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Reprint from Friona Star, June 10, 1995

The Day The Cows Flew Over South Friona

By Bill Ellis

By the time we caught up with Terry Sharrock on Thursday, the events of last Friday seemed more like an adventure out of "Jurassic Park" than a normal day's work.

But the adventure will be forever etched in his mind.

Sharrock was one of the "closed" witnesses of the funnel cloud that devastated the Bailleys' trailer house, the Mendozas and White residences, etc.

--As a matter of fact, the Sharrocks became a part of the storm themselves.

Terry, who has been employed by Friona Wheat Growers about six years, saw the funnel "set down" near the Highway 214 overpass. It proceeded northeast, and as he was at the company's new fertilizer plant, thought it might go on north of him.

But the twister struck the large elevator bins, and made a 45-degree turn and came back in a southerly direction.

The Sharrocks jumped in their van, and tried to get away, but the twister's force prevented them from escaping.

"It ripped the windows out of the van, and we were trying to cover up our baby daughter, Megan. Then, I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a couple of cows flying through the air," Sharrock said.


Yes, I heard him right the first time.

"They looked to be full-grown, mother type cows. They were sailing through the air, on their sides, about 10 or 12 feet off the ground," he added.

Later on, Sharrock said he noticed five or six other cattle running east, between the liquid storage tanks at the fertilizer plant, trying to get away from the storm.

Sharrock said he noticed that the anhydrous ammonia was escaping from a tank, and a propane tank also was leaking (at the fertilizer plant). "Several of the small nurse tanks had cracked valves, and they were leaking, and I'm trying to get out of there without running right into the tornado," he said.

Energas' line in the area was also broken, Sharrock believed, so there was a lot of hissing and spewing.

"The wind velocity was amazing. I don't know how it kept from turning over the van. A bob-tailed grain truck and a heavy grass spreader at the plant were both overturned. I think you could say that we're a group of walking miracles," Sharrock said.

About the time he thought their ordeal was over, the storm participant said he saw a second, smaller funnel, come down out in the field. Luckily, this one did not develop like the first one, and did not stay down long.

For his part, Sharrock had a needle stuck in his leg when the storm was over. He was hit in the head by an airborne board, and had some cuts around his face. Sharrock's wife Casey had a piece of glass in her leg, and the 13-month old daughter just had a small nick on one of her cheeks.

The parents were treated and released at Parmer County Community Hospital.

The family's 1992 Chevy Astro van was totally destroyed, sustaining several smashed-in spots besides losing all it windows.

"I wish I knew how long it (the tornado) lasted. It may have been only a minute or two, but it seemed like an eternity," Sharrock said. "It's amazing that we walked away. It makes you appreciate being alive," the Friona resident concluded.


Town Talk

As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight reach their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again. The Summer Solstice for 2020 will occur on Saturday, June 20, at 5:43 PM. This will be the day with the longest period of sunlight, 14 hours, 53 minutes, and 41.5 seconds. Use it wisely.


This is the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, drought, and wildfires. In 1995, it was a tornado. If you have not had a chance, go to our website at www.frionaonline.com and view the two videos of the 1995 Friona tornado. The good old days.


Congratulations Friona!!! Coffee Memorial sent word back this week that we had broken our record for the most units of blood collected in a drive. The old record of 67 units was set in 2015. Last Thursday, we had 81 sign in and 74 were able to donate. Eleven donors were able to use the "double" machine. Final results will be posted at a later date. The next blood drive will be held on Thursday, August 20th. It is the annual Boot's n Badge's drive and it will also offer antibody testing. Note: if you took the antibody test at the last drive, you can get retested at the next drive.


June is National Dairy Month. A big thanks to Dairy Max and our great dairies for sponsoring the last blood drive. The free milk and ice cream hit the spot!!!


The District 2 4-H Photography Contest was held last week and kids from our county made a great showing. First place winners were: Ander Pomper - Junior, Plant/Flora; Ander Pomper - Junior, Night; Rory Pomper - Intermediate, Food; Jonathon Vasquez - Intermediate, Dominant Color; TJ Vasquez - Senior, Catch All. Third place winners were: Ander Pomper - Junior, Catch All; Ander Pomper - Junior, Dominant Color; Ander Pomper - Junior, Shadow/Silhouette; Ivy Schueler - Junior, Motion/ActionAubrey Schueler - Intermediate, People; TJ Vasquez - Senior, Night; Emma Schueler - Senior, Shadow/Silhouette.


Go to www.frionaonline.com and click on "photos" to view photos from the Parmer County 4-H Photography Show and from the District 2 4-H Photography Contest.


Just a reminder that you can purchase water at the receptacle on the east side of the City Park. However, it is not self-service anymore. Replacement parts for the old equipment are not available. Call the city at 250-2761 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and they will send someone over to assist you. The cost is $4.00 per 1000 gallons.


The Friona Volunteer Fire Department is holding a "50 for 50" fundraiser again this year. The drawing will take place at 1:00 p.m. at Saturday, September 19th at the Friona Volunteer Fire Department. There will be a maximum of 1,000 tickets sold. Tickets can be purchased from any member of the Friona Volunteer Fire Department. See info on front page.


Local Farmer, Powered Parachute Pilot, Cannoneer

As we grow older, life's journey takes us through many interests, travels and hobbies - i. e. adventures. Whether it be learning to fly a powered parachute or trying his hand at another element of danger like designing and making a cannon, this local farmer has enjoyed learning many new things. All can be very interesting as Friona native, Keith Lynn Blackburn, can attest. Where to start? Ask him. He has built a cannon that really works!

In fact, it was at one of the powered parachute meets that a fellow enthusiast brought a cannon that he had built. This was just the spark needed to ignite another quest. Mr. Blackburn began thinking about building his own cannon. Not much call for a 'big gun' on his farm in West Texas — just coyotes, rattlesnakes, hawks, owls, pheasants...but a new project began to take shape in 2009. Turns out there were cannon parts lying all around the farm: an old oxygen tank used for welding, scrap metal, and even some old farm implement wheels. No blueprints or plans, no instructor or advisor — just an idea, some ingenuity, general knowledge, welding skill and elbow grease. Slowly, a cannon began to take shape. The tank became the barrel with the development of its exact length and reinforcement being part of the design process. It had to be strong enough to withstand firing. Deconstruction of the tank brought its own contributions to the idea for reinforcement. Now the smooth bore barrel needed a hole for the fuse; then selecting and determining the amount of gun powder needed for firing. Cannon balls, or ammunition, was also dictated by the size of the barrel; turns out bowling balls were just the right size in diameter 8 1/4 inches and weights. Test firing. After the force of firing bent the axle, having to add a stronger axle. There were lots of adjustments and re-calculations along the way: example how to elevate the barrel for the aiming and firing of the cannon. He developed his own system for this. Then he made the carriage for the cannon; the farm implement wheels turned out to be perfect. The overall weight is now 900 pounds. Later, he made a rain cap cover to protect the barrel muzzle.

Cannons, an ancient weapon of war dating back to the 12th century in China, were a basic design consisting of a heavy barrel, breech, a trunnion, a elevating screw and a carriage. Although cannons are not legally considered a firearm, they have an important place in the history of artillery.

Cannon comes from the Latin word 'canna' meaning tube. The first cannons were made of cast bronze or wrought iron; the first and biggest obstacle in making a cannon is the barrel. Gunpowder and projectiles were necessary to complete the weapon.

Pirate ships were equipped with cannons as well as Revolutionary War ships like the USS Constitution. Cannons using heavy balls and black powder were used exclusively in the Civil War 1861-1865. Hurricane Dorian recently washed up some of these heavy artifacts in 2019. Big guns on modern warships have sights and are classified as artillery. Large guns fired from WWII airplanes were also called cannons. Mortars are similar to cannons but their projectiles explode on impact and cannons do not.

The cannon is basic, but building one is anything but basic. Where to start? The barrel is an oxygen tank cut open to allow loading the projectile or cannon ball--in this case bowling balls of standard size, 8 1/4 inches in diameter and weights of 12, 14 or 16 pounds. Perfect! Heat expands the cannon balls so allowances have to be made for this. The breech (back of the cannon) allows a vent for a fuse to fire the cannonball. Obviously, safety is always Job #1.

Operating: the powder and a cannonball are loaded from the front of the barrel. The trunnion, or pivot point, is needed to raise and lower the cannon with an elevating screw. From the breech, light the fuse and stand back. Trajectory is the path the cannonball travels after it is fired through the cannon. Distance travelled? On average, one-half mile with one third pound of gunpowder.

Then comes the math: the planning, figuring, and measuring to determine how much gunpowder is needed to fire the cannon, the length of a fuse needed for igniting the gunpowder, the trajectory, the size and weight of the cannon ball and determining what how far it would fire. Testing. If the cannon is to be mobile--carriage wheels and an axle. All in all, really fascinating! and LOUD!!!! Mr. Blackburn fired his cannon for his Friona High School Class of 1963's 50th reunion as well as many other special occasions. It is quite an exciting thing to see — and hear.

Aiming the cannon, although not as exact as our high precision weapons of today, is basically point and shoot, allowing for the positioning of the barrel, but is nonetheless very powerful. In a demolition experiment at close range, the cannonballs fired went all the way through the structure--an old house to be demolished in Nazareth. Many holes were blown into enemy camps, ships, stone walls and other structures. Many improvements such as rifling the barrel bore for greater speed and accuracy have been made to the cannons of old to create modern weaponry.

Generally, in war, 15 men were assigned to be with each cannon because the cannon and cannoneer would soon become direct targets of enemy fire, especially the men trained to operate and fire the cannon.

The BLACKBURN Special received a facelift in 2020 with new paint and new wagon wheels for the carriage found at an antique sale. Cannonballs are only fired into open, empty areas and are recovered. It remains a testament to the ingenuity of one inspired, multi-talented farmer.

Keith and his wife Pat are the parents 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. The family enjoys trips to their cabin in the mountains, fishing and driving the jeep trails.

Happy Father's Day, Keith!

FYI: the finger holes in the bowling ball cause a whistling sound to be made when fired through the cannon.

Friona Rural Health Clinic Offering Back To School Physicals and Vaccinations

The Friona Rural Health Clinic will be open Saturday July 11th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to offer physicals for your back to school needs, such as athletics, band, and any other extracurricular activity that requires a physical. These physicals will be offered for $20. If you are unable to make that Saturday, you are welcome to call 806-250-2781 and make an appointment. The $20 physical price will be honored at that appointment.

If your child needs updated on their vaccinations, there will be a separate Saturday clinic for that on August 1st from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. If this date does not work for you, please feel free to make an appointment with the clinic and you will be taken care of that way, as well. The child must present their shot records at the time of vaccination for them to be seen.

If your child needs a Medicaid Texas Health Step physical, please make an appointment with Friona Rural Health Clinic. The Texas Health Step physical will be billed directly to Medicaid. The child's shot record is also required for this type of visit. Vaccinations and physicals are a part of the requirements for "back to school". Let us here at Friona Rural Health Clinic assist you in meeting those needs. If you have any questions, please call Friona Rural Health Clinic at 806-250-2781.


COVID-19 News

as of June 16, 2020

Texas Panhandle:

5,259 cases, 85 deaths

2,764 recoveries

Armstrong County: 3

Briscoe County: 1

Carson County: 6

Castro County: 42

Childress County: 6

Collingsworth County: 6

Cottle County: 4

Dallam County: 41

Deaf Smith County: 222

Donley County: 28

Gray County: 111

Hall County: 2

Hansford County: 21

Hartley County: 14

Hemphill County: 2

Hutchinson County: 45

Lipscomb County: 7

Moore County: 873

Motley County: 1

Ochiltree County: 53

Oldham County: 4

Parmer County: 132

Potter County: 2,798

Randall County: 763

Roberts County: 2

Sherman County: 30

Swisher County: 23

Wheeler County: 15

Eastern New Mexico:

151 cases, 2 deaths

Curry County: 89

Quay County: 4

Roosevelt County: 53

Union County: 5

Oklahoma Panhandle:

1,006 cases,

6 deaths,

938 recoveries

Beaver County: 30

Cimarron County: 1

Texas County: 975


93,206 cases

2,029 deaths

60,681 recoveries

United States:

2,100,000 cases

117,426 deaths


8,000,000 cases

441,227 deaths

COVID-19 Resources:

Health Protocols for Voters and Elections (English)

County Disaster Declaration (English)

March 16 FISD Letter (English) (Spanish)

March 31 FISD Letter (English) (Spanish)

Letter from City Manager (English) (Spanish)

Friona Community Helpline (English)

2-1-1 Texas Social Services Hotline (English)

Share The Facts about COVID-19 (English) (Spanish)

What You Need To Know (English) (Spanish)

What To Do If You Are Sick (English) (Spanish)

County Clerk PSA (English)

Chamber of Commerce Letter to Businesses (English)

FISD Emergency Resolution (English)