Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas
October 22, 1998
Big Green band keeps top rating
Special to The News
ODESSA - Band Director Tony Gibbs and his Big Green Band
from Monahans High School keep on winning.
Saturday, Oct. 17, at Odessa's Ratliff Stadium, was simply
another in a long line of triumphs for Gibbs and the Lobo
band. And the Little Green Band from Walker Junior High
showed similar quality in its division.
The Big Green Band received a rating of "Division One" for
the fourth time in the four years Gibbs has been in
The top rating allows the band to move into the University
Interscholastic League Area Marching Contest to be held at
Jones Stadium in Lubbock on Saturday, Oct. 24. This
contest includes all Class AAA bands in the area from
Amarillo to El Paso who received a Division 1 rating at
last weekend's regional marching contests.
The top two bands at area - judged on a system surveying
playing, marching and color guard - advance to the AAA State
Marching Contest in Mesquite on Monday, Nov. 2.
Band director Gibbs' musicians this year already have won
the title of TMEA Honor Band, the distinction given to the
best high school concert band in Texas.
This achievment motivates the band to become one of the few
to become State Champions in concert and marching.
The Big Green, however, will not look past the contest this
"This is the toughest Area in Texas for 3A bands," says one
of the Lobo directors. "The last time the band advanced to
the state contest was in 1995, as a part of 4-A."
What is the key to the ultimate success of the band?
Sleeping child dies in wreck
An 11-year-old Monahans boy was killed and four persons were
injured about dawn on Sunday, Oct. 18, when a 1997 Chevrolet
Blazer rolled four times, reports Department of Public
Safety Highway Patrol Trooper Rodney Tucker.
Preliminary investigation indicates the driver probably fell
asleep at the wheel.
Tucker says the child who died and his sister were thrown
from the sports utility vehicle when it rolled four times.
He was sleeping when the accident occurred at 5:30 a.m. on
Sunday morning, Oct. 18, exactly 8.8 miles South of Monahans
on Highway 18.
"There was one vehicle going North on 18," says Tucker. "It
drifted to the shoulder of the road. The driver
overcorrected and the vehicle rolled four times."
Tucker identified the fatally injured child as John Russell
The injured, the DPS trooper says, are:
Gilbert Ponce, 15, the driver of the Blazer, cuts and
Dora Ponce, 33, severe cuts and injured ribs..
Amber Simmons, 12, Russel's sister, a broken arm, cuts and
Alfredo Nunez, 16, broken bones.
Julian Acosta, 6, another passenger in the vehicle, was
not reported hurt.
"Amber, Alfredo and Dora were flown to Lubbock that
morning," says Tucker.
The injured were taken to the Lubbock Methodist Medical
Center division of Covenant Health Systems Inc. All were
reported in stable condition on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
All lived in the 700 block of North Betty Avenue in
Monahans. They apparently were on their way back to Monahans
after a trip to Fort Stockton to visit relatives. Amber and
Russell's grandparents Jim and Vivian Simmons and Frank
Rodriguez live in Fort Stockton.
"The driver is not really sure what happened," says the DPS
investigator. "It probably was driver fatigue."
Russel and Julian were asleep when the accident occurred.
Gilbert Ponce and Alfredo Nunez were riding in front with
their seat belts fastened. The rest were in the back of the
Blazer, says Tucker. Funeral services for John Russell
Simmons will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22, at St.
John's Roman Catholic Church in Monahans.
The celebrant will be The Rev. John Lucido.
Burial will be in Monahans Memorial Cemetery under the
direction of Harkey Funeral Home. Survivors include his
parents, Becky Rodriguez of Monahans and John R. Simmons of
Eagle Pass; a brother John Monroe Simmons of Eagle Pass and
three sisters, Amber of Monahans; Sobeida Urias of Eagle
Pass and Saira Urias of Eagle Pass.
Heavenly driver goes home
Thomas Hubert Nelson, 43, who was driving with license
plates issued by the Kingdom of Heaven, is gone.
County Judge Sam G. Massey says Nelson of Leslie, Ark., was
released from jail on Sept. 14.
He was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a
fictitious license plate, operating an unregistered vehicle,
and having no liability insurance.. His $1000 bond was paid
by an Alabama preacher who also got Nelson a driver's
license, tags, and insurance, says Massey.
Self defense claimed in fight
Special to The News
GRANDFALLS - The mother of a Grandfalls-Royalty High School
sophomore punished for a fight at a football game says she
plans to hire a lawyer to help her protest the way in which
the school disciplined her daughter.
"We followed the school district policies and the board so
ruled," says Charles Carter, superintendent of the school
Rene Brandenburg says her daughter's civil rights were
violated because she was punished more severely than other
students have been for comparble actions. She says her
daughter should not have been punished at all because her
15-year-old daughter acted in self defense against a
Further, she argues two boys were involved in a fight on
campus the week after the incident involving her daughter.
They, she says, received only three days punishment.
Brandenburg has contacted the Texas Education Agency
which referred her to the civil rights division of the U.S.
Department of Education. She has retained an attorney.
Brandenburg says her daughter has had no previous brushes
with school policy and acted in self defense. Her daughter
is a sophomore, has an "A-B" average and is a part of the
Grandfalls Homecoming royalty. She is schedued to be
released from punishment the day before Homecoming; which
would allow her to take part in the festivities Oct. 30.
Brandenburg's daughter, Julie Coulston, began serving 15
days in the district's Alternative Education Program on
Wednesday, Oct. 7. The incident which sparked the punishment
occurred at the Grandfalls-Royalty-Balmorhea game on Friday,
Says Brandenburg: "This altercation that took place was not
her fault. "
Rain comes too late for some
Well, it's official. Moisture from something other than a
sprinkler system is hitting the grass out here in Monahans -
it's actually (gasp!) raining.
And this is no here-today-gone-tomorrow shower, either. It
began Monday afternoon and is expected to stay till Sunday,
according to the National Weather Service. This is great
news for ranchers.
"For the people who didn't get any of the spotted showers
earlier in the summer, it won't do much good," says Rancher
and County Judge Sam G. Massey. "But for those that did,
it'll help quite a bit."
As of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, KLBO Radio gauged
1.06 inches of rain to have fallen already, and the day's
high to be 55 degrees.
Visionary sees future for crumbling refinery
By Rebecca Jones
of The News
Wickett's abandoned and crumbling Rattlesnake Refinery
complex can be transformed into a golfing center for
underprivileged children, according to a Midland visionary's
To turn the refinery nightmare into a child's dream will
take about $175,000 in grants plus cooperation among
various Ward County governmental entities, says John
Wotjkun, a Midland economic development consultant. Grant
applications already have been made to several private
foundations and governmental agencies, he says.
The city of Wickett has never quite known how to handle its
long-defunct refinery. According to Ward County records,
the property still is owned by Rattlesnake Refinery Corp.,
whose chief executive still is listed as Bill Watson of
Monahans. Watson says he has not been associated with
Rattlesnake Refinery for years.
For as many years, the refinery has been an environmental
and a tax burden to the area. Currently its combined Ward
County, city and Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District back
taxes exceed $300,000. It is an acknowledged environmental
But all that may soon change if a proposal recently made to
the Wickett town council ever reaches fruition.
Rattlesnake Refining Corp. was a limited partnership that
ended in bankruptcy in 1991. Despite the hefty backtaxes
owed, the city of Wickett officials are hesitant to seize
the property due to the aforementioned environmental dangers
It isn't just the taxes and asbestos that make the refinery
a burden. Wickett is a small Ward County town, one that
could certainly use another source of revenue. The land on
which the refinery is built is an "enterprise zone," meaning
that it's the perfect place to run a business- a business
that, if successful, would bring more money into the
community. In order to have such a business, the old
refinery must be demolished.
That is the proposal John Wotjkun and Bill Medor, two
Midland-based businessmen, have presented the town council.
It is a plan Ward County Judge Sam G. Massey, himself a
Wickett resident says "has the chance to turn a dangerous
eyesore into something safe and productive."
Wotjkun first entered the picture in 1994 when Massey called
him as a consultant on Wickett enterprise zones. Some time
later, Medor also called Wotjkun to talk about the Wickett
refinery area, and what might take the refinery's place.
It didn't take long for inspiration to strike. Wotjkun had
seen an ad for junior golf that appealed to him.
Why not create a Summer golf camp for underprivileged kids?
A splendid idea indeed, Wotjkun thought, but easier said
than done especially financially.
Wotjkun says funding for the project is all pending. He
warns it is certainly not guarenteed. He notes Some of
grants needed aren't even available untill February.
Aside from that, the refinery area has to be cleaned and
made safe. If everything works , however, the camp would
include a nine-hole golf course complete with practice
range, four to six bunkhouses with heating and air
conditioning, a large meeting room, dining facilities, and
Kids would arrive at the camp via bus on a Monday, learn the
finer points of golf Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and
head back home on Friday.
On weekends, the course would be open to the public for play
on a fee basis.
"It'll be an economic generator, no doubt about it," says
Wotjkun. "If you're going down Interstate 20 and look at it
now, it's an eyesore. Viewed as a green spot, it could
attract tourism. If the county does the maintence work,
it'll also create jobs."
But it all depends on receiving the grants for which he has
Tenth of a series
Dale Evans, the acknowledged Queen of Hollywood Cowboys in
the 1940s and 1950s heyday of the Saturday afternoon double
features, went to school in Pyote. Even after reaching
mega-celebrity as the wife of movie Cowboy King Roy Rogers,
she maintained her ties to the Ward County town.
Bob Barker, a television personality who also was a host for
years of the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, lived
there as a baby.
Evans, like almost all former Pyote school students,
remembered the good times - the classes and the smell of the
chalk dust, entertainments in the school auditorium, the
Chranes, superintendent and wife, who led the school
district for years and were on board when it was
consolidated ending an era in Pyote education and starting
That was the way it was in the Pyote school which boomed
and busted with the community and the Oil Patch.
Pyote School no longer exists. The school district there
consolidated with the Monahans-Wickett school district in
1965 to form the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district and
continue their progress toward continued academic and
There was sadness when consolidation finally closed the
Pyote school, victim of declining enrollment, state
pressure to consolidate smaller school districts with larger
ones and the economic malaise that began in 1953 with the
downsizing of Pyote Air Force Base (more familiarly known
then and now as the Rattlesnake Bomber Base) into a radar
installation where the 697th Air Control and Warning
Squadron was based.
When the radar base was closed for good, the military link
to Pyote ended in 1966, the year after school consolidation.
Pyote became more than a wide spot on what eventually would
become U.S. Highway 80. Citizens of the area decided they
needed a school house for the children.
The first classes were held in a hay barn where Mrs. Betty
Martin recalled Southern Comfort whisky cases were stored.
She knew because she attended school in Pyote that year.
Mrs. Martin, who was Ward County treasurer for many years,
also recalled Mrs. C.G. Hallmark of Barstow was the first
Pyote teacher. Mrs. Ransom Sitton, Pyote housewife, gave
Mrs. Hallmark room and board in the Sitton home, a
three-room house Whether she actually was paid anything is
lost in memory.
Education was a prime consideration when the town was
It is said N.P. Rodgers circulated a school petition at the
three day barbecue where Pyote town lots were platted and
Soon after the hay barn classes and the Southern Comfort
desks, a one room frame building was built in 1909 for a
school house. Led by Rodgers, the school became state
In 1910, the citizens approved a $12,000 bond issue to build
a brick school. That building burned in 1919. Proceeds from
the insurance settlement plus the bricks from the charred
school were used to build the new school.
"In 1925, 1926 and 1927, Pyote had a lot larger school than
Monahans," early settler Ducky Clements once remembered.
"Pyote had the first economics class in the county. They had
electric stoves and typewriters and everything."
Construction costs were increasing and in 1928 the citizens
of Pyote voted a $100,000 bond issue to build a new two
story brick school. It was 1952 before the bonds were
J.W. Fletcher was the first superintendent of the school
when that new building opened for classes. He was followed
by Thomas D. Hamilton for six to seven years. P.D. Lewis
became superintendent in 1936 and served for two years.
Then Wright Chrane became superintendent. He was Pyote
school district's chief until the 1965 consolidation. School
populations went up and down with Pyote's economic fortunes.
As a result of the consolidation, many of Pyote's students
came to Monahans for their education. A few wanted to go to
Wink just North of Pyote and a little closer geogra
phically. Those students, to this day, seek permission from
the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school board to attend Wink
schools. To this date, there is no record that any Pyote
student who desired was ever denied the right to attend
school in Wink.
Former students at Pyote retain a major interest in their
old school although many say the consolidation probably was
the best option for them as the years advanced and the
population of Pyote dwindled.
In the Summer of 1998, some of those students gathered in
Pyote for their tra ditional reunion held every two years.
They recall the old times and talk about where they had been.
Someone passed the hat.
They collected $2,500 to help give a college scholarship or
two to students whose ancestors had a connection to the
Pyote school district.
Next: Pyote II and Beyond
Star party on deck
Friends of Monahans Sandhills State Park and the West Texas
Astronomy Club are co-hosting a night under the starts at
Monahans Sandhills State Park on Friday night, Oct. 23,
reports Kevin Slay, the coordinator for the star party.
Telescopes will be set up by the astronomers so that the
public can observe the various heavenly bodies and the
astronomers will provide a guided tour through the cosmos.
The viewing starts at dusk. The telescopes are set up in the
parking areas near the park headquarters office.
Says Slay: Last year the event was attended by over 150
people of all ages interested in gazing into the night sky.
The West Texas astronomers will bring back many of the
telescopes used during last year's event and we want to
welcome everyone to join us for this wonder event at the
More from Slay: "We had a great time last year looking at
Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, star nebulae and clusters. I
hope everyone comes out Friday night."
Early voting starts election countdown
Early voting started on Monday, Oct. 19, as the count down
to the Nov. 3 General Elections began.
The latest campaign expenditure reports for the Ward County
Judge's race show incumbent Democrat Sam G. Massey is
spending more than GOP challenger Candido Gutierrez. The
bulk of Massey's expenditures was $2,000 to rent a
stagecoach for the Overland Butterfield Festival in
Monahans last Summer. Most of Gutierrez campaign money was
for print advertising
Those were the latest local election developments where the
county judge's race is the only county competition.
County Clerk Pat V. Finley reports 424 county voters had
cast ballots by noon Wednesday in the early voting period
that began on Monday.
She says 218 of the first early votes were by mail; the rest
were in person. Finley believes the current White House
Impeachment discussions may have an effect on local voting
According to the county judge expenditures documents in the
From Sept. 1 to 29, total political expenditures for
Gutierrez come to $448.10.
Between Aug. 3 and 27, Massey's political expenditures
(paid by personal funds) amounted to a total of $3,641.29,
according to the expenditure documents filed with Finley.
Breaking the figures down, Gutierrez paid $420 on Sept. 1
to the Monahans News for political ads, $10.61 on Sept. 23
to True Value for wooden stakes for political signs, $6.88
on Sept. 24 to True Value for staples and wooden stakes, and
$10.61 on Sept. 29 to True Value for wooden stakes.
The $448.10 total for the Republican nominee was paid for
with money he loaned to himself.
Massey paid $2000.00 on Aug. 3 to Frontier Adventures for a
stage coach for the parade,
$1005.00 on Aug. 11 to KLBO Radio for advertising, $218.79
on Aug. 11 to Jet Printing for posters and cards, $127.50 on
Aug. 21 to Specialty Printing for posters, $200.00 on Aug.
26 to Jet Printing for posters, and $90.00 on Aug. 27 to
Classic Cable for TV cable ads.
Commenting on the campaign for Ward County Judge, Gutierrez
says, "I feel really good so far." Massey says, "We've
really enjoyed it."
Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers Inc.