Thursday, December 27, 2007






  Students learn building on ‘Habitat’ house
Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Excitement is rising right along with the walls of the Habitat for Humanity house the students of Mabank High School are building.
“It’s really exciting around here,” construction trades instructor Jim White told The Monitor.
“This isn’t a model. The kids are learning the whys and hows of house building. It’s not just a muscle course,” White explained.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Justin Crowsley wears safety goggles as he takes careful aim with a pneumatic nail gun to anchor the first truss in place.

About 50 students are enrolled in the course, and White plans for them to leave with an understanding that will benefit them into their adult lives.
He compares what they’re learning to the best performance of athletics they might achieve in high school.
“Nothing else you do in high school will impact your life as much as an understanding of basic home construction,” White said. “Real estate affects everyone’s life.”
Making a sports comparison is appropriate, seeing several of his students are football players – and good ones.
“It plants the idea of home ownership, possibly without a 30-year mortgage,” he said.
In addition, Texas State Technical College in Waco has agreed to accept the year’s course as six college credit hours towards an associate’s degree in the building trades. So, the elective course earns the students dual credits for high school graduation and college work.
“We’re real happy about that,” White said.
The course qualified for college credit because of its real-life application, White said.
“I took the course last year and moved up to this,” junior Zack Wood told The Monitor. “It’s a good thing to do. It helps us learn how to build a house.”
The project, growing out of September’s Spirit Week fund-raising, is gleaning more benefits for the school, its students and the community at large than originally anticipated.
The Cedar Creek Lake chapter of Habitat for Humanity is willing to have Mabank students build one house every year, Habitat board member Eston Williams said, but it’s contingent on having the money to do it.
Monitor Photos/Kerry Yancey
Mabank High School shop students Bobby Gaddis (holding level) and Blake Moore (center), along with Zack Wood (right), Justin Crowsley (left) and Norman Brady assist in setting the first truss in perfect alignment on the Habitat House just before the holiday school break. They are building it for faculty member Shelly Sparks.

This year’s Spirit Week activities raised around $70,000 in material and in-kind services.
“We will continue to raise money,” Williams said. “We would love to build a couple of houses every year. We’ve built two, the high school is building the third, and we started the fourth one in Tool Dec. 15,” Williams said.
Back in the 70s, Mabank school trustees made building trades a priority, and students built a house every year, Williams (a school trustee 1986-92) recalled. “They’re on Kaufman Street,” he said.
If funding can be secured, the learning program could gain momentum and greater interest in the years ahead.
“I think building a house has been tremendous for our kids, and better yet to build one for one of our teachers,” MHS Principal Dr. Tommy Wallis said. “The program has brought our high school community together in a wonderful way.”
So far, the students have spent six weeks creating and drawing their own house plans, so when it comes to building headers and hanging doors, they’ll understand why they are made that way, White explains.
A workshop in power tool safety followed, and then the actual construction began.
The schedule called for “drying-in” the project before school closed for the winter holidays.
The class will take the project right through installing plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall and painting before moving it to its permanent location as the home of Mabank High School redirection aid Shelly Sparks.
In addition to building the house, the introductory course will continue to construct smaller projects, such as storage sheds, which the students also sell.
White, who joined the teaching staff last January, taking Robert Hood’s place, brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the course work.
White wanted to have the students build a house, but had to follow the curriculum Hood had laid out.
However, when Spirit Week coordinator Tonya Chapman told him about Spirit Week and the Habitat for Humanity, his ambition found wings.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare them for the world of work than building this here in the shop,” White said. “It’s a super win-win for everyone.”

Feral hogs – a fast growing problem in Texas
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Feral hogs are very good at plowing a field.
But most likely, it’s a field of hay waiting to be mowed, or one a developer is trying to sell as house lots.
Their hard work is just not appreciated by most landowners, at anytime.
“A small family group of feral hogs – say 20 or so – can root up half a football field or more overnight,” hog hunter and taxidermist Greg Zitko told The Monitor.
Zitko and his neighbor hire themselves out to landowners to hunt down feral hogs roaming their acreage.
“We don’t shoot and leave them lay,” Lindy Helms explains. “That would be unethical.
“We enjoy hunting, and we like the extra meat it provides for our tables. We also donate meat to those who need it most,” he added.
Monitor Photo/Kim Vincent
Greg Zitko captured three good-sized feral hogs, weighing 100, 200 and 300 pounds, in a trap Dec. 14 on property in Kemp. Zitko has caught a glimpse and seen evidence of an 800-pounder in the area. “It’s my goal to get that one before the year is out,” he said.

The two are currently hunting on 800 acres in the Kemp area of Kaufman County for a housing developer, who is fed up with the damage feral hogs have been causing.
Almost half of the wild hog population thought to be in the continental United States is firmly established in Texas, according to the Texas Cooperative Extension Service.
It estimates four to five million feral hogs across the country, with two million foraging, adapting and reproducing in Texas.
Van Zandt County Extension Agent Brian Cummings agrees feral hogs are a problem, one landowners may have already given up on.
“I used to get lots of calls about them, but not this year. I think they’ve given up on them,” Cummings told The Monitor.
In 2006, the Extension service launched a two-year Feral Hog Abatement Project.
The pilot program surveyed large landowners in four counties. Each area represented a different ecosystem, to track and estimate the economic impact these animals are causing statewide.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Susan Harrison holds a large feral hog head skeleton found on her property – evidence that hogs are well-established there.

Its findings have fueled several television news programs, and print media has focused on the issue.
The survey credits a conservative $52 million worth of damage to feral hogs, plus another $7 million in control measures.
A second component of the program educates landowners on the use and effectiveness of different control measures.
At the beginning of the first year, those participating along the Navarro-Henderson county Blacklands border reported damages of $226,600, and at the end of the first year, a decline in damages of 45 percent was reported.
A total of 664 hogs were removed from this area, just west of Cedar Creek Lake.
According to program data, the most popular control method is not the most effective.
More than half of the responders preferred landowner hunting. However, this hog population control method is highly inefficient.
The most effective method is trapping and destroying. But success depends on the design and proper use of traps, bait selection and placement.
Traps are most effectively used in colder months.
Wildlife specialist Mark E. Mapston has written an e-book called “Feral Hogs in Texas” in conjunction with the Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas A&M University System.
It can be viewed at It has a detailed discussion on different types of traps and their construction.
Ground shooting is most effective when it is intensive and if the hog population is small.
No hunting license is required to shoot feral hogs by a landowner or his agent or lessee.
In a group of 20 hogs, each hunter with a rifle can bring down as many as three hogs, Helms said. “With a bow, you’ll only get one.”
In addition, feral hogs have a thick shoulder plate, which acts as armor. The largest Helms has seen was 2½ inches thick.
If a bullet hits the plate, the hog may still be able to survive or run a long way off, he said.
Feral hog hunting is popular in Texas and generates income for many landowners.
Though it can take place year-round, most hunters take feral hogs incidental to deer hunting.
However, that could change – in a decade, feral hog numbers are estimated to be as high as whitetail deer.
Luring hogs to a site by putting out feeders similar to deer hunting is one method. However, feral hogs are extremely intelligent and can be a challenging foe.
Feral hogs will adjust to intensive hunting by shifting their home range or becoming more nocturnal.
Though hogs can be hunted at night, if spotlights are to be used, permission must first be obtained from the local game warden.
A feral sow can have two litters a year, averaging between six and 10 piglets per litter, though larger litters are seen.
Zitko and Helms enjoy sharing their hunting adventures with their children.
Hunting offers the opportunity for people to return to the land in a very primal way, Zitko said.
The silence, the sounds of bird flight and call, the awareness of wind, rock, soil, scent and changing light – the physical strain and fatigue – all make one realize he is part of the whole. “Our daily civilized life-style lulls us into forgetfulness about the realities of life,” Zitko said.
The two hunters also recognize the obvious effectiveness of traps and employ them in areas with evidences of hog gatherings.
Traps have to be baited and rebaited, checked and used with cunning. “If they suspect it’s more than a free lunch, they won’t go near it, no matter how much corn you put out,” Zitko said.
The two hog hunters can be reached by calling (903) 288-7709 or at
One thing is certain, wild hogs are a problem that will not simply go away.
Landowners plagued with them must take positive steps to educate themselves and employ control measures.
When a program of feral hog abatement is in place, damage can be reduced by half – and over time, perhaps more.
No action is sure to lead to higher rates of damage and returning, growing populations of feral pigs going hog wild.

Wayne Nutt retires after 26 years in law enforcement
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS Seven Points Police Chief Wayne Nutt is retiring this week after 26 years in law enforcement.
He joined the Red Oak Police Department the day after he turned 19, and has spent the bulk of his career serving the Gun Barrel City and Seven Points communities.
Nutt looks forward to completing a house he’s been building over the last year and a half, doing more fishing and spending time with his wife Dana, who also enjoys fishing.
Dana once worked as a dispatcher in Gun Barrel City, so she has been an understanding wife all these years.
“Dana is such a wonderful lady. It takes a special woman to be a police officer’s wife,” Nutt told The Monitor. “Not every spouse can endure the long shifts, late-night callouts, and the never knowing if you’re going to come home again.
“I thank God for her every day, and now I can make up for those missed vacations and plans all these years,” he added.
Nutt’s long years in law enforcement must have rubbed off on his three sons, because all three have served in the U.S. military.
Wayne Jr. served four years in the Marine Corps and is currently a corporal in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Jonathon is currently serving a 17-month deployment in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and J.T. is a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, who recently returned home on furlough after seven months in Iraq.
“We are so thankful that God has kept them safe. We are so thankful that we’ll get to spend Christmas this year with two of our sons at least,” Nutt related.
There are some things Nutt will miss about those long hours in law enforcement.
“What I’ll miss most is serving the public,” he said.
But he won’t miss it too much, because he’s making himself available as a reserve officer and part-time work under new police chief Tim Meadows.
Meadows was formerly the police chief at Payne Springs. He’s been easing into the chief’s job since November.
Nutt became chief in 2005 and was the lead investigator from 1990 on.
There have been many sad incidents in his career, but Nutt is most touched by the recent slayings of Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn.
“Paul and I used to eat lunch together. It is very sad. I plan to attend each session of the trial, if it is held in Athens,” he said.
Even in the face of this tragedy, Nutt reflects on the many improvements made in technology that offers greater protection to officers today.
Body armor has come a long way. When Nutt first started, it was rarely worn, due to its bulk and heaviness. Now it’s lightweight and routinely worn by uniformed officers, he said.
Improvements in radio communication has greatly increased an officer’s safety on the job, he said.
A repeater system strengthens the radio signal and sends it on to the unity.
“It used to be you couldn’t keep in contact (on portable radios) with the dispatcher on the other side of Gun Barrel City,” he said. “It’s been a real benefit to us and the community.”
Nutt oversaw the addition of a repeater system just this year.
Another boost to the Seven Points Police Department was an integrated software system called Badge, which was installed in 2006.
It has helped organize the many reports officers must file, made retrieving mug shots and a host of other kinds of information much more efficient, he said.
Also, the use of tasers – an energy-conducting weapon – has protected officers and suspects from harm, he added.
“When I saw how effective just the threat of its use was in subduing a suspect, I knew we had to have one,” Nutt said.
The department got its first taser in 2005.
Nutt recalls some of the more interesting cases he’s worked on over the years, involving a car-theft ring and then the senseless murder of a 19-year-old, who tried to intervene in a domestic argument at a convenience store.
The husband stabbed him right in the heart, he said.
Shortly afterwards, a patrolman was preparing to stop the man for erratic driving when he got the call about the stabbing.
“He didn’t know he was behind the suspect’s vehicle, and let him go so he could respond to the scene,” Nutt recalled.
But the funniest instance was the questioning of a young man Nutt had a strong hunch was involved in a string of burglaries in Harbor Point.
Nutt was familiar with the young man, and though there was no direct evidence, much of the circumstantial evidence seemed to point to him.
“I brought him in for questioning, and he re refused to say anything incriminating,” Nutt said.
After 90 miniutes, Nutt tried a bluff.
“I told him, I didn’t care if he said another word, I had his fingerprints at the scene of one of the burglaries and that was all I needed.
“I remember he was so mad, he jumped up and called me a liar. I couldn’t have his fingerprints because he was wearing gloves, he said.
“Well, that’s all I needed to hear. He realized it too, and confessed to all of it,” Nutt recalled. “He had been so proud he had caught me in a lie, and that was his downfall.”