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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


A new book by Kelly Hagy, "Finding Johnny Horton," has just been released. The cover image, shown above, features the Country legend's signature as part of the title text.


Johnny Horton was a Country music star who made Shreveport his home base and was a member of the legendary Louisiana Hayride.  A new book entitled “Finding Johnny Horton,” all about the singer’s life, is now on sale.


It was written by Kelly Hagy, a journalist from Paducah, KY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Murray State University and has worked for newspapers in Kentucky and Texas.  She currently heads Good Personality Girl Publishing LLC in Paducah and is also a homeschool mom.


Kelly Hagy, above, used lots of never-before-seen items in her book on Country star Johnny Horton. It is available now on Amazon in either Kindle or hardcover formats.


Her book is a collection of stories about Johnny Horton from those who knew him.  It includes never-before-published interviews with Claude King, Merle Kilgore, Horton’s family and others.  It also contains a world of photographs documenting events in the singer’s life.


Horton was killed in a horrific car wreck on an overpass in Milano, TX on Nov. 5, 1960.  He was returning home to Shreveport from a show at the Skyline Club in Austin, TX.  He was only 35.  He was at the zenith of his career, enjoying hits such as “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Johnny Reb,” “Sink the Bismarck,” “Whispering Pines,” “Honky-Tonk Man,” “All for the Love of a Girl” and “I’m a One Woman Man.”


Just a few months before his death, he recorded another hit-to-be, "North to Alaska." The movie of the same name, starring John Wayne and featuring Horton's song in its soundtrack, was released only two days after the Country star's fatal crash.


He was married to Billie Jean Jones Williams, the widow of another Country music great, Hank Williams Sr.


About 25 years ago, I wrote a book about Horton, but never had it published.  The book was almost complete with a lot of interviews and pictures.  When I finally determined I was not going to publish it, I donated those book materials, along with the related research and many photos and other images to the Cammie Henry Research Center at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and to the Northwest Louisiana Archives at Noel Memorial Library at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.  Kelly used a lot of the information I had acquired and also used much of my photo collection in her book. I am pleased as can be to see the information finally available to Johnny Horton fans and researchers.


The book went on sale May 15 and in addition to its sales in the United States, has sold to Horton fans in the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.


The book may be purchased in either Kindle or hardcover format on Amazon at https://a.co/d/eagSRZg.


There are those who have wondered for years why Johnny Horton is not yet a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Certainly, he is qualified to be. 


Tedd Dumas and I were fortunate to have Country music legend Bill Anderson on the “Open Line” radio program recently.  On that day I told Bill about the new Johnny Horton book, and he said he would like a copy.  I immediately sent him one.  He told me that he has thought for years that Horton should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. 


I told Kelly that maybe with Bill’s help and the publicity surrounding her new book, we just might be able to accomplish that milestone.



A controversy has developed over Sabine Parish Police Jury Road Superintendent Bobby Hughes stopping a vehicle recently on Hwy. 6 west toward Toledo Town.  Chris Hill of Hill’s Electric & Air Conditioning reported he was headed west when he came to a white Chevrolet truck and a small car.  He said he followed the vehicles and then decided to pass them because they each were only traveling about 45 or maybe 50 mph.


Hill said he was at the four-way stop at Toledo Town when he noticed blue lights on the white truck he had passed behind him.


“So, I made a right turn onto Hwy. 191 north, and he followed me,” Hill wrote.  “I pulled over into the rehab parking lot, and I noticed it was a Police Jury truck.”


Hill said the man asked why he double passed, adding, “Before I could say anything, his son got out of the Jury truck and the man, who was Bobby Hughes, instructed the child, “…get back in the truck, son.”


Hill continued, “I couldn’t believe this guy would pull me over with his son in the vehicle.  I have family members that are actual law enforcement officers, and I know that no one should be in their squad cars.  Now I know I was driving faster than I should have been, but 60 is about as fast as I go in my truck because of how poor our roads are maintained.”


The story continues, “Mr. Hughes then became very agitated when I told him that he couldn’t pull me over with his kid in the truck.  I told him if he was going to write me a ticket, then do so, but instead he just walked back to his truck and left.”


Hill concluded he thought Hughes was abusing his authority and also said he would rather see tax money put into fixing roads than “paying someone like him riding around in a brand-new truck and doing poor quality work on roads and having a power trip.  I’m not sure he has the right to pull someone over.  I may be wrong, but there are way more important things he could be doing in a taxpayer vehicle than worrying about someone double passing him.”


Observations checked with Sheriff Aaron Mitchell about the matter, and he said Hughes is a deputy, has the authority of such, and has a right to let his son ride with him.  He said Hughes has the authority to stop vehicles and write tickets.


Chief Deputy Brad Walker said two other employees of the Police Jury are deputized and both are POST-certified.


Sheriff Mitchell said Hughes reported to him that Hill was driving over the speed limit substantially when he passed him, thus the reason for the stop.



Summer is upon us. The Summer Solstice will occur on Thursday, June 20, and it is the day when one of the earth's poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun, resulting in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. This astronomical event marks the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, the sun reaches its highest position in the sky at noon, and it occurs around June 20 or 21 each year in the Northern Hemisphere.


With some of the heat we have had, it’s hard to tell the official start of summer. It’s been feeling like summer for a while now most days.




Sabine Economic Development meeting special guests, Laurie Morrow, NSU Director for Economic Development, Innovation and Outreach, at left, and Shane Cheatham, Office of Rural Development Region 7 Director, right, listen as local businessman Blake Byles (not shown) shares his vision for growth in Sabine Parish.


Blake Byles and others are working hard to develop a plan of growth in Sabine Parish, not only to be enjoyed now, but especially to benefit future generations.


On Tuesday, June 11, Byles and others active in the local economic development effort met at the Sabine Tourist Commission to hear from Shane Cheatham, Gov. Landry’s new rural development northwest district go-to, and from Laurie Morrow, NSU Director for Economic Development, Innovation and Outreach.


Blake Byles, owner of Earthworks and other Sabine businesses, is working hard to cultivate positive growth in Sabine Parish and throughout the region.


The two special guests tag-teamed leading the meeting with Morrow first presenting a smooth PowerPoint featuring the well-planned “Natchitoches Next” effort that is on tap to unfold over the next several years around Natchitoches. She explained its various uses and how each aspect of building and services offered interconnect to support and strengthen all the plan’s facets.


Sabine native Laurie Morrow, who is involved throughout the region in development projects, shared an impactful PowerPoint which showed upcoming plans in Natchitoches. She encouraged Sabine to find its own voice and path forward, and to do likewise relative to this area's strengths and resources.


“It is crucial we plan to develop entire corridors, not just localities,” Morrow explained, sharing how development along one part of the corridor benefits the entire area and how planning toward regional development instead of small, local development benefits an entire region.


For his part, Cheatham explained his new role as Region 7 Director in the Office of Rural Development, which is under Gov. Landry’s direction. Cheatham’s main job focus is to help connect federal, state and local funding efforts to maximize the potential for community improvements. By building systems necessary to sustain growth, the Office of Rural Development hopes to help create new life and opportunity throughout rural Louisiana.


Shane Cheatham of South Bossier, Region 7 Director in the Office of Rural Development, reached out to Sabine stakeholders to encourage growth in this area.


Byles noted it is critically important to “get a plan in place to move forward in the next few years,” and Morrow, pointing to Sabine’s strengths, said she has worked for years to help “create and train a blue-collar workforce” to serve existing and potential industry.


A change in mindset from “me” thinking to “we” thinking among businesses and individuals was shared as a key principle, as was careful, honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, as well as supporting infrastructure, such as highways, water, sewer, power and connectivity services and capacity.


Before meeting’s end, Byles gave his opinion that a consultant needs to be hired, and during her remarks, Morrow shared the name of an expert who has offered to come meet free of charge for an initial consultation in Sabine.


Attending were a number of business and community leaders, including Sabine Tourist Commission Director Georgia Craven, Sabine River Authority Executive Director Warren Founds and SRA Board Member Mike McCormic, Stephen Steinke of Steinke and Associates, Sabine Parish Police Juror Barry Stevens, Laurie Gentry on behalf of Senator Alan Seabaugh’s office, Lewis McBryde of McBryde and Associates Realty and others.   



Book Signing Upcoming Soon



A book signing to celebrate the release of “Ruptured Light,” a book by K. R. Richard, will be held at Many City Hall on Saturday, June 29, at noon.


Richard, a Sabine Parish author, writes epic fantasy novels with massive worlds and intricate characters.


Writing has always been her safe space, and words began to make their way from her imagination to the page at the early age of 9 years old. She didn't know how to cope with feelings that seemed insurmountable, so she wrote about them instead.


After her sister passed, she picked up books to read, but when she couldn't find one that said what she wanted to read, she decided to write her own. She lives right here with her high school sweetheart, where they raise three kiddos and always remember the one with angel wings.


“Come out to meet this amazing young author and bring the family!” Suzanne Williams with the Town of Many encouraged in her informational email about the event. “Come hungry and have lunch at the 626 Lunch Box & Catering, which will be parked in front of City Hall during the book signing,” she said.


The event will be held from noon until 3 p.m. on June 29, and all are welcome to attend.


(Special thanks to Suzanne Williams with the Town of Many for the above information and article.)




Daniel Bennett has been named North Regional President for BOM.


Congratulations to our neighbor, Daniel Bennett, who has been promoted to North Regional President for the Bank of Montgomery [BOM.] He will oversee all lenders in Sabine, Bossier and Caddo Parishes, as well as in Sabine and Angelina Counties in Texas.



Sherri Sepulvado, employee at Rose-Neath Funeral Home, contacted Observations with a warning for those just wanting to help.


In close-knit communities like our own, it is not uncommon for people to help one another out in a time of need. Unexpected deaths are unfortunate for two reasons: the sudden loss of someone dearly loved and unanticipated costs. In these situations, a common practice is for the bereaved to organize a GoFundMe where people can donate to help with these expenses. The possible issue with this may surprise you.


“These ‘GoFundMe’s aren't going directly to the funeral home. For several of them, not a penny of that money went toward funeral services,” said Ms. Sepulvado.


She spoke of a couple of incidents in the area where a family member or friend of the departed set up bank accounts or a GoFundMe account to help with funeral expenses. Generous members of the community gave money to their causes, but Ms. Sepulvado says that the funeral home doesn't always see the money they should. It should be sensible to believe that your neighbors would not take advantage of your kindness, but the atrocious intentions of others can always shock you. 


A more secure way to give is by contacting the funeral home directly. By either calling or visiting the business in person, you can put money directly toward the bill of expenses. The best part about this is that once the bill is paid in full, no more money is accepted. This ensures that no one is making an unintended profit. While this can be guaranteed at Rose-Neath, I am confident that other funeral homes have similar procedures.


In no way is it our intention to scare people away from being charitable; we simply want to inform the public of possible deception. You should always help someone in need in any way you can, which is clearly exhibited in the selfless citizens of Sabine Parish.


(Special thanks to Observations Intern Lauren Ray for the above article.)




The Empress 2816 as she steamed through Fisher on Saturday


The Canadian Pacific Kansas City 2816 Empress historic steam locomotive came back through Sabine Parish on Saturday evening, June 15, headed north, stopping at Fisher for about 30 minutes or so.  The stop was to check the old engine, service it and to also wait for a southbound train to pass.


The train left Calgary, Canada on April 24 for its final run.  It traveled to Mexico City, and Saturday was on its return journey back to Canada.


The 4-6-4 Hudson-type steam locomotive was built in December 1930 and was intended for fast freight and passenger service.  It has a cruising speed of about 100 mph.  It was retired on May 26, 1960, and served as a steam-powered ambassador for Canadian Pacific before being placed in storage in 2012.  After a decade of slumber, the engine was carefully prepared to once again travel the rails.


“Our unique, unrivaled railway network connect a continent and links Canada, the U.S. and Mexico,” said Keith Creel, CPKC President. “On April 14, 2023, we drove a ceremonial Final Spike completing that continental connection.  The special historic tour commemorates that event connecting the three nations.”


The train is scheduled to arrive in Calgary, Alberta on July 10.


It was interesting to note Saturday there were about a dozen young men following the train route to precede its arrival to each town along the way to take photos at each stop.  We understood the train had to stop about every 50-60 miles for servicing.  Among the traveling photographers we met were train photography enthusiasts from Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.




Pictured left to right are “Tigs Bits” podcast hosts Chad Blasi, Brantley Salter and JR the Handler.


Brantley Salter is an up-and-coming podcast host who hails from the Village of Florien. He is the son of former Speaker of the House Joe Salter and his wife, Bettye.


Salter, who is a graduate of Northwestern State University and former ESPN radio host, is the founder of “Tigs Bits,” a Baton Rouge-based podcast that covers music, culture, and a little bit of everything. “Tigs Bits” began in 2022 as a one-man show until the first guest, Chad Blasi, became a co-host in 2023. JR the Handler was the next guest-turned-co-host in 2023 as well. 


This perfect trifecta of Southern men has welcomed guests such as Marty Smith, Diamond Dallas Page, and "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks onto the podcast. They also have livestreams, which gives fans a chance to interact and join in on conversation.


“A lot of what we do is likened to three guys in a barroom visiting. Just a conversation about two or three things we are going to talk about, but we never have a hard-set agenda. We never know where it is going to lead us.” Salter says. 


When asked if he thought people from his hometown of Florien would enjoy his content, Salter said, "I do believe people in Florien would find it relatable because I use them as examples in stories from my childhood.”


If you want to find out if you are mentioned in those stories, tune into “Tigs Bits.” You can go to tigsbits.com to find episodes, links to follow their socials, and even pick up some of their unique merchandise.


In July 2024, “Tigs Bits” will start a nationwide show on RightNow TV that will be featured in over 30 markets across the US, and it will be available for streaming on the network’s app.


All the way from Baton Rouge, Brantley Salter has made Sabine Parish proud and entertained us at the same time.


(A special thank you to Observations Intern Lauren Ray for the above report.)



BIG Funds Available for Docks Serving Class 2 Boats and Larger


The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is now accepting applications for the Sport Fish Restoration Boating Infrastructure Grant Program (BIG P.)  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service designed this grant program to provide mooring accommodations for transient recreational boaters (i.e., boaters traveling to a single facility for day use or staying at a single facility for up to 15 days) with vessels greater than 26 feet in length.


There are two levels of available funding - Tier I with a maximum of $300,000 and Tier II with a maximum of $1.5 million dollars. Tier II grant applications are nationally competitive.  Both funding opportunities have a minimum non-federal match requirement of 25 percent of the total project cost to be provided by the applicant. All project elements must be designed to accommodate recreational transient boaters.  More information may be found at https://www.fws.gov/program/boating-infrastructure#:~:text=The%20Boating%20Infrastructure%20Grant%20Program,of%20up%20to%2015%20days.


Applications must be submitted through the LDWF online application portal found at https://fs30.formsite.com/Jfroeba/form82/index.html.  Applications for the BIG Program must be submitted to LDWF before August 18, 2024, to be considered for the current funding cycle.


About BIG:


Established in 1998, the Boating Infrastructure Grant Program (BIG) provides funding to states to provide greater access to the recreational, cultural, historic, scenic and natural resources within the United States for boats that are 26 feet or more in length (large cruising boats.)


There are over 675,000 large cruising boats in the U.S. which have a significant economic impact on waterfront communities. The BIG program funds projects designed to improve docking and comfort facilities to better accommodate these boats.


Projects funded through the BIG program have many benefits, including:

- Strengthening local community ties to transient boaters and marine manufacturers

- Raising awareness of the economic benefits of recreational boating

- Promoting public/private partnerships and entrepreneurial opportunities

- Providing continuity of access to coastal communities

- Promoting awareness of transient boating opportunities

- Providing areas of safe harbor for transient boaters


By partnering with state boating agencies, funds directed through the Boating Infrastructure Grant program in the U.S. have expanded opportunities for boating and water-related recreation and the economies and communities they support.


Funds for the BIG program are provided annually from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund and are derived from excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, import duties, and interest on the fund.


Those with questions may contact Melissa Longman at mlongman@wlf.la.gov or (225) 765-2343.


(Special thanks to Rene LeBreton with the LDWF for the above information.)


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