February 2021

Texarkana Magazine





TEXARKANA MONTHLY February | 2021 | Volume 2 | Issue 2

38. LIFE Two In The Canoe 42. STYLE More Than Four Walls

10. BUSINESS Love Works 14. POLITICS Be Somebody



30. SPORTS In The Running 36. ENTERTAINMENT Page Thirty-Six



16. cover/COMMUNITY A Heart Made Whole 20. CULTURE The Entertainer’s Home 24. CULTURE Behind the Climb

46. LIFE Home Is Where The Heart Is 48. STYLE Gifts For Your Favorite Girl 50. TXK ROOTS Mark McWilliams

2801 Richmond Road • Suite 38 Texarkana, Texas 75503 903.949.1460 letstalk@texarkanamonthly.com texarkanamonthly.com Publisher CARDINAL PUBLISHING Staff CASSY MEISENHEIMER cassy@texarkanamonthly.com

CASSY MEISENHEIMER Love is when your differences make no difference.

TERRI SANDEFUR Love is honesty, trust and getting coffee served in bed every morning.

KARA HUMPHREY Love is that person who feels like home.

TERRI SANDEFUR terri@texarkanamonthly.com

KARA HUMPHREY kara@texarkanamonthly.com

LEAH ORR Love is not what you say but what you do.

MOLLY KENDRICK Love is that one special person you can annoy for the rest of your life.

MEGAN GRIFFIN “Love is the whole thing. We are only the pieces.” —Rumi

LEAH ORR leah@texarkanamonthly.com

MOLLY KENDRICK molly@texarkanamonthly.com

MEGAN GRIFFIN megan@texarkanamonthly.com


MATT CORNELIUS Love is being able to do for others and genuinely not expecting anything in return.

LIZ FLIPPO Love is really all you need.

BAILEY GRAVITT Love is giving someone your last Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.



TERRI GRAVITT Love is a choice.

JEFF HART Love is a journey, not a destination.

TIFFANY HORTON Love is beautiful.




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

CAROL COLLINS-MILES Love is embracing your creative liberties.

EMILY SARINE Love is 1 Corinthians 13.

JONATHAN WEAVER Love is the soul’s

recognition of its counterpart in another.




F ebruary is the month we look forward to each year that smells of roses and chocolates! Did you know Valentine’s Day in 2020 added over $25 billion to the economy, all in the name of celebrating love? Love evokes so many feelings that can be hard to define or even express in words. When I think of love, I think about actions. I think of how my husband does the dishes and packs our kids’ lunches every day. It is those small daily gestures that show his selfless love for us, setting aside whatever he would rather do (even

1. The Lord Jesus Christ is real! Over time praying for his faith to increase, he never expected that prayer to be answered through the loss of his wife. Nevertheless, when his faith could have been weakened, it was made strong. 2. Stay on good terms with those in your life. Strive never to walk away from a person in disagreement or resentment. Resolve things quickly because you never know when someone may walk away for

the last time. Kiss and hug your loved ones as much as possible. 3. We are not promised tomorrow, so do not take your loved ones for granted. Anything can happen. Put God and family first… and put the phone down! 4. Be grateful! We do not seem

if it is just relaxing on the couch), to help keep our family running and take some responsibility off me. When I think of love, I think about my girl gang, providing my family with dinner and helping with my kids while I was on a mission trip to Rwanda and my dad helping me start Texarkana Monthly . I think of the act of apologizing, the ability to go beyond the defensiveness of the ego. I think about our Texarkana Monthly team. They do way more than they are expected or paid to do, showing they care. I think of the ability to listen to each other during a time of hurt and how my kids fill my heart when they give me hugs… You get the picture. In all these circumstances, I feel supported, heard and cared for. It makes me feel valued as a human being. So, when I think of love, I think about the actions others have taken and exhibit consistently in a commitment to be loving. It seems simple, but it never really is because love is an ongoing practice, cultivated through care and attention. I also think of the real world we live in today, which is full of opposition and

to recognize what we have until it is gone. Pay attention

to the blessings you have and be thankful for them. 5. Give from your heart. The real legacy you leave has nothing to do with material things or money. It is no secret February is all about hearts, and not just the candy kind. It is also American Heart Month designed to raise awareness about heart health. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women. The beautiful woman on this month’s cover of Texarkana Monthly is Megan Menefee. This year marks ten years since her diagnosis with a cardiovascular heart defect. Megan is someone who is obviously stunning on the outside, but also radiates love from the inside

anger and sometimes impedes valued relationships by trying to push us against one another instead of uniting us. I believe if we do not anchor ourselves with a foundation of spiritual love, we could be swept away. My husband recently lost his cousin in a tragic accident that could not have been predicted. It makes you gasp in sorrow for the loved ones she left behind. Her husband recently shared some important lessons he has learned during his grieving about love.

through her words and actions. I know her personally as a loving daughter, wife, mother, sister-in-law, friend and workout partner. Clinically she may have had a hole in her heart, but she has always been someone I know to give her whole heart to love others. Remember, when you are doing your part to stimulate the economy this Valentine’s Day, do it locally. We have incredible advertisers that can help make this Valentine’s the best your love has ever had! Spread love and kindness and shop local! XOXO,





W ith most couples, “to have and to hold” does not include a daily serving of queso and chips, delicious green salsa or shrimp rancheros. However, power couple and Amigo Juan owners, Maria and Sergio Rodriguez, have been cooking and serving up these popular menu

business with Maria’s family. Maria’s brother opened the family’s first restaurant location in Hope, Arkansas. After seeing his success, Sergio decided to try his hand at opening his own location in Texarkana. While searching for a location, they had to make a choice from a business and personal perspective regarding the right place for them to raise

them to miss each other just enough to be delighted to come together once again at the end of the workday. Sergio and Maria’s story is different. “We do not know any different,” they said. “We enjoy being able to help each other and we have learned to take advantage of the strengths the other offers. We love what we do. We want to

items for the past 18 years, while also finding a way to keep their love alive. A power couple could be defined as two equal partners who complement each other and whose relationship is based on mutual respect and appreciation—more about collaboration and less about competition. In the words of an unknown source, “Be a boss. Date a boss. Build an empire.” This is exactly what the Rodriguezs have done! Sergio and Maria were both born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico. Sergio was 16-years-

offer the best experience and food for everyone when people come in.” “I admire how Sergio can bring the best out of the staff and is able to organize and plan for the work ahead,” shared Maria. Sergio has an equally deep appreciation for his wife. “Maria is always there to help me. She is very positive and loves to work and talk to everyone.” The environment they have created, of both mutual respect and a desire to serve Texarkana to the best of their ability, trickles down to their staff and is felt

old and Maria was 15-years-old when they met at a mutual friend’s quinceañera. Proving all those wrong who say you cannot meet and fall in love with the person you are going to marry at age 15, they made it official by marrying and starting their life together in 1994. When they moved to the United States, the couple began working in the restaurant

their family. They visited Texarkana and based on its “perfect size,” felt it would be ideal. Their dreams became a reality when the doors opened at Amigo Juan Texarkana in 2003. They went to work determined and did it together! Despite the love shared between spouses, most couples have an eight-hour daily break from one another, which allows

in the overall atmosphere experienced while dining at Amigo Juan. There is a real “mom and pop” atmosphere felt as soon as you walk in the door. Everything about it shouts “welcome,” starting with the hostess who greets you, the bright, bold colors and charming décor that pull you in and the friendly service you receive from the servers. It has become a Texarkana favorite




photo by Molly Kendrick

Perhaps a truer meaning for “power” as it is reflected in this hard-working couple would be centered on their ability to embrace and celebrate each other while also embracing and celebrating the community they serve. In the words of Gandhi himself, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” What if we could all embrace each other more? What if we could all celebrate each other more? What if we could all serve each other more? The example of Maria and Sergio Rodriguez has shown us a picture of what that might look like, both through their marriage and business. In that spirit, let us pull up to the table, raise our margaritas high, munch on some chips and salsa and toast Amigo Juan, this incredible couple, and all they have built together.

for gatherings of friends and family to eat and celebrate just about anything from birthdays to graduations. As with any marriage and small business, there are always new struggles and issues to deal with, but no one could have imagined the struggles 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic would bring, especially to restaurants, including frustrating shutdowns and limited seating restrictions. Sergio and Maria did not let that stop them, but rose to the challenge and focused on what they could control. “We had to face the unknown, just like so many others did. We had to learn to adjust and lean on each other even more than we had. The pandemic brought us closer, put us through challenges, but also taught us how to overcome barriers, improve productivity and even advance our ways.” As they look forward to brighter days, their mission is to continue with the same

“try our best to do our best” principles they have always had and keep their one longstanding goal in mind, to “Treat others the way you want to be treated. We want to serve the community and our staff by example, while doing what is right and helping when it is needed.” Twenty-seven years in and they are still going strong and have been blessed with three children, Erika (25), Sergio (19) and Nicholas (12). Erika works as a Speech and Language Pathologist. Sergio is in business school and Nicholas is in the seventh grade. The jury is still out about whether any of their children will be interested in following in their parents’ footsteps and taking over the business, but Sergio and Maria are not worried. “They have grown up calling the restaurant their second home. We know if one of them chooses to take over some day, they will work just as hard and do great in the family business.”







A fter announcing I was running for the Texarkana, Arkansas Board of Directors for Ward 6, a common response was, “Why would you want to do that?” The negative feedback was overwhelming: “You are going to have to give up a lot of your time for no pay.” “You are not going to be able to make everyone happy.” “You are opening yourself to criticism.” As I pondered these comments, I would not be honest if I did not say I second guessed my decision on more than one occasion. However, I am an overcomer and truly believe, despite such comments, serving others is a calling we all share. We have gotten ourselves into a situation where government service is seen to be a political act rather than an act of civic duty or public service. I believe there is no higher calling than to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the world. Mike Huckabee once said, “If you want to be a politician, you cannot be scared to see your own blood.” Therefore, I have moved forward and by the grace of God I was elected to the position. Public service must be more than a job done efficiently and honestly. In my roll, it must be a complete dedication to the constituents of Ward 6 and to the city of Texarkana, Arkansas. One of the best lessons I have learned is that not everything in a life well-lived should be about you. It is about service! Public service is about serving everyone, including those who may not support you. We must be willing to help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover, while public service improves others’ lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring to your own life. So, why serve? As I ride the potholed, patched streets of Texarkana, Arkansas, I ask myself, “Why doesn’t somebody do something?” As I see litter everywhere, I ask myself, “Why doesn’t somebody do something?” Then I realized I am somebody! This reminds me of the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.” The common sense point here is simple. Successful people take personal responsibility for their lives and success. They do not procrastinate, they act. They set lofty goals and then do whatever it takes to achieve them. Take responsibility for your life and success. As the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody points out, you must act. Do what you need to do to become the success you want and deserve to be.

I have decided I want to become the change I hope to see in the world. I have never liked the word “Politician.” I like to refer to myself as a “Citizen Legislator.” A successful “Citizen Legislator” today must have and communicate a sense of intelligence and integrity and must work. 1 Peter 4:10 paraphrased says we should all use the gifts we have been given to serve one another faithfully, administering God’s grace. In this new role, I want to inspire greatness from not only my fellow board members, but my mayor and the city staff. The most effective leaders do not just stand in front of people, they stand behind them too. You qualify to be first by putting other people first, and this leads to extraordinary outcomes. As a Zig Ziglar certified trainer, my favorite quote is, “You can have everything in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” It is very important for me to help my constituents move from being frustrated voters who are disgusted with the system, to engaged citizens who realize participation in public policy truly matters. We are at a turning point in this country. I feel it is our responsibility to join together in solving problems and making informed decisions that shape the future of Texarkana. These decisions affect us all! I did not run to push a political agenda; I ran to serve the public and make my city function better. Most people are looking for someone who will listen and make fair decisions. One thing I have learned in life is to always listen to understand, not to respond. My life has been a gift up to this point, and I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination. Wherever this ride takes me is where I am going. I believe in faith, family and country. For me, it really is that simple.










H eart-shaped candy boxes, heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped cookies… February really is all about the heart. Every year, we use the fourteenth to celebrate those we love and express to them how much they mean to us. However, our heart obsession is not limited to the parties and confections of Valentine’s Day. February is also National Heart Month and serves to bring awareness to the importance of heart health and the millions across the nation who suffer with heart conditions. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February “National Heart Month.” Over half a century later, the observation of Heart Month is still going strong. “Heart disease remains the single largest health threat to Americans—just as it was when LBJ was alive. Heart disease continues to kill more people each year than all forms of cancer combined.” according to heart.com . For many people, it is possible to recognize heart abnormalities at birth, but for Megan Menefee it was not as obvious.

She was 30 years old when she discovered a problem, a problem which to that point had caused her no real issues. It was almost by accident that her husband Dr. Kip Menefee, a Cardiothoracic Anesthesiologist, discovered something that gave him pause. “My husband, Kip, and I go snow skiing every year. It is our favorite hobby together. We had just returned from a ski trip in January 2010, and I wasn’t feeling very well. (It was) nothing major, just feeling a little under the weather with a sore chest and cough, possibly an upper respiratory infection,” Megan said. “I was kind of whiney and asked Kip to listen to my chest. To appease me, he put his ear on my chest thinking he was being funny. However, he leaned back with a bit of concern on his face and said, ‘Let me go get my stethoscope.’ He then listened and said, ‘Tomorrow, make an appointment to get an echocardiogram.’ I remember exactly, he said, ‘You have a harsh heart murmur.’ The

c r a z y thing was that all throughout his medical school and residency, he would listen to my

chest and heart sounds with his stethoscope to practice and never once heard anything out of the ordinary. Even growing up, my father, who was also a physician, would listen to my chest whenever I was sick, and he too never remembers hearing anything odd.” Though shocked, Megan did exactly as Kip suggested. “The next day I made an appointment with my primary care provider for an echo. I tried not to panic, but instead




really scared me. I was young and healthy and didn’t want a big scar running down the middle of my chest.” After much research, it was determined that an Amplatzer Septal Occluder would be the best course of action for treating Megan’s condition. In this procedure, a catheter is placed in a vein in the leg leading to the heart. The device used to close the hole is then run through the catheter up to the problem area where the procedure can be completed. This was great news to Megan because it would mean no major heart surgery. “I went in for my procedure in April 2010. After I woke, I excitedly asked if everything went ok and if the hole was closed. In my sedated fog, I could tell by the look on my husband’s face and the

stay calm and figure out what was going on.” Through that appointment, it was confirmed that Megan indeed had a heart murmur. Pressing the issue further, Kip reviewed a recent EKG she had gotten as a requirement for gym membership. He found an abnormality, that when combined with a heart murmur, typically indicates an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), which is a hole in the wall between the heart’s upper chambers. “I was really only looking for sympathy and attention for feeling crummy, and he found something major.” Megan then went to see a local cardiologist. She had an echo with bubble study done, which is used to identify potential problems with blood flow within the heart. For this study, saline mixed with a

21 minutes. “My entire surgery lasted about four hours,” she said. Following one night in the Intensive Care Unit, and then moved to a private room for one additional night, Megan was discharged from the hospital. Follow-up appointments were necessary, but after six weeks Megan was able to return to her normal activity with only five small scars on the right side of her rib cage. “You can hardly see any of them,” she reports. “This experience definitely increased my faith. I can look back and see the path that God put me on and since then have trusted (Him) fully.” Kip and Megan are exceedingly grateful for the way things turned out. “Looking back, had we gotten pregnant before we made this discovery,

small amount of air, creating tiny bubbles, is injected into the patient’s vein. The mixture circulates to the heart. In a normal situation, the bubbles would be filtered out, but if there is a small opening between the chambers of the heart, the bubbles will move through the hole from the right chamber to the left, and this activity shows up on the echocardiogram image. Using this test, they determined the problem was between the upper chambers of Megan’s heart,

the outcome may not have been good. Kip and I did eventually have one son, Asher, who is six now. We continue our annual tradition of snow skiing and this year plan to introduce Asher to the sport. Fingers crossed, he loves it as much as his dad and I do!” The heart can be tricky and turning it over into someone else’s hands can be scary. In Megan’s case, however, things could not have turned out better. The research and development of new

BEFORE Megan’s heart before the surgery.

AFTER Megan’s heart after the surgery to repair the hole.

showing a hole between the right and left atria. It was a very scary realization for her. “Up to this point I had held myself together, but when I saw the bubbles move across and the look on Kip’s face, I knew it was bad and I broke down in tears. This confirmed what Kip had suspected.” Megan could not believe what was happening. Would she really need open-heart surgery? “I was terrified,” she said. Megan slowly came to terms with all the ways her life would be altered. “Kip and I had started talking about starting a family. I was told I absolutely could not get pregnant because I would likely not make it through childbirth. That was scary. The thought of having to have my chest cut open for a sternotomy in order to have heart surgery

cardiologist’s face that it wasn’t good. I was informed the hole was too large and would need to be closed surgically.” Open-heart surgery would be necessary after all, and once again Megan was terrified. Kip and Megan decided to check into the possibility of robotic open-heart surgery. When it was determined that Megan was a candidate, her surgery was scheduled for September 14, 2010. The da Vinci Robot, using its five robotic arms, was placed in the right side of Megan’s chest. “A piece of the pericardium, the sack that surrounds the heart, was cut to fit the size of the hole in my heart,” Megan explains. The ASD was very large and measured about four centimeters. While the heart was being repaired, Megan was placed on cardiopulmonary bypass for

technologies that have occurred since that first National Heart Month in 1964 have made it possible for patients like Megan to experience tremendous outcomes. Without organizations like The American Heart Association and the dedicated medical professionals of this city and others across the nation, these advancements would not have been possible. The unsung heroes of this story and the ones closest to her heart are the members of Megan’s family and her closest friends who supported her and loved her through the hardest of days. Megan had the support she needed, medically and emotionally, and it made all the difference. When it is your heart at stake, it is those closest to you that truly fill all the holes.






T he communal roots of talented artists find their homes in the twin cities. Growing up here, I enjoyed the music of my parents, Professor Samuel and Rosie Williamson-Collins, both singers of gospel music and pianists. After performing with the Dunbar High School Marching Band in 1968, I continued my music studies with the late Bob Ingram, former Texarkana Independent School District Supervisor of the Instrumental Music Program. I also enjoyed singing in the choir. So, needless to say, my love of music has a firm foundation, laid by these great cities full of talented musicians. I learned much about music at home. But while living in Paris, France, I was introduced to Texarkana’s legendary composer Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime.” My friends in Paris inspired me and made me grateful for my newly discovered knowledge of Scott Joplin and his music. They were able to recount the rag timer’s complete music history. When I returned to Texarkana, I fulfilled my aspirations of helping promote Scott Joplin to this area. On previous visits home since the early 80s, it seemed Texarkana residents barely knew his name! He was the nation’s first renowned composer to sell a million copies (accumulatively) of a song. His “Maple Leaf Rag” original is now in the Library of Congress. After it was published in 1899, it soon adorned pianos in the salons of most homes. Joplin was a “rock” star! Scott Joplin was raised here in Texarkana. The verdict is still unclear as to his birthplace—arguably Linden, Texas, or Texarkana around November 1868. I wrote and released, with other locals, the 2017 documentary, “Scott Joplin–Hometown Hero–Texarkana USA”, which answered many questions through interviews with Joplin family members and local historians. Davis County (now Cass County), Texas U.S. Census of 1870 lists Florence and Giles Givens Joplin and sons Monroe and Scott





In New York, Joplin lived in an apartment building on Tin Pan Alley, the famous street of composers in Manhattan, where he worked alongside Ed Berlin and other early 1900’s-star composers. Joplin married his third wife, Lottie Stoke, and worked on completing and publishing his opera, “Treemonisha” up to his death on April 1, 1917. His death came only a few weeks after being admitted to a sanatorium, suffering from the effects of late-stage syphilis. He is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens, New York. His great niece, 101-year-old Mrs. LaErma White, still lives in Texarkana, Arkansas. Joplin’s great- great niece, noted jazz singer Joyce Grant, returned home from her Bay Area residence in 2018 to give a star performance at Scott Joplin—Ragtime to Rockabilly weekend. We are grateful that the late local saxophonist and historian, Jerry Atkins, led the way in having a mural dedicated to Scott Joplin painted on the exterior wall of his family’s Ragland Business Supplies building. Atkins was known worldwide as an expert on Joplin, and was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame, and a founding member of the Scott Joplin Support Group. The Scott Joplin Support Group was formed by myself and Atkins with the aid of Michael Mankins and our sisters, Candace Mizell and Doris Price. This group has dedicated countless hours to organizing Joplin-centric events, from the 1997 portrait competition, to summer concerts in Scott Joplin Park, birthday events downtown, radio programs and many educational presentations in area schools. Our 2020 Scott Joplin Birthday Celebration featured the third artwork by H.M. Fort, Jr., “Scott Joplin at Orr School Texarkana” that is being auctioned, with proceeds benefitting the Skyscape “Music in the Air” Project of lighted, musically themed artworks that will be placed on the roofs of downtown buildings. This is a joint endeavor with Main Street Texarkana. From the mouth of our late, great philanthropist, H. Ross Perot, “The only person more famous than me from Texarkana is Scott Joplin!” (I paraphrase). Our town has always been rich in talent. Texarkana is “The Entertainer’s” home.

Paintings by H.M. Fort, Jr.

at the Given’s plantation in Cove Springs, located outside of Linden. Currently, I am writing the script for a sequel that will present information further clarifying this and other historical matters. It will be released later this year or in 2022. After music training with his parents, young Scott would play pianos at homes where his mother worked as a laundress. He attended Orr School for Coloreds, located at Laurel and East 9th Street, from its construction in 1880 through 1886. The Joplin family lived nearby on Hazel and 4th Street. He would take composition lessons from Professor Johnson, who lived nearby, and Professor Julius Weiss, who was the live-in music teacher for Colonel Robert W. Rodger’s children, where Florence Joplin worked. Joplin also taught and performed at Orr School. He was the music director at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Swampoodle Creek area, and possibly played at many saloons and brothels in the downtown area. The most famous bass instrument line in Boogie Woogie music was created and played in this area and dubbed the Swampoodle Bass Line, which is known worldwide. Boogie Woogie is the rhythmic style music whose roots lie in Marshall, Texas and mimics the click-clacking sound of train wheels, which were everywhere in the East Texas and Southwest Arkansas areas. The Joplin family arrived in this community in 1873 so father, Giles, could work for the railroad company, laying tracks that would allow the town to be recognized a few months later on December 8, 1873. That is when the first lots were sold by

the railroad surveyor, Colonel Gus Knobel, who nailed the first sign with the name “TEXARKANA” to a tree! After studying and performing on both sides of town, Joplin left to travel by railroad, playing the saloons along the route. He was later joined by his brothers and a fellow musician who collaborated to perform as the Texas Medley Quartette. Joplin sang, played piano, cornet, the mandolin and banjo as did his mother. His father played the violin. It has been recounted that Joplin initially left town because of the commotion stirred from his playing at a fundraiser for a southern general which angered many in town. The performance was followed by harsh letters coming in from as far away as Shreveport, Louisiana. We all seem to feel a closer connection with Scott Joplin’s song “The Entertainer,” written in 1902, which was included with other Joplin tunes on the soundtrack of the 1970s movie “The Sting.” Through it, ragtime and interest in Joplin were revived. A bit of research showed that he last came home in 1907 when he played his hit song, “The Maple Leaf Rag” on a piano in the window of Beasley’s Music Store to throngs of appreciative downtowners who gathered around. He then travelled to New York City, leaving behind Sedalia, Missouri, where he had lived for over a decade and where he attended George R. Smith College for Coloreds, studying composition. That is where he married and divorced and wrote that famous rag at the Maple Leaf Club where he performed, all while teaching music lessons at his home.







I magine two young boys sitting in their bedroom with a talented mother sharing her love of music, or hanging out with their dad as he played bass guitar. These are the sweet, movie-script moments we would love to believe are the beautiful beginnings of every successful musician. For the Wray brothers, it was moments just like this which became the deeply cherished memories of an upbringing destined to launch them both into incredible careers on stages across the world. “There was always music at our house,” said Scotty Wray. “My mother showed me four or five chords and I just kind of took it from there.” It was those four or five chords and the determination he witnessed in his father as he taught himself to play his guitar that became the foundation of an incredible journey for this talented singer, songwriter and musician. Scotty’s mother, Lois Wray, was a musician in the 1950s who served as an opening act for multiple Sun Records’ artists. “She and my Uncle Dub and Aunt Becky, did a few shows around the area,” Scotty said. They even “played a couple of shows with Elvis. [She] said she was ‘scared of him.’ However, she said Scotty Moore was really nice to them.” Scotty Moore formed The Blue Moon Boys in 1954 and they became the band behind Elvis, touring with him between 1954 and 1968. The kindness of Moore must have left a lasting impression on Scotty’s mom, who would later honor that kindness by naming her son after him. “She was a really great country singer,” Scotty said. “[She] probably should have been famous. She was as good as it gets, reminiscent of Connie Smith. Just goes to show that there is a lot more to being a singing star than talent. [It] takes some luck too!”






As a child growing up in Texarkana, Scotty attended Wake Village Elementary and Westlawn Junior High School. Early on, music became an obsession. “I was pretty good at it at a young age and could not really keep my mind on anything else. [There was] lots of really good music out there in those days. I was a like a sponge.” Though Scotty’s parents got him started, many other talented people in the Texarkana area helped to advance his talents. “I have learned from a lot of different folks over the years. I learned a lot from older fellas that I played with. Randy Altenbaumer was a big help to me. Randy still plays around here. [He’s an] amazing musician!” With all these great mentors, opportunities and venues, for Scotty, there is still something special about the memories of making

easily visible on the sides of their hands and remind them every time they look at them of all they have overcome together. Traveling with Miranda, Scotty earned his place on stages all over the world. Such a career presented opportunities that most people only dream about. Being a lifelong baseball fan, Scotty savored the chance to play Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. He also had the opportunity to share the stage with John Fogerty a couple of times. “Hard to top that,” he said. Shows at Madison Square Garden in New York, The Red Rocks Theater in Colorado and stages in the UK previously graced by The Beatles, are among his fondest memories. “If I had to pick one gig, it would have to be September 24, 2009. We played a live version of her new record Revolution at the Ryman [Auditorium] in Nashville. Folks around town took us

music with family. Known professionally as “Collin Raye,” Scotty’s brother has had 24 top-ten records, 16 number one hits, and is a ten-time CMA and ACM nominee. Better known in those days as “Bubba Wray,” Collin was Scotty’s first partner in music. “The funniest memories were probably the ‘Frenzy’ concerts we did at the college auditorium. My brother and I would rent it out once a year to do our heavy rock stuff. We really had no idea what we were doing, but a lot of our friends would pitch in to help us. We were happy if we made our expenses back. [I] don’t remember if we ever did. [It] sure was fun though!” The two formed The Wray Brother’s Band, who released two independent singles and a couple of singles on Mercury Records between 1983 and 1987. After The Wray Brother’s Band members went their separate ways, Scotty moved around a little, describing himself as a “journeyman guitar dude.” Scotty’s best

a lot more seriously after that. She and I did ‘Crazy’ for the encore by ourselves. I still smile every time I think of that night.” Scotty also had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest musicians and singers of all time including Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Buck Owens to name a few. Beyond these musical legends, Scotty says some of his favorites from the music industry have often been guitar players. “Chuck Berry was probably the first to really get me excited. His records still sound great. James Burton with Ricky Nelson, Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris invented the chicken picking style which I’ve always loved. Keith Richards basically reinvented rock rhythm guitar,” he said. Eric Clapton, Albert Lee, and “tons of acoustic players” also make his list of favorites. Grateful for every opportunity he has had to play with those the world calls “the greatest,” there is one more musician

Special thanks to Trent Hanna at the Sullivan Center and TISD for graciously accommodating the production of the Scotty Wray photo shoot.

friend and songwriting partner was playing with the young Miranda Lambert. One weekend the band needed a bass player, so they recruited Scotty. “To be honest, I balked at doing it. I hadn’t been doing that kind of stuff in a few years. Long story short, he talked me into it and I really enjoyed the weekend. I played bass for around a year, then moved on to guitar.” Scotty and Miranda just clicked. “Eventually, it was just she and I most of the time in songwriter type shows.” Miranda went on to audition for Nashville Star, and the rest is history. “I was flattered that she still wanted an old fella like me, when it came touring time.” With Scotty at her side, Miranda Lambert has become the most honored artist in history by the Academy of Country Music Awards. “It’s been an amazing ride. [It was] lots of hard work the first few years, and lots of fun the last few!” In 2015, Scotty and Miranda both were going through a tough time personally. They were a great support to each other during that trying year. “We decided to move on to 2016 around October.” In honor of that transition, they decided on a whim to get matching tattoos as encouragement to themselves and each other to keep going. “The tats are of arrows moving forward.” The arrows are

with whom Scotty would like to share the stage. “The one person would have to be Bruce Springsteen, the last great rock ‘n’ roller.” Because of some health issues, Scotty is no longer on the road. He is more focused these days on his daughter, his friends, politics and old movies, but that is not stopping him from making music. Twenty years ago, Scotty wrote the beautiful song, “Scars.” It has finally made its way to the masses as the title track of his brother’s most recent album and Scotty was heavily involved throughout the project, writing, singing and playing. From the very beginning, singing and playing music with their gifted parents, to all these years later, these brothers have taken all they passed on to them and are still standing together to create timeless melodies. Scotty is extremely grateful, looking back on his incredible career. “To be honest, belonging to something bigger than myself has been the most rewarding part of the whole thing. The climb is more important than reaching the summit sometimes.” That is very true, but after a career like Scotty Wray’s, I would imagine the view from the top is spectacular.









T he usual roar of the grandstands at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, formerly Oaklawn Park Race Track in Hot Springs, Arkansas, dulled to a deafening silence due to COVID-19 protocols near the end of last year’s racing season. While fans could not watch and cheer on the animals in person, the horses still ran and trained at the Hot Springs mainstay. On Christmas of 2015, Kerry and Alan Ribble, owners of Ribble Farms, joined the fraternity of horse owners when Alan gifted Kerry a racehorse. For these two horse racing “junkies,” whose “whole calendar revolves around the race meets,” it was hard to be removed from their horses’ barn and Oaklawn during the ongoing pandemic. Kerry said, “We are so thankful that Oaklawn was able to keep the horses running even though we could not be at the track, but boy did we miss being a part of the racing action this past year.” Before COVID-19 blocked them from attending the races, Kerry and Alan used to go to the barn and give horses peppermints after their race. “I didn’t realize that I had missed handing out peppermints at the barn so much until we were finally back there.” What could have been seen as a spur- of-the-moment decision to trek into the horse racing world on that Christmas of 2015, was actually a natural and obvious next step to the progression of the Ribbles’ life story. It is a family passion passed down to Kerry by her father. Kerry’s dad has been involved in the horse business for over 40 years. Kerry said, “He has handicapped horses, published a tip sheet and held handicapping seminars throughout his years in the business.” She has always been near the sport by listening to her father through the years. One of Kerry and Alan’s first dates was also at the same Oaklawn Park where they now own and race horses. They even spent a day of their honeymoon attending races at Louisiana Downs, a racetrack in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Kerry Ribble with Goodbye Earl photo by Molly Kendrick




(above) Trainer David Vance and his wife Lynn, Altito, Kerry and Alan Ribble. (left) Altito won his race at Churchill Downs in 2018. Kerry and Alan bought a lake house in Hot Springs in the fall of 2011 to be closer to Oaklawn. “We knew that we were going to enjoy many days attending and wanted easy access (to Oaklawn).” Kerry and Alan were introduced to jockey Terry Thompson shortly after buying their lake house, and when Alan decided that owning a horse would be an interesting business idea, he asked Terry for advice in finding a trainer to get them started. After considering the suggestions, Alan chose David Vance. David has more than 50 years of experience training, which was super helpful to the Ribbles as they were getting their feet wet in the business. “We were so green when we started out, and are so thankful for the Vances, which includes David’s wife, Lynn, and his son Tommy. They have answered every silly question that Alan and I have had and have taught us an abundance about the business and horses. We believe that this personalized attention has made our partnership the best that we could hope for starting out.” David Vance, the trainer for the Ribbles’ stable of horses, has a long and well-regarded history as one of the best horse trainers in the area. David trained the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion and has been the recipient of multiple training titles at Churchill Downs. He also trained for an organization that held the North American winning record from 1974 until 2012. David was also the first trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 50 victories when he won 50 races during the 50-day season in 1974.







On January 6, Oaklawn announced that they would allow a limited number of fans for their 2021 schedule. The 57-day season runs from Friday, January 22 through Saturday, May 1. “We’ve been working on plans covering numerous scenarios and we’re happy to announce we will be welcoming back race fans in 2021, albeit on a limited basis,” Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort General Manager Wayne Smith said. “We know that the fans are what make Oaklawn so special, but our main concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and team members. We will be working with the Arkansas Department of Health throughout the live season and will adjust as needed.” In accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health, Oaklawn has submitted a plan to allow a limited number of spectators at the races during the 2021 live race meet highlighted by the following: • General admission into the Grandstand will not be allowed initially in 2021. • Entrance into the Grandstand will strictly be for guests with a racing credential and/or reservation for that day’s races. Doors will open at 11 am.

(L-R) Kerry Ribble, David Freeze, Alan Ribble, Robin Hickerson, David Hickerson, Terry Thompson and Chuck Weldon on the track at Oaklawn in February 2018.

In 2007, an accident changed David Vance’s life. He was injured in a car accident, and he currently maneuvers around in a motorized chair. Kerry said, “When he became our trainer, I didn’t understand how training was possible when your trainer couldn’t get on the horses. There is certainly much more to it than this, but I quickly learned that training involves knowing how to develop horses to reach their full potential and knowing what races are best for each horse. David has this knowledge and experience from more than 50 years of horse training. He does the thinking, and he has helpers to get their hands on the horses.” Some of the most memorable moments for the Ribbles came early in their ownership of horses. Kerry said, “We had the time of our lives watching our horse, Bad Student, win his first race for us. Our first time to ever go to Churchill Downs and walk under the notorious Twin Spires took us to the winner’s circle with Bad Student once again. There is nothing like the excitement of being at the racetrack and hearing the thunder of those hooves going across the finish line-that is, when your horse is in the lead!” With David’s training, Kerry says that they are still in the early stages of moving up into allowance level of ownership, but 2019 was a “pretty hot year” for them and that it got them “fired up to own more horses,” until everything changed with the Coronavirus pandemic. “The goal of a race is to have conditions written that try

and make the field of horses have equal skill level. During the times that many tracks were closed, trainers were having to enter horses into any race they could find. It was hard to know where your horse would best fit.” The Ribbles, along with their trainer David Vance, hope to get into the winner’s circle “a few more times this race meet,” and they also hope to shop for a few more potential Saturday horses–which is a horse that will run in a feature race on a Saturday. “On the days our horses are not racing, we are keeping up with other horses in case we decide it is time to shop for another. I would have a barn full, but then again, I am not the one who sees the training bills.” A romantic relationship between Kerry and Alan, that started with first dates at Oaklawn and honeymoon days spent at Louisiana Downs, now flourishes with a shared passion for horse ownership ever since that gift on Christmas in 2015. Kerry said, “Alan and I have had very different career paths over the years, and it has been a pleasure finding a common business interest for the two of us. After all the years of going to the races, we never envisioned the excitement that would come from the anticipation of a race with your own horse entered, nor the unending elation that we have when heading to the winner’s circle. We can spend hours lost in conversation about a race situation that has nothing to do with our horses; we are just enjoying the fascination and excitement of the sport together.”

Current seasonal box seat holders and current Oaklawn Jockey Club members may enter the Grandstand with weekly reservations required. Detailed correspondence to be sent separately to these individuals. Restaurants inside the Grandstand, following Arkansas Department of Health directives, will be open to the public with weekly reservations required. Simulcast will be open Wednesday– Sunday, 11 am–8 pm to limited capacity with weekly reservations required. Social distancing will be enforced. All guests and team members will be required to have non-invasive temperature checks as they enter the facility. Anyone presenting a temp at/ over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will not be permitted inside the building. All guests and team members will be required to wear masks at all times. Smoking will not be allowed anywhere inside the facility, including the casino.

• •

For additional details and future updates, please visit oaklawn.com.






Four Things To Do During the Month of February!


Sock Drive at Hopkins Icehouse— Friday, February 5

Intimate Five-Course Valentine’s Dinner By Jeff Loving AKA Chef On The Run—February 12 and 13

Considering the fact that I have literally been single since my birthdate in 1997, I usually have no reason to look forward to February 14 as it rolls around each year. Still, that has never stopped me from wrapping up in a fluffy blanket on the couch with a big bag of heart-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cups, giving myself a stomachache, watching The Last Song (being able to recite every word as I do), and somehow being completely okay in my single bliss. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul says that singleness is a GIFT, so I’m grasping onto those words year after year, and I’m learning that it’s actually not so bad. The one thing I know for sure is that I LOVE to love people. February, as every other month should be, is all about love! Just because you do not have someone to cuddle up to at night does not mean you are love-deprived. There’s love to give out all around you. My suggestion is that you do it throughout this month at some of the AWESOME events Texarkana has in February.

Who’s got some of those really comfy fuzzy socks they want to give away for a GREAT cause? It’s time to break out those foot hugs because Hopkins Icehouse is teaming up with the Bearded Sinners Beard Club of Texarkana to host a sock drive for Texarkana’s homeless population! The time of the event is to be determined, as it will depend on future COVID-19 restrictions, so make sure you use those fancy phones to check for times. Currently, Hopkins is predicting the event will kick off at 7:00 pm. I love causes like this! Be there and bring those socks!

Local chef and caterer Jeff Loving wants you to have a special and romantic Valentine’s dinner with your loved one. This terrific event will be held on two separate nights, February 12 and 13. Just choose which night works best for you! The event will be COVID-friendly with only 16 seatings per time slot on both nights. There are two times you can choose—6:00 pm or 8:00 pm. Social distancing procedures will be followed with two rooms and only eight people per room. This is a BYOB event; however, Jeff has provided wine pairing suggestions on his Facebook page. The menu is live right now, so go check it out and get those taste buds dancing with anticipation. Remember, for those of you with a hearty appetite, this is a five-course meal.

Hopkins Icehouse is located at 301 East Third Street, Texarkana, Arkansas 71854.



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