High points from El Camino Real

by Chris Davis

Folks along El Camino Real are about to take busy to another level as the warm nights and wet weather has grass and hay growing at a fevered pitch.

Nobody wants to get caught with their pants down this year and spend the rest of the summer scrapping for hay. Let’s all hope and pray that the army worms don’t come back and eat everything up like they did last year.
Sometimes keeping up with all the news along our little stretch of the King’s Highways is like trying to keep up with the Bahia grass, but I’m doing my best to give you your six bits worth.
Last Thursday afternoon, Alto lost a wonderful soul with the passing of Blondria Griffin Mumphrey in a car accident on U.S. Highway 69. Blondria was 55 years old.
She was a very sweet and kind person that was a friend to everyone she met. We just never know how quickly we can be called home. Please keep her husband, Felton Mumphrey, and all the rest of her family in your prayers during this terrible time of loss.

If you didn’t make it to Jacksonville this past week to enjoy a part of the Tomato Festival, you missed out.

The Grand Reopening of the Historic Tomato Bowl last Friday night with Hubert Neal McGaughey Jr., aka Neal McCoy, was just the opening act for 35th annual Tomato Festival.
The headliner for the event was the Tomato Eating Contest under the overpass at 11 on Saturday morning.
Crowds gathered early to get a good seat as the titans of tomato eating began lining up to take their spots in the arena, which was actually several plastic tables with chairs placed end to end.

The cheers of the crowd were deafening and all thoughts of Neal McCoy singing hit after hit the night before were forgotten. The real show was about to begin.
When my name was called I heard a woman scream and I thought it was for me, but I later learned that a pigeon dropped a load from under the bridge and it hit the lady between the wings tattooed on her back.
I took my seat between Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham and KETK Weatherman Marcus Bagwell and the other 10 or 12 contestants.
Marcus thought he smelled rain in the air, but I knew the only thing he was smelling was defeat.
When Robin Butt said “Go,” I grabbed my first tomato and my jaws went to work like a garbage disposal wired to 220 volts. I finished the first one in a flash, and grabbed for another, the juice was running down my neck, and the crowd was going wild.
Sheriff James Campbell was choking down his first one as I grabbed for the third and biggest tomato.
I finished it off down to the core and threw my arms into the air in victory. The crowd was on their feet at this point and I think one older lady in the back fainted.
While the crowd was pouring on the accolades, I looked over and noticed that Mayor Gorham had left a really nice tomato on his plate, and not wanting to see it go to waste, I leisurely ate it, too.
After 16 years of competing in the tomato eating contest, I finally won and claimed the trophy and the bragging rights for an entire year.
In a matter of minutes, I, Chris Davis, had propelled myself into Jacksonville History to stand along side such greats as Margo Martindale, Lee Ann Womack, Neal McCoy and Shelly Cleaver.
Who knows what great milestone I might conquer next year?

The tomato peeling contest could be about to get interesting.
A big thanks to all the people who work so hard each year to make the Jacksonville Tomato Festival one of the high points of an East Texas summer.
I hear a little talk about another festival they have on the same day as the Tomato Festival, but as far as I’m concerned you might as well be having a kumquat festival as a blueberry festival.

Jay Jones of Jones Farm Produce in Alto got second place for the best tasting tomatoes and second place for the best plate of three in the commercial category. I believe I could have made a good showing in this event if the baseball size hail and three tornadoes hadn’t slowed me down. Maybe next year

The tomatoes I ate in the eating contest were grown by David Claiborne at the Tomato Shed and I’ll have to admit they were the best tasting ones we’ve had in the tomato eating contest in the past 16 years.

I’ve eaten some that tasted like they were picked green in California and shipped here in a load of manure.
The work cleaning up and rebuilding our little town continues, but there is still lots of work to be done. Hopefully by the end of the summer things will look a whole lot better.

Several portable buildings have been delivered to the Alto School, so they should be hooked up and going before too long. Summer is burning by pretty quickly and I know folks will be getting anxious as we get closer to school time.

I hope everyone has a safe and joyful summer loaded with lots of family, friends, and cold watermelon.
Its Father’s Day on Sunday, so be sure you don’t forget it.

I’ll see ya next week! And remember, By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.