Friday, June 30, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> AGFC:Removing ancient trees necessary for wildlife

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

That ancient oak standing amongst a crowded forest canopy may look like the perfect magnet for deer, but that tree may not be the best use of space for wildlife in the long run. Selectively removing some damaged, old and less productive trees is part of healthy forest management and necessary to begin the next generation of forest for our children to enjoy.

Martin Blaney is the statewide habitat program coordinator for the AGFC. He’s heard from many concerned hunters and even state representatives about logging operations to improve wildlife habitat on wildlife management areas during his 31 years with the Commission. He explains that money is not the motivation behind any timber harvest on WMAs. It’s about offering a variety of species and ages throughout the forest to benefit the wildlife now and in the future.

“The first thing I usually ask someone who visits one of these sites is for them to tell me where the young oaks are underneath the taller trees,” Blaney said. “There aren’t any because the forest canopy is ‘closed,’ blocking most of the sunlight. Oaks don’t grow in the shade, so you have to create holes in the canopy and let sunlight hit the forest floor. That way we have a better chance of replacing this forest with oaks and have a good mix of ages within the same stand.”

By varying the ages and density of individual trees, habitat biologists are able to create more habitat conditions suitable for a variety of game and non-game animals, while managing those forests for the future.

“If all of the trees in a forest are the same age, called ‘even-aged’ management, when productivity decreases in those dominant trees, there’s nothing available to take their place,” Blaney said. “Instead of having to start over from the beginning by clear cutting, we use uneven-aged forest management and try to keep a constant supply of the next generation of shade intolerant trees, like oaks, growing to fill that need.”

Blaney is the first to admit that some areas can look very rough after a logging operation. The unsightly remains are temporary, and often beneficial to wildlife. Slash piles and downed tops create nesting and escape cover for many species of birds as well as bedding cover and shelter for deer fawns, rabbits and other game animals.

Trees, shrubs and other ground plants that form in the next year from the sunlight reaching the ground offer food to wildlife long after the fall crop of acorns has been eaten. After a year or two, perennial plants, vines and shrubs continue offering valuable habitat, with the next generation of oaks in the mix.

“Eventually those holes we created through logging will contain adequate amounts of oaks ready to replace the canopy of the forest, and other holes we create during that transition will be at other stages in development,” Blaney said. “This way you always have a mature dominant class, a midstory, and new openings being created to continue the process.”

Blaney says this type of uneven-aged management called “wildlife forestry” is part of a larger initiative from the partnerships of the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture, focused specifically on bottomland hardwood restoration.

“Many private lands that are primarily interested in managing their forest for income tend to use even-aged management where stands are clear cut and planted, but we aren’t managing our forests for money,” Blaney said. “We are trying to maintain desired forest conditions that promote abundant wildlife habitat. As a result, we can sell the trees that need harvesting to local timber buyers. I tell folks that we don’t give away state property, it wouldn’t be good stewardship.”

The AGFC receives revenue from forest thinnings on WMAs, but money is not the motivation for the harvest. Statewide forest revenues for the last three years averaged about $660,000, which is about 0.75 percent of the AGFC’s total revenue.

“It’s what we do with the money we receive that counts. That money goes into a special budget category that’s devoted to additional habitat improvement on statewide WMAs,” Blaney said.

Blaney says money derived off WMAs must go back into habitat management, because all of Arkansas’s WMAs were purchased with the help of federal matching grants. However, the money does not necessarily go back to the exact WMA in which the logging occurred.

“Some WMAs don’t have the forests or markets that allow for generating dollars, but we still need to conduct habitat management,” Blaney said. “Projects like forest inventories, prescribed fires, herbicide treatments, and timber marking all require money, and with the hundreds of thousands of acres we manage, we rely heavily on private contractors for much of those needs. There’s also road maintenance, bush-hogging to maintain wildlife openings and other open land management that must be conducted each year.”

Some hunters and preservation-minded individuals have voiced concerns over cutting what they believe is “virgin” or pristine forests, but Blaney says the romantic notion of untouched forestlands simply does not exist on AGFC WMAs.

American Indians set fires and manipulated the landscape to fit their needs, and settlers converted many acres of forests into agricultural land during westward expansion. Other forested areas were manipulated to produce timber more efficiently, and many bottomland hardwoods have seen manipulations to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife.

“Just about all of the forestlands on WMAs the AGFC owns were either logged prior to purchase or had “cutting” contracts in the agreements at the time we bought them,” Blaney said. “Most of the forests hunters currently enjoy on our WMAs are only about a century old. That’s the reason there are so many red oaks at the same age out there right now. The cutting allowed massive amounts of sunlight to hit the ground and start the forests we’ve inherited.”

Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA is a good example of a WMA that seems ancient, but is actually relatively young from a forestry perspective. The soil there can grow an oak that’s 28 inches in diameter in less than 80 years.

“Almost all of that property was harvested in the 50s; even much of the cypress,” Blaney said. “Men would cut those cypress down using saws from john boats then float them out. There are bunches of ancient trees out there left, but they were left behind because they were hollow or of poor-quality for lumber.”

Blaney also points out that one or two people are not responsible for the decisions when it comes to harvesting forest products from WMAs. Instead, a comprehensive forest inventory is conducted and a prescription for management is formulated detailing needed treatments. Everyone from the area manager, to the regional biologist, all the way up to Blaney and the chief of wildlife management for the AGFC has to sign off on these prescriptions before any cutting can take place.

“We try to take out species of trees in the same percentages that comprise the current forest,” Blaney said. “That way we aren’t shifting the composition away from the tree species that are there. It may seem like only good oaks are being removed if you were to look at a logging truck on the site, but those logging trucks are loaded to go to mills, so they separate the grades and species of the trees before loading to send the trees to the different mills that will handle those species at the best price to the logger.

“Our forests need to be managed, so they don’t transition to more shade-tolerant tree species that have reduced value for the wildlife.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot rolls at home

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Junior American Legion team had little trouble with a shorthanded Jacksonville squad Wednesday at the Cabot Sports Complex. The Centennial Bank 17-under team hammered the visiting Gwatney Chevrolet squad 12-0 in five innings.

If the 10 base hits, five walks and two hit batters weren’t enough for Cabot, Jacksonville helped out by committing five errors over the course of the game.

Meanwhile, Cabot pitcher Logan Bell was sharp on the mound. He gave up just one hit, and none after the first inning. He retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings while striking out three and walking two in earning the victory.

Jacksonville’s best chance to score came in the top of the first inning when Caleb Anderson walked and Axton Ramick hit a line-drive single to left field. That put runners on first and second with one out, but Bell got a 6-5 fielder’s choice and a pop-up to second base to get out of the minor jam.

Centennial Bank then posted two runs in the bottom half and never trailed. After two quick pop-ups, the first Cabot rally started with two outs. Mason Griffin singled to right field before Bell doubled to left to put two in scoring position. Tanner Wilson then singled to center field to score Griffin. Bell also scored on the play after a failure to field the one-hop in the outfield.

Cabot then started the second inning with four-straight base hits. Brock Martin and Jake Moudy singled, with Moudy’s hit driving in Martin from third after a passed ball and a wild pitch. Moudy then advanced to third after an errant pick-off throw rolled through the ample foul territory at the new Cabot field.

Nine-hole hitter Masen Wade then doubled over the head of the Gwatney left fielder to score Moudy easily and give Cabot a 5-0 lead. Moudy then scored on a single by Graham Turner. After a strikeout, Griffin hit a fly ball to center field that was dropped, allowing Graham, who had stole second base, to score, and Griffin to reach second base. He then stole third and scored on a wild pitch to make the score 7-0.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Jacksonville began to struggle to find the strike zone. Blayse Quarnstrom drew a leadoff walk and Griffin singled to center field.

Logan Bell’s groundout to third advanced the runners and Tanner Wilson’s walk loaded the bases.

Jackson Olivi popped up to shortstop, invoking the infield-fly rule for the second out with the bases still loaded. Martin and Austin Scritchfield, who was hitting for Moudy, then drew RBI walks to make it 9-0.

Wade was hit to drive in another run, and Turner walked to drive in yet another. Quarnstrom then singled on his second at-bat of the inning to drive in the final run of the game.

Eight players got at least one base hit for Cabot, with Griffin and Bell get two apiece.

That win followed a 9-7 loss at Russellville on Tuesday. In that game, Cabot fell behind 4-0 early and saw a late rally come up short, despite out-hitting its host 10-8.

Martin, Scritchfield and Tanner Wilson each had two base hits in that game.

The Cabot junior team is now 10-12 this season and will host Sheridan at 6 p.m. Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank rallies past Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team erased a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning to steal a comeback victory from rival Jacksonville on Wednesday at the Cabot Sports Complex. Gwatney Chevrolet pitcher Brandon Hawkins was masterful for five innings, but was pulled in the sixth after failing to record an out in three at-bats and his pitch count reached 100.

He left after giving up two runs, and three more later scored to give Cabot the lead and eventually the win.

Through the first five innings, Hawkins gave up only two hits while striking out nine and walking one. But his pitch count was hampered by four fielding errors that forced him to pitch out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

Cabot coach Casey Vaughan bragged on the opposing pitcher, but thought his team could have had much better at-bats.

“We’ve just had a lot of selfish at-bats lately,” said Vaughan. “We hit really well to start the season. We haven’t the last several because we haven’t taken a team approach to these games or the to the plate. But I don’t want to take anything away from their pitcher. He was excellent tonight. He’s always difficult. I feel like we could have done better than we did, but I knew we would have to be disciplined to get to him and we weren’t.”

Hawkins issued just his second walk of the game to start the bottom of the sixth inning to Dillon Thomas. He then gave up just the third base hit of the game, a double ripped through the gap in left-center field by Easton Seidl that scored Thomas all the way from first.

Brian Tillery then fought back from a 0-2hole to poke a base hit down the right-field line to score Seidl and end Hawkins’ night.

Brody Schluter then singled off Jayden Loving to score Tillery, right after a wild pitch moved Tillery into scoring position. Rail Gilliam then laid down a surprise bunt and Koletan Eastham walked to load the bases and still no one out.

Jacksonville was close to getting out of the inning with a tie intact after Michael Crumbly grounded into a 4-2-3 double play, but leadoff hitter Blake McCutchen also put down a surprise two-out bunt to score Gilliam. That left Eastham at third, and Loving balked him home to set the final margin.

The rally in the final at-bat gave Vaughan some hope that his team could turn around its recent hitting woes.

“I think it could if we’ll learn from it,” Vaughan said. “We dug ourselves a hole, and when it got late we got back to how you’re supposed to play. If we’ll learn from that we can build on it going forward. This is still a very talented team.”

Jacksonville scored two runs on a two-out error by Cabot in the top of the first inning. Trent Toney and Jordan Wickersham were on the corners when Tyson Flowers sliced a line drive to left field.

The Cabot outfielder over-ran the curving shot and the ball rolled all the way to the fence, allowing both base runners to score.

The Chevy Boys added another run in the top of the sixth on three base hits, but the rally was cut short by a controversial call. Wickersham, Loving and Caleb Smith had all singled, with Smith’s line drive to center field scoring Wickersham. With two outs, Jonathan Smith hit a high bouncing grounder down the third baseline in fair territory, but curving foul.

Crumbly was standing in fair territory and fielded it before it landed in foul territory. The umpire ruled it foul by determining Crumbly’s hand was in foul territory when he caught the ball.

Jacksonville fans didn’t like the call, but by rule it was the correct one. Before passing first or third, where the ball is touched is the ruling, rather than where it last hit the ground.

No runs would have scored on the play, but Jonathan Smith would have been safe at first, leaving the bases loaded with two outs. Instead, Smith then grounded to first base, where Seidl made the unassisted out to end the inning.

Cabot’s Caleb Wilson pitched a fine game as well. He went the distance, giving up one earned run with three strikeouts and zero walks.

Jacksonville out-hit Cabot 9-7, with Kameron Whitmore and Wickersham each going 2 for 4 to lead the way for the Chevy Boys.

Toney, Caden Sample, Loving, Caleb Smith and Jonathan Smith had the other Jacksonville base hits.

Wednesday’s matchup was the second game of the week for both teams.

On Monday, Jacksonville battled back from a 12-2 deficit at Benton, only to fall 13-12 in a wild affair.

On Tuesday, Cabot (8-8) mustered just three base hits while committing five errors in a 3-1 loss at Russellville.

Jacksonville (7-5) will travel to Stuttgart on Friday, and then to Clarksville on Saturday.

Cabot hits the road to take part in the Keith Hagan All-American 4th of July Classic in Memphis that is scheduled for Friday through next Wednesday.

EDITORIAL >> Governing too difficult

“We just simply don’t know how to govern. It’s almost like we’re serving in the minority right now.”

– Third District Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.)

of the House Budget Committee.

Rep. Steve Womack shared his frustrations with the Washington Post this week when he pointed out that not only has the Republican Congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare as promised during the presidential campaign, but there’s not even a federal budget in sight.

He said a budget resolution “should have been put to bed a long time ago.” Republicans right now cannot agree on anything. Constituents are giving them an earful during the congressional recess with only about 10 percent of the voters supporting the Republican health-care bill to replace Obamacare.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson warned Thursday that Arkansas could not afford to cover hundreds of thousands of Arkansans if they’re dropped from Medicaid under the Senate bill, whose futures remain uncertain as more Republicans share Hutchinson’s fear that states would take huge hits under the plan, which calls for cutting Medicaid 35 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) twice postponed votes this week on the increasingly unpopular bill, which includes deep cuts in Medicaid and could affect 300,000 newly insured in Arkansas and 81,000 in Kentucky, where a third of the population is on Medicaid (Arkansas’ 948,000 Medicaid recipients are just under a third of the state’s population). Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other Republican senator, says the bill doesn’t cut enough recipients, although under Obamacare the number of uninsured in Kentucky has tumbled to just 10 percent.

While Arkansas’ two Republican senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton, remain silent on the bill, they must realize Medicaid serves a cross-section of Arkansans, who are not happy with losing hundreds of millions in Medicaid payments mostly funded by the federal government. Cotton served on the Republican committee of 13 men who came up with the bill, but he will not publicly defend it.

Medicaid insures one in five Americans, including 60 percent of nursing home residents and pays for half the births in the U.S. That figure is more than 67 percent in Arkansas, second only to New Mexico, where 72 percent of the births are covered by Medicaid, the highest rate in the country.

The Senate leadership didn’t realize until it was too late that cutting Medicaid and other health-care benefits would not sit well with voters, including Republicans, many of whom have relatives in nursing homes and in drug-rehabilitation programs or have pre-existing conditions that would not be covered under the Senate bill. At best, the bill would provide insurance coverage with deductibles as high as $6,000, tripling rates for older Americans who are too young to qualify for Medicare.

Cuts included in the bill would hurt poor states like Arkansas and West Virginia, where the opioid epidemic is rampant. Bipartisan opposition continues to grow: Both West Virginia senators, Republican Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Joe Manchin, oppose McConnell’s bill. The pattern is repeated in Nevada, where Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Catherine Cortes Mastro have spoken out against the Senate bill. Also in Maine, Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King are solidly opposed. In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman are also against the bill.

So there’s an argument to be made for bipartisanship, although President Trump tweeted Friday he’d be happy with repealing Obamacare even if there’s no replacement, despite his campaign promise to do both.

Bipartisanship could help ensure the viability of Medicare and Medicaid, lead to real infrastructure spending that could create millions of jobs and restore America’s prestige around the world when we need it most.

TOP STORY >> Joined Air Force in 1950

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Parnell Fisher of Jacksonville, whose heroic actions in Vietnam earned him the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses, was interviewed by the office Sen. John Boozman as part of an ongoing series recognizing the service and sacrifice of Arkansas veterans. The entire interview will be submitted to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

Born in Wilmar in Drew County, Parnell Fisher grew up in Bauxite and Benton in Saline County. Today he calls Jacksonville home.

After his junior year at Dunbar High School in Little Rock in 1950, he enlisted in the Air Force, but nearly joined the Army after some shenanigans by an Army recruiter.

“We were in the Air Force recruiter’s office and he had to attend to some business down the hallway and this Army recruiter came in a said, ‘OK, guys, follow me.’ We went about two doors down, and he had to go someplace else. We heard this noise and a few four-letter words down the hallway and this Air Force recruiter came down and took us back to his room and told us not to move,” Fisher recalled.

He joined the Air Force in 1950, two years after President Harry Truman abolished racial segregation in the armed forces. For Fisher, who was used to taking the school bus from his home to an African-American school in Little Rock, his entrance to a desegregated military was like “going into a new world.”

His trip from the Little Rock restaurant, where he was forced to eat his last meal as a civilian in the kitchen area, to the train he traveled on to basic training “was my first taste of total integration as far as the Air Force is concerned,” Fisher said.

He was initially assigned to an Air Police Squadron after completing basic training. He traveled around the world while taking on different assignments, including learning aircraft and engine maintenance.

After fulfilling his commitment to the Air Force, he returned home to get his GED and used his GI Bill benefits to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree in education from Arkansas Baptist College.

He re-enlisted in the Air Force and met his wife while stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

In 1966, Fisher was assigned to the Fourth Air Commando Squadron as a loadmaster stationed in Vietnam.

His heroics on a mission Dec. 18, 1966, in Vung Tau, Vietnam, saved his life and those of his fellow Airmen aboard an AC-47 plane.

“We had kind of caught Charlie this time, and I was kind of surprised. We were lighting up a big area, putting flares out,” Fisher said.

He recalled the odd sound he heard when one of the flares was accidentally released inside the aircraft. “I looked back and it’s a full parachute. Somewhere under that chute is a flare that’s going to go off.”

Fisher had only 10 seconds to react. He grabbed the parachute and threw out the flare only to have the chute get jammed beneath a door, forcing him to hang out of the plane, holding on with one hand and cutting the lines of the parachute with the other.

“We went back to home base and were folks talking to me. ‘When and how and what and what were you thinking. But we’re just so glad you got that thing out of the airplane because we may not be here talking about this right now.’ That didn’t register on me,” Fisher said.

His valorous actions earned him the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1967 and again in 1968. He remains humble about his decorations.

After a 22-year career in the Air Force, Fisher retired in January 1977. Fisher was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame in 2014.

“There are things you learn in the military, like how to work as a team, consideration for your fellow man, love for your country, respect for your country, respect for each other. All these things come in a big package when you spend time in the military,” Fisher said.

Sen. Boozman said, “Parnell Fisher is a dedicated American hero whose selfless actions saved the lives of his fellow comrades and were critical to our war efforts. I am grateful for his dedication and service to our nation. Honoring Parnell by capturing his memories and experiences in uniform is a great way to show our appreciation for his service.”

TOP STORY >> Pedersen cleared of voter fraud

Leader staff writer

Bill Pedersen was alleged to have tried to vote twice in the 2016 Cabot runoff election, but the county prosecutor and the Lonoke County Election Commission have decided not to seek charges agains him.

Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham earlier decided not to press charges, and the election commission has also decided to drop its complaint against Pedersen.

Graham said, “We take elections seriously. The Cabot Police did a thorough investigation, and we saw no need for criminal charges. The system worked. It was the right, the fair thing to do.”

According to the Oct. 31 minutes of the election commission meeting, chairman Jerry Shepard said, “Mr. Pedersen took it upon himself in the city (Cabot) runoff election to present his ID to vote for a second time.”

In a response letter to the Lonoke County Election Commission written June 9, Pedersen claims he wasn’t attempting to commit fraud. “I just asked the question, ‘Can you check to see if I have voted?’”

The election commission said it “appreciate(d) your statement that you will not again engage in such conduct. We will take you at your word. However, please be informed that we will take any future violations of law directly to the appropriate officials.”

Susan Inman, Arkansas County Election Commissions Associations’ former president and executive director, said, “It is punishable as a felony, but the prosecuting attorney has to make the decision to charge” a person.

Before the October meeting, the election commission unanimously voted to file a complaint with the Cabot Police Department.

Those complaints included attempting to vote twice – a felony – disrupting a polling site and creating a disturbance at a polling site.

A report was filed with the Cabot Police Department.

This was not the first time Pedersen has caused controversy at a polling site.

In 2012, he was arrested for threatening behavior directed to Justice of the Peace Henry Lang. The Leader reported that Pedersen drove his car to within inches of where Lang was sitting at the Cabot City Annex during early voting, blew the horn, cursed him and made obscene gestures.

Lang filed another complaint with city officials the next morning, saying Pedersen threatened him.

Pedersen pleaded guilty and was fined $450.

TOP STORY >> Communities hold July 4th celebrations

Jacksonville will host the Big Bang on the Range fireworks show on the Fourth of July at the Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex, 2800 Graham Road.

Admission and parking are free. Gates open at 6 p.m. with Fireworks at 9:30 p.m. There will be concessions and bounce houses. Attendees should bring blankets and chairs for lawn seating. For more information, call 501-241-2441 or visit

Cabot’s free Fourth of July celebration will be held from 6 till 9 p.m. at the Cabot Sportsplex, 1245 Bill Foster Memorial Highway.

The Steve Hester Band will perform. There will be free parking, bounce houses and concessions.

Sherwood’s Independence Day Family Celebration and fireworks show will be held from 6 till 9 p.m. at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave. The event is free, and Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock will give away hot dogs while supplies last.

Ward’s Fourth of July picnic and fireworks show will be on Tuesday, July 4 at the Ward Ball Park on Peyton Street. The city is providing free hamburgers, hot dogs and water. The Larry Weathers Band will perform until dark.

The car and bike show starts at 4:30 p.m. The Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard will post the colors during the opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Carla’s Dance Studio will perform at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks will be presented by the Ward Volunteer Fire Department around 9:15 p.m.

The Floyd Community Park will host its annual Fourth of July celebration at the Floyd ballpark on El Paso Road. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with the Floyd Patriotic Parade and will end with a fireworks display just after dark around 9. Games for children will begin at noon and a horseshoe tournament starts at 1 p.m. There will be raffle drawings all day, as well as face painting for kids and an egg toss competition.

Parade lineup begins at 9 a.m. For more information, call Amelia Orvis at 501-580-1939.

Beebe’s Fourth of July celebration will be from 4:30 till 9 p.m. at the ballpark. There will be free food, ice cream, an inflatable waterslide and face painting.

The Brandon Cunning Band of Memphis will perform from 7:45 till 9 p.m. with fireworks following. Bring lawnchairs for seating. Free shuttle service will start at 3 p.m. from the ASU-Beebe Owen Center to the ballpark.

Sonny’s Auto Salvage is sponsoring South Bend Fire and Rescue’s Independence Day celebration at 7 p.m. Monday with fireworks starting at dark. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served. Bring chairs.

The event is at Station 1, 4414 Hwy. 294.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> A Team gets split in Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank A Team, one of two junior American Legion teams from Cabot, went 1-1 in a two-game outing Monday at the Cabot Sports Complex. The Centennial Bank squad bounced back from a terrible defensive game that resulted in a 10-3 loss to Poyen, to beat Mount Vernon 7-3 in the nightcap.

In the early game, Cabot committed nine errors, resulting in eight of Poyen’s 10 runs being unearned. Poyen scored first in the top of the second inning after two errors followed a leadoff double.

Cabot answered in the bottom half when Parker Ashcraft hit a leadoff single to right field and Evan McCoy’s fly ball to center field was dropped. Poyen then took the lead for good with four runs in the third on two base hits, a walk and three errors.

Cabot then got three base hits and scored two runs in the bottom of the third. Coy Lovercheck, Austin Calhoun and Jacob Caswell each singled. The A Team was sitting pretty for a big inning with runners still on second and third with only one out, but bad luck came into play.

Calhoun was caught stealing home after a wild pitch careened off the brick backstop and right back to the Poyen catcher. Zach Eveleth then grounded out to end the inning and the promising rally.

Three base hits and an error led to three more Poyen runs – only one was earned – in the fourth inning. The visiting team got a walk and another batter reached on an error before a two-out triple and a single set the final margin.

Game two went much better for the home team. Eveleth had a no-hitter going through three innings against Mount Vernon as his team built a 3-0 lead.

Caswell singled to start the second inning for Cabot, and advanced to second when the Blackhawk center fielder misplayed the bounce. Eveleth then singled to put runners on the corners, setting up a disastrous defensive series for the nightcap visitors.

A pick-off throw to first was way wide of the mark, allowing Caswell to score easily from third. Eveleth made it all the way to third as the Mount Vernon right fielder threw the ball aimlessly to the infield, rolling to the third-base dugout.

When the catcher went to retrieve the ball, no one covered home and Eveleth sneaked in to give Cabot a 2-0 lead.

Centennial Bank added a run in the bottom of the third after Lovercheck was hit with one out. He stole second base and scored on an RBI base hit to left field by Braylen Moore.

The visitors’ bats started to come alive in the fourth inning and the Warhawks tied the game.

After getting the leadoff hitter to ground weakly back to the mound, Eveleth’s no-hitter was broken up with a single to right field. Two walks followed to load the bases before Peyton Lasley hit a two-run single to left field.

Eveleth hit the next batter to load the bases again before Lovercheck took the mound.

He walked in the tying run before getting a strikeout and a 6-3 grounder to end the rally.

Cabot did not score in the fourth inning, but posted four runs in the fifth as time ran down to seal the victory. The rally started when Moore was hit and Calhoun walked with one out.

Caswell then got his second base hit to drive in one run. With two outs, Eveleth hit an RBI single for a 5-3 lead. Evan McCoy then provided the highlight of the night with a two-RBI triple over the head of the left fielder.

Caswell went 3 for 6 in the two games combined to lead Cabot offensively. Eveleth and Moore went 2 for 5. Lovercheck, Ashcraft and McCoy each had base hits.

The Cabot A Team (3-15-1) will travel to Conway to face Vilonia at 6 p.m. tonight, and will again host Mount Vernon at 6 p.m. Thursday. It’s back on the road on Friday for a doubleheader at Searcy.

SPORTS STORY >> Local BMXer ranked No. 9

Leader sports editor

Coming up July 22, local circuit BMX rider Ian McCauley will compete for Team USA in the Union Cyclist International World Championships.

The 14-year old from North Little Rock competes nearly every weekend at the two central Arkansas tracks at Burns Park and in Cabot, and he has become one of the top Expert level Cruiser Division riders in the nation in his age group.

McCauley is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation in the BMX USA rankings, but it was his performance at the UCI nationals in Austin, Texas that earned him a spot on Team USA for the upcoming world event.

BMX USA is a national circuit that only includes BMX racing. UCI, which really stands for Union Cycliste Internationale, is the world governing body for all cycling sports, and oversees international competitive cycling events.

McCauley started BMX racing when he was just seven years old, drawn to it as a grade-school passer-by on the way to a soccer game.

“We drove by the Banzai track at Burns Park,” McCauley said. “I was playing soccer at the time and we were going to a game, and I saw them out there. I toldmom I wanted to try this out. It was on a Sunday, the day I turned seven, was my first time. That’s how it got started. I played baseball, too. After that first year, they (parents Rob and Shonda McCauley) told me I had to choose one. I loved BMX so that’s what I did.”

He wasn’t immediately great. There were no major accolades the first few years. At age 10 he tried the Cruiser Division for the first time, which is a 24-inch bicycle, as opposed to the typical 20-inch BMX bike. His first year competing in the Cruiser class, he finished the season as No. 11 in the central Arkansas division.

His second year, he was No. 1, and has, aside from one season of limited competition, stayed there.

He also competes on the 20-inch class, and is currently rated No. 1 in the district on both bikes, but he has excelled nationally on the cruiser. He has won the state championship five years running on the 24-inch bike, and is a two-time defending state champ on the 20-inch.

He caught the fever in earnest in 2011 when he went to Nashville for nationals and took second place in the 9-year-old division.

After several years of finishing no higher than fifth in the Cruiser Division, McCauley led the field after the first day of competition at the 2016 nationals in Kentucky. He made a tactical error on a tight final turn, and was undercut by a competitor he thought was further behind, and had to settle for second place in the finals.

“It was a super tight turn and I had seen a lot of guys run smack into the wall,” McCauley said. “So just based on the first day and how far out ahead I was, I took it really easy in that last turn and kind of went about midway up, and this kid cut under me. So I’m really hoping to do well and win this year.”

That was on the BMX circuit, which will host Regionals in September and the 2017 Grand Nationals this November in Tulsa.

McCauley has always been a dedicated competitor, going to nearly every practice session at the NLR and Cabot tracks every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as competing every Friday and Sunday in NLR, and every Saturday at Cabot.

But since his performance in Nashville, he has begun working on improving outside of the track as well.

“J.J. Grieve has been helping with getting stronger,” McCauley said. “He had been helping me with my gates and stuff. But since this past January or February, he’s been helping me with lifting, strength and conditioning type stuff.”

Another thing that McCauley likes about BMX racing is that it is open to anyone. There is a 3-year-old in central Arkansas who has been competing for a year and a half. The oldest competitor he’s seen was 80.

“I like how open it is,” McCauley said. “Anybody can race, even if it’s on a push bike. You have novice and intermediate levels as well so you’re not competing with really experienced riders when you start. It’s a pretty good set up.”

Weather permitting, McCauley will be on the Banzai and Cabot tracks this weekend, with his eye on Rock Hill and Tulsa.

“I just hope I do good,” McCauley said.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney routs Searcy

Leader sports editor

Thanks to persistent rain, the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team didn’t get much out of its annual invitational tournament. But it did close with a win, beating Searcy 10-0 on Sunday in the only game the host team got to play.

“We did pretty good,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “Searcy is a little down this year, but we did what we were supposed to.”

The tournament, scheduled for Wednesday through Sunday, was onlyable to get games in on the first and last day.

Jacksonville’s Brandon Hickingbotham threw four innings of no-hit baseball, and was one walk and one error from a perfect game. Neither of Searcy’s base runners advanced beyond first base.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, and it was Hickingbotham that drove in the first two runs. Leadoff hitter Kameron Whitmore and three-hole lefty Caden Sample each drew walks.

Hickingbotham then ripped a double to right field to score Whitmore and Sample. They were all the runs Gwatney Chevrolet needed for the win, but far from all they got.

Foster Rash drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the second inning and Ean Long reached on an error with one out and the mistake allowed Rash to score. Whitmore walked for the second time and Long scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.

Jacksonville added six runs on just two base hits in the third inning, thanks to more erratic Searcy pitching.

Hickingbotham started the rally with a leadoff single, but he was thrown out trying to make second base. Tyson Flowers singled but Jordan Wickersham grounded out to third base. That’s when the errant pitching arose again.

Rash and Brandon Hawkins drew back-to-back walks to load the bases, and Long singled to score Flowers. With the bases still loaded, Whitmore was hit by a pitch while Toney and Sample drew walks, each free pass driving in another run and giving Jacksonville 8-0 lead.

Hickingbotham then got his third base hit of the game, and with it drove in the final two runs.

Hickingbotham went 3 for 3 with a double and four RBIs.

EDITORIAL >> Recognition well deserved

As we reported Saturday, the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council has received the much-deserved 2017 Member of the Year Award from the Association of Defense Communities for supporting Little Rock Air Force Base for more than 60 years.

The Washington-based group recognized the community council’s work in behalf of the air base as unparalleled among the numerous military communities across the nation. We’ve known that for a long time, but it’s nice to win a national honor whose hundreds of members donate their time and energy to make the air base the national treasure it has been since it opened in 1955.

The council promoted the air base even before it opened. In 1953, Pulaski County residents formed a committee that bought 6,000 acres of land for $1.2 million (worth about $10 million today), which it donated to the Air Force for the base.

Since then, the council has supported many initiatives to ensure that the Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, a component of the Air Education and Training Command, along with the 189th Airlift Group with Air National Guard and the Reserves’ 913th Airlift Group, can carry out their operations and that those who work at the base feel welcome and cared for by the community.

Residents and businesses in Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood, Beebe, Little Rock and other communities surrounding the base have stood behind “Team Little Rock” as no other military community in the nation. That’s not bragging: Top Air Force officials have told us that for years, and we agree.

In September 2016, LRAFB and Team Little Rock hosted its first-ever military expo, which included all branches of service in the state, provided displays, demonstrations and performances, raising more than $10,000 in cash and contributions.

A community council subcommittee raised more than $70,000 in donations to support the air base’s 60th anniversary gala, which drew more than 800 military and civilian attendees, including 140 airmen who participated free of charge.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History hosts many memorials, ceremonies and other events to honor airmen and veterans.

Annabelle Davis and Barbara Merrick of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, which helped bring the base to Jacksonville in 1955, accepted the award in Washington this week.

Merrick, the council’s president, told The Leader, “I’m so grateful that Entergy allows me the time to work in support of the base, and not just my company, business, and industry leaders all around central Arkansas go the extra mile to care for the airmen here.”

“I think ADC also recognized how well the communities in the area join together to support our base,” Merrick continued. “It’s truly a team effort and a labor of love for all of us.”

Davis, who is the group’s executive secretary, told us, “We were thrilled at being selected as the 2017 ADC member of the year. This just confirms that all the community council and our members do to support LRAFB has been noticed and recognized on a national level.”

The Association of Defense Communities praised the council for its support of the base and its outreach program.

Thank you, Barbara Merrick, Annabelle Davis and the hundreds of community council members and supporters who have made this prestigious award possible. It is well deserved and much appreciated.

Again, thank you all for your service all these many years.

TOP STORY >> Mountain Springs Community Center

Leader staff writer

Mountain Springs Community Center in Cabot is nearing completion. The project by the Mountain Springs Cemetery Association is funded with donations only. It is at the corner on West Mountain Springs Road and Hwy. 5.

The cemetery association raised $40,000 in donations for the 30-by-50 foot building. Construction started in 2016. The air conditioned community center has a kitchen, a meeting area and bathrooms.

“We are paying as we go. Not borrowing any money,” chairman Wayne Guess said.

Cabot High School construction class “roughed in” the electrical wiring and dug the water line for the community center.

The building is adjacent to the cemetery. The association put up a pavilion seven years ago.

“We have a number of people for funeral services. When they are visiting it gets them out of the weather,” vice chairman Tommy Marshall said.

“It’s for if they want to have a family gathering, a spaghetti supper or a fish fry. To take pride in the community and what is here,” Marshall said.

Mountain Springs Cemetery was established in the mid-1800s.

It was a burial ground for locals and for those who died along the wagon trail. A Methodist church was on the property.

When the Methodist association left, it donated the acre of land to the Mountain Springs Cemetery Association. The cemetery is maintained by donations.

The community center needs countertops and lights to make it more functional.

Donation checks may be sent to Mountain Springs Cemetery, 3320 Mountain Springs Road, Cabot, Ark., 72023.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood looking at two taxes

Leader editor

The Sherwood City Council on Monday heard plans to implement two separate sales-tax increases to improve streets and drainage.

Voters will have to approve the taxes. Alderman Charlie Harmon suggested holding the election early next year.

One tax will sunset after eight years, and another will be permanent.

Walter McSpadden of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings law firm spoke to the council about preliminary drafts of both tax proposals.

Alderman Kevin Lilly, whoheads the city’s street committee, is spearheading the planning of the sales taxes.

Lilly said a temporary three-quarter (0.75 percent) cent sales tax will pay for improving streets and a quarter (0.25 percent) of a cent sales tax will pay for “the long-term operations and maintenance of our existing streets.”

Lilly said the city must shore up its street funding especially since it will be losing $1 million in turnback money.

A list of road and drainage needs was first presented at a workshop last July and included projects to fix sinkholes, collapsing pipes, excessive traffic jams, flooding and dangerous curves, at a cost of more than $17 million.

City Attorney Steve Cobb advised the council to meet again on the tax plans.

Harmon said the city will vote in November about allowing sales of liquor by the drink in restaurants in dry areas. He does not want the upcoming tax vote to be scheduled too close to the liquor election.

Harmon recommended the tax election be soon after Jan. 1. Lilly advised it not take place any later than that.

On the list of road needs is the widening and extending of Maryland Avenue at a cost of about $4.5 million; Hemphill Road widening and extension at about $2.7 million; extending the road behind Kohl’s to connect with Lantrip Road, which will cost about $400,000.

Also redoing Jacksonville-Cato from Creekdale to Hwy. 107 to prevent Creekdale subdivision from being cut-off from traffic during wet weather, which will cost $2.8 million; work to widen and improve Jacksonville Cutoff will run about $6.3 million; and extending Claremont Avenue will run $600,000.

Most of the planned roadwork is designed to relieve congestion and give residents other options to enter and exit the city.

City Engineer Ellen Norvell has said Jacksonville-Cato is a high-traffic area with a count of about 7,800 vehicles using it daily. “That’s twice as many as Maryland Avenue,” Norvell explained.

At that July meeting Heye suggested the city look at raising the sales tax. “I know I don’t do my shopping based on sales tax. I look for convenience and who has what I want,” she said, adding that a sales tax doesn’t go against just the residents.

“It applies to everyone stopping in Sherwood. And if we have better streets, we’ll have more shopping.”

TOP STORY >> Former alderman dies in car wreck

Leader editor-in-chief

Former Jacksonville Alder-man Marshall Smith of Vilonia, who had served on the city council for 32 years, longer than anyone else, was killed Monday morning when his vehicle veered off Hwy. 107 near Bayou Meto Elementary School.

He was 80. His wife, Edith, who was a passenger in the car, was seriously injured. He was taking her to a doctor’s appointment when the accident occurred around 9:30 a.m.

They were both taken to Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock. She remains in intensive care after surgery.

Mayor Gary Fletcher has ordered flags be flown at half-staff. “We lost a good man,” Fletcher said.

They served on the city council together for three decades.

According to a member of Smith’s gospel group, the Gospel Tones, he was alive after the accident and providing aid to his wife when rescue crews arrived. It was then that he collapsed and his heart stopped.

Paramedics were able to get a regular heartbeat back for a short time before his heartstopped again and he could not be revived again.

His wife spent most of Monday afternoon in surgery to stop internal bleeding and repair damage to the colon and intestines. She was in intensive care Monday night.

Smith remained active, serving as recorder-treasurer in Vilonia. Former School Superintendent Bobby Lester, who was Smith’s first cousin, said he was signing checks at city hall Monday morning.

He said he was a talented musician and gospel singer who had often appeared on Little Rock television.

Jacksonville’s Director of Administration Jim Durham said Smith was the “ultimate Jacksonville patriot. He was always 100 percent for Jacksonville. He tried hard not to make anyone mad when he made a decision.”

Durham fondly recalled Marshall as a peacemaker on the council. “Back in 80s, the mayor and I were both on the council and would get into some heated arguments. He would just laugh and tell us to get along.”

“I know one of the things he was most proud of,” said Durham, “was getting the highway department to close Coffelt Crossing. It was a death trap and one person after another was killed trying to use it to cut across Hwy. 67/167.”

Alderman Kenny Elliott, who served more than a dozen years on the council with Marshall, said, “He was one fine gentleman. I enjoyed working and spending time with him over the years. Everyone liked him wherever he went.”

City Clerk Susan Davitt said, “We were all sad and shocked when we got the news. He was a great person. There was nobody better.”

At nearly 32 years, Marshall Smith was the longest-serving alderman in Jacksonville.

He was on the council from 1981 to 2012. He had moved to Jacksonville in 1976, when he became a loan officer at Citizens Bank.

The Smiths moved from Jacksonville to Vilonia to be closer to their daughter. April Burris, and their grandchildren. He ended up getting involved with city government there.

He is also survived by his son, Mike, who is a manager at the Jacksonville Walmart.

“As you know, I’m in my 32nd year with the council, and that makes me the longest-serving alderman in Jacksonville’s history, but I’m stopping at 32,” Smith told the city council in 2012. “I will not seek re-election.”

Smith missed only about 11 meetings. “I know at times I went five, six, seven years without missing a meeting. You’re elected by the people to serve and that’s what I did,” he recalled when he announced his retirement

“I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous prestigious men and women,” he added.

Smith first took office Jan. 1, 1981, and in those earlier years had opposition when he ran again, but he always won big.

“If you do the will of the people and try to do the right thing, the races take care of themselves,” he said. For Smith, it worked, as he had no opposition over the last 20 years.

Smith, who represented Ward 1, was proud to have served during the city’s troubled years at Vertac and he worked hard, along with others, to bring the city through those problems. “I lot of times I prayed about my decisions,” he said.

He was the first chairman of the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission, which has raised millions of dollars for local projects through a sales tax on prepared foods and motels. He served on the commission from 2003 until 2009.

Smith was also proud to have brought recycling to Jacksonville. “We went into the schools and got the kids involved. You get the kids, and then you get the parents. Now, many cities come to us as a model,” he said.

He and his wife were married for 53 years. Smith continued to perform with his gospel quartet after he retired.

Arrangements are pending at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.

(Leader staff writer Rick Kron contributed to this report.)