Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, June 18, 1998
Welder's spark sets off blaze
By GREG HARMAN
It had all the makings of another West Texas summer scare:
The wind was blowing northeast - straight into town - and
the kindling was several tons of demolition remains, piled
high behind the transfer station that sits south of town off
It may have been avoided.
It was two weeks ago that Health and Sanitation Director
Armando Gil filed a complaint against Duncan Disposal with
the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission for
amounts of wind blown materials making their way to the
Pecos Municipal Airport where they pose safety hazards to
civilian and military aircraft.
Then a minor fire, started inside the station by a backhoe's
muffler three days ago, served as another warning of the
dry, brittle conditions. But it took a much larger event
yesterday to bring the demolition trash to citywide
A spark from a welder's torch was the culprit, spreading
fire into the nearby dumpsters. From there the fire caught
hold of the sizable piles of garbage heaped east of the
At the Pecos Municipal Airport, one mile east of the
transfer station, Mike Parent, an airport summer employee
was getting uneasy. With red flames visible from the
airstrip and black smoke blowing towards him at 30 miles per
hour, it would have been a good day to have the boss around.
Unfortunately both airport managers, Dennis and Isabelle
Blanchard, were on vacation to London and Nairobi.
"At first I thought someone was burning something off but I
remembered the burn ban and I thought `What the heck is
going on?'" said Parent.
Soon after the fire started, Parent said, several people
arrived at the airport to see what was happening.
"We even had a couple who had gone to town for lunch come
running back thinking their plane had exploded," said Parent.
It was not a passenger plane feeding the towering black
column, but piles of wood chips, pallets, paper and plastic.
The 911 emergency call came to Pecos Police Department
dispatch trainee Susan Passmore at 1:03 p.m. and the first
fire truck arrived at the landfill minutes later. It was
fireman Doug Cox who forecast, after the third fire truck
arrived at the scene around 1:45 p.m., "It may take awhile,
but we'll get it."
An expensive city-owned wood chipper, parked dangerously
close to the flames, was chained to a truck and towed to
The stream of three fire hoses, waging intermittent battle
with the blaze, mixed with the sooty, black billows of smoke
and rose, carrying the smell of ashes into Pecos. Fire
Marshal Jack Brookshire decided to let the backside of the
fire burn itself down. "This is too big to do anything
with," he said.
At the scene, many milled about expressing little surprise
at the blaze, pointing to the piles of tinder that has sat
behind the transfer station for two months. Some speculated
about possibly-buried chemicals and wondered if the fire
would reach a stack of tires stockpiled further back in the
After containing the flames to the waste piles, insuring
that the brittle fields of mesquite would not lead the fire
to the airfield, volunteers were able to kick off their tall
rubber boots and flame retardant coats and watch the flames
slowly die down.
The transfer station employees assisted the fire fighters by
using a bulldozer to level the piles of embers so that they
may be better extinguished.
Pecos Fire Department volunteers worked the fire for three
This morning Duncan Disposal's Vice President of Landfill
Operations, Ed Roads, was at the transfer station surveying
mounds of ash that continued to smoke. He said he had his
doubts that Gil ever filed a complaint with the TNRCC since
there was no follow-up investigation.
Roads said that all city trash was safely stored inside the
transfer station and the demolition waste which had burned
in the fire had not represented any violation of city or
state health codes.
Foreign television stations attending rodeo
By ROSIE FLORES
West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee members have been
contacted by two foreign television stations that are
interested in possibly attending the rodeo and featuring it
in their respective countries.
"The two stations are from Sweden and Denmark and they have
stated they are interested in attending this year's rodeo,"
said rodeo committee president Ray Owen.
Owen stated that the group is excited about the possibility.
Amateur cowboys, local people are invited to participate in
the many activities that are available to non-professionals.
Events include the wild cow milking, wild mare race and the
children's boot scramble.
The wild cow milking consts of a roper and mugger. As the
mugger holds the cow the mugger jumps off and milks the cow
and runs to the finish line with the bottle of milk.
Three individuals make up the wild mare race. In that event,
the horses have a halter and lead rope and the three
individuals try to hold on for "dear life," while one of
them gets the saddle on and then rider has to ride the wild
bronc to the finish line.
"These are two events that are very popular each year, and
all amateurs are encouraged to participate," said Owen.
The Boot Scramble, an always entertaining and fun event for
children, will again be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
and Friday nights during the rodeo. "All the kids need to do
is drag out their boots," said Owen.
The winner of these events nets a $50 Savings Bond.
During the event, each participant takes off one boot,
leaves it in a pile in the middle of the arena and when the
whistle blows, they all race to go find their matching boot.
The first one to find it, needs to put it on and race to the
There will be two age divisions in this event which is for
children 10 years of age and under.
On Saturday, July 4, there will be an all-day Open Team
The event starts at 9 a.m. and is open to everyone.
Local cowboys are also invited to ride in the annual parde
which will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 1.
Cantaloupes, over a century of goodness
CLAUDE W. PORTER
(Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series
that will be published in the next few weeks on onion and
cantaloupe farming in the Pecos area. The series is written
by a Pecos newcomer, Claude Porter.)
In a land where harshness reigns and people have learned to
accept it, people also seek and find their delightful
After the Civil War and before the last turn of the century
farms were being established on the land of the Pecos Valley
by American settlers moving west along the Texas and Pacific
Railroad. The climate was hot and dry. The soil was alkaline
and hard. The spring and summer temperatures were extremely
The jackrabbit foraged the crops, and the coyote foraged the
settler's chickens. The farmer had to be ever vigilant for
the hiss of the old nemesis, the diamond-back rattler that
coiled in the cool shade of growing plants. Wind whipped the
powdery, white dirt in the faces of young and old. It was a
harsh land without many amenities.
The early settlers discovered that some of the harsh things
they deplored produced a delicacy they loved. The
mineral-laden alkaline soil, the absence of rainfall, the
hot summer sun - all combined to produce nature's goodness -
the Pecos cantaloupes.
Whether happening onto a vine of ripe cantaloupes in the
heat of the day, or sitting down to a prepared feast
featuring the sweet, juicy melon in the cool of the evening,
the early settlers came to recognize the special qualities
of the Pecos cantaloupes. Their succulent meat and healthful
nutrition brought a delightful lift to the spirit. Their
reputation followed the railroad which began serving the
delicious melon to passengers in the dining cars.
Through the efforts of many, Pecos cantaloupes evolved into
a major industry for the Pecos area. Although they
experienced a hey-day in the fifties, the cantaloupe is
still going strong in the nineties. It is expected to carry
on past the turn of another century and beyond.
With the demise of passenger rail service a change began to
occur in the market place. The reputation remained, but the
logistics began to change. No longer did people travel by
train, and unfavorable freight rates made it impractical to
ship the melons to the premier restaurants and eateries in
the metropolitan areas north and east. New markets had to be
established and cultivated.
According to A.B. Foster, long-time cantaloupe grower and
shipper, "About 80% of Pecos cantaloupes stay in Texas,
today. 'Gift Packs' are shipped nationwide, except to
California and Arizona where produce regulations forbid it."
The sweet taste and firm meat of Pecos cantaloupes can now
be secured in season from most supermarket chains in Texas.
Stores which usually carry the melons include: Brookshire's,
Furr's, H.E.B., Kroger, Minyard's, United, Winn-Dixie, and
"One of the greatest obstacles we face in the marketing of
Pecos cantaloupes," says Foster, "is deceitful vendors.
Peddlers will go to the Valley or some other place and load
up on foreign melons and market them as Pecos cantaloupes.
This deludes our reputation in the minds of the consumers
who are looking for a particular taste, size, and firmness."
"Also," Foster states, "a few retailers will leave Pecos
Cantaloupe shipping cartons visible to the customers, but
fill their bins with melons from somewhere else."
"Our melons are stickered with "Pecos" decals," says Foster.
"They usually hit the markets in mid-July. They may come on
a little earlier this year."
Cantaloupes are a seasonal melon. Beware the "Pecos
cantaloupes" sold before mid-June. They cannot be authentic
because the season has not started by then.
50-years with a badge
BY PEGGY McCRACKEN
Half a century is a long time in law enforcement years. So
long, in fact, that few officers reach that milestone.
Gary Ingram of Toyah is one of those few. He dropped out of
college and into a job as sheriff's deputy in El Paso after
one semester of aeronautical engineering studies.
It wasn't that he didn't like studying about airplanes - a
subject he had loved from childhood. Ingram got his pilot's
license while in high school and began instructing shortly
after graduation from Ysleta High School.
He enjoyed flying jaunts into Mexico and had no idea he
would wind up wearing a badge.
"The captain of the patrol division asked me if I wanted to
go to work, and I said yes and showed up the next morning
and went to work," Ingram says of joining the El Paso
Sheriff's Office patrol division in 1948.
He worked primarily in traffic control for the 10 years he
was in that job, with a brief stint in the jail after
breaking a leg and arm in a traffic accident.
Ingram continued flying after moving to Pecos in 1958 to
work for Reeves County Sheriff A.B. Nail.
Working nights as a deputy and days as a crop duster pilot,
he crashed his small plane into the gravel plant near
Verhalen and was severely burned, "pretty much" ending his
Nail later named Ingram chief deputy, a position he held
until his fellow deputy, Raul Florez, beat both Ingram and
Nail for the sheriff's position in 1977.
Retaining his job under the new sheriff, Ingram ran the jail
division for a short while, then resumed the role of chief
deputy. He was warden of the Reeves County Law Enforcement
Center from its opening until the county contracted with
Correctional Corporation of America to operate the prison.
From then until his retirement from the county in 1989,
Ingram was in charge of training and "a little of
everything." He continued teaching law enforcement classes
under contract with the sheriff's office, so never
completely broke the law-enforcement tie.
Ingram said he enjoyed teaching more than any other phase of
his multi-faceted career. He taught defensive driving for 21
years, quitting in December, 1995 when he became disgusted
with the Texas Education Agency's paperwork requirements.
"We had to fill out a 43-page application for registration
every year," Ingram said. "I quit when I got this job."
"This job" is court security officer for the Pecos Division
of U.S. District Court. Ingram is one of four CSOs who greet
visitors to the courthouse and screen them for weapons,
computers, cellular phones, cameras and other electronic
They also monitor movement within the public areas of the
courthouse through closed-circuit television, taking turns
in the control room.
Although Ingram's recall of dates is a little hazy, he
remembers details of many of the cases he investigated
during his 50 years behind a badge.
One of the most widely-publicized cases involved an Army
sergeant who killed his wife and stepson and buried them by
the roadside near Balmorhea - then killed a hitchhiker and
left him underneath a culvert.
The hitchhiker's body was discovered first, and fingerprints
led to his identification.
It was that identification that nailed Oscar Kernihan.
"When we got the identification, I started putting out
messages on him," Ingram said. "Sheriff Capehart at Van Horn
immediately called and said he knew who killed him.
"Kernihan had a wreck up there right after he killed him and
had all the hitchhiker's ID. He was supposed to go to the
hospital but never showed up there. They caught him later in
Albuquerque, N.M.," Ingram said.
Searching his memory for the date of the killings, Ingram
came up blank. But he does remember Kernihan's ID number,
Alerted that Kernihan's wife and son were missing, Ingram
asked about them.
"He took us down there and showed us where he buried them at
night alongside the road," Ingram said. "They had his trial
in Waxahachie on a change of venue, and he got three life
While AWOL from his Army post in Kentucky, Kernihan had
picked up his estranged wife in San Antonio, along with her
3-year-old son. He shot the woman, then her son, and buried
them in the same grave.
A sadder case was that of a young woman found drowned in the
Ropers Motel pool. She was never identified, and Ingram
spent years trying to locate the man who had checked in with
"He went back and got the registration card from the clerk
and took it with him," Ingram said. "That was pretty smart
on his part."
Ingram never gave up trying to identify the young woman,
even assigning the unsolved mystery to his students in
classes on criminal investigation. But to no avail.
Living on his ranch north of Toyah with Marinanne, his wife
of 38 years, Ingram enjoys their four children, 14
grandchildren and four great-grands.
He hopes to stay "in the saddle" for a few more years,
riding herd on courthouse crowds, protecting government
property and employees.
Grand jury indicts nine
BY PEGGY McCRACKEN
Reeves County grand jurors on Wednesday indicted four
persons on drug charges, three for assault, one for failure
to stop and render aid and one for forgery.
Paul Coleman Armstrong, 39, is charged with possession of
cocaine on May 8. His bail is $10,000.
Felipe Rodriguez Morales, 48, is charged with possession of
cocaine on Jan. 17, with two prior convictions for heroin
possession and delivery. His bail is $15,000.
Adan Ramirez Garcia, 34, is charged with possession of
heroin on Jan. 26. His bail is $10,000.
Adolfo Rayos Prieto, 30, is charged with possession of
heroin in a correctional facility. He allegedly took heroin
into Reeves County Jail on Feb. 10. His bail is $15,000.
Delma Rodriguez, 25, is charged with assault on a public
servant. She allegedly struck jail supervisor Pam Dominguez
in the face with her open hand May 2 while Dominguez was
booking her into the jail. Her bail is $7,500.
Pedro Lara Vasquez, 43, is charged with forging a $200 check
on Ninfa Velasquez Oct. 17, 1997.
Oscar Lopez Gutierrez is charged with failure to stop and
render aid following a traffic accident May 18. Eric Granado
Carrasco was injured in the accident, and Gutierrez left the
scene without identifying himself or rendering assistance to
Carrasco, the indictment alleges.
Sharon Hernandez, 21, allegedly assaulted Noemie Baeza by
biting her on the index finger May 23. Her bail is $5,000.
Steve Allen Pitts is charged with aggravated assault with a
motor vehicle on Feb. 7. He allegedly caused bodily injury
to Israel G. Matta by striking him with a deadly weapon - a
motor vehicle. His bail is $7,500.
Showers and thunderstorms developed over Southwest Texas
today while a heat advisory was posted across large sections
of the state. In Pecos the high temperature was up to 104
degrees. The low was 71. Today's lows ranged from the 50s to
80s. Afternoon highs through Saturday should range from the
80s to 90s with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Overnight
lows were expected in the 70s to lower 80s with daytime
readings from the 90s.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise