BIG SPRING, Texas (FOX 24) – A local artist is getting national attention. She will soon be featured on the popular television series Monster Garage. Along with her amazing artwork, the Big Spring woman also has quite a story to tell after a very painful past.
“I do a little bit of everything,” said Rae Ripple, a local artist. “There’s a saying that art is best formed when you’re either falling apart or falling in love and most of my life I’m falling apart.”
Life hasn’t been easy for Rae Ripple.
“As a 14-year-old kid, homeless living on the streets, to an 18-year-old stripper with a tiny baby and not knowing how I was going to make it,” said Ripple.
But this single mother of two kept focused on her passion, her art.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Cash Ripple, her son.
“This town has been the only place that has ever embraced me or made me feel like family and made me feel like home,” said Ripple.
“It’s really cool how a woman can be that talented and do all of that herself,” said Cash Ripple.
Her incredible talent is getting her noticed. She will soon be featured on the television series Monster Garage.
“I can’t tell you what you’re expected to see but just know it’s awesome,” said Ripple. “A lot of dangerous things are involved.”
She doesn’t shy away from her dark story and she uses it to spark encouragement in others.
“If you just never give up that fight to survive, you’ll always make it,” said Ripple.
You can see the artist on Monster Garage on January 25th which is on the Discovery Channel. She also has other big projects in the works that she hopes to be able to share soon.
GREENWOOD, Texas (FOX 24) – A Greenwood man turned a hobby into a successful business and it’s a profession much different than his previous one.
For two decades, Michael Pardue has been a silversmith.
“Every day he comes in with something different or something new,” said Tammy Pardue, Michael’s wife.
“I would see these really fancy silver bits and spurs that some of the other guys on the cowboy crew had,” said Michael Pardue. “I couldn’t afford any of that stuff. I admired it, I really wanted it, but we were broke. So, I kept telling Tammy one of these days, I’m going to learn how to do that. One of these days, I’m just going to make my own.”
That burning desire sparked him to teach himself.
“When I very first started, I learned it by just going to the public library and checking out books. The internet wasn’t really a thing,” said Michael Pardue.
“He could do it with his eyes closed pretty much,” said Tammy Pardue.
Michael Pardue was also a firefighter in the Basin for 31 years.
“Most firemen are very creative people,” said Michael Pardue.
He just retired last year.
“With that much time off, you have to find something to do or you’ll be really bored,” said Michael Pardue laughing.
“I am very proud,” said Tammy Pardue.
From belt buckles to knives, Michael Pardue does it all.
Dustin Warren is a new customer and Odessa resident.
“You can tell he takes great pride in it, every single bit of it,” said Warren.
He goes on to say, “Every piece looks amazing.”
As part of his special signature, he works to inspire.
“This one says gratitude greater than expectations,” said Michael Pardue. “That was one of the greatest sayings I think I’ve ever heard. If you can keep your thankfulness and your gratitude above what you expect on a daily basis., man, you’ve got it made.”
He’s also deeply proud of his West Texas roots.
“I was born and raised here so, I’ve very proud of Midland,” said Michael Pardue.
As you can imagine, creating his items can take countless hours. But Pardue says he can do a belt buckle in six hours if he’s extremely focused. He has customers from all over the United States.
ECTOR COUNTY (FOX 24) – Cowboys are particular about what they wear and one Gardendale man has some unique skills to help those cowboys look their best.
Working with leather takes patience and skills.
“You’ll never build a piece that you’re 100-percent happy with,” said Brody Bolton, leather artisan. “You always want to take what you did there and improve it on the next piece.”
For 18 years, Bolton has been creating custom hand made leather items.
“It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful art,” said Francisco Lira, Odessa resident.
Bolton said, “I grew up around things made out of leather including saddles and belts.”
He was once a professional bull rider.
“That also kind of went along with lots of things made out of leather. You know chaps, protective vests, belts that people hang their belt buckles they win on,” said Bolton.
“It’s part of Texas history, cowboy culture,” said Lira.
Lira is a longtime customer.
“I like to get something unique,” said Lira.
He likes it unique and personalized.
“He’s done two of my belts and right now, I got him to work on my leggings, chaps,” said Lira. “Chaps, it comes from in Spanish chaparreras.”
“The whole kind of mentality of the western heritage and the cowboy world per se, is it’s a lot about individualism,” said Bolton. “Cowboys are very independent and that includes what they wear. They want something custom, they want something with their brand on it.”
He goes on to say, “We’re created by a creator. We have that same spirit within us to want to create something that’s beautiful. With leather, you’re taking something that’s dead and kind of giving it some life again.”
Here’s something else that may surprise you. Bolton actually taught himself how to work with leather. His business is called 3B Leather. His leather shop is located in Ector County. Bolton also has quite the following on Instagram with around 28,000 followers.
ODESSA, Texas (FOX 24) – Meet a Basin man who’s following in his father’s footsteps. You could say he approaches his business like an artist, creating something magical.
We spoke with several local residents who are taking advantage of his creative landscaping in their backyard which includes a chess board, putting green area and volleyball court.
“My putt, putt golf is on point,” said David Montano, Odessa resident.
Another Odessa resident, Stephen Emmert, said, “I’m a big golfer. I’ve been playing for the last 15 years.”
“I love chess, so the big chess board for me was a huge, huge addition,” said Eric Taylor, Odessa resident.
Manny Flores has been a landscaper for 11 years. He’s the owner of Buried Stone Rock Yard in Odessa.
“A project like this from design to finish took about a week and a half,” said Flores.
“It’s fun but it’s art, it’s creative, it’s beautiful,” said Taylor.
“I actually started with my father when I was younger,” said Flores. “It was more of a chore, but as soon as I got older, I started making up my own landscaping and I put a lot of work into my designs.”
He listens carefully to his customers to come up with those ideas.
“They will throw in, hey you know what, my wife likes this or my husband likes this. I take that to a different level, I take that to being something unique,” said Flores.
“Being able to come down here and unwind at the end of the day, it’s a blessing,” said Montano.
“When the houses are being built a lot of families chose not to do their backyard, you know it’s just completely dirt and gravel, said Emmert. “You come home one day and the backyard is completely redone, it makes it so much more fun to live here.”
Another unique type of landscaping Flores does is putting a trampoline in the ground.
One of the benefits of using turf to landscape is that it requires little to no water. It’s helpful when city’s place those water restrictions.
BIG SPRING, Texas (FOX 24) – It’s a place rich in history here in the Basin. We’re giving you an inside look at the historic Hotel Settles dramatic sight in the heart of Big Spring.
Whether your view of the historic hotel is outside or inside, there’s no shortage of beautiful views. “We are Big Spring, Texas with the big, historic hotel,” said Jessica Alvarez.
The hotel’s Food and Beverage Director, Jessica Alvarez, grew up here.
“My favorite thing is just the history behind it,” said Alvarez.
The hotel first opened October 1, 1930 and stayed in operation until the early 1980’s.
“It was just an old, empty building,” said Alvarez.
For 30 years, it sat vacant until finally being renovated and reopened in 2012.
“Brint Ryan purchased it for $75,000 and put in a 30 million dollar renovation at this property,” said Emaan Campbell, Hotel Settles General Manager. “When they renovated this property, they really did everything to try to keep it the way it was in 1930.”
“There have actually been two presidents that have stayed here. LBJ and President Hoover,” said Justin Norwood, Guest Services Manager. “We’ve also had Lawrence Welk, Buddy Holly, and then Elvis.”
The Presidential Suite also has a fancy bathroom. There are tv’s above its tub.
“We have probably the best bathroom in town, funny to say that,” said Norwood.
There’s also a stunning staircase and a phenomenal pool. But maybe even more interesting than what you’ll see is what you’ll hear.
“A housekeeper that said that she had seen a ghost and then, was kind of really spooked out by that,” said Campbell.
She shared a bit of the hotel’s spooky history.
“We’ve heard, there’s somebody in the bar. But if I were a ghost, I guess that’s where I would be too,” said Campbell. “Free drinks after the bar closes.”
“I think people want to say it’s haunted and wanted to hear ghost stories. But no, nothing yet,” said Alvarez laughing.
The lobby also has its own fair share of history.
“We do have a 1929 Ford that was featured in Forbes magazine,” said Campbell. “We have two phone booths that were in the original property. They aren’t functional, unfortunately, but they are really fun.”
There’s so much to see. “I feel like Big Spring really needed it. It did bring life back into this town,” said Alvarez.
This historic hotel also gives people who live in Big Spring something to brag about., something that makes them stand out from the rest.
“It makes me feel proud to be from Big Spring. It makes me proud to say that this is my home and this is what this town has to offer,” said Alvarez.
Here’s something else interesting about Hotel Settles. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
ODESSA, Texas (FOX 24) – Many restaurants have been struggling during the pandemic. But being positive and encouraging, that’s what a local restaurant owner is doing. He’s telling us how he’s surviving and staying positive during these difficult times.
It’s a local landmark. The Legendary Barn Door Steakhouse first opened in 1963 and is a staple in Odessa. Also, adding to its appeal is the historic Pecos Depot.
“About 1973, they moved in the Pecos Depot which sits on the northside of the restaurant right now and that was the original train depot in Peco, Texas,” said Roy Gillean, the owner. “Frank Green actually bought the Pecos Depot for $5,000.”
Some say that part of the restaurant is haunted. Gillean believes he’s seen a ghost.
“I started walking back towards the bar area and I felt like there was something there following me. I turned my head around and out of the corner of my eye, I could see this little man walking towards me really fast. I got cold chills and my heart kind of started going crazy and I took off running.”
If you visit, you’ll hear more ghost stories as well as be entertained. On this day, Gillean, was playing the fiddle for customers. It’s not something you will see often, but these days he’s changing things up in order to stay afloat.
“Here this last year, it’s been extremely, extremely tough. Right now, we’re at about anywhere from 35 to 40 percent down in revenue.”
Gillean now has a new general store inside the restaurant as well as a pick up window. “You have to think outside the box,” said Gillean.
Even with the changes, many customers keep coming back for the nostalgia.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” said Susan Blakemore, Midland resident.
Some have been coming here for decades.
“I’ve been coming here probably 30 years,” said Blakemore.
Another Midland resident, Margene Blakemore, said “Growing up there were five kids in our family. It almost never failed that we chose to come to the Barn Door. It was so cool to see steaks being cooked behind the grill.”
“I come here every year for my anniversary still,” said Robin Wood, Midland resident.
Now more than ever, they’re hoping these locally-owned businesses not only survive but thrive.
“We’re losing a lot of history when these restaurants go under,” said Blakemore. “It’s really important to get out and support these businesses.”
The staff is also hoping for that support.
“There’s just a lot of cool things that are going on with it, that you don’t find at a lot of other restaurants,” said Christopher Smith, Barn Door server.
It’s their livehood. “February will be 22 years,” said Kim Moya, Barn Door server.
Longtime employee Kim Moya has formed a closed bond with many of the customers. “I know about their families and they know about mine,” said Moya.
“In our house, we pray every morning before I come to work,” said Gillean.
His faith has gotten him through this pandemic and he’ll keep fighting to keep the Barn Door open for many more generations to come in the Basin.
Gillean also does quite a bit for his employees from giving away scholarships to even helping workers with medical conditions.
ODESSA, Texas (FOX 24) – An Odessa landmark has lots of fond memories for many in our community. The Ector Theatre first opened in 1951.
“On Saturdays, the lines would go up and down both sides of the deal here because that was a big deal to go to the theatre,” said Gary Duesler, Odessa resident.
He once worked there as a projectionist.
“You would smell the popcorn when you walked in,” said Duesler. “There was a pair of velvet drapes that kept you from going into the theatre and kept the sound in and you would open it up and there it was in all of its magic.”
Randy Ham is the Executive Director of Odessa Arts. “I will never forget this for my entire life. I was 5 years old and Fort Stockton didn’t have a movie theatre and my grandmother pulled me out of school and drove me up here to Odessa to the Ector Theatre to see Star Wars.”
He gave us some insight into the renovations.
“It really keeps a lot of the 1950s, mid-century architecture but bringing it into the 21st century,” said Ham.
Duesler is glad to see it revived.
“You can’t cookie cut history. It’s here and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” said Duesler.
The Odessa resident says he can’t wait for this pandemic to end so people can see this piece of history for themselves.
“It was a wonderful experience. I don’t think people have that anymore, so if you get a chance to preserve the history in your town, fight for it.”
Something unique about the Ector Theatre is that it’s considered a multi-purpose facility. It can be used for keynote speakers, theatrical productions, live music and to watch movies.
ODESSA, Texas (FOX 24) – The internet forced many bookstores to close their doors. But there is one here in the Basin that’s been in downtown Odessa for almost three decades. We have the secret to its success.
Making money selling books isn’t always an open book. Dorthy Bennett is the owner of Ye Old Bookworm.
“Currently, we have no rent. Rent like I said, even 30 years ago was very expensive,” said Bennett.
Ye Old Bookworm first opened its doors in 1991. Eight years later, Bennett and her husband had paid off the bookstore.
“We own the building. I think that is the biggest staying power for us,” said Bennett.
They’ve also adapted to the times.
“We were probably one of the first people that started selling on the internet 28 years ago,” said Bennett. “Before Amazon even, it was not in existence when we started.”
We also talked with 10-year-old Andy who’s an Odessa resident and customer.
“I really like it. It’s a chance for me to catch up on reading and get smarter,” said Andy.
He actually prefers physical books.
“On the computer, you have to open tabs, apps, and different things to read,” said Andy.
“I don’t think they’ll ever go completely away because too many people like the feel and the touch, the smell of a book,” said Bennett.
Another perk is Timothy the cat.
“He’s lived right here in the shop for eight years,” said Bennett. “Timothy will walk around with the people in the store and show them the books.”
Of course, we had to ask this book expert about her favorite all-time book.
“I guess the Harry Potter series,” said Bennett. “When they first came out, I had several people come in here and say they should outlaw those books, they should ban those books. So, I read them just to see what was going on.”
The bookstore does greatly utilize the internet. Right now, it has around 20,000 books listed there for sale.
MIDLAND, Texas (FOX 24) – “Be Our Change” is our positive, inspirational segment. This time, we’re highlighting a nonprofit that’s been in the Basin for more than three decades. Its volunteers are passionate about making a difference.
“That’s what Helping Hands does,” said Debra Northcutt, a volunteer of five years. “It gives those people just a little bit of hope.”
It’s very emotional and personal for volunteers like Northcutt.
“I’ve been here through the up’s and the down’s so I’ve seen it. I remember they slept in tents in ’76 in people’s yards,” said Northcutt.
Mary Hardin is the Executive Director of Helping Hands of Midland. “Last year, we spent more than $1.7 million assisting the people of Midland with rent, utilities, medical and other expenses.”
The nonprofit operates a store, that’s where it gets about half of its income.
“It’s been devastating,” said Hardin.
And it’s been hit hard by the pandemic.
“I would say 80 percent of the cases that we’ve helped since the pandemic has hit, has been people that we’ve never seen before,” said Hardin.
“I’m retired from the oil industry. I’ve gotten to see a completely different side of humanity,” said Scott Sollee, Helping Hands of Midland Store Manager. “When you’re in the oil industry and you’re making a lot of money and then, you get to see the other side.”
He goes on to say, “You only have to give a little bit. Just a little bit from a lot of people really helps.”
“It pains me to see us through this downturn but we are resilient and we are strong. We will come back and there is a plan, it’s God’s plan,” said Northcutt with tears in her eyes. “This was God’s plan for me to come here and to help people and work here.”
In 2019, Helping Hands of Midland helped more than 2,000 families in Midland County. All of the contributions stay local.