Local lineman takes third
By Sam Epps
KAUFMAN COUNTY–It wasn’t a typical rodeo, but local Trinity
Valley Electric Cooperative (TVEC) foreman Josh Lathem, 29, of
Scurry helped his team finish third overall in the Texas
Lineman’s Rodeo Association’s (TLRA) 15th annual Texas Lineman’s
Rodeo in Seguin July 14-16.
The Association is a non-profit organization “created to offer
lineworkers a way to showcase their pride in the profession of
high-voltage linework,” according to a TLRA press release. Teams
from around the state compete.
Lathem, who is a foreman on a construction crew, has been
employed by TVEC for 9 ½ years and has done a little of
He began his career as a meter-reader, and has advanced through
Lathem has participated in the rodeo for seven years.
Each rodeo team consists of three members. Lathem’s other
teammates are Eric Barker and Lance Robison, both of Kaufman.
Barker has competed in the rodeo for two years, and Robison for
Each year, there are two set competitions; “hurt man rescue” and
Teams also compete in three other events, and they change from
year to year.
This year, teams also competed in an overhead to underground
termination, a transformer changeout and a “knot-tying/rope
Teams are judge based on accuracy, speed and safety. Teams win
the event by notching the fastest time with the fewest mistakes.
Mistakes result in a point deduction, so “the fastest team can
still lose if they make mistakes,” Lathem explained.
And in the real world of high-voltage electrical work, it’s the
mistakes that can hurt or kill.
“The whole emphasis of the rodeo is to be safe and win by being
the safest team,” Lathem said.
To get ready for the rodeo, teams practice months in advance,
honing their skills and working together.
Lathem and his team began practicing about three months before
the rodeo, and with just a month before the rodeo, every Friday
was dedicated to practice.
“The rodeo is very tiresome,” Lathem said, noting that all
events are done “old-school,” meaning no bucket trucks, no
mechanical equipment and no battery or gas-powered anything.
“The events are done not just to test skill, they also serve as
great practice for everyday work,” TVEC Marketing and
Communications Coordinator Jeff Jordan explained.
“We are very proud of Josh, Lance and Eric and all they
accomplished at the Lineman’s Rodeo,” TVEC Chief Executive
Officer Jerry Boze said.
“They represented TVEC well, and this event allowed them to
display their talents and skills as a lineman against others
across the state. The end results demonstrated how well-trained
and qualified they are at their jobs,” Boze added.
Lathem is a 2000 graduate of Scurry-Rosser High School. He
attended Trinity Valley Community College in Athens and left
with a Business certificate.
He also attended South Plains Community College, taking on-line
courses, and received power technology certification.
Before working for TVEC, Lathem was a welder, and still does
welding in some spare time.
He has been married to Brittney for seven years, and they have
one child, 14-month-old Mia. They live in Scurry.
Their family is also from the area, with her family in and
around Kemp, and his in Scurry.
Brittney (Mahan) graduated from Kemp High School in 2002, and is
an operating room nurse at the Texas Health Women’s Specialty
Surgery Center in Dallas.
Together, they attend Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Scurry, and
Lathem does a lot of work with the church.
Lathem’s goals are to continue in his career and move up the
ranks within the TVEC system.
And of course, we can likely expect to see him compete in next
Most boat ramps are open, but caution is
Drought taking toll on lakes across Texas
Monitor Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Cedar Creek Lake is seeing its level continue
to drop. Currently, the lake is approximately 4 ¾ feet below
normal, and continues to drop approximately three inches per
At that rate, sand bars, tree stumps, weeds and other hazards
are quickly finding their was to surface levels – making boating
a little more hazardous.
However, with safety and awareness to your surroundings, boating
is still a very real option for being outdoors.
Monitor Photo/Sam Epps
Although it looks bad, the boat ramps at Big Chief Landing are
open and in good, working order. The ramp, just to the left, was
recently lengthened and a “trench” was dug out beyond the ramp
to keep boats safe.
Most ramps around Cedar Creek Lake are still open and in pretty
Don’s Port Marina reported the ramps are still very functional,
as are boat slips and the gas pump area. They do urge caution,
such as going a little slower in the water and paying more
Big Chief Landing in Gun Barrel City is in fine order as well.
“The ramps should be good through September, even if we don’t
get much rain,” owner Dan Leonard explained.
Leonard point out the fact that the ramps had recently been
extended 10 feet farther out, and five feet deeper. He also
noted he had the area just beyond the ramp, as well as around
the gas pump, dug out deeper to accommodate boats.
In the City of Log Cabin, Richard Harrah reported the ramps are
still good, and boats are still launching.
However the public ramp in Caney City isn’t faring as well.
Large boats are having serious problems getting into the water,
and smaller boats are starting to see minor problems as well.
The ramp is maintained by Henderson County, and Precinct 1
County Commissioner Joe Hall will likely be closing the ramp
soon if the lake doesn’t see significant rainfall.
Causeway Marina in Seven Points is still open, but extra caution
is strongly urged to boaters using the ramps there. The water is
nearly to the bottom of the paved boat ramp, and one vehicle was
reported to have been towed out of the ramp when it got stuck
The boat ramp next to Tom Finley Park in Gun Barrel City is also
open, but caution is urged as water levels are rapidly reaching
the bottom of the ramp.
Cedar Creek Lake isn’t the only lake with severe water issues.
Lakes around the state of Texas are seeing varying degrees of
problems with lake levels.
Following the drought of record of the 1950s, Texas built dozens
of reservoirs designed to maintain an adequate water supply
should another drought of equal severity occur.
That time has come, and the coming months will reveal if those
reservoirs are equal to the task.
The outcome is anything but certain. As shown by the
thunderstorms that swept across extreme North Texas in early
summer and boosted water levels in lakes around Dallas-Fort
Worth, one exceptional rain event can go far toward relieving an
exceptional drought, at least in the short term.
But we can’t control the weather, and only one other part of the
state has been blessed with reservoir-filling rains since the
drought began in earnest in 2010. “Heavy rainfall in the Rio
Grande watershed in 2010 filled both Amistad and Falcon
International Reservoirs,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)
Inland Fisheries biologists Randy Myers said. “Amistad is
currently two to three feet below conservation pool, and Falcon
is about 15 feet low. Angler access remains excellent at both.
With the current drought, water levels in both reservoirs should
decrease but not reach problematic levels this year.”
Everywhere else across the state, TPWD fisheries managers are
dealing with what appears to have the potential to become the
new drought of record.
“Some Hill Country lakes have been severely affected by the
drought,” TPWD biologist Marcos De Jesus said.
“Lakes Travis, Buchanan and Canyon are nearing record lows. The
biggest problem in this area is access as lake levels fall below
the point where boat ramps are usable,” he added.
Conditions are similar at Choke Canyon, Coleto Creek, Texana and
Lake Corpus Christi, according to TPWD biologist John Findeisen.
West Texas and Panhandle lakes have been hit particularly hard
by the drought. Lakes Baylor (near Childress) and O.C. Fisher
(San Angelo) have dried up.
“Lake Meredith is listed at zero percent capacity, though it
still covers about 2,000 acres,” TPWD biologist Charlie Munger
said. “Low water levels have concentrated the fish, so walleye
fishing was very good this year. Unfortunately, golden alga has
impacted the catfish fishery,” he explained.
“Lake Alan Henry is the one bright spot in the High Plains, as
it is about 86 percent full,” Munger continued.
O. H. Ivie Reservoir, the leader in entries into the Toyota
ShareLunker program the last two seasons, is at 24 percent
capacity, but anglers are still doing well, according to Jerry
Hunter, manager of Elm Creek Village Marina.
Other Panhandle and West Texas reservoirs range from less than
one percent capacity (E.V. Spence, near San Angelo) to 46
percent full (Oak Creek Reservoir, near Sweetwater).
Low water levels can actually be beneficial to reservoir
fisheries in the long run, as pointed out by several TPWD
“Long-term benefits come from the establishment of terrestrial
vegetation along shorelines that will provide a nutrient boost
when lakes fill again,” De Jesus said.
In the short term, lower lake levels do impact fish
reproduction, TPWD fisheries biologist Craig Bonds explained.
“Degraded habitat will likely result in poor reproductive
success for many sport and prey fishes,” he said. “However, one
poor year class does not pose long-term problems.”
TPWD’s five freshwater fish hatcheries are making plans to be
ready to restock reservoirs when levels rise, but they are
facing their own set of challenges due to the drought.
If hatcheries are unable to maintain their water supplies,
emphasis will switch from producing fish for stocking to
protecting the valuable broodfish that are held on the
hatcheries year-around to produce the next generation of fish
Contingency plans are also being made to transfer broodfish from
hatcheries without adequate water to those with better supplies
should that become necessary.
A complicating factor is that reduced streamflows can result in
increased salinity, making it more likely reservoirs or streams
supplying water to some hatcheries will suffer from outbreaks of
golden alga, which can kill fish.