May 2021

MAY • 2021

TEXARKANA MAGAZINE May | 2021 | Volume 2 | Issue 5

40. S T Y L E Deeply Rooted 48. L I F E What would Forrest Gump say?

10. B U S I N E S S Transfer of Power 16. P O L I T I C S Lest We Forget

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34. E N T E R TA I NME N T Good Evening TXK 36. L I F E A Mother of a Tale

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20. c o v e r/ C OMMUN I T Y From the Country to the Courtroom 28. C U L T U R E Life Training in Disguise 32. S P O R T S Batter Up

52. S T Y L E Graduation Gifts 54. T X K R O O T S King Lawrence

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What was your first job?

CASSY MEISENHEIMER Hostess at Applebee’s (“Would you like smoking or non?”)

TERRI SANDEFUR Server at Pizza Hut Prescott, Arkansas

KARA HUMPHREY Decorator (and professional taste tester) at Cookie Bouquet

LEAH ORR Popcorn maker, jelly bean scooper and gift basket creator at Pop Pop Shoppe

MEGAN GRIFFIN Lifeguard at Texarkana Country Club

MATT CORNELIUS Buggy Boy at Rehkopf ’s Grocery Store

BAILEY GRAVITT Barista at Starbucks (I only made it two weeks in that job, though.)

TERRI GRAVITT Salesperson at Sears (I walked to the Mall from school and worked from 4:00-9:00. It was a sad existence.)

TIFFANY HORTON Swim Teacher at Red Cross

BRIAN JONES Jeweler’s Assistant at

CHARLES JORDAN Dietary Aide at San Diego Hebrew Home San Diego, California

MARY MIDDLEBROOKS Scoreboard Operator at a wooden bat league baseball games

Harp’s Jewelers Atlanta, Texas

PATSY MORRISS Hallmark Store at The Centre of the Mall Shoppe in North Star Mall San Antonio, Texas

CAROLINE PURTLE Lead Intern for Representative Dennis Paul

EMILY SARINE Tanning Bed Janitor at Body Mechanix Sulphur Springs, Texas

LIBBY WHITE Exercise Technician (glorif ied button pusher—

and Aerospace Caucus Contact at Texas State Capitol

I turned on exercise machines for people) at Inches-A-Weigh

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2801 Richmond Road • Suite 38 Texarkana, Texas 75503 903.949.1460 letstalk@txkmag.com txkmag.com Publisher C A R D I N A L P U B L I S H I N G Staff C A S S Y M E I S E N H E I M E R cassy@txkmag.com

(L-R) Shannon Reardon, Kara Humphrey, Kelli Phillips, Cassy Meisenheimer, Mindi Pruett, Amber Lawrence

T E R R I S A N D E F U R terri@txkmag.com

A s I get older, I have realized something about friendship; it is not just about the time we spend together. It takes a village to keep our people and ourselves in order, and I’m fortunate to have a village of friends that love me and my family, no matter what kind of mom I am that day. We are there for each other, taking up each other’s slack when things are hard and celebrating each other’s accomplishments when things are going well. We are all doing the best we can and each of us brings something special to the table. As we approach Mother’s Day, let’s take a moment to honor each other, recognizing all the unique gifts that equip our village. The Perfectionist Mom. This mom has plans and gets things done. She most likely has a planner and no red dots on her phone. She is punctual, organized and dressed to impress. This mom will always know what is going on and will help keep you on task. The Whatever Mom. This momma is the opposite of Perfectionist Mom. She seems to forget most things, is not very organized, has lots of red notification dots on her phone and just goes with the flow. She is also the spur-of-the-moment mom who will have you and your kids over with no planning required. The Pinterest Mom. This is the mom who makes birthday party dreams come true. She gives the best teacher gifts, decorates for all the holidays and is just overall festive. She will bring all your costume dreams to life and meet all your craft supply expectations. It is not about a competition for her; she is just doing what makes her happy, hoping it makes others happy too.

The Social Media Mom. This momma loves to post, and she will take notice of your status updates and will admire all the pictures you post. She will have tons of fun pics of her own family, and she might even share some of the Pinterest mom’s creations. You are guaranteed a comment, tweet, like or pin. She will always be there for you online. The Helicopter Mom. Also known as the worrier mom, she will watch the kids like a hawk on the playground. On the inside, she hopes her kid brings her to college with her. Love this momma. All of this is evidence that her child is her number one priority. You can leave your child with her and never have one concern. The Real Mom. This mom healthily combines all of the above. She is real, knows she is not perfect (and neither are her kids). She gets that parenting is like a roll of the dice every day. There are good days and bad days, and she accepts them both with grace. My friends and I are just a diverse village of these moms, all rolled into a good time. What I treasure most about them is the freedom they give me to be myself among them. These friends love me for me—that’s it. Being a mother is the greatest, hardest, most-rewarding, most- terrifying call of our lives. We need support and encouragement. Mommas, take some time in May to love yourself and the village that keeps you going! All the Love,

K A R A H U M P H R E Y kara@txkmag.com

L E A H O R R leah@txkmag.com

M E G A N G R I F F I N megan@txkmag.com

M AT T C O R N E L I U S

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Texarkana Magazine is a multimedia publication showcasing the Texarkana area and is designed and published by Cardinal Publishing, LLC. Articles in Texarkana Magazine should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Ideaology, products and services promoted in the publication are not necessarily endorsed by Texarkana Magazine .

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BY CAROL INE PURTLE TRANSFER OF POWER

FAMILY IS THE FOUNDATION EACH IDENTITY IS BUILT UPON. Beginning at birth and unwavering through age, it is a bond that supports personal growth and aspirations, while helping navigate the future. For the McCulloch family, their kindred tale first took root in Texarkana’s past, and today its legacy is shown in their thriving company, Wholesale Electric Supply. Buddy McCulloch is the President of Wholesale Electric Supply Company, Inc. (WES), which was founded by his father, Amos McCulloch, in 1947. Buddy’s son, Chris, joined the family operation in the early 2000s. WES now has more than 60 branches across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee, making it a leader in the commercial market it serves. In 1946, a young Amos was already a budding entrepreneur. He had pressed pause on his pursuit for the American dream because he had been expecting the draft to call on him to fight in World War II. Amos’ plans to join the Air Force alongside his brothers would soar instead toward a different path. “The small towns in his part of the country relied on dirt and gravel roads, so to make it easier to reach his customers, he

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photo by Matt Cornelius

bought a single-engine, single-seat Aeronca Chief,” according to WES. “He would fly 70- 100 miles to places like El Dorado, Camden and DeQueen, land and catch a ride with a customer to make his sales calls.” He was truly committed to getting this business off the ground. “The day after their wedding, Amos and his bride, Carolyn, set off on a honeymoon business trip. They traveled to Chicago, New York, and Boston to set up the business,” according to WES history. The first official location of WES was in an old grocery store building that Amos and Carolyn rented on West 3rd Street in Texarkana. According to company history, “For [around] three or four months, it was just the two of them, but they quickly expanded on their early success.” By 1952, they built their own 10,000 square-foot building, and by 1969, they needed a 25,000 square-foot facility. Wholesale Electric Supply grew exponentially, and along with it, the family. “My grandfather and grandmother started Wholesale Electric Supply,” said WES Vice President Chris McCulloch. “My grandfather was the warehouse manager, counter sales, inside sales and delivery. My

grandmother was the accountant. They started the company together, and when they started having children, she stayed home, and he kept the business going. One of my favorite memories of working at Wholesale when I was younger was getting to go to my granddad’s office during my breaks and talking about baseball and football.” In 1978, fresh from college, Buddy formally joined his father’s business. Years had passed and WES was nearly unrecognizable; it was not the same company that was once birthed in an old grocery store in town. The industry was changing its face. Modern technologies and advancements flooded the field with no introduction. A newborn environmental movement swept the nation into a different energy conversation. Buddy was eager though, and he packed an arsenal of new ideas for the business. “At that time, it was difficult for a single- house independent electrical distributor to survive the changing times,” according to WES history. “Wholesale Electric needed to grow to maintain [our] sales territory against the competition. So, the company decided

to push outward. The first three or four stores [WES] opened helped recapture their original business from the 40s and 50s, with El Dorado and Magnolia becoming stores number four and five.” In the early 2000s, WES gained another young, college educated McCulloch. Chris, like his father, Buddy, could not have joined the family business sooner because the nation was in the midst of a financial crisis which disrupted critical markets. Chris took a page from his father’s playbook; he came home from college prepared with a fresh set of ideas that helped the company adapt to the change in technology and e-commerce. Today, under the leadership of the second and third generation of McCullochs, Wholesale Electric successfully operates 60 stores while consistently expanding in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and Missouri, and ships to many other states via distribution centers in Little Rock and Dallas. Texarkana’s WES has yet to reach its limit. Compounded with familial strength, ties to the local community are a key component in the company’s cultivation of success. “My favorite thing about the

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company is the people that work here and our customers,” said WES President, Buddy McCulloch. Texarkana continues to share a deep connection among its locals and neighboring cities. The small-town unity may be WES’ “secret sauce.” “We have been able to grow as our community grows and are fortunate enough to be able to give back to the community that has supported us for the past 74 years,” said Chris. “Our motto is ‘Yes, We Can!’” Since Amos founded WES, the company has continued to provide lighting, power distribution and switchgear, safety technology, wire and cable, cable management and raceway, power connection and control, as well as other miscellaneous products. Up-to-date energy saving solutions and options are also offered. “We sell electrical distribution, so, as I like to describe it, anything from light switches to industrial automation controls and everything in between,” said Chris. “One thing that sets us apart from the competition is people and servicing our

hopes for WES’ future are that it remains consistent, “continuing with sound and steady growth.” “The markets we operate in continue to grow at a rapid pace,” said Chris. “Additionally, we are looking at some exciting opportunities in other new areas that would bring Wholesale to the forefront of the electrical distribution industry in terms of size, locations and products.” The McCulloch family could not have foreseen what their company would become. Texarkana gave root to one of the largest businesses in the area, which has been nurtured in love and unceasing ambition. It is within these parameters that WES continues to inspire camaraderie among those who have encouraged its prosperity, which in return has led to a laser-focused family. “One of dad’s most quoted mantras is ‘if we do not take care of our customers, somebody else will,’” said Chris. “Texarkana is full of hard-working people and has a good sense of community that supports their own.”

customers. Also, we run trucks to every store every night so that our stores are stocked for the next day of business. When a customer calls on a Saturday night, our team answers the phone and makes sure they are taken care of, even if that means making an out-of-town delivery on a Sunday morning.” WES’ progress and expansion are indisputable. If history repeats itself, the region should prepare for further potential expansion. Buddy says his The original Wholesale Electric Supply Company location in 1947 submitted photo

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A t the intersection of politics and culture, where our finances and reality connect, we find the shifting landscape of the past two years. Our circumstances and prospects for the future continue to be as unpredictable as the stock market and as unreliable as the recent, randomly forced mandates. Many Americans desire a return to their pre-2019 lives which were untainted by the coronavirus. Today is the tomorrow we feared yesterday, but hoped would never come. The light at the end of the tunnel has grown increasingly dim in the face of a vain and fickle political landscape that seeks to suffocate the future and kill the spirit of Americanism. The American spirit is our lifeblood and can be heard in the sound our heroes utter in silence from the grave. A growing number of Americans, myself included, have become unrelenting in our efforts not to return to a pre-2019 way of life, but to press forward towards a new reality. In this new reality, there is an increased focus on positive economic change and an opportunity to concentrate on personal growth. Greater than these are the acknowledgments of seeds planted and rooted by generations past that still bear fruit. However, there are others asking for change, but ironically those voices seek to silence the legacy and inheritance of America while covertly advocating for a new global agenda, a pseudo-Great Reset. Neither the rise of national socialism nor COVID-19 can contaminate our great national legacy. As we look to Memorial Day, are there lessons from our soldiers, seamen, airmen and marines that can be applied to our post coronavirus environment? There can be no honor or tribute without the sacrifices that are born through service. There can be no healing or mending without the wounds that are born through the pain of battle, and at the highest order, there can be no liberty or freedom unless they are born by the blood of patriots who consistently defeat the evils of tyranny. Remember always that war is indeed war. Regardless of where or when war is fought, foreign or domestic war is hell heaped upon men by men. Hence, we honor and remember the fallen as well as those who have endured the fiery furnace of battle. Memorial Day is solemn, personal and heartfelt as we reminisce about the brave. We who believe in freedom can never rest until the badge of selfless service is passed to the next generation. As the young become champions in battle and professionals in conflict, the old become stewards of history and tellers of great tales that describe the noble deeds of friends who have fallen. I am in limbo, left with detailed memories of watching a female Army Lieutenant and her team burn to death in a vehicle after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) erupted in the night sky, transforming calm into chaos and binding flesh to metal while leaving an eternal stain on us all. The United States of America and its LEST WE FORGET BY CHARLES JORDAN

photo by Matt Cornelius

people charged me, and those I served alongside, with the inevitable task of transporting battle damaged vehicles, and the wreckage of lost humanity in and out of the Iraqi theater of operation. I am an eyewitness and participant in war with the first-hand aroma of the ultimate sacrifice. Death comes to us all, but death with valor is limited to a few. I am left with the harsh reality of watching three Marines die, giving their lives heroically for an increasingly deviant, ungrateful nation filled with entitled adolescent adults who use quick one-liners as weapons of warfare. Nothing can hold your thoughts captive like remembering the cruel nights turning to dark days of stinging loss. War is hell on your body and mind. The foolish continue to compare actual warfare to sociocultural complaining about fighting fallacies of injustice or perceived oppression from the safety of their parents’ basements while securely being indoctrinated by the unproven theories in academe. I remember. I remember the hurt that came with knowing a family member died in Iraq defending this great nation, having walked the same stretches of road that I walked, but called to be an eternal hero. While having his left leg and left hand blown off, the amputation of his other extremities caused a healthy 37-year-old to have a massive heart attack while in trauma surgery. If we forget that war is a personal endeavor that requires intimate sacrifice, we might be tempted to fall under the spell of those who believe healthcare, housing

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and education are inalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator, the God of Abraham. This is the same Creator who is so freely mocked, but called upon by unrecognizable patrons when in dire need of miracles.The down payment for any of our national benefits or entitlements is the blood and sacrifice of those who serve. These same spellbinding ideologies seek to take from those who toil by the sweat of their brow and give openly to

willingly. The goal has always been to fight to the last battle so that our sons and daughters could remain blemish-free. I find that the intolerable mission of those who seek to indoctrinate our youth with themes of socialism comes from the same unseen hand that refuses to take the oath to defend our country. Truly we have seen that socialism’s great ambition is transitioning to a communist society devoid of God and consumed by a

2006—Charles sits atop a tank in Al Ramadi, Iraq. submitted photo

those who have no ownership or investment in hard work or this nation. Great men die and leave behind families who are frozen in time, families continually shunned and shamed by the acolytes of socialism who cheapen the value of true inheritance. Some may ask the veteran: “why should we fight;” “why should we serve;” “why should we risk comfort;” and “why should we sacrifice at all?” The answers are even simpler than the questions. SOMEONE MUST GO! Someone must fight! Someone must serve! Someone must risk it all! Inevitably, someone will die. If we could remember the

tyrannical government. Socialism is incompatible with the spirit of Americanism in much the same manner as communism is the enemy of Christianity. There can be no easier way of establishing socio- communism in the United States than for the masses to forget the fallen and for the old to die without passing along the great tales of men of renown—America’s mighty men of valor. For me, the military history of this nation is inseparable from the history of the American people. This history cannot be separated by race or class and increasingly includes women who have borne the

greatest teaching for a misguided nation, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend,” then well-intended intolerant socialists can see why we serve—for love. Memorial Day brings all generations of service members together into a non-politicized vacuum that harnesses that power of selfless service. The spirit of Americanism is shrouded in the Spirit of God. More than a decade ago, a Vietnam veteran found me feeling sorry for myself while in the Dallas Ft. Worth Airport, feeling as though my years of service were in vain. He told me he did not want me to come home the same way he had. I had no reason to be ashamed. I did not and still do not know his name, only the face of a weathered man, thin as a rail, who hugged me as if I were his son, as if I were a returning hero. As he held me I collapsed in his arms knowing he understood all I

burden of battle. The cause of freedom is joined at the hip with the pursuit of happiness, just as liberty is attached to those who fight tyranny. As a veteran of a foreign war, I am committed to preserving this great democracy and the memory of those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. I could say more as an eyewitness to war, but the certainty is that the road of this democracy, at the intersection of business and politics, is littered with heroic men and women who deserve to be remembered daily. In the future, as the clenched fist of communism and its socialist sibling turn their backs on truly oppressed people, who will answer the call? If not America, then who? If not for selfless service, then for what cause will a brave man die? It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a tyrannical government, but

“ As the young become champions in battle and

professionals in conflict, the old

become stewards of history and tellers of great tales.”

Charles Jordan

had seen and done. I cried like a baby as I looked up at him and could not muster a proper thank you. I am still overwhelmed by the gravity of my service to this great nation, and that service connects me to every other veteran who has ever worn the uniform of this nation with honor and dignity. If we who believe in freedom could offer ourselves again to this great nation we would gladly, without hesitation or evasion, do so

more terrible hands await those who, out of selfishness and pride, fail to seek justice for the orphan and widow. America remembers its fallen on Memorial Day as a tribute not only to heroes who have fallen in battle but a deep salute to the orphans and widows who have sacrificed a loved one for the sake of this great nation. Remember them all on Memorial Day. Lest We Forget.

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FROM THE COUNTRY TO THE COURTROOM

BY L IBBY WHITE PHOTOS BY BR IAN JONES

W hen COVID-19 shut down America in 2020, the Honorable John Tidwell, Texas 202nd District Court Judge, adapted and continued to administer justice in his court. First elected in 2016, he knew the need to press forward. “The way we are set up in Bowie County for the District level, I have half of all the criminal, civil and family law cases,” explained Judge Tidwell. In 2020, he received 800 cases. Despite the pandemic, he continued to work. The Bowie County District Judges tried more cases March through November 2020 than any county in the State of Texas. “Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth… no one tried more cases than we did in Bowie County,” said Judge Tidwell. “We just kept finding ways to do it.” In March 2020, every District Judge in Texas had a Zoom video conferencing license purchased for them. “I didn’t even know what Zoom was,” confessed Judge Tidwell, “and all of a sudden, they gave us a week to learn. I’m elected to work, so that’s what we did.” “But Zoom is not as respectful sometimes,” he acknowledged. “I don’t have funny events in most of my courts, but I have with Zoom. I had a lady

sitting in her car smoking a cigarette in court on Zoom, and I said, for the first time ever in my history of being a judge, ‘Please no smoking in court.’ All of a sudden, she looks at me and puts her cigarette down out of view, but smoke keeps coming up around her face. You’re just like, ‘She doesn’t get it!’” Judge Tidwell also successfully held socially distanced trials at alternate locations. “Last fall, I tried a sexual assault case in the New Boston High School Auditorium on the stage. One of my friends texted me when he saw a picture of it in the paper and said it looked like a high school production of To Kill a Mockingbird . Hopefully, we will get to where we can be back in the jury box.” One of Judge Tidwell’s goals for this year is to resume trials at the Bowie County Courthouse with a full jury because “The greatest thing about America is the jury system,” Judge Tidwell stated. “This is where your peers determine what happens to you. We have people of all age groups, economic statuses, ethnic backgrounds; it doesn’t matter. They get to decide. If I’m going to make somebody do something, I have to make sure that they are safe and comfortable.” When Judge Tidwell was elected, he set the precedent of standing,

along with the rest of the courtroom, for the jurors as they entered, showing his admiration and respect for citizens who report for jury duty. The Judge needs a jury of what he called “twelve fact-finders,” and strong prosecutors because of the intense nature of his caseload. “Predominantly, I’m criminal law heavy,” said Judge Tidwell. “That’s why you’ll read about me in the paper or my prosecutors, Kelley Crisp and Lauren Richards. They are assigned to my courtroom. We constantly deal with very difficult cases. The majority are sexual assault of children, murder cases and aggravated assault. They are the ugliest of the ugly.” When asked what helps him get through the “ugliest of the ugly” cases, he reflected on the closure families receive and the power of victim impact statements at the end of the trial. “There is a thing called victim impact statements in criminal cases,” Judge Tidwell said. “At the end of the case, the victims can speak to the defendant and explain the impact it had on them.” In one particular case in his court, a young man in his 20s got behind the wheel while taking Xanax and caused the death of a woman. “So first, the daughter of the deceased got

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up and said to him, ‘You took away my best friend. Because of you, my children will never get to meet their grandmother.’ And then the husband of the deceased got up and said, ‘Because of you, I sleep alone at night and will forever.’ And so, you see the impact that the people have in my cases,” the Judge explained. “I’ve had sexual assault cases where I sentenced somebody to 50 years or 60 years. The women who were children at the time they were sexually assaulted would run to each other and hug each other. You can’t call it joy, but you can call it closure. That’s something so many people need. We help them get to a place of closure.” Everyone in his courtroom is treated equally and with respect. Kelley Crisp was assigned to Judge Tidwell’s court after her promotion to First Assistant

According to the Bowie County Elections Office, he won the highest popular vote in the county. “When I campaigned, I made one promise,” said Judge Tidwell. “I would treat anybody who came in front of me with dignity and respect, no matter their stature in life or what attorney they had with them. Litigation is volatile within itself. When you live in a world of chaos, you have to be neutral and comforting. I may rule against you, but I’m not going to take it out on you. Every day I do something that affects people for the rest of their lives. I take that into consideration, and that’s my motivation: to try and do it right.” His careful consideration of each case is just one reason Judge Tidwell is respected in his courtroom. “He has a very highly developed sense of justice and always does the right thing even when it is not easy,”

District Attorney in January 2019. According to Crisp, “Being in front of him in the 202nd District Court is an honor. Judge Tidwell has the ideal temperament for his position. He is calm and collected, and he’s steadfast in his

said John Mercy of Mercy Carter, LLP. “His upbringing in the west end of Bowie County taught him basic values that are important to administering justice.”

ded i c at i on to justice and the equal treatment of everyone. A court date does not go by where the families of the defendant and the victim don’t tell him ‘thank you’ because he does not show favoritism, and he is so respectful of everyone involved. He realizes how hard the cases are for both sides, especially their families.” After a successful first term, Judge Tidwel l was re-elected in November 2020.

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Judge Tidwell grew up in DeKalb, Texas, and received his Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, along with his wife, Cathy. “We both went to A&M but never dated,” said the Judge. “I came back to Texarkana as an Ag Teacher for Texas High School. The school secretary knew when Cathy was going to be signing her contract at the superintendent’s office and arranged for me to go and bump into Cathy to ask her out. This June, we will have 38 years of marriage.” In 1984, when Texas slashed the budgets for vocational education, Judge Tidwell had a decision to make: move to a smaller school with an Ag program or do something else. “That’s when I got the idea to go to law school,” he said. Judge Tidwell attended South Texas College of Law from 1985 to 1988, around the same time that the Bowie County Courthouse was constructed. “Being from DeKalb, I would drive on I-30 past here going to Texarkana with my wife. I would always tap her and say, ‘One day, I’m going to be a judge there.’ I practiced law for almost 30 years and then went for the judgeship.” During his three decades of practicing law, and now as the 202nd District Court Judge, his steadfast character and reputation have made him a respected leader among the local Bar. “Throughout my experience with Judge Tidwell, as both an attorney and a judge, he has been consistent in his careful approach to the application of the law and his genuine desire to seek justice,” said Attorney David Glass of Smith Weber, LLP. “Attributes of a good judge include legal knowledge, compassion, judicial temperament, integrity and character, and Judge Tidwell exemplifies these traits.” Outside the courthouse, Judge Tidwell enjoys spending time with Cathy, their son, Jackson, and daughter, Jordan, both graduates of Oklahoma State University. “The main thing I wanted my children to learn was to be kind and respectful and always be an encouragement to people,” said Judge Tidwell. “Our goal as a family is to have fun. We are a Disney family. We find things to enjoy together… anything where laughter’s involved.” Staying true to his agricultural roots, Judge Tidwell plants a garden each year and is building a raised bed garden this spring for Jackson and his wife, Amelie. The couple is expecting their first child, and Judge Tidwell’s first grandchild, in September 2021. When he is not trying a case in court, digging in his garden, or at Disney World with his family, you can find Judge Tidwell on the back of a motorcycle for “wind therapy,” as he calls it. “I don’t look like a motorcyclist,” Judge Tidwell admitted. “It’s something to distract my mind, and I will get out and go.” In 2016, he rode 3,000 miles round trip to Sturgis, South Dakota, after he won his first election as the 202nd District Court Judge. In a position like Judge Tidwell’s, compassion and integrity are vital components to achieving real justice. He is the person for this role since these are the hallmark characteristics that define him. Add to that his love of fun and adventure and his green thumb, and you find a man who is truly growing more than a garden. He is sowing a legacy of honor that is sure to reap rewards for not just his family, but for Bowie County and beyond.

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LIFE TRAINING IN DISGUISE BY TERRI GRAVITT

photo by Matt Cornelius

“There are so many things that theatre teaches that are lessons everyone needs in life.” explains Meredith Farren and Susannah Linnett, sisters, co-producers, managers and visionaries behind Silvermoon Children’s Theatre. “Through the process of auditions, weeks and weeks of rehearsals, making friendships, following rules, letting loose and not being afraid to laugh at themselves when they make mistakes, we have seen kids stretch and grow and excel at things that might not be in their wheelhouse. But they are given a safe place to try and try again with encouragement from their theatre family. We hope that through this process they will gain the confidence to do the hard things outside of the theatre on their way to being successful in life.” The beauty of this mission is how it has become a reality for so many of the theatre’s participants. April McCright, mother of David and Mark McCright, who have both been on the Silvermoon stage shared, “David learned the value of hard work and being prepared. He learned to respect other people, to be patient, and that every person is important for a job to succeed. Mark learned

that he does have a voice. He gained self-confidence and found that he could have fun in front of people.” McCright recalls, “There was a show that David auditioned for that he was not chosen for. I remember how disappointed he felt when he found out that he didn’t make it. I was not sure if he would try again. However, he was not disappointed for long. He was determined to be successful and make Ms. Susannah and Ms. Meredith proud! When he was able to audition again, he worked on his monologue for weeks, making sure it was perfect. He walked into auditions with a confidence that he did not have in previous auditions. He was determined and ready for the audition.” David’s hard work paid off, and he was given the role of the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Farren and Linnett’s father, Chief Justice of the Sixth Court of Appeals, Josh Morriss, and their mother Diana Morriss, opened Silvermoon on Broad in September 2011 as an event center downtown. Josh is a lifelong resident of Texarkana and has always had a love for theatre and a dream of bringing life back to the downtown area. When doing the renovations, the couple decided

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submitted photos

to put a theatre within the Silvermoon on Broad space. This theatre was destined to become home to Silvermoon Children’s Theatre. “My parents run the event center and own the buildings, and Susannah and I run the Children’s Theatre and rent the space we use from them,” shares Farren. The Silvermoon Hotel once claimed this downtown property, and the Silvermoon on Broad was named in homage to the unique history of the space. One of Linnett’s most treasured childhood memories is the time she spent working in theatre alongside her dad. Together, they built sets for TexRep and worked backstage. She later got her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Baylor University and worked for professional theaters in Dallas, including Dallas Children’s Theatre and Theatre Three. While Linnett put theatre on hold for a bit to grow her family, she continued to build props for local productions. At the same time, Farren’s daughter, Abby, was getting interested in theatre, performing in a couple of stage shows in Texarkana. So, with this family’s shared passion and the perfect location, their doors and hearts were wide open to the opportunity

of creating Silvermoon Children’s Theatre! Linnett shared, “I’ve always wanted to be involved in doing theatre, but being a mother came first. Once we realized that we could use Silvermoon as our home base, I knew it would be something my kiddos and I could do together. Working with my sister, parents and niece was a perk!” Opening the theatre has truly been a family affair. “I completely enjoy working with my sister, who is patient and loving, stays calm under pressure, has specific ideas about how she wants things to look and knows how to communicate those thoughts well. She knows how to work with me and my craziness as we work together in this symbiotic dance of knowing the places we work best and what we can be successful doing,” Farren said. “Susannah is the Executive Director, which means she is in charge, even though I like to be bossy. She does all the blocking and choreography and sets the overall design and direction of the show, in set, costumes, lighting, etc. She also keeps up with the website and does all our graphic design. I get to work behind the scenes. I do the scheduling, list making, keeping up with accounting books, ticketing, lobby/patron

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T E X A R K A N A M A G A Z I N E

Sisters, Meredith Farren and Suzannah Linnett,

co-producers, managers and visionaries of Silvermoon Children’s Theatre

experience, headshots and headshot boards and most of our social media presence.” “We also have the great gift of being able to work with our parents in this endeavor,” Farren continues. Always willing to help SCT shine, the girls’ mother, Diana, also known as “Ms. Honey,” has become Seamstress and Musical Director. Ms. Honey has come up with the most beautiful costumes, including the beautiful ‘coat of many colors’ for Joseph in the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “She has such a gift of working with fabric and always makes our actors look amazing. She’s a dream!” Linnett’s dreams of set design are brought to life by their father. As the ‘set guy’ he is the one who comes up with creative solutions, keeping in mind budget and the size parameters of the theatre’s stage. “He helps with many technical issues too,” Farren says, “such as focusing lights and figuring out special effects. He’s a genius!” Anything the girls need done, their parents are always there to help. Farren lovingly claims, “They are the real MVPs of this operation!” Silvermoon has brought much joy over the years to both the children participating and Texarkana’s residents by producing and bringing a combination of musicals and plays, some purchased, and some adapted in house from classic stories, such as Godspell , Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat , A Christmas Story , Annie , Pollyanna , You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown , Into the Woods , Shrek and their most

recent and 21st main-stage production of Clue: On Stage . In August, they will begin auditions for their upcoming show, Legally Blonde, Jr . Auditions are generally open for kids in Kindergarten through 12th grades, but the age range may narrow if the subject matter is better suited for older kids. For musicals, the children are asked to prepare a section of a song to sing a cappella that highlights their voice range and personality. Also, for a musical audition, they walk the kids through a pitch matching exercise so they can determine how well they can hear a note and match it with their voices. “We want kids to be able to answer questions, take direction and have fun. It is not about having a perfect audition,” Farren shares, “but about being able to roll with the punches and handle the experience with confidence, even if they are nervous.” Silvermoon also offers summer camps. Kids will put in about 25 hours of training and playing during a week of camp and learn the entire process of how to put a show together in only one week. They then have public performances at the end of the week to show off all they have learned. It is fast and furious, but can give kids a taste of the work that has to go into a main-stage show with only a week’s commitment. The week-long camps are for ages seven to fifteen. This summer, the week-long options are The Grunch , which is a musical inspired by The Grinch Who Stole Christmas , and the non-musical option, Survivor: All Stars . They also offer Production Camp,

which is for older kids finishing seventh grade to kids finishing twelfth grade, who have had theatre experience. Production camps are two weeks, and, in that time, they put together a full-length show. This summer’s production camp show offering is Snoopy: The Musical . For more information or to register your child, please visit the SCT website at silvermoonkids.com. “Silvermoon Children’s Theatre is a wonderful place run by two amazing women!” shares Jamie Martin, parent to Joshua Martin. Joshua has been with Silvermoon for over two years now. “Meredith and Susannah expect the kids to work hard, which teaches a great life lesson at an early age. They are also their biggest cheerleaders! We have been nothing but happy with our experience at SCT. Every time we watch him in a performance, we are so impressed with how much he has grown both socially and theatrically.” This family’s shared passion for the theatre, under the leadership of Meredith Farren and Susannah Linnett, will be part of their incredible legacy. The obvious benefits children receive as a result of participating in theatre arts are increased self-confidence, improved communication skills, and strong self-expression. However, there are less dramatic benefits as well, such as teamwork and the ability to work through challenges to reach a goal and to receive and accept critiques. As Farren and Linnett often say, “Live theatre is just life… make it count. You live it and then it’s gone.”

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BY MARY MIDDLEBROOKS PHOTOS BY MAT T CORNEL IUS BATTER UP

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four years old, basketball around age six, soccer at age seven, and standing behind us through it all was our dad, coach and our biggest supporter, Tom Middlebrooks. I can remember my first big toy being a tee-ball kit to play with in the backyard. I learned the game, not from my team’s coach, but from my father. Although I did not go far with sports, I will always be thankful for the coach I had in Tom Middlebrooks. He taught us not only the sport, but discipline, respect and appreciation for those who were molding us into the players we would grow up to be, on and off the field. Although he was rarely the coach of our own teams, he was always there, coaching from behind the chain-link fence, making sure we played with all our hearts and that, most importantly, we had fun doing so. Coach Middlebrooks’ local baseball training facility brings children as young as eight all the way to collegiate level athletes, through its doors, desperate to become better at this beloved

As Billy Beane questioned in the movie Moneyball , “HOW CAN YOU NOT BE ROMANTIC ABOUT BASEBALL?” We love going to the games. We love the atmosphere. P eople go crazy over the players, the rules, the stadium and the food. But only a few pay attention to the mechanics that go into making the sport what it really is. Baseball is not all about natural talent; it is about the techniques perfected by the players after countless swings and after running plays repetitively over many years. Different players have different batting stances, they throw the ball in different ways and may even run in ways that make them stand apart from the rest. No two players are the same. On the field, they get the attention

they deserve, but the other stars of the game who are often overlooked are the coaches and trainers who work with these athletes day-in and day-out. In Texarkana, we are lucky to have many great coaches and first-class facilities that are invaluable in producing hometown baseball stars with the skill and techniques needed to dominate the game we all love so much. Tom Middlebrooks, a local teacher and coach, is the owner and operator of iHit. iHit is a baseball training facility in Liberty Eylau, where baseball and softball players and entire teams can go to work on their skills to improve their playing

game. iHit began with basic hitting and pitching lessons offered at the Liberty-Eylau baseball field. It has evolved over the years into an important addition to the training schedules of many athletes in the Texarkana community. You walk in to Fenway green walls, batting cages, pitching mounds and a flag representing each Major League Baseball team. It is a baseball lover’s dream. What is special about this place is its friendly, judgment-free atmosphere where everyone is welcome. There is music playing, people laughing and players focused on getting better. It is a great atmosphere, not only for the

ability. Middlebrooks has been involved in sports all of his life, including being instrumental in his own children’s ball-playing careers. He was not only a high school athlete, but a college athlete as well. Remaining heavily involved in a sports lifestyle and now in his sixties, still teaching all he knows to young, aspiring athletes. Coach Middlebrooks is retiring this year from Liberty-Eylau High School where he has held multiple coaching positions, including head baseball coach. Though retiring from school sports, he still opens his doors to local athletes to instill in them all he knows about the game he loves. He is married to Julie Middlebrooks, an art teacher at Red Lick Middle School, and has three children who all love sports, thanks to his great influence; Will (former MLB third baseman), Lacey (Head Volleyball and Softball coach at Liberty Eylau High School), and of course, me, Mary Middlebrooks. Growing up, sports were involved in our lives from the minute we could walk. I remember playing tee-ball at three or

players, but for the parents who enjoy watching their children do what they love. These athletes grow from children to star- studded high school baseball and softball athletes, exceeding even Middlebrooks’ high expectations. Not only does Middlebrooks have a love for the game, he has an extensive knowledge of it as well. He has spent a lifetime training, studying, playing and bettering himself in order to now better others through all he has learned. His knowledge has taken young coach-pitch players and made them collegiate stars. I have always believed Tom Middlebrooks will still be coaching baseball and softball players when he can no longer stand. The man lives and breathes baseball and now spends his time spreading his love of the game to everyone who walks through the doors. To me, my siblings and the many who have had the privilege of being coached by him, Coach Middlebrooks is truly a hometown baseball legend.

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GOOD EVENING TXK

COLUMN BY BAI LEY GRAVITT

photo by Matt Corneliius

SIX THINGS TO DO IN MAY! Twice As Fine Texarkana Wine Festival at Spring Lake Park—May 1 If there is wine, I will be there, thank you! This event will be so much fun! It is the sixth annual Texarkana Wine Festival, where wineries, local businesses and merchants of all kinds set up booths to promote their services, sell their unique products and sponsor amazing wine brands! (For example, the Heritage Home Health and Hospice team, of which I’m so lucky to be a part, will be at this event sponsoring Zinfandel, and I could not be more excited! Come see me!) We can’t forget about the great music, fun activities and even food tastings that will be available as well! I am looking forward to this for several obvious reasons, and I hope to see a big turnout! This event is brought to you by Alzheimer’s Alliance Tri- State Area. Runnin’ WJ Ranch Big Bass Roundup at Crossties and Wright Patman Lake—May 7-8 I remember my pop trying to teach me how to fish back in the day (for someone E ach year as the month of May once again rears its head, I reminisce about the good old days when scratching the contacts right out of my itchy, painfully bloodshot, watery eyes was just another Monday at school for me. Even after replacing the first set with another pair I would carry in my backpack, I’d again find myself with at

least one completely dried out contact by the end of the day, and many people asking me why I had been “crying.” Allergy season has never been kind to me and while I’m delighted to see everything blooming and bursting with color just the way God intended, I cannot help but also wonder why He would allowme to be this (near-deathly)

water for a five-hour waiting game, then doing it with prize money on the line is a great opportunity. Add a great cause like raising money for Runnin’ WJ Ranch, and it’s a no-brainer. The entry fee for this big bass tournament is $80. You may qualify for two bonus hours with purchase of a $20 t-shirt! There will be hourly and overall prize money. The tournament will take place at Wright Patman Lake at Sportsman Cove. Additional information will be posted, and more information can be found on the official event Facebook page. 63rd Annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at Texarkana College—May 15 FINALLY, finally, after all this time writing about Texarkana events, month after month, it FINALLY feels like I have found an event that was made specifically with me in mind. Anyone who knows me knows that food is the way to my heart. For over 60 years straight, the Kiwanis Club of Texarkana has been hosting a pancake breakfast to raise money for the nonprofits in our community. With or without a worthy cause, I would be first in line, devouring these delicious cakes, but allergic to all the pollen in the air, coating the lovely vehicles of Texarkana with its menacing yellow film. If you see me out and about this month at some of the outstanding events Texarkana has to offer, and my eyes are bloodshot or I’m sneezing, do not worry, it’s not COVID… so mind ya business!

Live Music Opportunities! Texarkana might as well be known for its love of live music! We are blessed with some amazing bands too! Here are just some of the fantastic opportunities to catch these bands around T-Town this month! May 7—T-Town 5 at Redbone May 8—Bart Crow at 67 Landing May 16—Relentless Unplugged at Redbone May 21—Jed Harrelson, One Night Only at Whiskey River May 29—Lee and Sheila at Redbone

who is only 23 years old, I sure say “back in the day” a lot). I also remember how bored I would get after my line was sitting in the water for two whole minutes. I just wanted to go back to the dock and play on my mom’s phone. Some of you are much more patient than I am. And if you are going to sit on the

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