“Scampering about”

This article was a lot of fun to write. Although it took a number of weeks for the paper’s photographer to get out to the farm to take pictures beacuse of rain, a clear sunny day finally appeared. Charlie said he had fun capturing some adorable pictures of the baby Scottish Highland cows. Unfortunately that day I was not able to meet Charlie at the farm, so I had to wait and see the pictures. On Sunday, I received an extremely sweet email from Kathy, one of the individuals I interviewed for the article. I love hearing feedback!


Hi Meghan,

What a delightful article you wrote about our “babies.” We’ve had lots of comments on it and have enjoyed re-reading it many times over.

I proudly purchased 25 copies, and the article and pictures have been mailed all over the United States! The babies continue to treat the hot wire as if it didn’t exist and they lounge under the Leyland Cypress trees in the shade while the moms moo and scold them. They don’t venture far away, yet, and if they do, we hear lots of bellowing from the moms. Even Quinn scolds them. What fun.

Keep up the good work.

Sincerely, Kathy Breen and Roger Drake


Scottish lads and lassies

Farm family welcomes new calves to Highland herd

Published in April 29, 2014 issue of the Herald & Tribune

Three new Scottish Highland cows, which recently came into the world, have brought a bit of extra joy to a Jonesborough couple who enjoys watching them frolic through the fields.

Roger Drake and Kathy Breen, who moved to Jonesborough in 2006 from New Jersey, decided to look into purchasing cattle for the first time because of the acreage that surrounds their home.

“We have adopted this as our new home,” Breen said of the area. “It’s a beautiful place.”

Drake said they purchased five Scottish Highland cows and a registered bull two and a half years ago.

20140506_103358-1“We got interested in them when we were doing research about cattle,” he explained.

The horned breed of cattle attracted the couple because they fatten well on grass and have excellent maternal care of their babies.

Drake said the breed, which has been domesticated for more than 400 years, is a hardy old line of cattle that is not affected by the cooler weather. He said a good portion of the Scottish Highland herds are in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“We have 20 acres and wanted them to be workers to eat the grass and keep it up,” Drake said.

In an effort to simulate the old pattern of the migrating herd, Drake spends about an hour moving his fence every two to three days to allow the cattle to eat the grass to a certain level.

“That keeps our grass healthy and growing,” he said. “The drought didn’t affect us that much at all because we have tall grass and we can move them and let the grass re-grow quickly.”

He said he compares his property to pizza; he’s giving the cattle various slices of the pasture while moving them 50 to 100 feet at a time.

“We are trying to rebuild our land using these cattle. We are letting them spread their waste in an organized pattern,” he said. “We control that migration.”

The first of the three calves, Patricia, was born on March 17. A week later the second baby cow, Angus, was born, followed by the third the following week. A good Scottish female name is currently being sought for the third-born.  Drake said the fourth arrived April 27 and is named Mactavish.

“The day Patty was born, we had her and the mom in a corral,” Breen said. “The first day of her life she ran through five additional barb wires at the perimeter and went into the neighbor’s yard. That was Patty’s first day and she hasn’t disappointed us yet.”

She said Patty seems to be the leader of the pack.

“She has Angus following her like a little puppy,” Breen said. “We have fun with them. We enjoy watching them out the kitchen window.”

Drake said they are having a marvelous time watching them scampering about.

After all, he said, what is there not to like about calves kicking their heels running and playing?

“He is a good father,” Drake said of his bull. “He seems to be very interested in their babies and seems to be gentle with them.”

The new additions cannot be officially registered until they are 2 years old.

Drake’s plan is to have 12 to 14 Scottish Highland cattle for his property.

“I have a fine registered bull. He better bring me fine little babies,” he said laughing. “He seems to be quite interested in my five cows. We are going to breed him along for a couple of more years and by that time we should reach a steady state.”

A life forever changed

When I worked at the Pine Island Eagle as the editor, a musician on the island, Kip, shared a story he thought I might be interested in, which of course I was.

Kip reached out to me again. At the beginning of March, he asked if I was doing freelance work and then told me of an inspiring story, one he thought I would be interested in writing.

“I wrote you because I know your passion for writing,” Kip told me. “Of all the writers I know, you take writing seriously and do it well.”

That inspiring story, was the same one I shared in the Eagle, but this time with more information.

So, here is the inspiring story of his brother:

Jay Lawrence was a high school jock, earning the most valuable player his junior year at Cape Coral High School before continuing on to college to pursue baseball.

A year after he began college, he started working for a friend of his father’s in Cape Coral, Florida at 20-years-old. After working for the business and learning how to use machines for cabinet manufacturing, three months later he was offered a 25 percent profit share to run the store in a new location, West Palm Beach.

Britain Wood Working was opened.

“The fourth month that we were there, 21 days before my 21st birthday I fell asleep,” Jay said.

He fell asleep behind the wheel of his truck at 2 a.m. August 3, 1996, when he flipped it.

“I remember waking up and my head was stuck,” Jay continued, adding that he was trying to pull himself out before blacking out again. “I remember them putting me into a helicopter and asking a guy if anyone else was hurt.”

When Jay woke again, he was in the hospital.

Jay, although wasn’t drinking, went out to the bars with a few friends that night. He said it had been a long day, waking up early, working all day, and then going out that night.

The accident had broke Jay’s neck at the C5, 6 level, which left him paralyzed from his mid chest down.

“I can move my arms, but I can’t use my triceps and can’t open and close my hands,” he said.

Jay was transferred back to Fort Myers on August 24.

“You are used to the first 20 years of your life,” he said, which drastically changed after the accident.

Now everything is somewhat of a challenge for the now 39-year-old.

Although a nurse visits him at his home in the morning and evening, things he would take for granted, such as a simple task of getting out of bed to get something to eat if he was hungry, before his accident, now has to wait until the nurse visits again.

Although faced with new obstacles, Jay pushed on and decided to help others who have also experienced the same injuries.

“He is now 39 and has been a quadriplegic for almost 20 years, but has a zest for life rarely seen,” Kip wrote to me.

This man, continues touching the world, all from his wheelchair.

After the accident, Jay started a chapter of the Buoniconti Fund, a project to cure paralysis, in Southwest Florida, which is no longer active.

He decided he wanted to form his own organization instead.

In 2009, he began Hands Up Charity. The charity helps getting equipment and supplies for people that need them and do not have the means to purchase them. Jay said they have provided such items as electric wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, adaptive bikes and an assortment of medical equipment.

For more information, visit: http://www.facebook.com/pages/HANDS-UP-CHARITY/166458918338.

Jay said they are always looking for donations, so they can continue the organizations efforts.

With his organization slowly getting up and running, he started working at a new job.

In 2008, Jay began working part-time as a sales representative for the Florida Stingrays Arena Team before becoming the sales manager. Once the owners of the team were let go, Jay became the general manager.

“I wanted to figure out a way to make it come back after the owners were gone,” he said of the team.

The Florida Stingrays football organization is a semi-pro football team that is comprised of 45 players. The games are held at Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers. The organization hopes to move to some of the high school fields in the near future. The Stingrays travel north to Tampa for games and as far south as Miami.

Now the team is doing really well, with a 6-1 record this year.

“We are marching towards the playoffs,” he said.

About six year’s ago, Jay began thinking of ways to further make the team successful, which are slowly coming to fruition.

Jay said he is working towards launching a few programs for the Stingray team, one in which resembles the Green Bay Packers organization, which has been publicly owned as a nonprofit corporation since 1923. Jay said lawyers are working on documentation, so they can apply for Florida law, giving the community an opportunity to become shareholders of the team.

Jay said there will be 10,000 shares available at $100 per share.

“The community will be able to come in and be part of the team and be able to vote,” he said. “The team will not have an owner per say.”

This new program, will provide an opportunity to take the team to the next level; therefore offering insurance for the players and opportuntiies for them to further their education. Jay said he wants to provide the opportunity for the players to further their education at a local college, university, tech or trade school.

Another program includes, “Sponsor a Future Stingray Program,” allowing businesses in the community to sponsor kids for $25.  He said it is important to give kids access to meet the players.

“We want them to be mentors, provide a positive role model for kids with the community,” Jay said of the players.

In either May or June, “The Journey Man,” a documentary about the Stingray football team will be released.

For more information about the Stingrays, visit: http://www.facebook.com/floridastingraysfootball or http://floridastingrays.wix.com/floridastingrays.

Jay’s story just goes to show that wonderful things can happen, as long as you push on and make the most of  your life.

Backyard train layouts

A few weeks ago I interviewed two gentleman who have turned their backyards into a pretty extensive train display. These gentleman, along with a few others, open up their backyard to the public, so they too can enjoy the train layouts. The pictures they sent me were stunning.

Train enthusiasts chug into backyards for tours

Published March 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

Valleywide members of the Arizona Big Train Operators are opening their backyards to the public to provide rare glimpses into their garden train layouts.

Sun Lakes resident Rich Hill says Arizona Big Train Operators, a club dedicated to garden railroad enthusiasts, boasts 90 members mostly in Chandler, Mesa, Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.

The Spring Open House Tour is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, and Sunday, March 30. For all locations, as well as a map, visit www.azbigtrains.org. Five members who live in Chandler and Sun Lakes will have their railways on display.

“There are usually about 14 or 15 families that participate in this,” he says. “Everyone that is involved really are the leaders of our club. They take an interest in this and make sure their layout is pristine for the public to see. It’s a big deal for everyone at every age.”

The tour is the first of two this year. The Christmas event in 2013 attracted more than 1,300 people over two weekends, Hill says. This is the second year the club has held a Spring Open House Railway Tour for the public. Last year the two-day event attracted up to 500 people.

“Just about everyone is putting a lot of effort in the Spring Open House,” Hill says.

Ennis Thompson, also a Sun Lakes resident, says in 1997 he began an open house by himself to showcase his train layout.

“One year, we had 11,000 people in 16 days in my backyard,” Thompson says.

At one time, he held an open house for 20 straight days for four hours each day, which increased the crowd.

Now Thompson is among the ABTO members who participate in the spring and Christmas open house tours.

Backyard train layouts

Once Thompson moved to Sun Lakes, he built another railroad in his backyard. Thompson’s layout is 34 feet by 12 feet and which runs fi ve trains at a time. The railroad tracks run up a mountain and back down to a station where there is a pond with fish. He fashions his own buildings for the layout.

Ennis Thompson's layout. Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

Ennis Thompson’s layout. Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

“I’m going to put up a little car dealership at the end,” Thompson says. “I would like to build a covered bridge.”

Hill’s layout is just as elaborate. He began setting up his 35 feet by 70 feet program as soon as he moved into his Sun Lakes home. The layout, dubbed Rooster Creek Railroad, includes more than 500 feet of track. The layout has a fictitious town set in the 1950s with buildings named after businesses in his hometown Atlantic, Iowa.

Richard Hill's train layout. Photo provided to SanTan Sun News

Richard Hill’s train layout.   Photo provided to SanTan Sun News

“I like the era of the 1950s,” Hill says. Attending school during that decade, “a lot of things stuck in my mind. That’s what I tried to recreate.”

The layout also includes an oil refinery with 400 lights, a mine building, a farm with silos and about 400 people. A movie theater with a marquee and flashing lights is also among the layout, one of only two-made in the United States.

“Most of my buildings are now five to six years old and they look almost brand new because I put them inside,” Hill says.

Hill has a three-car garage that he turned into a hobby room containing memorabilia from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

“My son and I are building a Ringling train from the 1950s,” Hill explains.

Hill conducts a scavenger hunt for the youngsters who visit his layout during the open house. He says the scavenger hunt includes items that can be found on the train layout.

Donations, which are tax-deductible, will be accepted at the homes participating in the tour. The money donated will support ABTO activities and a train layout at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.

Founded in 1996 for those interested in g-scale trains, ABTO meets monthly.

Early love of trains

Hill’s love of trains started as a young boy when he and his brother received one for Christmas.

“I grew up in an area where four railroads went within 20 miles of our house,” Hill explains. “My parents always made sure my brother and I were around when the famous trains came through. I had a real interest in real trains and I still do.”

Thompson says his dad was an engineer on the North Central when he was a young boy. He says he got through college by working on the railroad. After graduating, the railroad crews began getting cut and he became a teacher in Indiana for 12 years.

When he moved to Arizona in 1976, he spotted Arizona Train Depot, which ignited a new hobby.

“By the time I got out of there, I joined the club and held about every office in the club,” Thompson says.

Open house enjoyment

Thompson says he enjoys participating in the open house because he loves watching the people.

“I really enjoy seeing people enjoy the railroad,” he says. “It brings back their pasts and some kids just stand there in awe.”

Hill agrees that people, particularly the young, are the reason he participates. He says there have been times when parents have to take their children away in tears because they do not want to leave.Some of the youngsters make sure to tell Hill what he has added from tour to tour.

“The older adults enjoy it because chances are they had a model train as a child,” Hill says. “They notice things on the train layout and it brings back memories from their childhood.”

‘Be Epic’

Last week I interviewed two students – a senior and a junior – at David Crockett High School in Washington County, Tennessee. This article was my favorite one from last week . . . Austin’s words are still ringing in my head “be epic.” This is an incredible story, one I’m glad I had the opportunity to share.

Crockett hero quickly steps in to save fellow student’s life

Published in Herald & Tribune March 11, 2014 issue

David Crockett High School senior Kenny Cutshall’s quick thinking saved the life of a fellow student recently.

“It was just natural,” he said about giving Austin Oxendine, a junior, the Heimlich maneuver in the school’s cafeteria on Feb. 27.

Scan0001Cutshall said he has never had Heimlich training and that was the first time he had ever done it on someone.

Oxendine was sitting with a couple of friends by the water fountain in the cafeteria eating a chicken sandwich that day.

“It was actually pretty good,” he said. “It’s normally pretty hard to swallow.”

Oxendine said since he was starving, he wolfed down the sandwich – something he is known to do. Unfortunately, this time he began choking.

“I was choking for a good minute before anyone realized what was going on,” he said.

A teacher, who was in the cafeteria, walked over to Oxendine and asked him if he was okay. As that teacher was making his way over, Cutshall became aware of the situation.

Things got a little frantic after that. Cutshall saw that Oxendine’s face started going red as he leaned over the table. Cutshall stood up and asked if Oxendine was all right.

He noticed then that Oxendine’s face was becoming more red and bluish.

“He stood up and started to pass out,” Cutshall said, adding that when Oxendine started to fall back down, Cutshall grabbed a hold of him.

He proceeded to do the Heimlich – a lifesaving maneuver specifically designed to help choking victims – and gave Oxendine two pumps.

Oxendine began coughing, which led Cutshall to ask if he wanted a drink of his Gatorade. Oxendine declined.

Principal Andrew Hare said the incident all happened within a minute and very few people knew what had occured because of the way Cutshall responded.

“It seemed like forever,” Cutshall said to Oxendine. “When you were choking, it was scary.”

Oxendine said his throat gave him a little bit of trouble over the next few days, but overall, he recovered quickly.

“I was perfectly fine,” he said. “I think my mother made a fuss more than I did.”

That experience taught Cutshall not to hesitate when a moment of help arises.

“It feels pretty good,” he said of helping another person.

Oxendine was very glad Cutshall stepped in and helped him.

“I’m glad I’m standing here,” he said. “Usually you don’t see something like that happen.

“No one wants to go and step out. Kenny didn’t care. He just wanted to help, and I’m thankful for it.”

Assistant Principal Peggy Wright said EPIC behavior is discussed a great deal at David Crockett High School. She said they talk about being responsible and having integrity and helping your fellow man.

“Kenny saved a kid’s life,” Wright said. “By the time we would have gotten a nurse, he could have been laying their unconscious.”

Hare said he is very appreciative, proud and thankful that Cutshall helped another student  in the cafeteria that day.

Ostrich Festival

A few weeks ago I interviewed the Chandler Chamber of Commerce president and CEO about an annual festival that attracts quite a few people. This annual event celebrates the history of ostrich farms in Chandler, Arizona. It sounds like a fun event to attend.

Celebrate Chandler’s history during the Ostrich Festival

Published in SanTan Sun News March 1, 2014 issue

Families can partake in fun and healthy activities while celebrating Chandler’s history during the 26th Ostrich Festival from Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, at Tumbleweed Park.

Ostrich Festival1

The 26th annual Ostrich Festival will kick off with the Mayor’s 5K Fun Run and parade on March 1, but the fun continues Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, for three days of activities.
Submitted photo to the SanTan Sun News

Chandler was the home to the largest ostrich farms in the country in the early 1900s. Twenty-six years ago, the Ostrich Festival was created to pay homage to that.

“We created the Ostrich Festival as a way to celebrate our heritage,” says Terri Kimble, Chandler Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “It’s a great event to bring families and traditions together.”

Terry Locke, chairman of the Mayor’s 5K Fun Run that officially kicks off festivities on Saturday, March 1, calls the festival a signature event for the community. He says nothing else attracts as many people.

“There is something for everyone,” Locke says. “People are amazed when they see all the things to do. There are so many different stages and entertainment and rides for the kids. It’s a lot to take in, in one day.”

The fun run begins March 1 with registration at 6:30 a.m. followed by the main event at 7:50 a.m. Locke says participants can run or walk down Arizona Avenue to help raise money for the Chandler Education Foundation.

“It’s a nice event and it leads into the (10 a.m.) parade,” Locke says. “The two events complement each other very well.”

Kimble says the parade is a nice way to feature local people and organizations.

It builds momentum and community involvement for the Ostrich Festival a week later, Locke adds. Originally, the festival was held in downtown Chandler but it moved to Tumbleweed Park when it outgrew the space.

“That is a testament to what a local favorite it is,” she says.

One of the yearly traditions of the Ostrich Festival is the Great American Ostrich Races. Attendees can ride the ostrich bareback or participate in the chariot races.

Ostrich Festival2

The Great American Ostrich Races, which will be held Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, at Tumbleweed Park is a favorite of the Ostrich Festival. Submitted photo to the SanTan Sun News

“They are fun,” she says. “Ostriches are very fast.”

Ostriches can run up to 45 miles per hour for about 30 minutes.

The festival will also feature Rhinestone Roper, a horse show that has been entertaining Chandler residents for 15 years. The show thrills its audience with trick roping, knife throwing, bullwhip cracking, gun spinning, fast draw shooting and stunts by veteran trick horses Lucky Joe and Handsome Jack.

The Fearless Flores Thrill Show, which features nine generations of Fearless Flores Family circus performers, will showcase the Globe of Death—a 14-foot steel cage for motorcycle tricks.

“They drive a motorcycle in a sphere and they have someone standing in the middle,” Kimble says.

The Birdman will bring eagles, macaws, hornbills, cassowary, cockatoos, cranes, emu, parrots and a 10-foot wingspan condor all in a free-flying avian extravaganza.

Kimble says the BMX stunt bikes are a crowd favorite. It features athletes who have participated in the X Games.

New this year, is a 6.5-foot diameter water ball, which gives individuals an opportunity to go inside an air sealed hamster ball and walk on water.

The Axe Women Loggers of Maine, Family Magic Show, the Freak Show Deluxe, a live stingray exhibit, Survivor Family Game Show, petting zoo, pony and camel rides, bungee trampoline and pig races are other activities at the Ostrich Festival.

“There is really something for everybody,” Kimble says.

Peyton List, who portrays Emma Rose on the Disney Channel show “Jessie,” will be signing autographs and taking pictures during the festival.

Musical entertainment will also be a part of the Ostrich Festival all weekend.

Edwin McCain will play at 6 p.m. Friday, March 7; A Flock of Seagulls at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7; Three Dog Night at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8; and Rancho Viejo at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 9, on the main stage. The Twisted Blues, Run 2 Cover and TK and the Irresistibles will play on the Ostrich Coop Stage throughout the weekend as well.

“A community stage has been a great tradition,” Kimble says. “It’s a way to celebrate the community, talents and treasures we have here.”

For foodies, there will be gourmet food trucks and stations featuring dishes such as ostrich burgers, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken.

Tickets are $7 for seniors and children and $10 for adults.

For more information, visit www.ostrichfestival.com

‘An authentic Tennessee moonshine distillery’

This article has been an ongoing topic I have been covering for the last month or so for the Herald & Tribune. A young Jonesborough resident is slowly clearing hurdle after hurdle to put a craft distillery in downtown Jonesborough, Tenn.

For my past articles click on the links below:

Distillery coming to Jonesborough:


Proposed distillery gets planning OK: https://meghan80.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/a-made-with-love-distilling-company/

With one ‘no’ vote cast . . .

Future downtown distillery clears next hurdle

Published in Feb. 18, 2014 Herald & Tribune

Stephen Callahan, who hopes to open a distillery in downtown Jonesborough later this year, received nearly the full support of the Board of Mayor and Alderman during an ordinances first reading last week – minus one vote.

Alderman Homer G’Fellers voted against the ordinance, he said, because of his personal beliefs.

“I have never voted for any type of alcohol in the town of Jonesborough,” he said.

G’Fellers said he believes a small quaint town like Jonesborough does not need a distillery business.  That belief, he said has nothing to do with the distillery itself or Callahan.

“We are really excited that we got the blessing of the Mayor and the Alderman’s,” Callahan said the next day. “We are really happy with last night’s outcome. That is a big victory and it makes me feel a lot better personally to know the mayor and alderman have supported this.”

The board’s approval, Callahan said, reassured him and his supporters that they are doing something possible and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in regards to opening a distillery in town.

The BMA approved an ordinance that creates a Distilling Company Overlay Zone, as well as an amendment for the Jonesborough Zoning map. The map provides Callahan with the opportunity to submit a site plan when applying for state and federal permits.

Although the state allows for the manufacturing of wine or liquor, the town determines where a distillery can be located within town limits. An overlay zone is established for appropriate locations by the town for retail liquor stores.

“This is not about a specific venue yet,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “It’s about a zone to allow the venue to exist.”

Callahan has been working with Doug Lowrie, the owner of the Salt House, for the craft distillery business location.

“It will allow Doug and I to continue to finalize the formal lease agreements,” he said of the board’s decision. “It gives me a piece of mind knowing that Jonesborough is going to support us.”

According to the Town of Jonesborough, the intent of the Distilling Overlay District is to “provide suitable locations for the possible operation of a distilling company meeting all state and federal requirements that legally manufactures and sells intoxicating liquors within the corporate limits of the Town of Jonesborough.” The purpose. according to town documents, is to enhance the local economy, while increasing the town’s potential, all while ensuring the safety and welfare of visitors and residents.

A distilling company can be located in the overlay zone if the manufacturing building is 500 feet away from an active church or school or 150 feet away if located in a central business district.

In order to be located in the overlay zone, a submitted site plan including the availability of parking; adequate pedestrian access; schematic of the building; an odor control plan and a business plan must be submitted to the Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission for approval.

Approval is also required from the Historic Zoning Commission, if the building is located in the historic district, for exterior building improvements and signage. Before a regular certificate of occupancy is issued, a landscape plan must be submitted to the Tree and Townscape Board.

The Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission will also review and approve the site plan and use of the property.

Alderman Chuck Vest said a distillery is a good opportunity for downtown, possibly establishing something to grow with years to come.

Callahan said he now has the business license and is starting to pursue the legal paperwork as far as bonds and permits from the federal and state government. He said as soon as he obtains the federal permits, the ball will really start rolling for the business.

“It’s becoming more of a reality every day,” he said about his dream of creating an authentic Tennessee moonshine distillery.

Callahan said within the next month he hopes to start ordering equipment for the distillery.

“This is my hometown,” he said of Jonesborough. “I feel really honored to bring a unique business to my hometown.”

His hope is to put the best legally made Tennessee moonshine on liquor store shelves across America.

“We are going to be a professional business and operate in a professional manner in respect to the town,” Callahan said. “We are trying to bring a quality, sophisticated distillery into the town of Jonesborough. We are hard working people taking a leap of faith and hopefully have something to be proud of.”

The ordinance will become affective after the passage of the second and final reading takes place.

‘Travel back in the early 20th century’

Trains are always an interesting subject to learn about. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona a few weeks ago. I also talked to the events coordinator regarding the Arizona Railway Days. It sounds like a really interesting event to attend to learn more about the history of Arizona’s railways.

Celebrate the history of Arizona railways March 1

Published Feb. 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

The Arizona Railway Museum will celebrate Arizona Railway Day by offering the public an opportunity to view a large collection of Arizona specific railroad equipment that are rarely available to visitors.

The celebration, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, will also mark the museum’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s fun for all ages,” Special Events Coordinator Mark Redmond says of the event. “You really get a chance to see what it’s like to travel back in the early 20th century. Everything will be open, all the railroad cars, including the private cars and locomotives.”

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944. Individuals can view this caboose during the Arizona Railway Day on Saturday, March 1, at the Arizona Railway Museum. Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944.
Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

By walking through the cars, the public can get a better understanding of private cars.

“I’m very happy to announce that, for the first time in the Valley, we have the Amtrak Visit Train,” Redmond explains.

The train was originally used for Amtrak’s 40th anniversary and now it travels throughout the country to explain how it was created, where it’s been and where it’s going. It will be available for viewing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

The locomotive engineer from Legend City, an amusement park in Arizona from the 1960s to the 1980s, will also attend.

For the youngsters, there are opportunities to enter a real diesel locomotive and blow the air horn, and step inside a steam locomotive and blow the steam whistle. But children should be forewarned.

“There are no guarantees (it will) blow every time because it takes a lot of air,” Redmond says.

There will be extra parking available during the event with a hay wagon shuttle service courtesy of the Chandler Lions Club, which will provide food and drinks for purchase.

Although the museum is asking for donations, admission is free.

Founding the museum

Bart Barton, a founding member of the Arizona Railway Museum, says the idea to open a museum blossomed from a rail photo trip he took with colleagues to Nogales to photograph old railway equipment. Because the closest railing museum, the Orange Empire Railway Museum in California, is about 300 miles away, it made sense to the founders to bring a facility to Arizona.

“We would drive over there (California); we were volunteers over there,” he says. “We got the idea that we should have a museum in Arizona.”

Five guys, all local rail fans, wrote the bylaws for the museum and established a nonprofit status in 1983. The goal was to open a museum near railway tracks so organizers could bring in equipment.

“We talked to the City of Phoenix, Gilbert, Mesa and went up to Glendale and ended up in Chandler,” he says. “(The City of Chandler has been) very receptive and absolutely wonderful partners.”

The museum has grown beyond the founders’ original expectations 30 years ago.

“We are in our new home in Tumbleweed Park and still growing,” Barton says. “We are looking for those particular pieces of equipment that has history with Arizona.”

The Arizona Railway Museum, which sits on 6 acres on the west end of Tumbleweed Park, has approximately 50 cars, passenger and freight, three locomotives and numerous artifacts on display.

“We are home to six private railroad cars that are Amtrak certified,” Redmond explains.

The collection also includes the PCC Trolley 4607, which came from the City of Phoenix Transportation Department. Although the trolley no longer operates, Redmond says it has been restored.

Union Pacific has donated a good amount of equipment to the museum, which includes railroad crossing equipment that will be put on display.

“We are always trying to get rolling stock and locomotives in,” Redmond says about the costly and time consuming process.

The Arizona Railway Museum is located at 330 E. Ryan Rd., Chandler. The museum is regularly open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekends between Labor and Memorial days.

For more information call (480) 821- 1108 or visit http://www.azrymuseum.org.

‘Cape Harbour, a Yachting Community’

When I worked for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze I covered many events at Cape Harbour. It really is a unique community. I enjoy writing for this publication, Community Lifestyles, because it’s intersting to learn what each community has to offer in Southwest Florida.

“Community Lifestyles showcases some of the finest communties found throughout Southwest Florida.”

Cape Harbour

Article published in December 2013 Community Lifestyles Cape Coral

Cape Harbour, a yachting community in Cape Coral offers a variety of public events, shopping and dining opportunities for its residents and community at large to enjoy.

Cape Harbour came to life after Will Stout traveled to Southwest Florida from Atlanta to retire from 30 years of developing properties and owning a real estate brokerage. When arriving in Cape Coral, he discovered a 150-acre waterfront property, which he transferred into his vision of an upscale waterfront community.

In 2000, Stout formed and founded Realmark Development.

Scan0001The community offers estate homes, waterfront villas, coach homes, condominiums, rental homes and “Funky Fish Houses.”

Realtor Ted Stout said the Funky Fish Houses, which includes Gulf of Mexico access, range from $650,000 to $900,000. He said the neat thing about the residential homes, which range from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, is they are built over the water because Realmark Group owns the water rights.

The community offers a marina that has 76 wet slips and dry storage for boats up to 34 feet in length. Stout said there also is a bait shop, rentals for kayaks and paddleboards and fishing charters. Individuals can also rent a boat by day, join a boat club or hire a guide to go out on the water.

Event Manager Glenda Swager said there are seven merchants related to marine services in Cape Harbour.

There also are 11 boutique shops along the Promenade with the High Maintenance Salon and Day Spa. She said Harbour View Gallery, which offers unique items, has recently expanded their business.

“Even with the tight economy, we have stayed full. We are very happy with that.” Swager said. “It’s because we do the events and bring people here.”

There are two new merchants coming onboard in January – The Wish List and Waterside Wine Club.

The shops are open all week-long from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Swager said.

The community also has four restaurants and a coffee shop that offers coffee, breakfast and lunch items.

There is also live music every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday between the towers and Motown music on Wednesday, as well as live music on Saturday at Pignoli on the Harbour.

The community offers signature events every year, which are open to the residents and the public.

“Our event calendar is always full,” Swager said.

Cape HarborThe 23rd annual Tour De Cape, which always takes place in January, has been held at Cape Harbour for the past four years. (The 2014 run and cycling event has been set for Saturday, Jan. 18, for the 5K and Sunday, Jan. 19, for 15-mile, 30-mile, 60-mile and 100-mile bike ride.) Water and Wheels, another signature event, always takes place in March.

The Farmers Market is held from May until September every year and the annual Great American Picnic Lunch, which includes the famous Patriotic Pet Contest, is held on July 4.

Swager said they recently held Holiday Magic, which has been held the weekend before Thanksgiving for the past seven years, to kick off the holidays. The event includes an appearance by Santa and a tree lighting ceremony.

The final signature event of the year is their New Year’s Eve fireworks show and balldrop to be held this year on Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Swager said in addition to the signature events, they also hold many fishing tournaments throughout the year, as well as a variety of 5K’s.

“They are all public events,” she said. “We never charge, unless it’s a fishing tournament, then you pay your dues for the tournament.”

A new event has been added to the calendar for next year, the 1st Annual Racing for Cancer Causes Bed Race. Swager said the race will consist of five-member teams who design a bed for various races.

There is also a clubhouse for the residents to enjoy, which includes a fitness center, tennis courts, basketball courts, a full kitchen, pool and showers. Stout said there are three pools for residents to use depending on where they live.

Heartwarming experience

What an emotional, gratifying, heartwarming, special, spectacular day yesterday.

Men and women were invited to Matlacha this past weekend to take part in the Warrior and Caregiver Retreat, two days put on by Wounded Warrior Anglers to treat the warriors and caregivers to a stress free day.

Friday night kicked off with a captain’s dinner at Miceli’s Restaurant in Matlacha to provide the warriors and caregivers with the opportunity to meet the men who were taking them out on the water the following day. As everyone gathered around the table and enjoyed pizza, new friendships were formed. Conversations were had, laughter was shared and life long memories were created.

It’s truly amazing to witness how complete strangers turn into instant friends in a matter of minutes for the simple reason of them sharing a common experience – serving in the military.

Saturday morning I arrived at the Olde Fish House Marina minutes before a presentation was had by Tim, who is a part of Bimimi Bay Outfitters. He presented the warriors with rods and reels. The night before the warriors received sunglasses for their fishing trip.

Dave Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers, said the rod and reel is a tool for their own therapy, so they can continue to fish beyond the day of the retreat.

As all the warriors were called upon to receive their rod and reel the excitement of fishing began to fill the space.

Once completed, the captains and warriors filled one of eight boats that were stocked with what they needed. Their spouses, or significant others, kissed them goodbye and sent them on their way wishing a great day of fishing.

As everyone became settled the engines were turned on and the boats departed one at a time. The smiles and glows that filled these warrior’s faces were priceless. The captains also shared the same excitement.

The amazing part of that moment, is all of these captains donated their time and boats Saturday because they all believe in the organization’s cause.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeorge who joined the festivities for the first time Saturday, as a captain, said the experience of taking the warriors out on the boat was “awesome.” He instantly became hooked and is looking forward to the next retreat.

As George sat there and shared stories of their day out on the water, a permanent smile remained on his face as he shared how excited Paul, one of the warriors on his boat, was the entire time they were fishing. Although Jim, another warrior that was aboard the boat, goes fishing quite often, George said Jim shared that it was the best day he has had on the water since October.

Those reasons alone are what captures the beauty of what the organization is all about. These generous captains created a stress free day for these warriors who battle with so many injuries and PTSD. Because of these captains, these men and women who fought for our freedom and served our country, forget about their worries while focusing on catching fish after fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA short time after they left the docks, five caregivers and Dave’s wife, Judy, also a co-founder of the organization, walked to Spa 33 for their day of relaxation.

Nadine and Tammey, owners of Spa 33 in Matlacha, close their business for the day to treat caregivers to a manicure, facial, massage, make-up, as well as a having their hair styled. These owners wanted to take care of these caregivers because they take care of the warriors who kept us safe. They shared that so many times when women are taking care of their loved ones they often times forget to take care of themselves.

The day, I believe was just as touching to Nadine and Tammey, as well as the rest of their staff, as it was to all of the caregivers. What huge hearts these women have. Once again because of their generosity, life long memories were created as some of the women experienced massages for the first time.

Again, these women who met for the first time this weekend shared an instant connection, which sparked nonstop conversations of their husbands, and boyfriend, as well as the experiences they had when they were deployed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was such a positive environment that had continuous laughter as the women one-by-one became more relaxed as they were treated to personalize pampering.

The word “thank you” was shared more than once as the afternoon began to sink in for these caregivers.

Although a day of pampering was had, Danielle said she enjoyed the conversation the most.

“The conversation was my favorite,” she said. “I’m talking to adults and not kids.”

Many of the women expressed that they were more excited about their husband and boyfriend being out on the water fishing. They all said it was good for them because many times they do not share the experiences they had while in the service.

This is the second time I have spent the day with the men and women who were brought in from either Lee County, Collier County or other areas of Florida for the retreat. The day pulls on my heart as I witness just how much the day means to them . . . how as the day goes on they become more relaxed and their daily worries disappear.

I am so fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful organization that truly helps others. I am also honored to have been asked to serve on their board.

battle of matlachaThe conversations I had with these men and women will stay with me forever, especially one I had after the men returned from their fishing trip.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

Although I will never know what these men and women experienced while they served our country, Wounded Warrior Anglers continously provides me with plenty of opportunities to thank them for what they have done.

Judy and Dave have created something special. Because of this special couple, these men and women’s circle of friends continues to grow, which in itself is a beautiful thing because it is another support system that will be with them forever.

Fascinating creatures


As I was going through some old photographs that I took, I stumbled across some of my favorites . . .  a few giraffes, which were taken at the Phoenix Zoo.


I am always drawn to this animal because of its size and beauty.



To think they can get up to 20 feet tall, wow, what a view from way up there.