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Table Talk: Candid conversations in Bee County

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James Stark and his wife, Monica.
James Stark,  his sons and grandsons
The exterior of Taqueria Vallarta in Skidmore
Taqueria Vallarta in Skidmore
Posted at 3:00 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 07:44:25-05

SKIDMORE, Texas — It's Tuesday and that means once again, we’re on the road as we continue our commitment to you and all of our viewers.

Each week, we visit restaurants in 12 Coastal Bend counties to find out what you're talking about and what's important to you.

This time, a conversation about jobs quickly turned into something many of us know all too well - the loss of a loved one. That's what's on the table this morning.

There aren’t many restaurants in Skidmore though we did find Taqueria Vallarta off State Highway 181.

The restaurant sits right across the street from the Skidmore-Tynan ISD, the home of the Bobcats and the Ladycats.

We arrived to find the breakfast crowd had come and gone which made for some very candid conversations.

"It was a good small town to grow up in,” said Ty Huser, who has life in Skidmore for most of his 26 years. He graduated from Skidmore-Tynan ISD just a few years back.

These days, he's not just the assistant fire chief but also owns his own construction business working on remodeling homes.

"It's always been a hobby of mine to work with carpentry, and different things like that,” he told us, adding that the pandemic has proven to be a boost in business from him anywhere from 20% to 30%.

“It's probably better now than it was without the virus,” he said.

When asked why, Huser credits “more people staying at home and seeing things that are wrong with their homes and wanting to get them fixed.”

He's grateful for work especially with nearly one in every four people in the county living at or below the poverty level. That’s according to the U.S. Census.

"It makes me feel fortunate that I am able to do things and all but you know on the flip side of that, try to help others out,” Huser said.

And while Huser is essentially just starting out his life, James Stark is scaling back.

These days, the 68-year-old retiree works part-time bailing hay.

When asked how hay bailing is these days, Stark told us, "Well, it's all right. It's not real profitable.”

Stark is a native of Three Rivers. He's one of nine children and the father of two boys, ages 29 and 32.

His oldest lives in Beeville with his wife and two young boys of his own.

His youngest spends his days working as an environmental engineer.

As Stark told us about his kids and how they’ve succeeded in life, we wanted to know how he did it.

“A lot of hard work,” Stark said, followed by a big laugh.

It may have been a lot of hard work but Stark certainly had a lot of help.

Stark would meet his wife, Monica, at the Texas Grand, a popular dance hall in Beeville.

We wanted to know who he thought is the better dancer of the two.

“We were both pretty good in our younger days,” Stark said.

That was back in 1984 and little did Stark know that nine months later, he and Monica would tie the knot.

Out of respect for Mr. Stark, we asked him if it was O.K. to ask him such personal questions and told us he didn’t have any problems with it.

We then continued our conversation.

When asked if he knew right away that Monica was the woman he was going to marry, Stark told us, “not right off the bat. It didn’t take long.” He went on to say, “because I really had no intentions of really ever getting married.”

The two worked hard to keep the family going. James worked in the oil fields and Monica as a nurse.

“Oh no,” Stark said when we asked if he could ask for more with his family. “Wouldn’t change it.”

It was the family trips out to Lake Corpus Christi or as it’s known to the locals as Lake Mathis that always seemed to bring a smile to Monica’s face.

"She loved going to the lake and just drive around looking at the wildlife and stuff like that,” Stark told us as we noticed slight sadness seem to overcome him. “That's actually the last place we went before she passed away. The day before, actually.”

Monica would pass away three years ago next month leaving Stark devastated.

When asked if it was still painful today,” Stark was quick to answer.

"Yeah, I guess the pain never goes away, really," he said. "It's just part of being alive. You can't change that. Everybody is going to lose their loved one.”

Since Mr. Stark seemed to want to talk more about his wife, we asked him how different life would be today if his wife was still with him.

His answer? "Oh, it would be totally different.”

"It would be back the way it should be, so to speak,” he said.

As we left, Stark looked at the menu and appeared to be looking back on a lifetime of memories at the same time as well as what the future might bring.

When asked what he thought was going to happen to the county he was born and raised in, especially with the poverty level at 25% and with a lack of jobs, he answered simply with, “I think they'll be all right.”

But what about what would happen to him?

“Just keep doing what I'm doing until I get too old to do it,” Stark said.

And with this latest edition of Table Talk, we’ve now been to Bee, Refugio, Aransas, San Patricio, Nueces, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Jim Wells County. That means, we will be hitting the road for the next month and headed to Jim Hogg, Brooks, Duval, and Live Oak counties.

Where should we go for our next edition of Table Talk? Do you have a specific restaurant in mind where the conversation may just be better than the food?

If so, we’d love to hear from you. We're looking forward to our next road trip.

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