Bell County's heroic roots
Native Texas grapes aren't known for their exceptional flavor, but wild grape roots from Dog Ridge are credited with saving the French wine industry.
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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2021 — LABOR DAY
Wild grapes in Bell County aren’t known for exceptional flavor and are often considered a nuisance plant. But, in the mid 1800s, they became highly valued by some of the world’s top winemakers.
In the mid-1800s, France’s coveted wine industry was facing devastating losses because roots were being attacked by a tiny pest.
Dog Ridge saves French vineyards
By DAVID STONE, Our Town exclusive
Heroes can be found in unlikely places, and in this story, the hero is a pesky vine that grows in the heart of Bell County.
Wild grapes found scattered around the county — particularly along Dog Ridge — aren’t known for exceptional flavor and are often considered a nuisance plant. But, in the mid 1800s, they became highly valued by some of the world’s top winemakers.
According to Gary Slanga, a Bell County master gardener and grape specialist, the trouble began when a tiny North American insect made its way to Europe in a shipment of grape vines. French vineyards were always looking to improve their products so they had imported some vine from the New World. Unfortunately, troublesome insects — grape phylloxera — also made the trip.
“They look much like an aphid,” Slanga said. “They attack the roots of grapevines and destroy them.”
According to Slanga, by the 1860s, France’s prized wine industry was teetering on failure. The insects had spread throughout the wine-growing region, and wiped out as much as 40 percent of the ancient grape crops.
The little critters also wreaked havoc throughout Europe, but the most extensive damage was in France. At the time, damage to the French economy was estimated at 10 billion francs.
“French vintners watched as their vines withered and died in the fields,” Slanga stated, “None of their traditional remedies were working.”
Out of desperation, the French turned to a transplanted Texas wine expert for advice. Thomas Volney Munson of Denison had made grapes his life’s work — he knew how they grew, how they reproduced and what problems affected them. He also had learned to solve those problems.
“Munson recommended using a rootstock from wild grapes in Bell County — near Belton,” Slanga said. “Actually, the Dog Ridge grapes don’t just grow in Dog Ridge, they grow in several places in the Texas Hill Country. But, they are prominent around Belton.”
Munson recommended Dog Ridge rootstock, but not the grapes themselves. He told the French to graft their ancient plants onto the Dog Ridge roots, which were resistant to the insects.
According to Slanga, Munson said the soils in Bell County closely resemble the limey dirt in the French vineyards.
“Dog Ridge grapes are called Vitis Berlandiera or cinerea, and they are quite different from Mustang grapes normally associated with Texas,” Slang said.
Dog Ridge cuttings were collected and sent back to France along with rootstocks from around the Lone Star state. French winemakers and scientists worked with Munson to create the phylloxera-resistant rootstocks used today.
Slanga said the Dog Ridge rootstocks sold today are likely hybrids of the original plants that Munson recommended, but they are still in demand throughout the wine-growing world.
“Even today there is no remedy for grape phylloxera and the insects still pose a threat to vineyards not planted with grafted rootstock,” he noted.
Part 2 in a series on the history of Texas football mascots
Shasta VI, the current University of Houston mascot, resides in Houston Zoo.
‘Shasta have the best’
By JENNIFER WILSON, Our Town exclusive
The students and alums of the University of Houston are definitely not afraid of attention — from their school colors to their beloved mascot, this school knows how to get noticed.
The university was founded in 1927, and the colors of Sam Houston’s ancestor, Sir Hugh, still fly high on the campus. Scarlet Red represents “the blood of royalty that was spared due to the timely arrival of Sir Hugh and the blood that is the life source of the Soul.” Albino White reflects “the purity and perfections of the heart, mind, and soul engaged in the effort to serve faithfully that which is by right and reason, justfully served.”
To put it succinctly, red is for courage or inner strength when facing the unknown and white is for the good of helping your fellow man.
Had they foreseen what mascot their school would soon adopt in 1947, they might have chosen to describe the colors in a different light.
A cougar is a stealthy and formidable predator, reaching up to eight feet in length and weighing up to 175 pounds. Should you ever encounter one in the wild, you will most definitely turn a shade of albino white as your scarlet red blood drains from your face.
Please know that attacks are extremely rare. The big cats would rather run away than face a confrontation. Do not approach and do not turn your back, using a calm voice back away and make yourself look as big as possible.
The cub purchased from Mexico in 1947 by members of the Alpha Phi Omega was hardly a threat, but did need a name. A competition was held, and Joe Randol won with “Shasta.” Shasta was a reduction of “she has to.” Randol explained, “Shasta have a cage, Shasta have a keeper, Shasta have a winning ball club, Shasta have the best.”
A Cougar Guard was formed to care for Shasta, and she was routinely brought to football games to help cheer on the team.
In 1953, Shasta I was injured on the way to a University of Texas football game. One of her toes was caught in her cage door and ultimately severed. UT fans began mocking the team and fans by folding their thumbs over their ring fingers on the right hand. Ever resilient, UH fans adopted that gesture as a symbol of pride, and proudly display the cougar paw to this day.
Between 1947 and 1989, five female cougars served as Shasta, living in Shasta’s Den on the southeast corner of Lynn Eusan Park. When Shasta V died in 1989, the university made the responsible and ethical decision not to house a live mascot. Truth be told, I think it was the right decision. Wild animals just don’t belong on football fields.
Don’t worry though, Shasta the mascot is still alive and well, albeit in costume form — and he just loves the crowds and spectacle of a good football game. He now has company: In 1995 the University introduced Sasha — a costumed female cheerleader to give Shasta (in football gear) some friendly competition.
Cougar statues in the Cullen Family Plaza also are purported to bring luck to the football team. The more students rub the paws, the better luck the Cougars will have on game day. This tradition is especially important during Homecoming, and students have also been known to rub paws before their final exams, too.
If you want to see some real cougar paws, head on over to the Houston Zoo. There you can meet Shasta VI and wish him well during his September birthday. Now, I know what you are thinking — how can there be a Shasta VI if the university no longer has live mascots? Well, as you know there are exceptions to every rule, and in 2011 the Houston Zoo adopted an orphaned cub (only five weeks old) whose mother had been illegally shot and killed in Washington state.
Within a few months’ time, the University of Houston Alumni Association and the Houston Zoo entered a partnership and the cub was given the honor of carrying on the Shasta name. He is the first live male mascot and he also lends a paw to the university’s traditions. Before ring ceremonies, class rings spend the night in the cougar habitat with Shasta. Shasta also acts as an ambassador for his counterparts in the wild. This guy has a ton of responsibility, but he takes it all in stride — just as all cougars (animal or human) do.
If you want to help Shasta out, the Houston Zoo will let you adopt him. In doing so, you’ll help ensure the Zoo continues to provide the very best care and feeding for not only Shasta, but also their family of 6,000 animal ambassadors. In addition, a portion of your gift will be directed to help fund UHAA’s scholarship programs. Go to Adopt Shasta - The Houston Zoo to learn more and see a gorgeous picture of this beautiful big cat.
Sources for this article include The Cougar Publication (Sept, 26, 2019), The UH website, and the Houston Zoo website.
Event helps pets find new homes
Temple Animal Services was able to find new homes for 13 cats and 9 dogs during the annual Clear the Shelters event on Aug. 14.
Clear the Shelters is part of a national initiative to raise awareness for shelter pets. The Temple Animal Shelter, located at 620 Mama Dog Circle, provides shelter for stray, missing and surrendered animals.
In 2020, the department adopted out more than 860 dogs, 440 cats and reunited 460 animals with their owners. To see a list of animals currently available for adoption, visit templetx.gov/animalservices.
Temple police and fire numbers
The Temple Police Department responded to 8,820 calls in August and made 189 arrests.
The department conducted 739 traffic stops, issued 439 citations and 322 warnings. There were 147 reported traffic accidents.
According to the department, the average response time was 5 minutes, 27 seconds.
Temple Fire & Rescue responded to 1,313 calls during August, including 25 fire calls, 837 emergency medical service calls and 27 calls reporting hazardous conditions.
The city received 28 calls for overgrown grass, 18 reports of trash or recycling not being collected and 17 calls for illegal parking.
TFR to host 9/11 Stair Climb
Bell County agencies will honor the lives of fallen first responders by hosting a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Saturday, Sept. 11.
“It is a time to come together and remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Temple Fire & Rescue Chief Mitch Randles said. “This also allows us to show support to our first responders.”
The memorial climb will take place from 7-11 a.m. and will pause for a brief ceremony at 8 a.m. at Temple High School Wildcat Stadium.
For more information or to register, visit templetx.gov/911memorial.
What’s up, Temple?
A new traveling exhibition documenting the 1873 overland journey of artists Jules Tavernier and Paul Frenzeny, A Great Frontier Odyssey: Sketching the American West, will be on display at the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum until November 7. The prints in A Great Frontier Odyssey trace the artists’ journey to San Francisco.
September 7, Tuesday - The Academy HS class of 2022 is hosting a Project Celebration fundraiser at McAlister’s Deli from 5 to 10 PM. Must mention AHS ‘22 in person or use DONATEMCA when ordering online.
September 7, Tuesday - Interested in learning to dance, but not sure how to get started? Be our guest and join us for a sample class, professional performances, social dancing, and hors d’oeuvres. This is a great opportunity to get introduced to Arthur Murray in Temple and finding out more about what we have to offer! Open to the public, RSVP (254) 721-9524
September 8, Wednesday - Open Mic Comedy, Corky’s. Sign up at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
September 9, Thursday - Martian Folk live band, Corky’s, 7 p.m.
September 10, Friday - Madstone live at O’Briens Irish Pub, 9 p.m.
September 10, Friday - John Henry Johnson live at Fire Base Brewing Company, 6:30 p.m.
September 10, Friday - Josh Abbott Band live at Johnny’s Steaks and Bar-Be-Que, Salado. 6 p.m.
September 10, Friday - Clint Walker Blues Band, Fire Street Pizza, Belton. 6 p.m.
September 10, Friday - First Friday Karaoke with DJ Brian Houge. 8 p.m.
September 11, Saturday - Dueling Pianos in the Park, Sam Farrow Amphitheater at Lions Park, 7-9 p.m.
September 11, Saturday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Weird Science. Explore different adaptations animals have made through presentations, fun games, and activities. Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Name That Tune Bingo: All-American Songs, Fire Base Brewing Company, 7:30 p.m.
September 11, Saturday - Pink Fishing’s Reeling in the Cure, 6th annual bass tournament. Proceeds benefit breast cancer patients and cancer research. Cedar Ridge Park. 6 a.m. Call (254) 681-0102 for details.
September 11, Saturday - 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb & Ceremony. Wildcat Stadium. 7-11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 11, Saturday - Turn 2 Entertainment Comedy Showcase, Corky’s, 8 p.m.
September 12, Sunday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 12, Sunday - Corky’s Dart Tournament, 3 p.m.
September 12, Sunday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 13, Monday - Third House Session with State Rep. Hugh Shine, Belton Area Chamber of Commerce, 7 a.m.
September 15, Wednesday - Tiny Thinkers, Kids 5 years old and younger are invited to the museum to experience the State Fair! Bell County Museum. 10 a.m.
September 17, Friday - Matt Cearley & The Rowdy Few live at O’Briens Irish Pub, 9 p.m.
September 17, Friday - Wade Ralston live at Fire Base Brewing Company, 6:30 p.m.
September 17, Friday - Neal McCoy, Cotton Country Club, Granger. 9:30 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - The Chancers, O’Briens Irish Pub, 9 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - Night Bright Bike Ride, Pepper Creek Train off North Kegley. Bring a non-perishable food item to donate to local food pantries. Trail parking is available at the Scott & White West Campus next to the hospital's parking lot. Look for green trail signs along FM 2305 and Kegley Road to direct you to the parking area. 6:30-9 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - Harvest Celebration. Bring your family and friends to enjoy grape stomping, food trucks, music, and wine. This is a ticketed event. 3 Texans Winery. 6 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - Detox/Retox Yoga, Fire Base Brewing Company, 11 a.m.
September 18, Saturday - Original Debonaires Reunion Dance, Cotton Country Club, Granger. 8:30 p.m.
September 21, Tuesday - Body of Christ Community Clinic’s Together We Heal Banquet, UMHB, Jimmy Dorrell, keynote speaker. 5:30 p.m.
September 24, Friday - Maxx Carter live at Fire Base Brewing Company, 6:30 p.m.
September 24, Friday - Belton Bacon, Blues & Brews Festival, noon to 9 p.m.
September 24, Friday - Aaron Watson, Cotton Country Club, Granger. 9:30 p.m.
September 25, Saturday - Name That Tune Bingo: Belt it Out Edition. Fire Base Brewing Company, 7:30 p.m.
September 25, Saturday - Belton Bacon, Blues & Brews Festival, noon to 9 p.m.
September 25, Saturday - Fun at the Fair! Join us at the museum to for fun at the fair! View the newest exhibit and take part in fun activities - explore symmetry by decorating a popcorn bucket, build your own mini rollercoaster, race your family in duck races, and visit our petting zoo! Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 25, Saturday - Dale Watson, Texas Music Series, Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - TLC’s Celebration of Crazy, Sexy Cool with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Bell County Expo Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - Funniest Comic in Texas semi-finals. Corky’s.
October 1, Friday - Randy Rogers Band, Johnny Steaks and Bar-Be-Que, Salado. 6 p.m.
October 5, Tuesday - Temple’s National Night Out. Anyone interested in hosting a party in their neighborhood should register by Sept. 13 at templetx.gov/nno. 6:30 p.m.
October 7, Thursday - The Spazmatics, Schoepf’s BBQ, Belton. 6 p.m.
October 8, Friday - Painting with a Twist, 3 Texans Winery. 6:30 p.m.
October 9, Saturday - Shinyribs, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
October 9, Saturday - Oktoberfest 2021, Barrow Brewing Company, Salado, noon to 10:30 p.m.
October 11-17 - Hocus Pocus, The Beltonian Theatre, Belton. Noon.
October 16, Saturday - Oktoberfest 2021, Barrow Brewing Company, Salado, noon to 10:30 p.m.
October 16, Saturday - Michael Salgado at Schoepf’s BBQ in Belton, 6 p.m.
October 18-23 - The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Beltonian, Belton. 6-8 p.m.
October 23, Saturday - Don Gregory Memorial Lions Club Golf Tournament. Sammons Golf Course. Contact Jeffrey Thigpen Thigpen.email@example.com to register or for sponsorship opportunities. 4-person scramble begins at 8:30 a.m.
October 23, Saturday - Free Movie Night. Harker Heights Community Park. 5 p.m.
October 23, Saturday - Oktoberfest 2021, Barrow Brewing Company, Salado, noon to 10:30 p.m.
October 29, Friday - Season closing event, Domestics vs Imports, Little River Dragway, 7 p.m.
October 30, Saturday - Barktoberfest, Dog costume contest at 5:30; adoptable dogs on site. Barrow Brewing Co., Salado. 1-7 p.m.
October 30, Saturday - Bulls & BBQ, Live bull riding followed by concert with Jake Worthington and Keith Braxton. Schoepf’s BBQ, Belton, Noon.
November 4, Thursday - Spur Classic Sporting Clay Shoot, Weber Shooting Range. 8 a.m.
November 6, Saturday - Chris Hillman, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 13, Saturday - Market in the Vines. Take a walk through the vines and shop with over 50 vendors! Free to the public. 3 Texans Winery. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
November 18, Thursday - Taste of the Holidays 2021: A Candy Cane Christmas. Mayborn Convention Center. 10:30 a.m.
December 4, Saturday - Barrow Brewing Christmas Market, Salado. Noon.
Have an event you would like to promote? Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com with “What’s Happening” in the subject line. Keep it short and sweet — what, when and where. You may include a short description. You must include a phone number for verification purposes. The phone number will not be published unless requested by submitter.