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2020: A year in review
By Elizabeth Tanne/The Post Dispatch
Twenty-twenty started off on a solemn note as the Post Volunteer Fire Department, Post-Garza County EMS and local residents paid homage to fallen 39-year-old Lieutenant and Paramedic Eric Hill and 27-year-old Officer Nicholas Reyna who were struck by a vehicle while working the scene of an icy crash on I-27 in Lubbock, Texas. Broadway was lined with those honoring the pair as they passed through Post while returning from the Fort Worth Medical Examiner’s Office. “Thank you so much for the respect shown today for our son, Eric,” Susan Wright Hill wrote in a social media post addressing those who paid respects. “Again, thank you to everyone.”
The old El Matamoros Restaurant, which had been left abandoned for over two decades after the opening of Chapa’s Restaurant on US-84, was demolished after the Post City Council declared the building to be “dangerous, uninhabitable and a public nuisance.” The Garza family, who had previously owned the restaurant prior to the Chapa’s, reminisced on the good times they had while running the restaurant which was known for the “Joe’s Special,” a burrito containing beans, peppers and meat topped with homemade chili and cheese which was inspired by Deputy Joe Simpson, an El Matamoros regular. “This restaurant left behind many memories,” long-time employee Barbara Torres said, “but it also left a legend to remember it by.”
In honor of Black History Month, Pat Cruse taught fifth grade students, along with other community guests, about Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth during a presentation at the Post Public Library. “These women made a huge difference in slavery,” Cruse said. “They were very brave and brought so many to freedom.” Cruse also shared the method of underground railroad quilt code, special quilting block patterns that slaves used to communicate during their journey north.
Dedra Dean, Post native, birthed a 6 lb., 5 oz. healthy baby boy named Zaid on the side of US-84 just north of Slaton on Feb. 26. Dean, who was on her way to a Lubbock Hospital with her mother and sister, was forced to pull over on the side of the highway as the baby began to crown. Dean’s mother immediately called 9-1-1 who dispatched Slaton Officer Tommy Higgins to the scene where baby Zaid had already been born. “I would like to thank Officer Higgins for his quick response time and his bravery,” Dean said. “I know this isn’t something you can prepare for.”
Dr. Sarah Hite was welcomed by the Garza County Health Care District, serving as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the local clinic. Hite, who sports a Masters in the Science of Nursing with Family Nurse Practitioner from Summons University in Boston, MA, one of the oldest nursing programs in the country, said the offer was too good to pass up. “I’m excited to be back in West Texas and serve the good folks of Garza County,” Hite said.
The Post Volunteer Fire Department held their 25th Annual Chili Supper, the department’s sole yearly fundraiser. Setting a new record, the fire department sold all 250-pounds of chili in a whopping hour and 45 minutes, serving over 500 people. “I’m proud to say I’m from the community of Post,” Volunteer Firefighter Jamie Hernandez said. “We felt the love and are very thankful for our sponsors and everyone that came out to the Post Volunteer Fire Department Chili Supper.”
As Covid-19 continued to spread worldwide, Post began seeing the first effects of the virus as shelves were picked barren, businesses were closed and spring break activities were cancelled. In fact, many schools, including Post ISD, announced the cancellation of in-person classes following spring break. At Post campuses, classes, along with all UIL practices, rehearsals and workouts, were cancelled until April 3 with online learning implemented. “We’re hoping for a short closure,” Superintendent Heath Dickson said, “but we are planning for a long one.”
County Judge Lee Norman and Mayor Marvin Self signed the first Declaration of Disaster in 2020, limiting social gatherings to 10 individuals. And, with mask mandates underway, even C.W. Post was staying safe. Mr. Post’s statue, located in front of the courthouse, was adorned overnight with a face mask and roll of toilet paper in his left hand for a coronavirus ready makeover. Not too long later, on April 27, Garza County received its first Covid-19 case, solidifying the spread of the virus into Garza.
Following Governor Greg Abbott’s orders, Post ISD classes extended in-person class cancellation until May 4. And, with teachers missing their students, Post Elementary staff banded together for a citywide parade, led by the Post Volunteer Fire Department, in which they waved to students from the safety of the cars. Decorating their vehicles with ribbons and signs that read “We love you” and “School’s lame without you,” teachers took to social media, encouraging their students to come outside and wave hello. “What a blessing it was to see our Bold Gold Antelopes today,” Post Elementary Principal Dawn Jones said. “We sure do miss their sweet faces.”
In an attempt to make social distancing a little more bearable, local residents began participating in the nearly worldwide bear hunt spearheaded by Tennessee resident Shanna Bonner Groom who posted the idea to Facebook. The hunt, inspired by Michael Rosen’s 1989 children’s book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” encouraged children (and adults) to spy teddy bears conspicuously perched in windows of local homes and businesses to help stay active during social distancing without having to socially isolate. One Post resident said she spotted over 44 stuffed bears throughout Post, concluding that there were probably even more since her last count.
With a shortage of face masks effecting millions across the globe, local residents Patsy Bilbo, Nancy McDonald, Francis Gomez, Shellee Odom and more pulled out their sewing machines to help fill area requests. Both selling and gifting the masks to those in need, Odom, an enthusiastic DIYer, said she was happy to make the masks that kept her community, friends and family safe. “With the coronavirus getting more serious, people still needed face masks,” Odom said. “So, I started making pleated masks with my basic machine.”
Odee Bell Kemp, one of Post’s oldest residents, celebrated her 104th birthday. While Kemp’s birthday was commemorated a little differently due to Governor Abbott’s mandate prohibiting all visitation to nursing homes, Post Nursing and Rehabilitation Center staff took it upon themselves to decorate Kemp’s room, make her a celebratory shirt and even bake her a cake. And, while Kemp’s family and friends weren’t allowed in the room, she visited with her family over the phone as they watched her blow out the candles on her cake through the window. When Kemp was asked how her birthday was, she replied, “Pretty good. I’m better now since I’ve seen so many people.”
Post High School seniors received their caps and gowns a little differently this year. With parents, teachers and other supporters, including a pink unicorn, lining the street in front of the high school in support, seniors picked up their graduation gear via a drive through setup.
Celebrating National Day of Prayer, local pastors, county officials and residents gathered around the flagpole in front of the Garza County Courthouse to pray for the safety and health of Garza County during the Covid-19 pandemic. Community members stood six feet apart, heads bowed, as multiple individuals including Keith Garner, Arthur Kelly, Jimmy Valdez, Curt Greer and more prayed. “If there’s ever a time we need prayer,” Garner said, “it’s right now.”
Post ISD said goodbye to retirees Necie Moreno and Suzanne Hudman, both of which put in decades of work at the school district. Moreno, who retired after 20 years, described her time at the cafeteria as “wonderful.” “I will miss everybody, especially the kids,” Moreno said. “This is a great place with great people, and I thank everyone for everything.” Hudman, who retired after 50 years, taught across all three campuses and multiple subjects. “Some of my best memories were here,” Hudman said. “I will keep Post and these people in my heart forever.”
Garza County received 3.43 inches of rain after tornadic thunderstorms tore through West Texas Memorial Day weekend. Spotting a supercell 14 miles north of Gail, the Garza County Sheriff’s Office directed Post residents and those along FM 669 to take precaution. With the storm hovering over FM 669 and CR 308, only 32 minutes outside of the city limits, it was reported stationary before taking an unexpected turn, drifting east at 5 mph and lifting the tornado warning from Garza County and placing Justiceburg and Lake Allen Henry residents under watch. While no tornadic damage was reported, the National Weather Service of Lubbock reported that the tornado touched down several times over the course of the evening.
As more severe thunderstorms swept the south plains, Garza County received an additional two inches of rain. Residents experienced pea-sized hail and 94-mph wind gusts which caused damage to trees, powerlines, fences, windows and mobile homes According to Xcel Energy, thousands of homes throughout the area reported electricity outages. In more extreme damage, the Wagon BBQ’s awning snapped in half, crushing two vehicles parked underneath it. Other items, including outdoor furniture, trampolines and metal carports, were thrown around by high winds.
The Post Volunteer Fire Department battled a George R. Brown tank battery fire for six hours after it was struck by lightning during an early morning storm that brought high winds and hail. In total, the crew was on scene for nearly eight hours. “The fire whistle went off around 1:30 a.m.,” Volunteer Firefighter Jesse Vera said. “We battled the fire until 7:30 a.m. By the time we gathered all the equipment and headed back to the station to restock trucks and clean equipment, gear and hoses, it was 9 a.m.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continued to rage on, Garza County saw its first Covid-19 related death on July 10 as Texas Health and Human Services confirmed 21 positive cases.
With early voting coming to an end, turnout was low with only 88 ballots cast. “The turnout was extremely low,” District and County Clerk Jim Plummer said. “This was probably because there were not any local races on either ballot.” Election Day also yielded low results with 61 ballots cast for an overall total of 151 votes, six percent of Garza County voters casting ballots. “I wish all registered voters participated in all the elections,” Plummer said.
Lane Jones celebrated his final year as President of the Post Stampede Rodeo board with record-breaking attendance at the 80th Annual Post Stampede Rodeo. An estimated 1,100 guest attended Thursday night followed by 2,100 on Friday and 3,300 on Saturday. Jones, who served 22 years on the rodeo board, nine of which he spent as president, said he planned to continue serving as a committee member, interacting with the fans and contestants. “You know, as far as being president, the main thing I will miss is just being able to represent such a great group of men that are on the committee,” Jones said. “Those guys and their families are special folks, and they mean the world to me and my family. They all made my job easier and any single one of them would do anything for each other at any time.”
Following 10 years of service, Councilwoman Anita Morris, Ward 5, resigned from her seat on the Post City Council. “It’s been a wonderful 10 years,” Morris said, “but I have health issues that I need to focus on.” The council appointed Fire Chief Jimmy Valdez to represent Ward 5 until the next election. “While we are going to miss Anita, we’re excited to have someone from the fire department on the council,” City Manager Deana Smith said.
Garza County Deputy Travis Johnson seized 115 pounds of marijuana in an Aug. 21 traffic stop. Two arrests were made during the stop, both charged with possession of marijuana, greater than 50 pounds or less than 2,000 pounds. “This is the largest load of drugs that a Garza County Sheriff’s deputy has gotten since I took office in January of 2013,” Sheriff Terry Morgan said. The street value of the load was estimated to total $697,935 by the Garza County Sheriff’s Office.
Following a 30 year and one-month extensive career with the United States Postal Service, rural mail carrier Carol Tobias retired. With the Post, Texas location being Tobias’ favorite, she said she planned to still visit and “bug” her coworkers following retirement. “I’ve worked in a number of other offices, but none compare to this one,” Tobias said. “In this office, we always goof around and tell jokes. We always have a good time here. As long as you get your work done, why not have a little fun while you’re doing it? That’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed about this office – the people.”
Jeff Williams’ student, Payton Nelson, 12, was featured on the cover of Western Horseman Magazine. Inside the cover, an article, featuring Williams and his young colt-starting crew, including Datch Flanigan, Macee Rathbun and Kasen and Kolton Wink, told of the team’s early mornings spent getting colts under the saddle
Garza County Commissioners Court and the City of Post were recognized by Chapter 0900 of the Military Purple Heart and bestowed The Military Order of the Purple Heart Special Recognition Award. Through the award, Garza County and Post agreed to honor and remember military personnel wounded or killed in combat and recognize Aug. 7 as National Purple Heart Day by flying a special flag given to them by Chapter 0900 Commander Steven Oien.
Following the Nov. 3 General Election, Garza County Sheriff Terry Morgan was re-elected to serve his third four-year term with 1,033 votes, overpowering write-in opponents Michael Isbell, who received 378 votes, and Phil Mathews, who received 156 votes, with a 66-percent lead. “I can’t even start to express my sentiments for everyone believing in my mission enough to elect me for a third term,” Morgan said. “I thank everyone for their support, endorsements and friendships.”
The first ever Rodeo Bible Camp, held at the Post Stampede Rodeo grounds, was deemed a success with over 15 contestants, ranging from six to 13, participating in events like barrel racing and stick bull riding. “We wanted to reach out to the kids with a gospel message,” Founder Ronald Moon said, “but at the same time, we wanted to reach out with western heritage, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Post Antelopes attended the Class 2A Division 1 State Championship for the second straight season, this time taking on the Shiner Comanches. Ultimately falling 42-20, the Antelopes capped their year with a 15-1 record, landing themselves No. 2 in Texas. “These kids are awesome,” Athletic Director and Head Coach Michael Pittman said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of them. They are some of the most hardworking, goal-oriented kids that I have ever seen. They put lots of blood, sweat and tears into being the best representation of themselves, their families, our school and Post in general.”
The Pride of Post Marching Band made their first ever state appearance, taking bronze at the Class 2A UIL Marching Band Championship with their performance of “Love, the Land of Make Believe.” “What we did this year might just make some kid believe in themselves – might just make them think they can do anything,” Director Aaron Rathbun said. “You know, most people quit right before success. If we can just help people believe in themselves, well, that will be enough.”