By DELANIA TRIGG, Assistant Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
Cooke County —
Cooke County game warden Darla Barr faced a dilemma Friday morning — to fish or not to fish.
A group of GISD life skills students — looking forward to a fishing trip to Keneteso Park — were headed her way, but the weather was not cooperating.
Early morning rain and the threat of more showers left Barr wondering whether or not to go ahead with the fishing trip part of her Cooke County Challenged Youth Fishing Day.
Rain or no rain, the kids were going to tackle some fishing-related activities, she said.
“We still have things for the kids to do even if it rains,” Barr promised prior to the event.
As it turned out, the percipitation held off just long enough for the students to fish at the Keneteso park pond, enjoy a hamburger and hot dog cookout at the Leonard Park pavilion and play some games for cool prizes.
Barr is a veteran of kids’ hunting and fishing activities. She plans to make the Challenged Youth Fishing Day an annual event.
“I did this in Lamar County for eleven years,” she said, adding that education is a key component of a game warden’s job description.
“Education is a huge part of what we do,” she said. “We visit schools, rotary clubs, job and career events. We do educational projects for kindgarteners on up. It’s important for everyone to learn to protect and enjoy our natural resources so they’ll be there for other generations to enjoy.”
Denton County Game Warden Stormy McCuistion — on hand to assist Barr with the fishing trip — said he likes the public education aspects of his job.
“It’s very important regardless of what age group we’re working with,” he said. “What we’re doing today with these life skills students is good because we’re getting them outside the classroom. We’re showing them that other people care. They love it and we love it.”
McCuistion was one of a group of volunteers including other local game wardens, fishing guides, adult leaders and GISD life skills teachers.
Barr said while kid fish events are valuable for all students, the hands-on experiences are especially important for special needs children.
“This is one of the ways they can actually show their sportsmanship, their competitive side,” she said. “They are also learning a skill that can be recreational, build bonds with others and provide food for the table. It’s just a very positive approach to learning.”
For their part, the life skills students seemed to be having the time of their lives.
Chalmer’s Elementary second grader Melanie Adkins was all smiles when she hooked a small bass with the help of her teacher LaChell St. John.
St. John, a Chalmers life skills teacher has plenty of fishing experience.
“My husband is a fishing guide at Lake Texoma,” she said, deftly removing the hook from the fish’s mouth before gently releasing it back into the pond.
Barr said the event couldn’t have gone on without the help of a host of volunteers and donors.
Cliff Spindle of Spindle Guide Services, A & P Travel, Walmart Supercenter, Henry Weinzapfel, the Texas Game Warden Association and former Cooke County commissioner Jerry Lewis all provided monetary and/or material donations.
Barr also said she’d like to thank cooks Rick Mobley and Alan Baldwin; state park staff members Eric Anderson, Jerry Vaughn and Ryan Quin, volunteer Steve Roach and Denton County game wardens Daron Blackerby and Stormy McCuistion.
“Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors who helped make this worthwhile event possible,” she said. “The smiles on the faces of the kids truly make this a success — a bit soggy, but well worth it.”
Some of the students won fishing gear. Others took home fishing tackle and prizes including water bottles and stuffed animals.
Barr also said she’s grateful to Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“I want to say, ‘A job well done’ to the parks and recreation department for making sure the grass around the pond was extra short to help reduce critter issues,” she said, laughing.