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Story Over A Cup

In the days of fighting dinosaurs with loose leaf paper



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In the years that I have been in education, I have seen the classroom as a substitute, an aide; I have seen it from ISS and from Alternative and Regular education. Without a doubt, there are just times that you must just sit back and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Let’s face it, students can be frustrating. However, they can also be entertaining as all heck.

(You know that you are from an education background when you automatically use the “heck” word!)

This particular story, however, does not come from the vast number of tales from the Wild West of Education; this comes from my High School Days.

This particular memory sticks with me from the 90s between fighting loose-leaf notebooks with dinosaurs, (or is it the other way around). I still have to laugh whenever it pops back into my mind.


In my high school, English classes were split in their curriculum. One-half of the six weeks was dedicated to English literature and the senseless dissection of poetry; and English grammar. I have yet to have to use sentence diagramming outside of school. Maybe a wild prepositional phrase will attack me; climate change is chasing them out of their natural habitats after all.

Well, we had just finished our unit on Romeo and Juliet and it was time to continue the hunt for the elusive gerunds. So of course, it would be time to stop bringing the cumbersome literature books to class and start bringing the much smaller grammar textbooks to class.

Before I continue the story, let me take a minute to tell you about the teacher we had then, Mrs. Hill. A tall, skinny, older teacher, with short hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a loud voice. She enunciated each word.  So that meant that instead of just saying, “class be sure to have your textbooks,” it came out more like this,

“Cah-Las Be-ah Su-re to-ah Haa-Ve YOU-ARE Ta-ex-tah-boooksah!”

We lived in terror of her. She had been teaching a while when we were there and as late as my 20th reunion in 2014, she was still teaching. No one in our class ever dared talk back to her.

Until the day. That day which is burnt into my mind.


So it came to pass that Tommy would be the one to do it. Every class has a Tommy. That one devil may care classmate. Usually one of the more popular ones, the guy the girls all fawn over because he has the suave attitude and the boyish charm and looks to go with it. He gets out of trouble while you go to detention for being out of your seat when the tardy bell rings.

But, I digress.

Either way, the class had begun and it was time for us to open our books. Mrs. Hill told us to open our books to the particular page she wanted.

“Cah-las, turn toooo pahge 2-5-6.”

Immediately, 27 of 28 students dove for books they had brought and furiously flipped through their grammar books to the preassigned page. It was almost as if a minister had asked her flock to flip open their hymnals to prepare to worship the Lord’s name in a song.

Only one of the flock sat silent. His head propped up in his hand, looking disinterested and unafraid.


Only as Tommy could.

Mrs. Hill furiously began her lesson about prepositions. Calling down the eternal damnation of those that used them incorrectly, how the promise land of A’s and command of the English language was ripe for those of us sinners who repented and sought the kingdom of the adverb and conjugated verb.

She then spied Tommy. “An-d Mis-TER Thom-AS. Whe-re is you-ARE the-ex-taht book?”

He shrugged, “In my locker.”

Her ire grew, “And wha-t iss it doo-ing there?”

He smiled, “I don’t know probably, just sitting there.”


A stunned silence fell upon the room. Tommy had dared to talk back to Mrs. Hill. None of us knew what to do. Would she call upon the English gods to smite him down? Would she kill him herself? A few dared to laugh.

Mrs. Hill cracked a smile and went on. To this day I am not sure if the gods smiled down on Tommy or she thought it was funny. But in my years of teaching, I learned one thing, sometimes you just have to laugh.

Maybe that was one of the times for her.


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Story Over A Cup

2022 Coach of the Year: Josh Smalley



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Think fast…

Who is the greatest Coach in Orange?

A question guaranteed to start a lively debate. 

There are so many. Orange has a long and storied history of great athletes and great coaches. 

Must be something in the water.


Practically every coach in Orange, no matter the sport could be a contender for the title. 

But this year, I think there is no doubt about who to pick.

Orangefield’s Josh Smalley.

On the field, he led the Orangefield Bobcats to their first district championship since 1988 and through 2 rounds in the playoffs. 

As the Athletic Director for Orangefield, the department as a whole has flourished. 

When I approached Orangefield Superintendent Shaun McAlpin for a few words about Coach Smalley, he said:


Our athletic director, Coach Josh Smalley, epitomizes what it means to be an Orangefield Bobcat. 

He prioritizes positive relationships with our student-athletes, encourages student involvement in our extracurricular programs, and most importantly he is a team player who strives to do what is best for Orangefield ISD. 

 Additionally, Coach Smalley is a great example of living out our district motto of “We Believe!” each day by honoring our district’s vision, mission, and goals.

We are grateful for his dedication and continued service to our district and community. 

Coaching is not an easy job. It takes dedication, it takes self-confidence, and above all, to coach on the school level it takes a desire to want to build the future.

Smalley does all of that.

What is most amazing is he is a humble man. 


Great Coaches have to be confident. You have to have a belief in yourself unmatched by others. 

You have to believe in others.

You have to be a team player. This means you surround yourself with coaches that you support, and who support you. 

I had a chance to talk with Coach Michael Bethea about him:

Coach Smalley deserves all the accolades he gets. He is more than just a coach. He is an inspirational leader and an amazing person to be around. He wants everyone from players to coaches to be successful, but you are going to do it the right way. He expects you to work hard and show exceptional sportsmanship.

To be a coach of student-athletes, you add in the dimension of molding the future. 

Josh Smalley excels at that.


Cam Dischler, Varsity Football and Basketball Player said this about him:

Coach Smalley is not only our coach, but he is someone who we as a team can depend on any time.

He is someone I could call when I need help and he would be there in a heart beat because that’s how much he care about us. Playing under someone for that period of time you create a bond and all of us as a team have that because of who he is.

He is a great coach and had done so much for our little community better than anyone.

He is the face of our program and doesn’t always get the props he deserves, but he never lets that show.

One thing he says to us is we are Our Brothers Keeper. He has showed us what’s it’s meant to be brothers, to hold each other accountable, and how to be great young men.

And that’s what makes us winners on and off the field!


I had a chance to speak to his biggest cheerleader for this article. His mother, Brenda Smalley.

Before I tell you what she said about her son, I want to tell you a story of when I first had a chance to interact with this terrific lady.

We were posting the Friday night scores. I had just posted a West Orange score when a person, Brenda, posted asking about the Orangefield score. 

I replied (they were doing great in their game, by the way).

She thanked me and then told me that she was checking to see how her son was doing. 


Now, I checked the roster to see if I could find her son’s name so if there were any mentions of plays he was in, I could tell her.

However, I could find no player with the last name of Smalley (I had not yet made the connection. Call it a blonde moment of epic proportions)

So I asked her who her son was. After all, they could have had different last names.

To which she answered, “He is Coach Josh Smalley.”

I could read the pride in the way she typed that, A proud momma.

When I asked her for a quote for this article, she said:


I am so proud of him and everything he has done. He is the most humble person I know. He loves his God, his family, and his community. He is definitely one of a kind.

Personally, I have only had the pleasure of an interview and a string of emails. But, in all of those interactions, he has been a world-class guy. 

When My Orange Texas Now launched, it was hard to get break into sports coverage. From the very first email to today, Coach Smalley has included this organization in sports coverage. 

But, his mother told me another story that hit close to home. He and I are both Diabetics. He became Type 1 when he was 16 and I became one when I was 15.

It is a struggle for a teen to be a diabetic. Between growing and puberty, it hits hard. Plus just the idea of being different, for a teenager, you stick out.

It is a hard thing to deal with.

She told me that while a coach at LC-M a parent told her how much Josh had helped his son through the process of being one. It meant a lot to them.


That is what a coach does. 

Yes, it is important to win games. To clinch a championship. 

But, the true heart of a champion is being interested in building up those around you. Of lifting everyone up. 

A true coach is not just a sports coach, but a life coach. 

Long after the lights are off, and the field empty the reach and legacy of a true coach is in the quality of the men and women the coach pushed to be the best versions of themselves they can possibly be,

Yes, Josh Smalley led Orangefield to the playoffs. But it was in a large part by inspiring and leading his coaching staff and players to be the best they can be.


Notre Dame has a saying, “Play Like a Champion Today.”

That is what Josh Smalley brings to the table. It is that which made it an easy call to make him Coach of the Year.

I want to add a prediction. 

If you were to ask people who the best coaches of all time in Orange are, it is a good bet that Dan Hooks and Cornell Thompson will be mentioned.

I predict that in a few years, they will say the name Josh Smalley just as eagerly.

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Story Over A Cup

2022 Person of the Year: Henry Lowe



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The Person of the Year is a person who by their actions, positively improved the lives and culture of Orange County and its surroundings.

A few months back, when it was decided to have a person of the year, I thought it would be a very easy task. 

I was wrong. Orange County is an out-of-the-way county. About 80 thousand people. But it is a county of big personalities, big hearts, and great people.  

There were so many people considered for the award. I went back and forth for weeks narrowing it down. 

This being our first Person of the Year, I wanted it to be someone who I felt left a lasting impact on the community as a whole. 


Let’s face it, a lot of names fit that.  Orange County has great civic leaders. I could have picked any of our mayors and they would have fit that description. We have city council persons and county commissioners who easily would have fit. 

The County has leaders of faith who not only preach the gospel on Sunday but live it the rest of the week.

We have artists who paint memorable murals and record songs that one day will probably go on to be national names. 

Businesspeople who not only are great entrepreneurs but people who are amazing neighbors. 

It was a hard choice.

But it was also an easy choice.


There are not many people who leave a lasting impression on you. 

But Henry Lowe did for me and many others in the Orange Community.

Born in 1938 in Nacogdoches Texas, and moved to Orange in 1950 to pursue a career as a jockey. He was small, even smaller than the normal range of 110-115 pounds for match races. He was not allowed to ride in those races because he didn’t weigh enough. But he was allowed in races that were stipulated as catch-weight races. Jockeys were not required to be a minimum weight to ride. The only stipulation was that the jockey had to stay on the horse for the entire race. Lowe had a knack for doing that. His weight gave him an advantage and he began to be sought out by owners racing their horses.

His career as a jockey took him to many places, and eventually back to Orange.

He was active in the civil right movement in the area along with the Democratic Party.

In his later years, he started the Orange African American Museum. A place to celebrate the accomplishments and the story of African-Americans in Orange. 


Okay, good and all, but more than this, Henry was a great storyteller. 

Henry was passionate about telling the story of Orange. Not always a bright and happy story, but a story that needed and needs to still be told. 

I remember so many of his stories. Honestly, I can not recall a single time when I talked to him when I did not hear a story from days gone by.

As a man who lived it, when he told the story, you for a brief moment lived it too. 

The past of America and Orange is not always a good one. Things have happened that many people would rather forget.

Henry was determined to not let this happen. 


In a way, it was fitting for a man who made history and lived it to build a legacy of preserving history.

He reminded me of a Greek Philosopher in a way. In his twinkling eyes was the wisdom of years and the insight only a person who had lived life would have.

He went to great lengths to be friendly to everyone. Henry was a man who could make friends wherever he went. 

Orange was and is a better place because Henry Lowe was in it. I will not say we are poorer now that Henry is gone, for as long as we can keep his legacy and memory alive that richness is still here. 

George Patton has a quote about men who died in battle which I feel fits Henry. 

 “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”


That fits my thoughts on the memory of Henry. I am saddened he is gone, but my life is better for having met him. 

Henry typified what I was looking for in choosing the Person of the Year. I could not let close the book on 2022 without remembering him. 

When I was writing this, I wondered if it were better to refer to him as a jockey, a historian, or any of the other hats he wore.

I think the one he would have preferred was:





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Ask Roswell

A Story Over A Cup: A visit from Saint Nick (as retold by Bill the Dog)



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This became a holiday tradition a number of years ago. I have moved to a different platform, but want to keep this tradition alive.

Since I first wrote this, we have lost first Bernie, and this past summer, Jada. This is a way I keep their memories.

Happy Christmas to all! 

My human, Michael is off this weekend, so it is up to me, Bill, to write his column.
Since this is the weekend before Christmas, I have decided that my two brothers will help me in reciting the Night Before Christmas.

So, sit back as me, Bernie and Roswell entertain as only we can.



Bill, Bernie, and Roswell had the living room to themselves. They watched as the coloured Christmas lights blinked on and off. Bill yawned and looked at his two brothers who were occupying the chairs on the other side of the room.

“My human,” he always referred to Michael that way, after all, to Bill, Michael was his. He only shared him with his brothers, his mother, Jada, and Franchesca.

My human has asked me to read you the Christmas bedtime story of, “The Night Before Christmas. It is about Santa Claus”
Roswell’s and Bernies’s ears perked up and they looked at their brother. It sounded like fun, after all, they knew that every year they got special tasty treats from Santa, so they waited for him to begin.

Bill dragged an older-looking book from under the couch, where he had stashed it next to his growing collection of silverware and other odds and ends he thought were shiny.

Using his snout to push open the book, he cleared his throat to begin.


‘Twas the night before Christmas,

Bernie looked confused, he asked, “What’re a twas?”

Bill shrugged, “I think it is a fancy was, anyway:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Bernie stared carefully at the walls, trying to hear the scurring of little feet. He asked, “We have mice?”

Bill sighed, “No, in the story:


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

Bernie squinted his eyes, “Who is Saint Nicholas? You said this was about Santa Claus!”

Roswell looked up, “Oh, Saint Nicholas is Santa’s street name. That’s what Google told me. So he can avoid being tracked by the illuminatti.”

Bill or Bernie wasn’t sure if that was the right answer, but he did say it was on the interwebs so it must be true.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

Bernie looked perplexed. He would admit that since mealtime and running defending the house against terrorist invaders was his favourite thing, he was not aware of too many other things. However, this had him confused.


“We sleep in comfy chairs, not beds. What is a ‘sugar plum? You don’t have a cap.”
Roswell looked nervous, “Be afraid, sugar plums in your dreams are signs the NSA is watching.”

Bill wasn’t sure if that was right, but he had to go on. 

“In the story,” he stated.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Bernie bounded from his recliner barking wildly as he headed for the window,



Bill tried desperately to read on over the sound of his brother barking loudly.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Bernie was confused again. Bill had said a sleigh with reindeer had invaded. Yet he saw nothing. Then again, he also had only seen snow once and thought it was tasty.

He walked back to his recliner and with a thud, jumped into it and curled up. He was not liking this story. It was not good for his nerves.


Bill cleared his throat and tried to continue,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

Roswell snorted, “That’s the names given we are told they have. Have we ever seen a reindeer? Do you think that they would have code name style names? It is a military-style cover name. Those are handles.”

Bill looked, “What are you talking about?”

But Bill did not give Roswell a chance to answer, he knew that it would take far more than the rest of the evening. So he read quickly.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.


Bill stopped reading, he was missing a page from the story. He knew it was there when he found the book and yanked it off the shelf. Then he remembered that he had gotten hungry and ate it. He hoped his humans wouldn’t notice.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

Bernie and Roswell leapt off their chairs and ran to their stockings that were tacked on the wall. Even Roswell jumping up and trying to grab the bottom of his stocking did not allow him to pull it down to investigate. He looked angry, muttered something about conspiracies, and sauntered back to his chair.

Bill cocked his head in confusion and decided to finish his narrative.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

This past year has been a wonderful year of writing articles to entertain and inform. To all my readers, I wish you a joyous holiday and prosperous New Year.



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