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Top Stories

Monday, November 15, 1999

Pickers salting away money from seeds

Staff Writer
PECOS, Nov. 15, 1999 - Some call it greasewood. Farmers dub it a weed. But for some local families, it's turkey on the table for Thanksgiving and gifts under the Christmas tree.

Four-Wing Saltbush (chamiso) seed are selling for $1 per pound, and hundreds of families with some spare time and a pickup or car trunk are cashing in.

Roger Jones, who buys all the winged seed that is brought to his shed in tow sacks, said he expects the harvest will continue until January, if the weather cooperates.

"We don't need a freeze or hard rain or anything to knock it on the ground. The long-range forecast looks good, so maybe we will be lucky."

One person can harvest 100 pounds or more of seed on a good day, Jones said. He started the phenomenon about three weeks ago by hiring high school students to strip the delicate-looking seed pods from chamiso on the Dixie Cattle Co. ranches.

Working from about 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, the boys are earning $100 to $125 per day on weekends. Some stay to weigh in and store the tow sacks, and they are paid by the hour.

Jones said word got around of the easy money, and business is booming. Saturday morning, cars and pickups were parked all along the Balmorhea Highway while their owners stooped over the short plants, stripping the ripened seeds.

Isaac and Donna Martinez were among those lined up for three blocks Saturday night, waiting to get to the scales in Jones' produce shed on Western Avenue.

"You strip the seeds off, just like milking a cow," said Martinez. "You can carry a five-gallon bucket and sit on it."

Martinez said they worked about two hours Saturday morning and started again about 3:30 in the afternoon.

"We probably got 100 pounds today," he said.

Jones said the reason for the boom in seed prices is a germination problem with chamiso in Arizona this year, creating a shortage of seed for the government Conservation Reserve Program.

"Most of the seed will be used to re-seed CRP land," he said. "Some will be sent to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in New Mexico and Arizona."

An Abilene seed company contacted Jones about gathering the seed, and he enlisted the help of his school students on weekends. Some work after school as well, he said.

"We furnish sacks, lunch and drinks for the school kids," he said.

The produce shed opens at 5 p.m. each afternoon to weigh in the day's harvest. On Saturday, Jones estimated he would weigh 45 loads totaling around 15,000 pounds.

As Jones and a helper weigh each tow sack, they call out the weight for Jones' wife to record. As they call out the final weight for a load, they call out "total," and Mrs. Jones totals the load and pays the owner.

The sacks are then tossed from one student to another until they reach a stack in the large room where cantaloupes are processed during the summer months. They are then spread on the floor of the cold room where cantaloupes are stored and left to dry before once again being bagged for transport to Abilene.

Joe Bradley does the hauling, Jones said. He had a 9,000-pound load waiting Saturday night.

Martinez said chamiso grows wild in the desert, and serves as a high-protein diet for cattle, deer and goats. Dove and quail utilize the bushes as a hiding place from predators.

"It has been growing here a long time, but there hadn't been any market for it," he said. "The last two or three contracts, it has been going into CRP contracts."

It's called four-wing saltbush because the seed have wings, he said. The seed company removes the wings, leaving the core as a clean seed.

It may be short-lived, but the seed shortage has put wings on the Reeves County economy, where jobs are hard to come by and the holidays are bleak for many.

Gym expansion proposal given to school board

Staff Writer
PECOS, Nov. 15, 1999 - Final designs and plans for two new racquetball courts, which will be built onto the old Pecos High School gym, were presented to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members at last week's meeting.

Lorraine Dailey, architect for the project, presented the plans and designs at the board's regular monthly meeting to show everyone how the courts will look.

"There are still a few things we need to iron out," said Dailey. "But everything looks really good."

The project is for two regulation size racquetball courts and a new office to be located inside the gym to house the Reeves County Community Recreation Department. The department opened up earlier this year in an office added onto the lobby of the gym.

There have been no racquetball court facilities in Pecos since December 1990, when the old West Pecos Gym was shut down for safety reasons. The new design would be similar to one already in use at the Monahans High School gym.

Two other projects were also presented to board members by Dailey.

"A game room will be located in the nook of the gym, along with batting cages and will allow for access to the fitness center," Dailey said. The pre-engineered metal building will have brick to tie in with the main building, she added. The connection will be built at the northwest side of the gym, next to the front entrance.

"It will meet all life-safety codes and have a covered front porch," she said.

Dailey told the group that they would look at existing items such as electrical and plumbing. "The plan was to blend the building to existing facility," she said.

The batting cages will be built to the west of the racquetball courts, in a currently unused space between the gym and the football stadium.

The construction will begin at the first of the year and will take about seven months to complete, according to Dailey.

"It depends on the bids, we'll start advertising for bids at the end of the year and start the construction at the beginning of the year," said Dailey.

Board members approved an amendment to the interlocal agreement between the school and Reeves County to continue with the recreation project. The motion also included the stipulation for the school board to be involved in the color scheme both indoors and out.

"The only expense to the school on this will be to move the metal building to the south of the school," said superintendent Don Love. Two classrooms are in the building on the site where the racquetball courts will be constructed.

In other business on Thursday, Carver Center Director Jimmy Dutchover updated the board on several grants they have been working on procuring. "We have a deadline of Nov. 19, to apply for a grant that will target at-risk students," said Dutchover.

The grant would help implement different methods to address needs for retainees and get them up to par. "The standards are different and have been lowered to include other students," said Dutchover.

The grant is a Ninth Grade Initiative grant and can be up to $200,000 for the next two years, according to Dutchover.

Dutchover told the group that another grant the school is hoping to procure is the Tobacco Compliance Grant.

House Bill 555, targets students who are on campus consuming or possession of tobacco. "They will be cited in some form or fashion and can now actually get a ticket from the officer for this offense," said Love.

The school will then get half of the fines, which could be as much as $250, according to Love.

"We don't know how much the grant money is at this time, but it will help us educate our officers and update them on the new laws," said Love.

"Mr. Love had recommended that we apply for this grant from the state comptroller for the grant that will help law enforcement," said Dutchover.

"And now truancy can a fine of up to $500 per each time," said Love.

Love told the group that they have been working very closely with Judge (Amonario) Ramon on truancy and with our officer, Hilda Woods," said Love. "This grant would help pay for the individuals who are out at night, protecting our property during school event."

Love told board members that he and Dutchover had been to municipal court for the past two days. "Now they're charging from $100-$200 and are letting the parents work on weekends, from 9-6," said Love. "They also let the student work it out, depending on who the guilty person is."

The student is also put on probation for the rest of the year and Love stated that they have had a lot of success with that.

"We had a senior that had a lot of unexcused absences and after his court date, he was in school the following day," said PHS Principal Danny Rodriguez. "So this is working, we just need to keep after them."

Low income families offered help

PECOS, Nov. 15, 1999 - The Pecos Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the Town of Pecos City, is hosting a meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Reeves County Civic Center to advise the public about programs designed to help low-income families purchase, renovate or construct a new home.

Representatives of the Department of Urban Development, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be on hand to explain the different programs that will be available, Jesse Stephens said.

Stephens is a director with the Chamber of Commerce.

He said the programs are designed to help low and very-low income families fulfill their dream of owning a home. "They offer help in financing and even grants to qualifying persons," Stephens said.

He added that the city council has also entered into an agreement with GrantWorks, a private firm that specializes in helping obtain grants, to receive a grant for $240,000 from TDHCA that would be used to assist low-income families with their housing needs.

Stephens said that, among other topics, the agenda Thursday night would include: single family housing, home improvement grants, direct loans, guaranteed loans, how to qualify and who to contact.

Financial institutions will also be on hand including representatives from Norwest Bank to discuss more generous financing than is usually available, he said.

"The Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Pecos City urge people to attend this meeting to help yourself and in doing so help the town," Stephens said. "Please call the Chamber at 445-2406 so that we can reserve a seat for you."

Land transfer, changes in staff on RCH agenda

PECOS, Nov. 15, 1999 - Reeves County Hospital District board members will discuss conveying an interest the hospital has in a lot in the Central Section of Pecos to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital classroom and will discuss the land situation, along with several other items. They include a joint conference committee report, a tax collection report, and discussion/action on changing the date and time of future board meetings, payment of bills and financial statements and budget amendments.

In the section on medical staff reports, the board will receive the resignations of Dr. Kai-Wood Ma and Dr. Steven Steinbaum, and consider appointment to the staff and clinical privileges for Dr. Kendall H. Wong and Dr. Mohammed A. Quadeer.\


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Saturday night: Winning numbers drawn: 03-14-38-40-47-50. Estimated jackpot: $4 million. Number matching six of six: One Winning ticket(s) sold in: Waco. Matching five of six: 48. Prize: $2,379. Matching four of six: 3,380. Prize: $121.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Texas Million drawing Friday night: Winning numbers drawn: 35-39-40-66. Number matching four of four in Group One: none. Number matching four of four in Group Two: none. Number matching four of four in Group Three: none. Number matching three of four in any group: 358. Prize: $300.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Cash Five numbers drawn Friday by the Texas Lottery: 6-23-31-33-39 (six, twenty-three, thirty-one, thirty-three, thirty-nine)


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Friday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 8-9-4 (eight, nine, four)


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Saturday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 4-9-9 (four, nine, nine)


High Sunday 82. Low this morning 48. Forecast for tonight: Clear, lows in the mid-40s. Wednesday: Mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

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