Thousands of families nationwide have been struck by Covid-19 during the past 12 months, the contagion sparing some but ravaging others.
In Del Rio, one family was particularly walloped by the virus. Last July, José “Joe” Martinez, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, became ill, and his wife, Tina Martinez, rushed him to Val Verde Regional Medical Center (VVRMC).
Joe was afflicted with respiratory issues, including asthma said Tina.
The 84-year old retiree tested positive for the virus and immediately went into quarantine at the Martinez home. Three days later, Tina got sick and subsequently tested positive. Then her 43-year old son Daniel Cerda became infected with Covid-19.
The invasion of the coronavirus has rocked Val Verde County where 186 deaths have been attributed to the virus along with 7,548 cases as of Feb. 11, 2021, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Virus mutations have now caused new strains that have been found in the United States. Health experts and officials are imploring the public to double down on their masks.
A recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that dummies wearing two tightly secured masks in lab tests resulted in a 95% decrease in exposure to infectious aerosols.
CNBC reported that White House Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in January […] “if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective. That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.”
Joe’s underlying condition didn’t help matters, and both Tina and Daniel had preexisting issues too. “I’m a diabetic, I have high blood pressure, and he (Joe) was always taking care of me for that reason,” she said.
Joe was born in the Acapulco area of Guerrero, Mexico but grew up in Connecticut and then joined the Air Force. He retired to Del Rio and met Tina during the 1980s. They ultimately married. It was the second time for both.
“It was just destiny, I guess,” she said. “Because he was divorced for a year and I had been divorced for a year…it was beautiful.”
Joe settled into retirement, and Tina served on the Del Rio city council for two terms in the early 2000s representing the San Felipe area. Life was good. But then the crown-like virus disrupted their contentment and imposed itself on the family.
Joe’s symptoms did not subside while quarantining at home, and his fever remained intact, so it was decided that he should go back to the hospital. His fever returned to normal during his second stay there, but his oxygen levels were low.
Tina also returned to the VVRMC, going to the emergency room with concerns about how she was feeling. While there, a nurse informed her that Joe had gone into cardiac arrest and passed away. They had been together 35 years.
“He was coming along real good except for that afternoon when he just went downhill and they couldn’t help him,” she said. “They did everything in their power that they could, but they couldn’t help him…they tried everything.”
At the same time, her 43-year old son, Daniel, contracted Covid-19 but never came into contact with his parents Tina said. Two of her three sons have gotten the virus. Daniel was put into intensive care with pneumonia. And exacerbating his condition were blood clots and diabetes. But incredibly, he pulled through.
“The doctor says it’s a miracle,” Tina said. “They didn’t expect him to live. He wasn’t gonna make it.”
Tina’s mother suffered from diabetes, and congestive heart failure and, all three of her siblings died from congestive heart failure. “And I don’t know why, only the good Lord knows why, I do not have a heart condition as of now,” she said.
Many in the world continue the effort of wrapping their heads around this killer virus pandemic, but substantive answers are elusive. Add Tina to that collective.
“That virus, I don’t know…you never know,” she said.
Face to Face: Steven T. Webb
You’re never too far from home. At least in Steven T. Webb’s case.
The newly elected City of Del Rio councilperson — at-Large, Place A — isn’t a native Del Rioan but feels connected to the Queen City.
“The one thing that struck me about this town…it was very similar to where I was from…it was like coming home,” Webb told the Texas Times in a phone interview.
Webb is serving his first term as an elected official recently winning a runoff election for the at-Large, Place A seat. With his love of the city pinned to his sleeve, he feels love in the form of progress is what the city needs. He believes it’s crucial and defined by economic growth. In other words, attracting business to Del Rio.
“What can we do to make it better? What can we do to provide a better service as a city? What can we do to bring in businesses? How do we encourage people to come to Del Rio? And we’ve got a lot to offer,” Webb said.
The city is not only on his sleeve but in his blood. After retiring from a nearly 34-year career with the Del Rio Police Department, Webb still found himself discussing citywide issues with residents. The suggestion was made that he run for office. But Webb retorted that he had no interest in being a “politician.”
“Somebody says, ‘Why don’t you run for city council?’ and I was like, ‘But I’m not a politician. I’m a mover and shaker but not a politician,’” he said.
But the person told him it wasn’t about being a politician, it was about caring. And Webb cares for Del Rio. He’s determined to make the city better.
The former police officer who achieved the rank of captain believes his experience on the force has positioned him well for the duties of councilperson. His time spent as a member of local law enforcement in the community enabled him to garner invaluable insight into the city and its operations.
“After working for the city for 34 years seeing the inner workings, seeing the community as a whole, I’ve probably driven every inch of the city,” Webb said.
Originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia, he graduated from El Paso’s Irvin High School in 1970 and had planned to attend one of the service academies after receiving a nomination from the late Congressman, Henry B. González. But Webb changed course and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, his service spread over South Dakota, Alaska, Thailand and lastly at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.
Webb’s first visit to Del Rio was in the summer of 1973, and he came to the city permanently in March of 1974 feeling like he was led here but the clarity of purpose was absent from the equation.
“There was just something about Del Rio when I first got here,” he said. “You get this weird feeling this is where you got to be. This is where you’re supposed to be. And you really don’t know the reason.”
Webb is married to Linda Guanajuato Webb — board vice president of the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District — and has two adult sons and three adult stepdaughters.
The nascent councilperson said he has visited all of the sites where city projects are being considered or are already underway and has studied every plan and visited with many city departments.
“I have already visited departments who said… ’the city council never comes to visit us,’” he said. “I have to know what you do, how you do it, in order to make a determination on what you need and what we need to do for you as a council.”
Webb says he is a hands-on person. He volunteered at the civic center last month, helping with Covid-19 vaccinations.
“The more that you can be hands on in our community as a councilperson, the more the people will reach out to you and tell you what’s going on,” he said.
But Webb still doesn’t have a crystalline answer to the reason why he is here. “If it’s God’s plan for me then that’s where it is.” And asked what he would like his legacy to be, he said, “Webb made Del Rio grow.”
Dysfunction permeates all levels of politics, from the top of the federal heap to local city councils.
Del Rio is certainly not immune to it. Some would argue it is the epitome of bad government. Whatever the case may be, two new council members have a chance to steer a perceived wayward ship right. One of those is Alexandra Falcon Calderon, a native Del Rioan.
In a city and county where incumbents frequently go appallingly unchallenged, and popularity seems to trump substance in contested races, nascent policymakers are a welcomed sight.
Sworn in during November, Calderon represents District III, which she said needs some adjustments.
“A lot of things have not been done in this district,” she said. “It’s been neglected.” Oversight or lack of prioritization have kept the district in need. “Communication is what’s lacking, and leadership…and working together is very much needed.”
Supporting the cultural aspects of the community, specifically for the children, alleviating the volume of trash in the district and the development of small businesses are primary goals.
“In reality, the whole of it is not to forget the south side of Del Rio,” she said.
Calderon, a small business owner for more than 20 years, has always been very involved in the community. She is the president of the Del Rio Downtown Foundation, and locals have sought her advice on business, personal or civic-related issues throughout the years. She feels this has built a platform of trust within the community. These reasons compelled her to run for the city council seat.
“The seat is coming up open. I’m a Del Rioan. I’m from District III. All my life, I’ve been District III…I live in the same house,” Calderon said.
She ran her campaign without any staff, saying that direct contact with voters is a more effective way to cultivate rapport than to have a worker speak for you. COVID-19 required her to campaign heavily through social media and supplement it through print media. “I did it the best I could, and here I am.”
“Here I am,” wasn’t so easy. Calderon barely won. The metaphorical margin of victory didn’t even measure the width of a ballot. Her race against the opponent, Silvia Ojeda, ended with 1,214 votes to 1,212 votes, respectively.
Calderon said she is there to help the entire city, not just her district. “I’m going to be open to the whole city of Del Rio. I’ve always said that.”
That means solving the water billing issues, which supposedly is occurring, but Calderon insists she will follow-up on the city’s progress to make sure something concrete is underway.
The lingering resurfacing project of the city streets was an agenda item at her first meeting. “The streets is [sic] something that is a priority all the time…There is money. I don’t like where it’s moved around.”
Franchise tax revenue is supposed to be earmarked for roads and not to be used or borrowed for other expenses or projects, Calderon told the Texas Times.
“Then they come around and say there’s no money for streets. There was money and there is money.”
Face to Face: VV County Republican Chairman Frank Lopez Jr.
Politics isn’t for everyone. Only the idealistic, well-intentioned changemaker or the power-hungry, self-serving megalomaniac.
Val Verde County Republican Chairman Frank Lopez Jr. is the former.
The retired U.S. Border Patrol agent takes the role very seriously, displaying a self-effacing yet purposeful demeanor.
He is opposed to open borders and socialist ideology guiding the American economy and public policy and all about clutching a conservative perspective of America, which includes less regulation, judicious individual freedom and pro-entrepreneurship.
“It’s not about demonizing people or anything like that. Either you embrace one vision of America, or you embrace a different vision of America…pro-family; pro-life; honestly; it’s marriage, one natural man one natural woman for life; economic entrepreneurship and creativity,” he said.
Lopez began his chairmanship in August, taking over local GOP duties from the outgoing Fernando Garcia at a time when the numbers indicate the Republican vote in the county has surged.
He said the increase is a result of promotion via social media platforms and newspapers. But also noted that the District 23 Congressional primary race in 2019, comprised nine Republican candidates, which amplified the Republican Party locally through a slew of advertising.
Promotion, coupled with concerns about the direction of the Democratic Party, was another factor for the increase in popularity of the GOP in Val Verde County Lopez said. He feels identification with Christian pro-life agendas and border security have played a role in why there has been an uptick in Del Rioans voting Republican.
“I think a lot of folks here in Val Verde County are center-right. We talk about family, we talk about children, the prosperity, careers and the future.”
Originally from McAllen, Lopez moved to El Paso with his family when his father became a Border Patrol agent, later joining the Army serving with the military police in Honduras and former West Germany. After his military service, he attended college but left to pursue a career in the Border Patrol, which brought him to Del Rio. Lopez is married and has adult twin sons. He was the first chaplain in the federal law enforcement agency’s chaplaincy program.
After spending 30 years in the Border Patrol, Lopez reached out to Garcia in late 2018, expressing an interest in getting a political foot-in-the-door. He eventually joined the campaign of Republican congressional candidate, Raul Reyes, becoming his campaign manager. Reyes lost in a runoff to candidate Tony Gonzales who lost to Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones in the November election but it brought Lopez through the door.
“So the direction of the Republican Party, the way I want to take it here in Val Verde County is to identify and encourage people to run for office, every conceivable office…that’s my goal,” he said.
Lopez has already implemented programs to expand the party’s sphere of influence in the area. He started the Young Conservatives Club of Val Verde County to begin grooming the next generation of conservative leaders and is hoping to stimulate an interest in running for office through a speaker series called, “CHAMPIONS,’ or Conservative Heroes, Advocates, Mentors, Patriots, Impacting Our Nation. “It’s folks who will champion the cause, who will champion the concerns and needs of the people.”
The series aims to bring in national-level conservative thought leaders and doers to Del Rio. Allen West — Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas — was the first series speaker.
“We bring speakers to kind of fire up and energize the base.”
He said voters in Del Rio carry a lot of weight in non-local elections. In particular, Congressional District 23, state Senate District 19 and the Texas Court of Appeals.
“That’s why we need to, at the county level, identify and field conservative Americans and get them into the Republican party,” he said.
FACE TO FACE: FIVE POINTS MARKET
As pandemic woes and shortfalls still linger for many communities and businesses across the nation, some resourceful people have found ways to remain viable through convenience and accessibility.
In Del Rio, the businesses of Rick and Spanky Martinez aptly personify this model.
The couple saw opportunity amid the health-order restrictions and chaos and took direct action in the form of Five Points Market.
“During quarantine, everything got shut down,” said Spanky. “A lot of the farmers’ markets got shut down. A lot of the art shows got shut down. This actually came because of that.”
The idea for the market germinated while the couple attended weekend events and wondered why the vendors there weren’t offering products in a brick and mortar setting.
Consequently, the confluence of the virus and their idea turned Five Points Market into a reality and a successful endeavor as business has been booming.
Rick and Spanky prefer to deal with smaller producers who exude excitement about their creations rather than out-of-state distributors that are a cog in the corporate supply chain.
Five Points Market’s goods are also insulated from pandemic challenges Spanky said. Focusing only on Texas products that aren’t delivered via second or third parties, the Martinez’ can consistently provide customers with their products.
“If anything does happen and we do have another shutdown or anything like that, we are able to go drive…anywhere around Texas we can actually drive and pick up your products,” she said. “We’re not limited to what products you can have and what products you can’t have.”
The Martinez entrepreneurial journey in Del Rio began three years ago at Del Rio Vapor formerly located on Highway 90 heading east out of town. In 2017, the owners sold the business to them. Rick had already been working there. And the second edition of Del Rio Vapor was born. Within six months, they overhauled the advertising, created relationships with numerous distributors and moved locations. Business picked up.
Their singularity of purpose with Del Rio Vapor is to wean people off of nicotine and vaping. That was the intent of the former owners too.
“We still stick to the original program,” Rick said. “And the original goal is to get people off of anything that they’re inhaling, completely.”
He said continuing to sell nicotine products to people who don’t need it is akin to being a drug dealer. “It’s like selling medication to someone that doesn’t need it.”
The couple says they have helped nearly 9,000 people quit smoking and vaping.
The couple now owns three establishments in the Buena Vista section of town all located in the strip mall on Margaret Lane by The Spot.
The third business is a CBD shop which opened its doors in 2019. Healthy commerce has kissed that business too. “We got the highest legal-grade products in Texas,” Rick said.
Rick is a native Del Rioan and Spanky is from Rocksprings. They met in Kerrville and were married there relocating to the desert confines of Del Rio a decade ago.
Most of the merchandise at Five Points Market is exclusive and can only be purchased there or at arts and crafts festivals or farmers’ markets statewide. Several of the items don’t have an online presence.
Almost all of the products are Texas-made and naturally produced. Their items have a wide geographical range as well; unique honey from Quemado, gourmet pasta from Round Rock—the sauce in the flour, epic herbal teas created in Seguin and pottery made completely out of Rio Grande clay by an artisan in Eagle Pass.
Those are just a few examples from the array of specialty products that are smartly displayed throughout the well-lit and exceptionally clean store.
Additionally, Five Points has fresh organic or hydroponic produce — longer shelf life than organic — every Friday.
But their soda pop is the prime seller. Made at the famous Dublin Bottling Works in Dublin, Texas, the first plant to bottle the iconic Dr. Pepper soft drink, Five Points began with 12 cases in its first week of operation then soon increased that to 24 cases and now are up to 60 cases per week. The natural beverage is made with pure cane sugar and holds its carbonation extremely well.
“I left one open about halfway and the next morning I figured it’s going to be a flat soda so I just dumped it out in the sink. When I dumped it out it was fizzing everywhere…so the next day I did it again but I left it out and I drank it and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is still like you just opened the bottle.’”
The pleasant and satisfying revelation of Spanky’s experience simply invites and begs everyone to visit Five Points Market and own their experience with one of the many distinctive and useful products that line the shelves and inhabit the display cases.
In our age of climate change and depleting resources, many feel compelled to don the uniform of the environmental steward.
This includes Del Rio’s, Jason Kidd.
Kidd is a self-taught wood craftsman who employs a practical sustainable resource intelligence to his “professional” hobby.
“It was out of necessity,” he said. “Yes, the premise and the basis was sustainable resources but out of necessity. I was a stay-at-home dad.”
Kidd was motivated by a need to “make quality of life improvements in the home to make life easier.”
He primarily builds home decor — spice racks, hat racks, removable walls — but there is a pragmatic side to his business, Creative Pallet Designs by Kidd. Attaching wheels to his creations is a prime example, such as vegetable shelves.
“How many times do you go into your house and you’re like so frustrated that it’s difficult to move an object…now you can just easily roll it away,” he explained.
Or how about a hidden compartment in a mobile waterproof trash can made from a pallet?
“What do thieves go to when they first go in? Your vault and your drawers,” he said. “Name one criminal that goes to your trash can.”
A substantial amount of money can be saved by learning how to make home decor from reclaimed wood. Kidd made a triple bunk bed for less than $200.
“You find me anywhere in town where you’re going to find a triple bunk bed, solid wood, with a rustic wood burn for $168,” he remarked. “You’re not.”
Kidd makes a serious attempt at reducing his carbon footprint by turning old tables into American flags or utilizing discarded pallets or other reclaimed wood.
“Look at how many homes are built and if you ever drive by take a decent look at how much wood goes to waste and how many pallets are sitting there,” he commented.
He tells people to use the materials they have. He made one lady a baptismal desk from wood that came from an old church that had burned down. A literal piece of history.
“Some people have parents that have passed away. They bring me their license plates from their parents…and I make them little birdhouses with their parents’ license plate and they can have in their front yard,” he said.
But woodworking wasn’t always a passion for Kidd.
While living in Germany he took a class on sustainable resources compelling him to ask what is sustainable. He thought of sulfur. He thought of trees.
“And I looked around because I lived next to a beer factory…and they threw away thousands of pallets everyday….and then I was like we can make homes out of those for the homeless,” he said.
He self-taught himself the art of woodworking via YouTube and tested his craftsman skill set by constructing smaller scale items like wine racks with hand tools.
Kidd, who is employed as a military police officer at Laughlin Air Force Base, was once engaged in his labor of love full time. He was all in, teaching classes, hosting a radio program dedicated to do-it-yourself woodworking and, of course, building creative decor.
But the stability of a government position took him away from that.
However, he still operates his business on a part-time basis and does plan on opening up a storefront with a shop in the back. And with all of Kidd’s clever and unique ideas, success is almost certain.
“There’s so many things you can do with wood…it would blow your mind…that the average person doesn’t think about it,” he said.
Macaroons, the delicious cookies that were once hard to find in Del Rio, are now not so difficult to find in the River City. At least, for the time being.
But first, a brief history and description of macaroons for the uninformed.
The original macaroons were made from egg whites, sugar and almond paste (primary ingredient) exhibiting a crisp exterior and soft interior according to the webzine The Nibble. The etymology derives from maccarone, Italian for paste, which was born from the word ammaccare, that means to crush.
Today’s colorful and dynamic macaroons are more derivative of the ones French pastry chefs began developing (macarons) nearly six-hundred years ago.
Jennifer Orellana, a local creator and purveyor of macaroons/macarons — and cakes too — graciously answered a series of questions for the Texas Times about her tasty cookies.
TT: How did you become interested in creating macaroons and cakes?
JO: In college, I studied abroad in Paris, France and that’s where I fell in love with macarons. They were so luxurious and beautiful, but also expensive. So, I figured I would just try making them myself. I started with macarons and began experimenting with cakes and eventually, they both just came together.
TT: What is your background in baking/pastry?
JO: I’ve always loved baking since I was little. I’m a self-taught baker and really learned my way through YouTube. When I moved from San Diego, California to Del Rio, Texas, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and my husband noticed that baking was a passion of mine and encouraged me to try selling my creations.
TT: How long have you lived in Del Rio and why did your family move here?
JO: I’ve lived in Del Rio for five years now and my husband has been here for seven years. My husband is an air traffic controller at Laughlin Air Force Base, and that’s what brought us to Del Rio. We started our newly wedded life here just the two of us and are now a family of four with two little boys (Makoa, 3 yo and Makena 1 yo).
TT: What has the response been in Del Rio to your creations?
JO: I was really discouraged at first and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my skills. My husband pushed me to promote myself and my creations and the response here in Del Rio has been amazing. I didn’t have high expectations, but the orders just kept coming and I was shocked. I did my first Del Rio market at the convention center and sold out of my 200+ macarons within hours.
TT: You all will be leaving Del Rio soon...what Del Rio experiences will you take with you?
JO: Coming from a big city to a small town like Del Rio, it took a lot to get use to... but I’ve learned over the years that big things come in small packages and Del Rio is just that. The community is really what makes Del Rio a great place to live and is what keeps the town thriving by supporting small businesses. I’m going to cherish every memory I’ve made here over the years and always appreciate the love and support of Del Rio.
To learn more or order macaroons/macarons from Jennifer, visit facebook.com/cakesnmacsbyjenn.
Del Rio’s Hector Coronado Jr. is a professional. For him, professional equals two gloves x one head squared.
The Houston-born Coronado Jr. recently signed a contract for management and promotional services with Las Vegas-based Prince Ranch Boxing and TMB & PRB Entertainment, respectively, allowing him to solely focus on his daily training and eliminating the DIY tasks that can sometimes compromise goals.
“They’ll take care of everything…they’ll make sure that I’m well equipped…I have everything to succeed…they take care of my bills. All that stuff. All I have to do is concentrate on boxing,” he said.
Coronado Jr. has racked up a professional fighting record of 5-0, four of those victories by knockout. His achievements are partially a product of his fighting style. His strategic combination of intelligence and pressure creates opportunities for knockouts.
“I’m a smart boxer…I’m a bit aggressive…I’m a pressure fighter…I do it smartly…I never go looking for the knockout. It just comes by itself, right? That’s what we always talk about,” he explained.
Coronado Jr. prefers to finish or drop his opponents as quickly as possible, working up from the body to the head. Once his opponents gas out they become vulnerable.
A 2015-graduate of Del Rio High School, the confident, yet humble, Coronado Jr. began boxing when he was seven years old forging a formidable career in the Mexican amateur ranks. Initially, the talented boxer had the coaching behind him but not the passion until he began attaining success on the national amateur level in Mexico.
“My dad taught me really, really well,” he said. “And I knew how to win the tournaments. I was just smart enough to win.”
Hector Coronado Sr., who trains his son at Del Rio’s K.O. Boxing Gym had his own professional aspirations in the sweet science Coronado Jr. said. “He had the dream, but no support.”
Coronado Jr. derives his inspiration to excel from his parents. “I see them waking up every morning…I want them to be able to stay at home…not have to work. That inspires me every morning to get up and…do what I have to do to succeed.”
His amateur triumphs evolved into an Olympic dream but representing Mexico wasn’t an option because he was an American citizen and didn’t possess dual citizenship. In the U.S., the powers that be painted a picture of a discouraging and difficult road to the Olympics. Despite that, Coronado, then 17, continued to pursue his dream winning his first USA Boxing Elite tournament.
He qualified for nationals but didn’t want to invest another year competing at the amateur level in the U.S. deciding he was ready to roll the prizefighting dice.
TMB & PRB Entertainment promoter Rick Morones contacted Coronado Sr. and said they were searching for a 147-fighter for a professional bout with emerging boxer George Ramos. (Ramos was recently murdered in San Antonio.) A contract was sent but Ramos declined to fight.
“George and I had already boxed before. I would beat him all the time we would fight…he was like the next big thing of San Antonio,” Coronado Jr. said.
He eventually went to San Antonio to spar for Morones and dominated his 12-0 sparring opponent. Shortly thereafter, he won a bout in San Antonio closing the deal.
Signed, sealed and determined to achieve, Coronado Jr.’s future is promising. Acquiring his autograph now would probably be a good idea…
As one century has rolled into the next, the rural economic dynamics of Val Verde County have changed. Yet, that hasn’t precluded the need for a county extension agent here - Harris County still has one too.
Texas A&M AgriLife county extension agent Emily Grant arrived in Del Rio during April of 2018 inclined to assist and guide. She immediately went to work.
Her undertakings include livestock guardian dog demonstrations for county ranchers, involvement in 4-H programs, such as wool and mohair education, the organization of the county stock show and attendance of out-of-town shows as a consultant to local youth.
“I really enjoy being with the extension service because it gives me the balance of working with producers, consumers and our youth. So I really get to a little bit of everything,” said Grant, the former Kinney County extension agent.
She explained that ag extension agents are tasked with using the research provided by Texas A&M and applying it to real-world practices in all 254 Lone Star State counties.
“Me, personally, being an ag and natural resources agent, I work with our livestock and ag and natural resource producers and stakeholders to help them get the information based upon science and research,” she said.
According to Grant, the A&M AgriLife Extension Service mission is to provide an apolitical, research-based service to every county. “Kind of a network for our farmers and ranchers to use.” She coordinates adult and youth programming as it relates to agriculture to better help county producers. In other words, the practical application of A&M scientific research that benefits Val Verde County ranchers and farmers.
What drew Grant to extension? A long and winding background in agriculture.
“I grew up on a farm and raised cattle and goats and so I grew up showing through 4-H sheep and goat program,” she said.
Grant matriculated to Aggieland with the intention of being a math teacher and basketball coach, “which is kind of not where I ended up.” Agricultural blood is thicker than career intentions. “I really wanted to stay in the agricultural field.”
Her father is the superintendent of the Fort Worth Stock Show which enabled her to volunteer there throughout high school and college fortifying and cementing her interest in agriculture. She soon decided that ag was her path. Grant received a bachelors degree in agricultural science and served an internship with the Texas Beef Council but obtained a teaching certificate in case an ag job proved to be too elusive.
Her desire was to educate the public about agriculture on a full-time basis. She said, “There are about five jobs like that in the entire state,” so she taught ag in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three years - “and really, really enjoyed that job” - before joining the ranks of the A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Grant indicated that the ag service’s big push now is agritourism. They will be rolling out an initiative to help farmers and ranchers learn about other income opportunities that could be available to them in the form of tourism.
The Val Verde County A&M AgriLife Extension recently hosted a “Birding the Border” event and next year they’re hoping to do something on a larger scale. Grant couldn’t divulge what that was because it isn’t yet official but did say that it would allow the ag producers to directly benefit from agritourism events on their property.
This spring the film, “The Highwayman,” was released highlighting Frank Hamer’s exploits in the apprehension of super-outlaw couple Bonnie & Clyde, Kevin Costner portraying the 20th-century lawman. (Costner seems to have a penchant for playing men of the law: Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness and Orleans Parish district attorney Jim Garrison.)
While the story is somewhat well-known and Hamer’s reputation familiar to many, what isn’t such common knowledge is that Hamer’s so-called luminous career in bringing justice to the people of Texas began in Del Rio.
The famous Texas Ranger, who also escorted Governor Coke Stevenson to view the box 13 tally sheets at the Texas State Bank in Alice, Texas during the infamous “Box 13” election scandal involving Lyndon B. Johnson, has been lauded and ordained as a law enforcement deity, the film adding buckshot to his legend.
The Hill Country born Hamer earned his badge with the Rangers in 1906. He was just 22 years old. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of a reputation were planted.
Del Rio in 1906 was a town of approximately 2,000 people and the cradle of sheep ranching. During the fall of that year two local sheepmen, John Ralston and Blake Cauthorn (the Cauthorn name a familiar one in Del Rio) disappeared. The Rangers soon commenced an investigation and focused on a man named Ed Putnam who had sold a flock of sheep to Cauthorn for $4,500 (equivalent to $130,000 in 2019).
The Ranger group who embarked to Del Rio included Hamer. According to author John Boessenecker, while searching for Putnam they received word that Cauthorn had been found shot dead in his buggy. Subsequently, they learned Ralston had vanished after completing a sheep deal with Putnam. Boessenecker wrote in True West magazine the citizens of Del Rio fell under a spell of tense animation and duly blamed Mexican bandits for the crimes.
Val Verde County Sheriff John R. Robinson received a tip that Putnam was sequestered at a bordello in Del Rio. On Dec. 1, 1906, the Rangers and Sheriff Robinson along with his deputies converged on the house. Robinson and his men covered the front, the Rangers positioned in the rear of the house. Robinson ordered the women to exit the bordello and then informed Putnam that he knew he was inside. Putnam remained silent.
Boessenecker wrote that as time went by a considerable mob had formed, some of them armed. Apparently, this lent a sense of urgency to the situation compelling Robinson to instruct his men to unleash a fury of rounds on the house.
Meanwhile, in the back, Hamer stood his Winchester carbine down waiting for the opportune time to take his shot. Reportedly, Hamer observed a six-gun barrel protrude from behind a curtain and saw his chance firing his carbine and striking Putnam in the face ending his earthly existence. Hamer, the hero.
Conversely, he was also involved in the racially-motivated Texas Ranger atrocities that occurred in South Texas. The Rangers intimidated, terrorized and even murdered several Hispanics during the World War I era.
According to the Texas educational nonprofit, Refusing To Forget, “In early 1919, State Representative José Tomás Canales, the
only Mexican-American legislator filed a bill intended to prevent a repeat of the Ranger
actions of the previous years by dramatically restructuring the force.”
Supporters of the Ranger force fiercely pushed back attempting to discredit Canales. Refusing To Forget stated Hamer stalked Canales in South Texas and Austin during the hearings. “Canales’ family feared that he would be assassinated.”
Not sure if Hamer, “the deadliest Texas Ranger of the 20th-century,” qualifies as an anti-hero but it appears he operated above, inside and below the layers of justice and it’s certain that he left a historical footprint, dubiously or triumphantly, in Del Rio.