Friday, August 17, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Look out for kids

During the summer, the state commended one area school — Arnold Drive Elementary — for its outstanding performance and chastised four others — Murrell Taylor and Harris elementary schools, Jacksonville High School and Cabot’s Academic Center for Excellence — for poor performances.

But Monday is a new day and a new year.

Arnold Drive has a new principal and Henry Anderson is now in his second full year of righting the wrongs at JHS and things are bright, cheery and clean. And parents may be just as excited, if not more so, than the students.

For students, school means seeing old friends, making new friends, and in the back of their minds, they also know it’s about gaining knowledge.

For parents, they get to take a break from entertaining their children, get some much needed rest and focus more on their careers.

The key to making this a good school year in Cabot, Lonoke, Ward, Austin, Beebe, Carlisle, Jacksonville and Sherwood is simple — be involved.

The student needs to be involved, parents need to be involved and teachers, staff and principals need to be involved. Students need to try. The neat thing is that on Monday morning, walking through those school doors, every student is a straight A student, and the only ones who can change that are the students themselves.

Elementary teachers are changing the way they teach and students will benefit by it. Across the state, common core standards are coming in, meaning the focus will be more on the whole student and the ability to see how all things relate, rather than test focus, test focus, test focus.

Parents, after your short happy dance that the kids are back in school, your job will be to quiz them about school daily and quiz the teachers. The more you know about your school, the more you can help and make sure the school focus stays on educating students.

Teachers, staff and principals have spent the last week or so in professional development sessions and have received their marching orders. Unshackled from the No Child Left Behind restrictions, they are to go forth and give parents and students what they want: a life sustaining education.

Victor Hugo said it best, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

Some schools have already started, and for the rest, the school doors will be opening Monday.

TOP STORY >> Base gearing up for open house

Leader staff writer

This is the first year Little Rock Air Force Base will be allowed to thank businesses in a big way for their support of the air show, which will be held on Sept. 8 and 9.

Lt. Col. Mike Kirby, air show director, said that in previous years the base couldn’t put the names of businesses on promotional material due to regulations.

Kirby said the air show has experienced twice the response from sponsors than it did for the last air show, which was held in 2010.

The Air Force is spending $200,000 on the event, about half the budget it had for previous shows, he said.

Commercial sponsors — as of this week — are providing another $128,000.

A lot of work goes into the event that is expected to entertain 250,000 people and the director shared that process.

“We’re so proud of what we do and we’re lucky to have such a supportive community. It’s about the airmen and what airmen can do,” Kirby said.

The airmen attended classes in December to learn details of how to organize the event. They became certified through the International Air Shows Council.

December through May is spent asking local businesses and organizations for donations to fund the event.

Since shows are held every other year, new people have to be trained for each event because those who did it the last time have transferred or they were deployed, Kirby explained.

He said 175 airmen take care of every detail, from placing trash cans and chairs to marshalling the planes into place.

In April and May, preliminary work on the event begins, Kirby said.

Local emergency support service providers are contacted and an integrated response plan is practiced so that everyone is prepared for any safety situation that could arise during the show.

In June and July, a marketing plan is implemented. One component of that is a Save the Date Card the state Tourism Department places at rest stops throughout Arkansas.

Up until the show, the base negotiates with food vendors and builds tents. The program, the planes that will be used and details like building up piles of sandbags are also finalized.

The Blue Angels will put on the headlining performance. Another act to look forward to will be the Team Little Rock C-130 “Day in Afghanistan” capabilities exercise, Kirby said.

Officials are concerned about keeping people hydrated and cool. That is why the base is constructing “Four Acres of Shade,” the air expo center.

Airshow seating is $20 until the day of the show when they will be $30. There are 1,200 seats available for sale. To order tickets or for more information, visit

The gates open at 8:30 a.m. and the show starts at 10 a.m.

TOPSTORY >> Veteran recalls bombing raids

Leader staff writer

Army Air Forces First Lt. Therl Harber flew 30 bombing mission over France and Germany during World War II and doesn’t hesitate to talk about his favorite mission.

“It was my 30th,” he said Tuesday. “I landed back in England, got out of the plane, kissed the ground and knew I was going home.”

The 93-year-old veteran, who flew war missions through most of 1944 and the early part of 1945, spoke to one of the largest crowds the Jacksonville Museum of Military History has ever had for its speaker series.

Even though that 30th mission gave Harber enough points to go home, the military was slow in getting him stateside. “When they wanted me there, it took just two days, but sending home took 11,” he mused.

As a member of the 487th Bomber Group, the Russellville native was stationed about 60 miles outside London and flew the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber with 2,900 gallons of fuel in the belly, a crew of nine and 12 .50-caliber machine guns. His missions were as short as four hours and as long as “11 hours and 15 minutes. I was tired after that one.”

“We’d roll out at 4 a.m. on mission days, get a briefing on the weather, anti-aircraft fire and where the fighters would be,” he explained.

“We flew most of our missions at 32,000 feet. At that altitude, I’d get the bends in my right knee, so I didn’t want to go higher—it’d hurt my knee more and of course I didn’t dare go down and run into fighters,” Harber continued.

He told the crowd he was lucky that his plane was never shot down. “Oh, I got a few bullet holes and came in a few times on three engines. Those things can fly pretty good on three engines,” he said.

But Harber came close to a major hit at least once. The bomber right in front of him on one mission took a hit in the wing and went down. “I saw a lot go down. On a Christmas Eve mission in 1944, we lost 19 planes. Whenever one got hit, we would strain our eyes to find and count the parachutes,” he said.

Although he was never shot down, his plane was. “I pretty much had the same plane for most of my time over there, until a fellow lost his and the commander gave him mine and he turned around and lost that one. After that it was pretty much whatever was available,” said Harber, who just gave up flying a few years ago.

A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Harber’s largest missions involved 600 bombers. “The last ones were just leaving England as the first ones were hitting targets across the English Channel,” he said.

Harber said some of his missions were to bomb a set of oil refineries. “It was hard. The Germans put up a smokescreen the size of Pulaski County to protect the facilities,” the retired pilot said. “We bombed a lot of railroad yards. I’d say we gave them a lot of trouble.”

The World War II veteran said there was nothing better than dropping the nose slightly to see the White Cliffs of Dover after a run. “It was always a great sight,” he said.

Harber told the crowd that he’s visited Germany once since the war. “I looked for evidence of bombs we dropped, but didn’t find any,” he quipped.

The pilot did say he met a lady who was a young girl during World War II living in one of the towns that he bombed. “I don’t think I told her,” he said.

Harber said, aside from the war, he enjoyed his stay in England. “I was single back then and went out with those English girls. They had some pretty women there,” he said, smiling.

The veteran took time to commend his crew members and equipment. “We had a red hot crew and a good airplane. It’s one of the reasons I’m here today.”

TOP STORY >> Farmers salvage crops

Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County farmers should be able to get their crops to market if they survive this year’s drought.

Billy Lindermen would prefer to be watering soybeans and rice from his reservoir just north of Lonoke and I-40. But instead he’s pumping water as fast as he can from the alluvial aquifer, about 150 feet below the surface. Dry earth and dust are all his reservoirs hold these days.

Fortunately for Lonoke County farmers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs in Oklahoma, at the top of the McClellan/Kerr Waterway, have managed to keep nine feet of water in the Arkansas River.

While that river water is not available for irrigation and won’t be until money is found to finish the Bayou Meto Basin system, the river is at least navigable and farmers can move their crops to market.

Barge traffic on the Arkansas River continues to flow, unlike conditions on parts of the Mississippi River. Towboats and barges are tied off there, with traffic near a standstill at barges operating with light loads.

The bountiful — if expensive —Arkansas harvest isn’t likely to pile up on the ground while awaiting transport to the Gulf of Mexico. The locks and dams on the McClellan-Kerr have made the Arkansas a commercially navigable water-way. According to Laurie Driver, a spokeswoman for the Little Rock Office of the Corps, the Montgomery Point Lock and Dam has keep traffic moving up and down Arkansas even as the Mississippi water level has fallen over time.

“We’ve had to dredge between the Montgomery Lock and Dam and the Mississippi,” Driver said.

The water level has fallen on the lower Mississippi, but the channel is still 300 feet wide and in pretty good shape, according to Charles Camillo, historian for the Mississippi River Commission. He said some river traffic at the edges of that channel has run aground, but river pilots are getting the word and sticking close to the channel.

Camillo said the Coast Guard marks the channel.

“River levels are starting to approach the drought of 1988,” Camillo said, but traffic continues to move.

There is also a report that the Mississippi is so low that sea water is moving up the river and could threaten New Orleans’ drinking water.

Lonoke farmer Lindermen said he’s grateful for the one- and three-quarters inches of rain Sunday night and Monday. “It’ll help the crops keep going, but I’ve never had to pump (water from the aquifer) this hard. In 25 years, this is the driest I’ve ever seen.”

As money has dried up for the Bayou Meto Basin water project, Lindermen says both planned phases would have to be completed for the water to reach his fields.

The Bayou Meto project “is going to be the life of farming,” Lindermen says.

“You can’t farm without water.”

Since his pumps were drilled in the sixties, the aquifer water level has fallen dramatically. He worries that if the trend continues, the Soil Conservation Service will order farmers to stop using it to irrigate their fields. As if “extreme” drought wasn’t bad enough, 54 percent of the state is now in “exceptional” drought, which is even worse.

Drought covers nearly 78 percent of the United States, with exceptional drought covering more than 6 percent. An Extension Service report identified the most severe areas as Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and parts of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Virtually all of Arkansas is in some sort of drought condition. Some parts of the state have been designated as disaster areas, which will make low-interest loans available to farmers and to businesses affected by the drought.

Gov. Mike Beebe has pledged $2 million from his emergency fund for livestock producers who are already feeding hay they had put back for the winter and selling livestock to avoid feeding.

Pastures across the state are dried up, including north of I-40 in Lonoke and Pulaski counties, which is livestock country.

Cattlemen are advised to plant wheat, rye and rye grass in hopes that a crop could help feed livestock over the winter, Lonoke County Extension agriculture chief Jeff Welch said.

Elsewhere, aflatoxins in corn have reached dangerous levels, but Lonoke County farmers are finding “extremely low levels.” That’s the corn that was planted early, in March and April, to take advantage of mild winter temperatures, Welch said.

“Later-planted corn, we don’t know yet...but we’re sitting on one of the better yields we’ve ever had,” Welch said.

Early planting meant the corn didn’t go through the critical blister stage when the temperatures were between 102 and 110 degrees and night time temperatures were acceptable for good grain fill.

“The early planted rice is coming out now with a good yield,” Welch said, but some problems are being discovered in the milling. “Some is not the highest quality because of high nighttime temperatures. It may have a chalky grain and draw a lower price.”

Late soybeans have been in the ground since the end of June. With irrigation, they are growing, but they are going to be susceptible to end-of-season diseases and insects.

The cotton quality and yield is shaping up for a good season, said Welch, citing cotton specialist Tom Barber, but in a recession, prices will be off. Cotton should be about $1 a pound, but is currently about 70 cents.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe has shot at 5A East golf title

Leader sportswriter

This year’s Beebe golf program features a pair of talented underclassmen on the boys’ side as part of a seven-player roster while the girl’s side is considerably leaner with returner Taylor Harrell as the only female Badger golfer for 2012.

That puts the focus on competing for a 5A East Conference championship and Class 5A state title on the guys, but second-year coach Justin Moore said all is not lost for Harrell, who finished sixth at state last year as a junior, shooting a solid 82.

Senior Than Kersey returns as the Badgers’ top golfer this season. Kersey stays busy throughout the year, and splits his time in the fall between golf and tennis. He is also on the varsity baseball roster during the spring.

“He pretty much plays everything but football,” Moore said. “He’s pretty solid – a 70’s golfer. We expect him to do well this year.”

Sophomores Cole McNeil and Hunter Davis are classmates who are also both coming off hip injuries last year. McNeil has already seen time on the green in the first two matches this season while Davis is still recovering.

“Combine those two with Kersey, and I think we have a good chance at winning conference this year,” Moore said.

The first match of the season for Beebe at the Red Apple Inn Country Club in Heber Springs on Aug. 2 did not go the way the Badgers had hoped, but their next match at the Harrison Country Club against the Goblins golf team on Aug. 10 showed much improvement.

“Than shot an 81 – had a decent round early and then bogeyed out towards the end,” Moore said. “ McNeil shot an 88. It was his first round in about a month, and he improved as the round progressed. In the last seven holes he shot two over.”

Business will pick up for the Badgers this coming week with three meets, starting at Greystone against Searcy and Heber Springs on Monday, followed by a round at the Tannenbaum course in Fairfield Bay the following day. Beebe will wrap up the busy week with another round in the Fairfield Bay area, this time at the Mountain Ranch Golf Club.

Advancing to the state tournament as a team requires a top-two finish in conference play, and with 5A East foes Paragould and Greene County Tech always in the hunt, Moore said there is still plenty of time for improvement.

“So far, we haven’t played very well yet,” Moore said. “Most of the summer practices, it’s been difficult to let them play 18 holes because it’s been so hot. We haven’t played our best golf yet, but we will average two rounds a week for the next month and a half. That should get us ready for when it really counts.”

For Harrell, there will be no hope for her reaching state as part of a squad, but her chances at returning to the tournament as an individual are strong. Moore, now in his second season, has found building a roster of female players to be one of the more frustrating aspects of leading the program.

“You just have to advertise and hit the hallways and recruit,” Moore said. “I did that, and I had four or five who showed interest. Most of them had played golf before, and I was excited about that, because if you have a girl who’s played before, she’s already a step ahead of a lot other high-school players.

“But no one ever showed up. I’m really going to have to sell it, but it hurts having no course here in Beebe.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons practicing shorthanded

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski football team continues to make progress in most areas of the game, but the team suffered a number of setbacks in personnel over the last couple of weeks. The offense is awaiting MRI results to determine the status of projected starting quarterback Austin Allen. Allen emerged as the starter as summer workouts were winding down, but suffered a knee injury in last Wednesday’s practice.

“He got new cleats and he was wearing them like they came out of the box,” North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram said. “The cleats that were on them were those ¾ inch cleats, and those are really too long for this dry practice field. He just rolled out and pivoted, and something in there popped. We’re hoping it’s just his meniscus, but we’re waiting to see if it might be an ACL.”

Even a meniscus tear could cause Allen to miss his entire senior season, but some meniscus tears can heal in four to six weeks or sooner. A torn anterior cruciate ligament, though, will sideline any athlete for an entire season and sometimes a whole calendar year or more.

“We’re hoping for the best,” Ingram said. “We’re just waiting to see right now.”

The two starting defensive ends Kaleb Meins and Ashton Nichols have sat out since Wednesday of this week with possible staph infections.

“They haven’t been diagnosed as far as I know right now,” Ingram said on Thursday. “But I told them not to come back until they find out for sure. Staph infection is something that can wipe out a whole team, so you can’t take any chances with that.”

Ingram does detect a difference without those two on the first-team defense in practice.

“They change the dynamics of this defense,” Ingram said. “Their size and presence out there helps us play, and even look, like a 5A football program, so we’re anxious to get them back too.”

Despite the injuries and illnesses, there have been bright spots this week in practice. Ingram said Tuesday’s practice was one of the best since preseason began. Live scrimmaging in Thursday’s practice saw two sophomore defensive linemen shine. Brandon Green and David Jackson made several big plays during live contact drills.

“Those two sophomores have stepped up and I’m pleased with them,” Ingram said. “Green is a guy that could barely get in a stance last year. He’s stuck with it, he’s come out here and worked in our off-season program, lost about 30 pounds and now he’s going to be an asset for us. Jackson has also improved a lot. I’m very proud of those two.”

Steven Farrior has gotten most of the repetitions at quarterback in Allen’s absence. He’s done a good job of running the option, but is raw as a passer.

“He’s quick, he makes pretty good reads, but he’s raw right now,” Ingram said. “He can do it, it’s just going to take him some time. He’s not as strong as Austin but he makes pretty good option reads and he’s a fast athlete. We’re not throwing the ball as well as I’d like us to at this point, and I’d really like to throw the ball and have that option as well. So we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

The Falcons played their maroon-white scrimmage game last night. They were supposed to be part of a four-team jamboree scrimmage at Joe T. Robinson, but their opponent dropped out. That left just Robinson and Sylvan Hills, both of which are on North Pulaski’s regular-season schedule this year.

“We don’t want to scrimmage anybody that’s on our schedule and neither do they,” Ingram said. “I’ve tried several other teams that don’t have a scrimmage game scheduled, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to play a practice game this year. This will be the first time in all my years of coaching we haven’t played a practice game.”

The Falcons first game is set for Friday, Aug. 31 at JA Fair.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther transfer good fit for team

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers wrapped up their final week of practice before finally getting on the field with another team. Cabot travels to Pearcy to take on Lake Hamilton in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game on Monday. The Panthers have a newcomer to the team this year in senior running back Kyle Edgar. Edgar transferred to Cabot from Bitburg Air Force Base in Bitburg, Germany, where he’s spent the last three years playing American football against high school teams from other American military bases in Europe. He projects as one of the starters in the offensive backfield. Cabot coach Mike Malham has used him as a halfback and fullback and he’s looked good at both positions.

“We feel like we’ve got about five pretty good running backs for those three positions,” Malham said. “Edgar is a good player and he’s going to figure into it. Right now we’re using him a little more at halfback but he could spend some time at fullback too, spelling Zach (Launius).”

Edgar arrived in Cabot on May 29, so he’s spent the entire summer with the team. Though he had no foundational experience from last year to draw from, he does believe the offense is ticking better now than when he first arrived.

“I think you can see the progress,” Edgar said. “They seemed pretty good even when I first got here. But it feels like we’re playing together a little better now.”

Even though Cabot’s offense isn’t utilized by very many teams, it wasn’t new to Edgar, who played in a similar offense in Germany.

“It was kind of lucky I guess,” Edgar said. “This offense wasn’t used by very many teams in Europe and I think that was an advantage because none of our opponents got to see it very much. So it worked out pretty good for me that we got here and this team sort of does the same thing. It wasn’t much of a transition. It’s not like I had to learn a totally different system.”

Defense was a shortfall for Cabot through much of last season and this year’s squad doesn’t return much experience. Only one returning defensive lineman started last year, but you could’ve fooled Edgar with those facts.

“I didn’t even know they were all new,” Edgar said. “They seemed pretty good to me all along. All I know is that they’re big and they hit hard, so I expect them to be pretty good.”

Malham and the coaching staff also hopes they’re good, and hopes it shows up on Monday. The first sign that the defense may struggle last season was in this same scrimmage game against the Wolves. Lake Hamilton torched Cabot over the top on numerous occasions, and its first team offense moved the ball pretty well.

“We hope it looks a little better than last year,” Malham said. “They lit us up pretty good. I think the defense is playing a little better right now than they were at this time last year, but it’s hard to tell. When you hadn’t gone against anybody but each other for a month, it’s just really hard to tell.”

Score wasn’t kept in last year’s predominantly situational scrimmage, but Lake Hamilton got the ball in the end zone more frequently than Cabot. Malham still left pleased with the overall performance of his offense.

“The offense moved the ball pretty well,” Malham said. “It just took us a little longer to get going than it did them. I feel pretty good about the offense at the moment. But like I said, it’s hard to tell until you’ve gone against somebody else. Lake Hamilton is usually pretty good, so we hope we get a good test and come out looking pretty good.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Romney’s wiggle room

The conservative wing of the Republican Party, suspicious of a moderate running on top of the ticket, pressed Mitt Romney into picking Paul Ryan, a genuine conservative.

It remains to be seen if Romney will let Ryan set the tone for his administration, the way Vice President Dick Cheney set policy for the Bush administration, or if Romney will go back to his moderate roots if he’s elected.

Romney had hoped that choosing Ryan as his running mate would appease his party’s right wing, which considers him a closet liberal who supported universal health care, gun control, Planned Parenthood and other progressive causes when he was governor of Massachusetts.

“My plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare,” Romney said Monday, referring to his running mate’s proposals. But Romney didn’t say how they differed on the details, but some of his advisers sought to distance Romney from Ryan’s ideas.

Ryan’s nomination, the theory goes, is supposed to keep Romney from even thinking about straying back to his moderate ways. But after last weekend’s euphoria — the Ryan pick is popular among Republicans, not as much with independents — it’s beginning to look like Ryan’s plan to reduce funding for Medicare and Medicaid is making Romney more than a little nervous.

The plan is not popular with focus groups because voters realize Medicare benefits would be severely reduced, which is inevitable: If you’re going to cut billions in spending, you must reduce benefits.

Although sketchy, the Ryan proposal calls for privatizing Medicare with lump-sum payments from the Treasury to insurance companies. Medicaid would shrink to a more modest block-grant program for the states.

Neither program would keep up with inflation or higher medical costs. Beneficiaries should not expect hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical procedures, which are commonly approved under Medicare and Medicaid. Future beneficiaries would have to rely on their own resources to cover medical expenses.

Romney and Ryan insist that future reforms would not affect people over 55. They would get the same Medicare benefits they were promised throughout their working lives. But what about those under 55 who’ve been paying into Medicare for decades? Why should they get fewer benefits when they retire?

Clearly the Romney-Ryan ticket is nervous.Romney, who has a well-deserved reputation as a flip-flopper, is using surrogates to suggest that maybe Medicare won’t change that much after all. Future retirees could stay in the popular program, or they could opt out and buy private insurance with federal subsidies.

Ryan himself has flip-flopped on other budgetary issues. A couple of years ago, Republicans pushed for cuts not only in social programs but also in military spending. Republicans, including our own Rep. Tim Griffin, said $500 billion in defense cuts would automatically kick in if Congress did not agree on a budget.

Griffin has stopped talking about defense cuts, while Romney and Ryan insist the defense budget is untouchable.

Romney is not opposed to deficit spending if it suits his purposes. He voted for the Bush administration’s unfunded prescription plan for seniors, the largest social program approved in Congress since Medicare.

Medicare’s Part D program, the drug subsidy, will add trillions of dollars to the deficit, although the plan is much loved by seniors, especially since the Democrats eliminated the so-called donut hole.

Rep. Ryan is popular in many circles, including the media, but Congress has an approval rating of 10 percent, much lower than the president’s. Despite all the noise, neither party is serious about controlling spending.

The fight is over reducing the rate of growth. Farmers want their subsidies. Road contractors want to build highways. Defense contractors want to build ships and jet fighters. Seniors want life-saving surgery and an array of medicines to keep them going.

How do we pay for these programs, or should we eliminate them? It’s reasonable to assume that once he’s in office, Romney wouldn’t touch those programs.

Before the campaign is over, Ryan, like Ronald Reagan, might also come around and keep them going.

TOP STORY >> He was there for those in need, elderly or sick

Leader staff writer

Charles Garner was many things: a retired military man who joined the Army Air Corp when he was little more than a boy and then served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam; an organic gardener; a lover of corny jokes; a collector of Civil War relics.

But he is perhaps best known as the other half of Charles and Mary Garner, the couple who ran a food bank from the First Presbyterian Church in Beebe that eventually turned into the Christian Outreach Center with participation from many denominations.

Mary died 11 months ago and Charles, who was showing signs of dementia at that time, died August 9. He was 91 years old.

In the early days of the food bank, the Garners were joined by Jack and Faith Olivo, who were a generation younger. Jack, who was disabled with a heart condition, loved the history channel and was attracted to Charles because he had lived through so much and had wonderful stories, Faith Olivo said. But what he really learned from Charles was how to give.

“He was the reason my husband became a committed Christian,” she said.

Charles was almost 70 when he started the food bank with donated beans and rice. But he added vegetables from his own garden and eventually other donations swelled the supply of food to the point that it has been said that at times there was more food on the church pews than church members.

Although there were other volunteers, such as the Olivo grandchildren, who carried the bags of food out to cars during the Saturday food giveaways, Olivo said Charles never shirked that duty. The Garners also hand-delivered food supplies to the elderly or those who were ill and unable to come to the church.

Jack Olivo died three years ago and his wife said that was when she started hearing stories about how he had helped people, helped the way he had learned from Charles.

Josh Bridges, First Presbyterian’s pastor, said he learned a lot while sitting at the Garner kitchen breakfast bar drinking coffee. He ran his ideas for programs by Charles and Charles told him what he thought about them, the pastor said.

“I took a lot of his advice because he had good ideas,” he said.

Like everyone else who knew them, the pastor said it was impossible to think of Charles without thinking of Mary.

But when they were talking to each other, friends said, they were Mr. and Mrs. Garner, never Charles and Mary.

“I think it was their generation,” Olivo said. “Or maybe it was just to show respect. There was so much respect there.”

But there was also a lot of fun and laughter.

Alice Brower said they would come with barrels every fall to get leaves from her yard for the compost for their garden. And Charles would lift Mary into the barrels so she could stomp the leaves down to make room for more.

“I always looked forward to the fall when they came,” Brower said.

Carleen Shinn said the Garners came to her house for horse manure. They would arrive with barrels in the back of their station wagon and shovel it in. Charles called the compost he made from her manure and Brower’s leaves Garner’s goop.

“He put some around my bushes and it really worked,” she said.

The pastor said Charles showed him how he made the goop and he was surprised to learn how much attention it required, daily attention.

“Charlie was organic and eco-friendly before those things became part of pop culture,” he said. “Charlie didn’t know he was trendy. He just thought that was how you did it.

“Charlie was a talented man. He didn’t have a green thumb; he had 10 green fingers. That little garden fed a lot of people in Beebe.

“Charlie Garner will be missed, no doubt,” he said.

No one will forget his smile, his sense of humor, his pear jam or Nosey, the brown thrasher Charles talked into eating from his hand.

In 2004, the Garners moved on to the Shepherd’s Center in Beebe, where they continued their tradition of service while helping out the elderly. “We do training, Bible study, quilting, organic gardening and other things,” Charles Garner told Leader reporter John Hofheimer.

“When Mary died, half of Charlie was gone. Now two halves are one again,” his pastor said.

Garner was born March 19, 1921, in Memphis, the son of A. J. “Jack” and Ruth Garner.

In addition to his wife, Garner was preceded in death by a grandson, Brian Johnson. He is survived by daughters Linda Johnson of Poplar Bluff, Mo., Suzanne O’Dea and her husband Tom of Lake George, N.Y.; one grandson, James Johnson; and two great-grandchildren.

The funeral was Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home. He is buried in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.

TOP STORY >> Pryor is pushing to help farmers

Leader senior staff writer

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) hopes the House of Representatives will add language favorable to Arkansas rice and catfish farmers to this year’s farm bill.

The Senate-passed version of the bill does include drought and heat disaster relief to farmers, Pryor said Tuesday.

He appeared as a featured speaker at the field day at the Pearlie S. Reed/Robert L. Cole UAPB Small Farm Outreach Wetlands and Water Management Center in Lonoke.

Neither Pryor nor Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) voted for the version of the farm bill passed by their Senate colleagues. The farm bill easily passed the Senate 65-45.

Pryor said he is among those using the drought to start “a water caucus” in Congress, noting that critical agricultural irrigation needs are just one component of the need. Industry needs water, and the the need for clean drinking water is another concern.

“I’m trying to get the senators interested,” Pryor added.

Along the same lines, Pryor and Boozman have gotten $5 million for the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, $5 million for the Bayou Meto Basin Water Management District—which is largely but not entirely an agricultural irrigation project.

Otherwise, the two programs will be “mothballed” until or unless money is found to push the projects forward.

“I’m concerned about mothballing for a year,” Pryor said. It could be expensive.

“We got some funding in the Senate, but we’re waiting on the House,” Pryor said.

“I encourage you to talk to your congressmen,” Pryor told those finishing their fried catfish lunches.

“In Arkansas, the Grand Prairie and Bayou Meto are important to farmers but also to hundreds of communities (who depend on the aquifer for drinking water) in eight states.

“Agriculture is a core strength in the U.S. economy,” Pryor said. “We do farming very well. We are a world leader in farming and technology.”

He said the U.S. trade deficit was bad, but that it would be terrible without agriculture.

Pryor said that free trade and the farm bill were part of his six-point solution to keep America at the cutting edge of agriculture.

Toward that end, Rep. Rick Crawford, Boozman and Pryor recently went to Panama and Columbia. They said tariffs were coming down and trade would be going up.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, a 1973 graduate of the University of Arkansas, has warm feelings about the state. Pryor said Martinelli signed an agreement with the university to help his country set up a cooperative extension service to help advance agriculture in Panama, a country of three million people who can’t feed themselves.

The UAPB wetlands farm at Lonoke is a research station, and Tuesday, farmers toured several exhibits and demonstrations.

The farm has the U.S. Geological Service’s only Lonoke real-time aquifer water level monitoring well, which is solar powered and calls its data in daily by cell phone.

Hydrologist Aaron L. Pugh had an aquifer water level graph for that well which shows that even after recharge and recovery each year prior to irrigation season, the water level has consistently trended lower.

Before large-scale agricultural irrigation, the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer flowed generally westward across the Delta counties, including Lonoke, until the water flowed into the Mississippi River. Now the water flows from every direction toward cones of depression—low water levels in the alluvial aquifer under parts of Lonoke and Prairie counties—even flowing away from the Mississippi River.

Jason Robertson, assistant director of pesticides-special projects for the state Plant Board, demonstrated remote solar powered weather stations, of which about 50 dispersed mostly across the Delta.

The information, related by cell phone every five minutes, lets farmers and crop dusters track winds and conditions so they know when they can apply pesticides and herbicides.

Bee specialist Yung Park, answering a reporter’s questions, said colony collapse was never as bad as the media portrayed it. Park said he believes over use and imprudent use of agricultural chemicals was the cause.

A bigger problem right now is bee mites, which take over some hives and consume the honey.

Extension weed specialist Bob Scott said barnyard grass was a problem in rice fields. “It’s the pigweed of rice,” he said.

He said it was herbicide resistant, with no new products in development. Like so many weed and pest problems, crop rotation is part of the solution.

Consultant Pat Bass, former Natural Resources Conservation Service official, said he was conducting research on the Lonoke farm’s 40-acre reservoirs to determine how farmers can protect their reservoirs from wave action erosion.

Reservoirs are increasingly critical to area farmers as they combat droughts and look for storage for the water they hope to someday get from the Arkansas River if and when the Bayou Meto project is back on track.

TOP STORY >> Bikers for Children plan rally

Leader staff writer

Arkansas Bikers for Children is holding a large motorcycle ride on Sunday, Sept. 16 when motorcyclists from all over the state will meet at Burns Park and ride to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to deliver money the bikers collected from donations.

“Every dime goes to the kids. It is from the heart. We’re not doing it for profit,” said co-chairman Don Null of Jacksonville.

The motorcycle event is free. Donations are accepted. All money will go directly to Children’s Hospital. Arkansas Bikers for Children has no paid employees or administrative costs.

Arkansas Bikers for Children, a non-profit organization established last March, focuses on helping children who have health problems.

“Every member on our board has been involved with the hospital in some way or another,” Null said.

Null estimates there will be more than 3,000 motorcyclists converging to make one of the largest riding events in the state. He said everyone is welcome to join including motorcycles and cars.

Null said they have contacted 95-percent of the motorcycle groups in the state and many have agreed to participate in the Arkansas Bikers for Children ride.

A pre-party will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15 starting at 9 a.m. at M and M Stop- n-Shop at 1831 Hwy. 64 in El Paso.

It is an all-day event with pre-registration, a silent auction and a possible poker run.

On the morning of Sunday, Sept. 16 riders from the northern parts of the state will meet at M and M Stop-n-Shop in El Paso. They will head out to Burns Park in North Little Rock. Activities start at 11 a.m. at pavilion 10.

There will be free food and music. A live band will perform and former Cabot mayor Stubby Stumbaugh will deejay.

At 2 p.m. motorcyclists will leave Burns Park to ride to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They will be escorted by the state police, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, North Little Rock Police, White County Sheriff’s Office and the Searcy Police Department.

Null said the group sent invitations to Gov. Mike Beebe and his wife, Ginger, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Secretary of State Mark Martin, the mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock. Arkansas Bikers for Children also plans to invite additional public officials to participate in the ride.

For more information about the ride, contact Don Null at 501-580-9250.

SPORT STORY >> Numbers picking up at Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

The overall numbers are up and the talent pool for receivers has boomed with a pair of late move ins, neither of which has helped Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow and staff when it comes to filling out the depth charts on the offensive and defensive lines.

Withrow was anticipating the return of a number of incoming juniors to bring some experience back to the interior, but only a few reported back this fall. Now with a large group of skill players and a limited number to block for them, the need to adjust has presented itself.

“A little bit,” Withrow said. “Obviously, when you’re short on linemen, maybe you have to change some of your philosophy, and we are a little bit, but we’re a spread-option team to begin with, so it wasn’t like we were up there to block everybody anyway.”

The first week of August was trying for Withrow with several players held out for pending physicals, as well as some with unknown eligibility status. More turned out for the second week, and now the Bears are starting to look more like a team with good 5A numbers in the third week.

“That’s gotten better,” Withrow said. “We’ve cleared up the physical problems and the eligibility issues, so our attendance is definitely better. Also, we’ve picked up a couple of transfers. I think our numbers are good, I just think we’re young, and we’re going to be short a couple of linemen.”

One area the Bears will not have depth problems is at receiver with the addition of wide receiver and defensive back Alan McNair from North Little Rock and wide receiver Donovan Woods from Georgia. Another move in, Drew Davis, joins the Sylvan Hills team from Naperville, Ill.

“It helps because we can get a better look,” Withrow said of the improved numbers. “The last few years when we go to team offense or team defense, we can’t get a good look. Just getting those extra bodies in there helps.”

Sylvan Hills plays its scrimmage game against Pulaski Robinson on Monday. The Bears will also hold a blue-white scrimmage the following Friday before hosting Vilonia in the season opener on Thursday, Aug. 30.

The situation will require some of the defensive linemen to play both ways, and a few of the sophomores to step up early in their varsity careers.

“Everybody we’ve got is a skill guy,” Withrow said. “We’re just short on linemen. We had about three guys who decided not to play. I think our young linemen are going to be good in a year or two, but a couple of them, they’ve got to play right now. By the time we get to conference, they’ll be a whole lot better.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot golfers young this year

Leader sports editor

The Cabot golf team features several young players this year. Only three seniors are on the girls and boys teams combined, but each team also returns three players who took part in the state tournament last season. The boys squad consists of 12 players while 11 girls will compete for the Lady Panthers this season.

“We’re pretty green right now,” Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett said. “We have three players on each team have established themselves. We’re hoping they get off to a good start and their game gets better. We hope to fill the other two spots you get in state with our up and comers. We need a few more to step in and fill those roles.”

Austin Huggins, Drake Oaks and Joseph Denomie all competed at the state tournament in Rogers last season for the boys team. Marlena Weatherly, Marley James and Kasie Follett did the same for the girls team.

“The other spots are really competitive right now,” Tollett said. “The kids are shooting about the same but it’s really early right now. We have a lot of golf to play.”

The Cabot squads played a nine-hole practice round at Greystone against Conway last Wednesday. It was not an official match and scores were not recorded, but Tollett believes it gave his team a good indication of where it stands and where it needs to be.

“Conway’s players were a little more experienced than ours,”” Tollett said. “They’re a little better than we are right now and we’re going to have to get better to catch them, but like I said it’s very early. The season is just getting started.”

The hot and persistently dry weather throughout the summer has hampered play this summer during the off-season. And since the golf season was moved from the end of the school year to the beginning a few years ago, the season has become shorter.

“We’re done in the middle of September and this has been a strange year to begin with,” Tollett said. “The courses aren’t in really good shape, but you still have to get a bunch of golf in in a hurry.”

No lights also means very few opportunities to play a full 18 holes of competitive team golf between the time school lets out until dark.

“You just can’t do it unless you play a really short course,” Tollett said. “But it gives the kids a chance to compete and follow tournament rules. The state tournament is always interesting because the Central teams never get a chance to play the West teams until then. So there’s always that suspense and excitement there.”

The Panthers play their first official match of the season on Tuesday at Greystone against Searcy. They will travel to Conway on Wednesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison find the players with tough preseason

Leader sportswriter

As the third week of preseason practice began Monday, Carlisle is doing all it can to work out the kinks before the Bison’s season opener at McCrory Aug. 31.

As many teams around the state experience at this time of year, Carlisle has had a few guys turn in their gear early due to the work that comes in preseason practice. The Bison started the first week of practice with 38 on the roster, and although a few have decided not to continue into the 2012 season, head coach Scott Waymire doesn’t see it as an issue.

“This is the third week of practice and I’ve been real pleased,” Waymire said. “The kids have been competing. The weather’s been good to us. We’ve been healthy, knock on wood. We’ve lost some kids, but that’s usually what happens when the summer comes, and you ask them to get out here for two or three hours.

“You kind of see the ones who truly want to play, and the guys we got right now are the ones who truly want to play.”

Carlisle had one of its best seasons last year with a 13-1 finish and a trip to the class 2A state championship game. As far as the team’s progression at this point, Waymire says things are still a work in progress.

“We’re playing a lot of young guys up front that didn’t play a lot last year,” Waymire said. “We have one returning offensive lineman, so every day is a challenge. Every day is a challenge for us to get better.

“If we want to compete and meet our goals then that’s the nature of the beast. We’re going to be a lot better come November than we are August 31. We’re going to be as good as we can be August 31 as well.”

Carlisle split its skill players and linemen up for the majority of Monday’s practice. The offensive linemen worked through various plays on the practice field for the first portion of practice, while the skill players were doing work in the weight room.

The groups later switched and the skill players ran through their assignments in the offensive playbook, while the linemen hit both the weight room and the track. In passing drills, starting quarterback Chris Hart, a senior, and junior backup Austin Reed worked with receivers in the passing game. Both had good chemistry with the receivers and looked comfortable with their deliveries.

The Bison focused on special teams and conditioning in the second part of practice. A year ago, Carlisle had all-state running back Bo Weddle and all-conference linebacker/running back Deron Ricks returning kicks. That formula worked well for the Bison last season, and Carlisle intends to use that advantage this season as well.

Ricks returned the season-opening kickoff against Riverview 96 yards for a touchdown last year. Ricks’ size and athleticism combined with Weddle’s speed and ability to break tackles, it could give Carlisle a distinct advantage on the kickoff return.

Carlisle will hold its Black-Gold preseason game at 6 p.m. Friday at Fed C. Hardke Memorial Field.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils have good problem

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville football practice has continued to go well since the first day early last week. The Red Devils are in a modified version of last year’s spread offense with which it finished the season, after starting the year running a pistol formation.

Two quarterbacks have separated themselves from the pack since summer ball when several players tried out at the position. Seniors Kevin Richardson and Aaron Smith have both excelled running the offense. Richardson is faster and more explosive running the ball. Smith has thrown the better ball so far. Both, according to Red Devil head coach Rick Russell, are doing a good job on their reads.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Russell said. “We feel like we can go with either one of them right now and be very comfortable. Each of them has their strengths, but what one is better at, the other one isn’t bad either. So we really feel like we have two very capable quarterbacks.”

Both players are also good receivers, but Richardson recently caught the attention of at least one major university. Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino contacted Richardson last week after Richardson took part in the University of Arkansas players’ camp. No scholarship was offered in the conversation, but there was a promise to keep a Fayetteville-based eye on Jacksonville this season.

“He said he liked what he saw from me at the camp,” Richardson told the Leader on Saturday.

“He said he liked how I got off the line of scrimmage, got off the press. I gave them a highlight film too and he said he liked my breakaway speed on the highlight film. So they’re going to be keeping an eye on me this year.”

The offensive line returns several starters and has looked good so far, though one starter missed the bulk of preseason practice. Tackle Carter Grandison sat out more than a week of practice with an injured toe after an off-the-field accident involving an unfortunately timed slammed door.

Russell bragged on the off-season work Grandison put in and expects him to pick right up where he left off once he returns to practice.

“He’s our strongest football player but he did a lot of work over the summer with a personal trainer to become more mobile,” Russell said. “He’s was one of our best linemen last year, but he’s even better now. He’s gotten faster. His footwork is better. We’re expecting good things from him.”

There is a depth issue on the interior but Russell hopes there won’t be many players spending time on both sides of the ball.

“We can’t get anybody hurt,” Russell said. “Depth is a concern. We feel like we have enough good players to fill 22 positions, but we don’t have the backups. We may have to spell some starters on one side with starters on the other every now and then, but that should be it if we can stay healthy.”

Jacksonville will play its annual Red-White scrimmage game on Saturday. The eighth-grade team will take the field at 6 p.m. Freshmen will follow with the varsity team closing the evening. The Red Devils have no benefit scrimmage scheduled this year. They will open the season on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at War Memorial Stadium against Cabot.