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
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
“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
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,
“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
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
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
• heard updates on district projects. Most are awaiting governmental reviews
• 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
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
“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:
It was love at first sight when she saw Hollywood at the Athens Stampede in
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
Veno also lives life with a sense of urgency, not in a rush, but with
“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
Still in top form, Katherine Veno rides Scout in Western Pleasure
during competition in Terrell, October, 2006.