Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006

     

 

 

Mabank Fire Department gets $70K
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Back-to-back grants provided a great Christmas present for the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department.
Dec. 20, the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced a $35,340 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters grant.
The next day, a $35,000 grant from The Texas Commission on Fire Protection came through with another $35,000.
Both grants will be put to very good use, Mabank Fire Marshal John Holcomb said.
The first grant will purchase needed equipment, starting with a $25,000 generator, $11,000 for a thermal imaging camera and $1,200 for a 50-foot ground ladder.
“Once we get the generator, it will be wired into the (fire station’s) main power source. When the main power shuts off, it will automatically kick the power back on to the station,” Holcomb said.
“In times of a bad storm (such as a tornado) or other disaster, the fire station will be the main command center,” he said. “It’s where everyone can come for food, water and shelter sources.”
The thermal imaging camera will be used to scan smoke-filled rooms in order to locate fire victims more quickly.
This camera will become one of two, as another $11,000 grant from the Fireman’s Fund will be used to purchase the first one.
“We’ve been wanting the thermal imaging camera for a long time, but it cost too much. We’re all very excited,” Holcomb said.
The second $35,000 will be used to build new substations, such as those planned at Prairieville and Cedar Creek Country Club area.
The department is ready to start construction of the substation for the Cedar Creek Country Club area, he said.
Red Dot Builders is lined up to begin. They won the project with a $50,000 bid to do the slab and building shell.
The inside will be finished as fund-raisers generate the money, he said.
Holcomb joined the fire department in 1991, and became the fire marshal in 1994.
That became a paid position in 1999, Holcomb said.
“I have been writing grants since 1996, and in 2002, I took a grant writing course,” he said.
The grants from 1996 onward have totaled approximately half-million dollars, he said.
“This is another process to save the taxpayers money by getting grants for equipment, training, etc.,” Holcomb explained.
Other recent grants from the Texas Forestry Service have increased the department’s grass trucks from two to four, added $1,000 for a computer and $1,000 for a media projector.
“We’ve had several large grass fires in the Prairieville area where those trucks were put to good use,” Holcomb said.
“Before, we only had the two trucks. We had plenty of manpower, but not enough equipment. Now, we have four grass trucks,” Holcomb said proudly.
Another grant in the making is to provide “Knox boxes.”
The boxes allow firemen to use a code to get the key and enter the building in an emergency, he explained.
Eventually, there will be enough boxes for every commercial building in the city, he said.

Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Mabank Fire Marshal John Holcomb says the Mabank
Volunteer Fire Department is still growing.

Water supply ample
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Emergency measures in response to the lowered lake levels will not have to go into effect now, utility directors heard Dec. 20.
A recent inspection of the water intake structure used by East Cedar Creek Freshwater Supply District confirmed the mechanism can continue to siphon water off the lake until spring, even without any rain.
That’s when the lake is expected to shrink to the 312-foot level.
“The critical marker for the intake structure is 308,” general manager Bill Goheen reported.
The district doesn’t need to install a booster pump until the lake level drops to 312, Goheen recommended.
“So we can postpone spending the $50,000 on it,” board president David Burch concluded.
Cedar Creek Lake was at 314.75 feet below mean sea level, Tuesday, a drop of 7.26 feet from normal.
In other business, the board:
• transferred $1.053 million from its Bond Interest and Sinking CD into Operation Reserve to pay its biannual debt service, due the end of the year. A second, much smaller payment of $388,000, is paid in July on the district’s $24 million debt, which includes interest.
• revised its real estate policy from 24 hours to 72 hours for turn-ons and shut-offs, to allow easier plumbing inspections by prospective buyers.
• agreed to review and update its Drug and Alcohol Policy with legal counsel.
• heard updates on district projects. Most are awaiting governmental reviews before proceeding.
• received an update on the Cedar Park Branch and Southwood Shores self-help sewer installation projects. Both are on schedule.
• heard results of a stringent annual water plant inspection from plant supervisor Ernie Mashburn.
• approved including a flyer soliciting funds for the Library at Cedar Creek Lake in the December customer bills.

Cowgirl achieves childhood dream
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Some people live life waiting for a dream to latch onto. Then there are others who seem born with a dream inside them.
Katherine Veno is one of these.
Some folks know her as a horseback-riding teacher, or have seen her stocking cards, sunglasses and magazines in some of the local stores, or have become fond of reading her weekly “The View From Here” columns in The Monitor.
Those who congregate around rodeos and competitions of horsemanship know the 5-foot, 115-pound blonde packs pounds of perseverance when it comes to winning. She has a very competitive spirit, as witnessed by her hundreds of show ribbons and collection of brass belt buckles.
“She’s always been competitive and headstrong,” her mother Mary Louise Bridges Muse said, who admitted to promoting her daughter’s self-confidence, as she grew up.
“She also has a beautiful singing voice, and could have been a professional singer, if she had a mind to. You can open a door, but if you really want to go through it, there’s a price,” Muse added. “I’m really proud of the woman she’s grown into, very proud of her courage and willingness to work hard for what she wants.”
Though there has never been a time she wasn’t “plumb horse crazy,” she didn’t come to realize her dream of horse ownership or working with horses until she was 47.
(Until then, she had attended junior college and Stephen F. Austin University in Nacodoches, worked at a bank, as a cocktail waitress, a secretary, fitness trainer, and newspaper writer, and she got married.)
Her mother provided horseback riding lessons when she was a kid in Palestine and also taught her to shoot a gun – a skill Veno has always maintained, which comes in handy when she goes after snakes in her hen house.
Veno bought her first horse without having a barn, a fence or a truck.
“All I had was a black bridle with silver hearts on it,” Veno recalled.
She also had a cowgirl dream that was tired of waiting, so when she picked up the paper that Saturday morning in 1993, it called loudly, and Veno answered: “I’m going to buy a horse today.” And she did.
She bought that horse from June and David McLean of Seven Points. June gave Veno her first refresher course in horseback riding.
Next, she needed expert advice and instruction in everything from buying a horse trailer and how to pull one, to basic horse care, handling and training.
Over time, she developed a support group of experts she calls her Power of Eight – eight men, who have worked with her and her many horse purchases over the years.
“All I do is shoe her horses, but its always an adventure going over there. She has a rabbit on a leash. She’s a little eccentric, but good as gold. I wish everyone would listen and take advice the way she does,” said Kelly Holt, her farrier and a former bull-riding champion.
Derek Rogers of Malakoff helped her when after returning from a rodeo in Mineola, she couldn’t get her horse to back out of the trailer.
“He stayed in there all day and all night, refusing to come out,” Veno recalls.
“I guess he could tell I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and decided to teach me who’s boss,” she said.
When Rogers got the call, he came right over and showed her how to use a whip on the front legs to move the horse out. Veno recalled the messy state the trailer was in afterwards.
Has the dream measured up to the reality?
“Always. The dream never dimmed, not even when I broke my shoulder, or broke my collarbone. It was always what I thought it would be,” Veno said.
Now at age 60, she still competes, teaches and doesn’t doubt that she could reinvent herself once again, perhaps somewhere she’s never been to before, like Colorado. She’s done it once, why not again?
Though Veno is compulsive and somewhat unpredictable, some things remain constant – she has a heart for critters, especially horses.
She religiously follows the Cowgirl’s Creed: Stand by your horse and your man, in that order.
Veno has loved two horses and one man in her life.
Though she owns several horses now, two very gentle ones for her students, a mare about to drop a foal and a young horse seemingly with “attention deficit disorder,” none have been able to replace the love of her life: Hollywood Streaker.
It was love at first sight when she saw Hollywood at the Athens Stampede in 1995.
A big, handsome, stallion paint, the horse immediately captured her heart. She followed Hollywood’s career until she was able to purchase him (as a gelding) in 1999 from Dora Merriman.
Hollywood also had a son, the spitting image of his sire, named Macho Man. The pair of them could bring crowds to tears as they proudly opened the rodeos as color guards with Veno on Hollywood and Misty Bookman Sims on Macho Man.
“Those horses were always immaculate and in show ready condition. Katherine was a big supporter of anything having to do with the arena, including Special Olympics,” Andrew Gibbs Memorial Rodeo Arena director Johnny Adams said.
“She would show those kids her horses and dogs and talk about their care and training,” Adams added.
“Though small of stature, Katherine always had a commanding presence in the arena – a real showman,” Adams recalled.
Hollywood made his last appearance at the Mesquite Rodeo in September, 2001. He suffered from colic. Following surgery, he never regained his former strength and died just 17 months later.
“That began my horse decline, as I am always looking for what we had together,” Veno said.
“She has worn the Power of Eight completely out, trying to find a horse she will keep for more than two days, since her big paint Hollywood died,” horse trainer Charles Gunderson said.
“The criteria is tough, too. They have to be a paint or palomino and nearly housebroken,” Gunderson explained.
“If you see a horse you like with Katherine Veno, it’s for sale,” says Mark Wise, another advisor Veno admires.
Her husband Russ has always supported his wife’s passion, accompanying her to many drill team and rodeo events and suffering through the myriad of lost, cold or hurt creatures she has brought home to shelter and help.
Once Veno brought home a hawk who had been stunned in the updraft of a passing 18-wheeler. It later revived to her husband’s surprise, when he walked into their bedroom. The raptor hissed him a warning from the curtains with wings fully extended.
Another time, she tucked a wild mother rabbit and her brood of six bunnies under the kitchen sink to warm up from the frigid outside temperatures, only to have them bounding everywhere when Russ opened the door to put something in the trash.
Married for 31 years now, the pair are happy in a large home north of Mabank.
Two events greatly influenced the shape of Veno’s cowgirl dream. The first was joining the Texas Leather and Lace Drill Team from 1996-98. During that time, Veno’s entertainer side got to come out and play.
She played the role of team ambassador, soliciting sponsors and acquiring show opportunities.
Sponsors, such as Wrangler, Cowboy Magic, and Rio Vista were won over by Veno’s smile, confidence and non-stop talking.
“I sometimes think they signed on just to get me to shut up,” Veno laughs.
The team appeared at the Women’s National Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth for several years.
When it disbanded, Veno started her own drill troupe, to become one of the most popular in Texas, called Texas Wildfire Express.
Its 22 members performed and competed from 1998 to 2002. Hollywood played no small part on the team.
“One year, we did 40 rodeos. It was a grueling effort and took a toll with all the travel and expense,” Veno remembers.
She introduced a trick horse, Peaches and Cream, to the team’s routine. That horse came to trust Veno so much so that he would play dead on cue and remain so, even with Veno on his back and opening an umbrella.
“Horses are easily spooked,” Veno explained. “And nothing spooks them more than opening an umbrella near one.”
“Katherine is a bit of a risktaker,” Sam Epps said. Epps came with the team to most events, helping out with the gear and props.
“She’d get an idea about what might improve the show, and she’d just try it out. It didn’t matter that no one had seen it done before, she’d just do it, and it seemed to work for her,” he said.
The second greatest thing to influence her dream, was befriending a 6-year-old girl. That relationship taught Veno, who has never had children of her own, that she indeed had something special to offer young people and they, in turn, shaped her and helped her evolve.
“I never knew I had pa tience, until I started teaching,” Veno said.
Nicole Harrison became Veno’s first riding student, after her parents enlisted Veno to watch Nicole when the pair had to work or travel. The two developed a special bond over the years. Nicole in turn helped Veno with the students that followed.
Now age 16, Nicole competes in rodeo events and holds Veno in high regard.
“Katherine was the first one to help me learn western riding,” Nicole said. “She loves horses as much as I do. She’s kind and generous, and I’ll always remember riding at her house.”
“She is so eager to help people,” longtime friend and Nicole’s mom Susan Harrison said. “That’s rare these days, when people are so busy and focused on their own goals. But with Katherine, once you express a dream or desire, she nurtures it, by researching it or making useful suggestions to help. She’s just there for you,” Harrison said.
“My friends are very important to me,” Veno says. “The most important thing to me in a relationship is trust and honesty. I believe real love is based on friendship.”
Veno also lives life with a sense of urgency, not in a rush, but with purposefulness.
“I know it could end at any minute, because we’re all terminal,” Veno said.
“You just have to make room in your life for what’s really important – to you – and most times, that means letting go of things that aren’t as important.”

Courtesy Photo
Still in top form, Katherine Veno rides Scout in Western Pleasure
during competition in Terrell, October, 2006.