, “Guess I gotta get back in there and get killed. I’ll get back to preachin’ one of these days.”

Bowmaster left with the help of a four-legged walker. Tears flowed freely from the eyes of family members and friends who followed behind him.

Bowmaster didn’t want to comment. Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said he didn’t know about the hearing Monday, but he will be at the next one on Aug. 20.

Vanderhoof said Bowmaster is “holding up and making progress.” The firefighter is still in physical therapy.

The tragedy occurred after Bowmaster, Jones and DiMatteo responded to a single-vehicle accident at 8411 S. Hwy. 161 between Rixey Road and State Hwy. 440.

Allen’s mother, Thelma Allen, was driving an SUV, which left the roadway and struck a gas main. She was not injured.

Allen arrived while the three emergency responders were working the scene.

The police department said its investigation showed that Allen made no attempt to brake and even accelerated before hitting the three men. He also appeared to be aiming toward them, the report says.

Allen was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, he was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

Allen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions. His evaluation said he did not take medications as prescribed.

Some of the delusions included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

Allen, who was an Army corporal from 1983-1986, told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

He has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with a different car in October 2011.

According to the police report, a man matching Allen’s description got into an argument with a valet at a hospital. The valet called a security guard.

Jacksonville Capt. Kenny Boyd said the guard was an off-duty policeman.

According to the report, the guard tried to stop Allen. Then the man intentionally struck the guard with the black 2000 Cadillac he was driving.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, fired his gun at the car, which had Arkansas tags 356RIW.

The Cadillac was owned by Allen, according to Jacksonville police.

The car was found in Lonoke a few days after Jacksonville police requested tips about its location, Boyd told the Leader.

TOP STORY >> Sizzling heat blazing on— relief far off

Leader staff writer

Tuesday’s triple-digit high made it four 100 degree-plus days in a row, 15 in July and 21 for the summer.

It would be eight days in a row, save for a 99-degree high on Friday.

Of the 21 100-degree or more days this summer, nine were all-time record setters, including Tuesday’s 107 degrees and Monday’s 111, according to the National Weather Service.

Monday’s high of 111- degrees was the third hottest day ever recorded in central Arkansas, surpassed only by the 114-degree high of Aug. 3, 2011, and the 112 degrees on July 31, 1986.

What do you do when it is 111 degrees outside?

“I just soldier through it,” said Joshua Heagerty of Heagerty Lawn Care and Sprinkler service of Cabot.

The hot dry weather has 99.7 percent of the state under some level of drought conditions and 33.6 percent of the state, including central Arkansas, is in the “exceptional” drought level, which is the highest or worse category.

The weather service forecast calls for triple-digit temperatures at least through Sunday with just a very small chance of sporadic thunderstorms.

One place people can escape from the brutal heat is the cooling center inside Cabot American Legion Post 71. Five people stopped by there over the past couple weeks.

The cooling center at the Cabot mini-mall, 208 N. First St., is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Elderly residents can get cooled down at the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood or at the Senior Activity and Wellness Center in Jacksonville.

But Don Hindman, director of the center in Sherwood, said fewer seniors are coming in because they are staying home to avoid the heat.

“A lot of them have said it’s much worse than what they’re used to,” Hindman said.

Some people can’t stay inside because their jobs require them to be outdoors, but they are coping by working different shifts.

Cabot WaterWorks general manager Tim Joyner said all maintenance workers are coming in an hour earlier to work at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m.

Brian Galloway, public works director for Sherwood, said his street and drainage crews are coming in at 6 a.m. so they can get their work done by early afternoon.

After lunchtime the workers have been training indoors, Galloway said.

Beebe street department supervisor Jim Greer said work hours changed from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The heat is also forcing crews to slow down and drink more liquids.

Cabot Water foreman Eric Hirschy was working with a crew replacing a water service line. He said he tells his co-workers to drink plenty of water and don’t overdo it. They pace themselves.

Beebe street department crews have been drinking lots of water and Gatorade.

Kevin House, Jacksonville Parks and Recreation maintenance manager, said his department is providing employees who have to work outside with water and Gatorade. Workers are encouraged to take extra breaks.

Jimmy Oakley, director of Jacksonville’s Public Works Department said his employees are working on asphalt that can be 140 degrees or hotter.

He said ice water is available and workers are told to take breaks in the shade when they get too hot.

Oakley said every employee knows the signs of heat exhaustion, so they can watch out for each other.

“Thus far we’ve been very fortunate nobody has been injured due to the heat,” he said.

Galloway and House also said their departments haven’t had any medical incidents because of the heat.

Cabot assistant fire chief Mark Smart said key for firefighters during the intense heat is to stay hydrated during the day before going to fires and trying to catch up. He said firefighters are still working in the engine bays. It is important to stay acclimated to the hot weather.

Cabot fire captain David Walton said every morning a water jug on each fire truck is filled with ice and water. When a wildfire burned at the Hwy. 89 overpass last week, the fire department set up a portable canopy for shade and had cooling fans running off generators.

Reviewing the current heat wave -— on July 21 it hit 108, breaking the record of 105 set in 1974; on July 20 it was 105, breaking the record of 104 set in 2006, on July 6 it was a balmy 107, besting the old record of 104 set in 1998; and July 5’s 102-degree high tied with the same record setting temperature from 1954.

But it just didn’t start getting hot in July; June had five 100-degree-days with two record setters. On top of the heat, the month was also the driest June in 20 years with less than an inch of rainfall.

On June 30, the temperature hit 103, tying the record from 1931 and 1894, and on July 29 it hit 106 degrees, breaking the old record of 105 set in 1988.

But it was June 28 that most people will remember. When it hit 107 degrees, it became the hottest June day ever recorded in central Arkansas—and records have been kept since 1894. June 15th’s high temperature of 105 tied the record for the hottest June Day ever, set back in 1988 and 1936.

However, even with all those hot June days, the month was not the hottest on record, in fact, it was the coolest June in three years. What helped was that prior to the 100-degree days at the end of the month, June had been relatively cool.

July, however, is another picture, through Tuesday the average high temperature for the month was 99.5 degrees, about six degrees below the 30-year average.

Sarah Campbell and Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil players increase strength

Leader sports editor

Football practice for the Jacksonville Red Devils gets into full swing today. The first official day of practice was Monday. Jacksonville spent most of the first two days in the film room and getting paperwork taken care of. Today, the team will be on the field from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for offensive practice.

The Red Devils had high participation over the summer, especially from the senior members.

“We had more participation this year than any summer since I’ve been here,” Russell said. “I’m really proud of the commitment from the players.”

Finishing games poorly has been one of the problems the Red Devils have faced in recent years. Last season, the 5-6 Red Devils held leads in four of those losses, and held second-half leads in two of them.

That prompted a decision to alter the off-season program this year.

“This summer we hit the weight room a lot with a goal to increase strength and not just maintain strength and endurance,” Russell said. “We put a program together and you can really see the increases a lot of the guys have made.”

Two players that made huge strides in strength were junior Carlin Herd and senior Chuck Hamilton.

increase we saw,” Russell said. “From where he started, he’s now doing five repetitions of five at 95 percent of his max from when he started. Chuck Hamilton is now doing five reps of five at about 90 percent of his original max. We haven’t maxed again yet, but I know we’re going to have quite a few with a brand new, bigger max. There are several that have increased quite a bit, but those are the two that have gained the most.”

Jacksonville held team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays and had linemen camps on Mondays and Wednesdays. Like last year, Jacksonville went to the Gus Malzahn 7-on-7 and linemen camps on July 19. The skill position players took part in a 7-on-7 tournament, but didn’t do as well as it did last season, when it went 5-2.

Jacksonville started well, beating Nettleton 26-2, but lost its next game 13-12 and won just one more in the seven-game guarantee event.

“It was just one of those days where we didn’t catch the ball very well,” Russell said. “But hey, that was just practice. We’re going to learn from it and get better. That’s what those things are for.”

One thing that has remained consistent in this group has been senior leadership. The seniors have had the highest participation percentages, and have even showed up to help with other projects.

“They came out here from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon to help us build a filming deck,” Russell said. “It’s just been a smoother year so far with this bunch. Of course this is the sophomore group I came in with, so I think we’re more comfortable with each other. We’ve had the same coaching staff together for all three of those years. And that makes everything a little easier for everybody. We’re 23 days from taking the field at War Memorial Stadium against Cabot and we’re excited.”

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers off to good start

Leader sportswriter

The numbers are a little low but the spirits are high in Beebe’s fall football camp.

A total of 48 prospective varsity Badgers turned out on Monday following a spring and summer of stringent workouts that included team camps and 7 on 7 sessions.

The day started with a 6 a.m. weight room session followed by an afternoon of no-contact drills for the linemen and skill players.

“I thought it was a good first day,” Beebe head coach John Shannon said. “We lifted weights this morning and we came back this afternoon. And, I don’t know, I had people coming out telling me it was 108, 110, 112 – I don’t know how hot it was, but I know I’ve been out in it a lot hotter than what today was. It may have been hot, but it wasn’t as hot as it has been.

“I thought our kids handled the heat well and worked hard. With the new AAA guidelines, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do, so we just did a lot of teaching today. I thought the kids paid real good attention and worked hard trying to do what we wanted them to do. So I was pleased with the way things went today.”

Compared to many 5A programs, and even some 4A programs with numbers typically in the lower to mid 50s, a roster of 48 may seem a little thin, but Shannon said that although depth is a concern for him, he is happy with the kids he does have.

“We’re a little down number wise, but the group we’ve got is working hard, and has been ever since January, so we’re excited about what we’ve got. We’re probably like most 5A schools, our biggest problem is going to be depth. If we stay healthy, we feel like we’ve got a chance to be pretty good. If we lose someone in the right position, it could get ugly in a hurry, but I’m sure a lot of schools are in that boat.”

Shannon’s expectations for training with the Badgers throughout the year is among the strictest in the state, but the group actually caught somewhat of a break at the start of the summer before business picked up at the first of this month.

“We changed our summer program this year,” Shannon said. “We only worked five days in the whole month of June. Those five days were basically team camps and 7 on 7. We came back on July 9, and we had mandatory workouts four days a week. It was about an hour and a half of real intense work. The kids handled it real well, then last Thursday we finished up summer with 56 sprints out on the game field. It was (grades) 8-12, and we had about 120 kids out there, and they all passed the test with flying colors.

“We’re real pleased where the whole program is at conditioning-wise going into our fall camp,” Shannon said.

The Arkansas Activities Association changed up the policy for fall practice this season. Teams can go only with helmets and shorts the first two days with no contact of any kind, and three days of helmets and shoulder pads with the option to hit dummies before starting the second week with full pads and full contact. Two-a-days sessions are also not allowed until the second week, and even then is limited to every other day.

“It’s been an adjustment,” Shannon said. “No two-a-days anymore the first week, which I’m disappointed in because that’s my favorite part of the whole year – you get football all day long, and you don’t have to worry about school or work or anything else. You’re just out there practicing football and having a good time. Monitor and adjust, that’s all you can do.”

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits energize summer practice

Leader sportswriter

Improved numbers to go along with improved strength made for a good opening fall practice for the Lonoke Jackrabbits on Monday morning.

A summer of intense weightlifting and conditioning was evident in the physiques of the 46 players on the practice field behind the field house. Coach Doug Bost and staff are expecting a total of 51 players for this year’s roster, all with a renewed sense of intensity heading into the 2012 football season.

“Ever since we started in the summer with team camps, 7 on 7, and even days where we were lifting and running, the energy and the excitement and enthusiasm out of the kids – it’s been great,” Bost said. “We told them before we started practicing today to just keep bringing that every day. It just makes us a better football team when everyone’s buying into it.”

Defensive coordinator Drake Widener worked with the offensive and defensive lines while new coach Clint Shadwick worked primarily with quarterback candidates Nick Watson and Grant Dewey. Bost took the rest of the group through everything from kickoff protocol to passing drills, with the entire team going through a no-contact scrimmage lineup for the final 15 minutes.

Shadwick is the new addition to the coaching staff after working under Greenbrier head coach and former Harding University coach Randy Tribble for a number of seasons. Bost said that experience fits into the Jackrabbits’ system well with a bigger emphasis on passing this year. The quarterback battle between Dewey and Watson that started back in the spring is ongoing through August camp, with both players taking plenty of snaps on Monday.

Lonoke got off to a tough start to the 2011 season with games lost late due to tiring lines, which led to criticism of the team’s work ethic. They managed to find their way into the class 4A playoffs but were one and done, prompting the coaching staff to do some soul searching in preparation for the offseason.

“We went back as soon as the season was over last year and we just started making a list of things that we needed to improve on as far as a coaching staff and the kids,” Bost said. “And we just started in on it. Offseason, we added a bunch of auxiliary lifts after we did the main lifts. Big-gun Friday is nothing but biceps and triceps; kids love big-gun Friday. They just really bought into it, and running went right along with it. We really feel like we have come a long way from where we were last year.”

Another Achilles’ heel for Lonoke last year was turnovers that led to missed opportunities, but the first two weeks of practice will also address that and other minute details.

“We told them PATD, and that’s pay attention to detail,” Bost said. “That’s one thing we added when we made our list back in November. We made a list of everything we’ve got to pay attention to. (We had) 20 turnovers last year, so if you’re a skill guy, it’s high and tight carrying the ball. That’s what we can really get accomplished these first couple of weeks of fall camp – get those little things down.

“They’ve been running offense and defense all summer, so we feel good that they know that, but we’ve really got to nitpick little things and get perfect at it.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins ousted on close call

Leader sports editor

A controversial call ended the Sylvan Hills Bruins in the third round of the Senior American Legion state tournament at Burns Park.

Sylvan Hills lost 2-1 to Rogers in an 11-inning game played in miserable heat Sunday afternoon.

The final three innings were played with just two umpires, as one succumbed to the heat and fainted just before the start of the ninth inning.

With two outs and the bases loaded, a curveball in the dirt got past Sylvan Hills catcher Lance Hunter. Hunter retrieved the ball and threw to pitcher Conner Eller, who was covering home. Eller swung around and applied the tag, but the home plate umpire ruled that runner Austin Griffin touched the plate before the tag, ending the game and Sylvan Hills’ season.

“It was one of those bang, bang plays,” Sylvan Hills coach Brandon Eller said. “Honestly I thought the home plate umpire did a great job the whole game. There wasn’t any part of me that wanted to argue that call. I didn’t have a good look at it and in a game like that, on a bang-bang play, sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.”

Conner Eller pitched all 11 innings for the Bruins and was masterful. He gave up eight base hits, but never more than one in any inning until the 11th.

“I told him that was the best I’ve seen him pitch all summer,” Brandon Eller said. “He pitched 11 innings, but he was still less than 130 on the pitch count. I knew it could be our last game and he was pitching so well. I was going to let him have it until he didn’t want it anymore.”

Rogers pitcher Zach Ste-wart carried a no hitter through seven innings, but reached his inning limit and had to yield to reliever Reed Brown in the eighth.

The Bruins threatened to score on several occasions despite not getting a hit. Several balls in play were open for interpretation as to whether or not they were hits or fielding errors, but all were counted as errors, keeping Stewart’s no hitter alive.

“We didn’t swing the bats extremely well,” Brandon Eller said. “We weren’t that bad either. We didn’t have many strikeouts but we didn’t find any holes either. We made contact the whole game. It was just all right at people.”

Sylvan Hills got its first official base hit in the ninth inning. Trailing 1-0, Hunter hit a single to left field between shortstop and third base. Dylan Boon was already on board after reaching on an error at third. Austin Spears grounded to second base to move the runners into scoring position. J.D. Miller then hit a fly ball deep to right field to score Boone and tie the game. The Bruin coach felt his team got a little bad luck on Miller’s hit.

“The wind was coming in and I really thought Miller’s hit was going to burn the right fielder. “ Brandon Eller said. “Lance almost got doubled up. We were a little unlucky that the wind held the ball up, but we were fortunate the right fielder dropped it when he was throwing it in, or Lance probably would’ve been doubled up.”

Neither team threatened to score in the 10th inning. Sylvan Hills hit the ball hard in the top of the 11th, but couldn’t get a run across the plate. Boone hit a hard line drive to centerfield that was caught.

Hunter then got his and the team’s second base hit with a single to center. Spears struck out looking and Miller hit another hard line drive to centerfield that was snagged to end the half inning.

“J.D. hit a few balls really hard, he just couldn’t find a gap with any of them,” Brandon Eller said. “Lance of course swung the bat really well. He was able to find the holes, and swung the bat really well for us all year.”

Rogers broke a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh inning. Camden Myers led off with a single to centerfield and Eller hit Griffin to put runners on second and third with no outs.

Colin Roberts bunted to move the runners into scoring position. Stewart then hit a hard grounder to shortstop, but the ball was bobbled, leaving everyone safe and allowing Myers to score easily from third.

The Bruins finish the season with an even record at 15-15. Eller, who was an assistant coach for last year’s team, saw drastic improvement, which the record indicates.

“This team went something like 3-20 last year,” Eller said. “This year they finished second in district, qualified for state, won a game in the state tournament. Obviously I would have liked to win that last game to see what happens, but overall I’m very pleased with the progress the team made this year. At the end of the year, only one team in the whole nation wins its last game and that’s the national champion. This team accomplished a lot for Sylvan Hills baseball.”