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Earns $12,000 scholarship
for college-bound student

Goodman Unit cook-off team not chicken of competition at big show

Pousson, Wright, and Causey standing in front of BBQ pit area.
Barbecue at its Best - Goodman Transfer Facility employees, from left, CO V Charles Pousson, Risk Manager Cecil Wright, and Lt. Terry Causey brought back three trophies from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo cook-off competition this year. The fourth member of the Goodman Goodtime Cookers, CO V Leon Kelso, is not pictured.

Photo by David Nunnelee

Cecil Wright didn’t chicken out at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. A year ago, as chief cook for the barbecue cook-off team representing the Jasper County Go Texan Committee, Wright grilled up some chicken as usual. But he didn’t follow the same simple recipe that had won his team blue ribbons in many other less-prestigious cooking competitions. The foul- up resulted in the group failing to place among the top 100 entries at the world’s largest barbecue cook-off.

“Last year I was scared by the hype,” said Wright, risk manager at TDCJ’s Goodman Transfer Facility in Jasper. “I knew I was up against stiff competition and I guess I wasn’t confident in my cooking. I figured I had to make it better than the way I normally cook it. So I experimented. This year, I decided to stay true to the recipe, and it paid off.”

It did in more ways than one. Not only did Wright and his teammates – Goodman Unit employees Lt. Terry Causey, CO V Leon Kelso, and CO V Charles Pousson – take home three trophies, they also earned a $12,000 college scholarship for a Jasper County student.

“What we’re doing by going to Houston and competing in the barbecue cook-off is competing for scholarships,” Wright said. “Our sole purpose is to provide a college scholarship to a Jasper County resident.”

But winning first place can be fun, too.

Wright has been grilling meats at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo the past five years but had never come close to toting home a trophy. His team’s chicken was not only voted the best tasting among the 107 chicken entries in the show, it was also judged second runner-up overall among the 362 different meat varieties entered, including brisket and ribs prepared by big-budget corporate teams. The locally-sponsored Jasper team also took the top spot in the separate Go Texan competition for its chicken entry.

“I’ve got some people who work with me that are pretty good,” Wright said. “We cooked the best chicken we could and the judges liked it. And our chicken beat everybody’s brisket and ribs, except two.”

As chief cook, Wright says the secret to his championship chicken is simple. All he does is rub in some store-bought Cajun seasoning and lets it sizzle undisturbed on a pit stoked with red oak to about 225 degrees.

“My secret to chicken is you season it, put it on a grill, and don’t touch it for four hours,” Wright said. “Don’t move it, don’t breathe on it, don’t touch it.”

One thing he does do is spray the bird every 30 minutes or so with a concoction made up of one part water and one part Coca-Cola.

“It’s a tenderizer and it keeps it moist,” Wright said. “There have been several times where I’ve had to wipe my glasses off because of the juice squirting out of the chicken when I cut into it. They’re definitely not dried out. They’re juicy. I think that’s my secret.”

While representing the Jasper County Go Texan Committee at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Wright and his teammates compete in a number of local cook-off competitions during the year as the Goodman Good Time Cookers. He said the team plans on returning to Houston again next year in a bid to be named grand champion and receive an automatic invitation to a celebrated cook-off competition in Tennessee. That event is considered by many to be the most prestigious cooking competition around, even though it is much smaller in scale than the Houston show, which annually attracts between 350 and 425 teams.

“The only thing to do is to win first place and go to Tennessee,” Wright said. “That’s the only way we can beat what we did this year.”

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Fundraiser helps accident victim with medical expenses

Gift of life given by Goree Unit employee returned in kind

Greg Hardy sitting at desk in front of computer. Computer screen has picture of his motorcycle on desktop.
The home computer screen of Goree Unit CO V Greg Hardy is wallpapered with a photograph of what his motorcycle looked like before he was involved in an accident that almost killed him last November. “It was my pride and joy,” he said.

Photo by David Nunnelee

Greg Hardy almost died trying to give the gift of life to others. But in the end, it was the gift of life given by others that saved his.

Hardy, a TDCJ correctional officer for more than 23 years, was off on the morning of November 7, 2006 and driving to the Goree Unit in Huntsville to give blood when a truck ran through an intersection at the northwest corner of the unit and collided with his motorcycle. His injuries were so extensive that he was transported by Life Flight helicopter to Hermann Hospital in Houston, where he spent the next 62 days in a coma.

“The prognosis we had early on was such that I didn’t really have a whole lot of hope for Greg surviving,” said David Bone, assistant warden at the Goree Unit where Hardy has worked the past three years. “He almost died.”

The collision broke every bone on the left side of Hardy’s body, except his shoulder, and left him with severe internal injuries that required numerous surgeries and blood transfusions. He was given seven liters of blood on the Life Flight helicopter alone.

“They couldn’t put enough blood in me because every time they did they’d find another spot leaking on my insides,” Hardy said. “They removed part of my intestine and part of my colon because there was so much damage.”

Hardy awoke from his coma the first week of January and was later moved to a special care facility in The Woodlands for two weeks. He spent another 14 days at a nursing home for extensive care patients there before being allowed to return to his home north of Huntsville. In March, he was still 55 pounds lighter than he had been on the day of the accident, but he was walking with some assistance and attending physical therapy sessions at a local hospital. Still ahead lay another abdominal surgery and skin grafting procedures.

“I feel great,” he said. “I eat good and I feel good. I just can’t walk real good.”

To help Hardy with medical expenses over and above those covered by his insurance, employees of the Goree Unit in March sold more than 600 barbecue sandwiches as part of a fundraiser.

“I think it’s great,” Hardy said. “I can’t thank them enough. I’m glad that I’ve got friends like Warden Bone and everybody who did the fundraiser for me.”

While no one keeps a tally, chances are good that on any given day, co-workers of TDCJ employees who have been injured in an accident or are facing some other life-altering situation are planning a fundraiser to help see their colleagues through their ordeal.

“TDCJ is a large organization, but when you get down to it, we’re all a family,” Bone said. “We all look out for each other.”

Bone said he was especially gratified by the response from employees throughout the Huntsville area, including those from the TDCJ headquarters complex and the Wynne Unit where Hardy had worked previously.
“It makes you feel good,” Bone said. “Working in a penitentiary, you tend to maybe lose a little faith and a little hope in society, but when you see people come out and do something like this, it makes you feel better about things.”

The irony that Hardy was injured while on his way to give blood for use by others with life-threatening injuries was not lost on him as he recovered. He said he had been a regular blood donor the past 26 years and had given more than three gallons of the gift of life over that period. And he said he plans to resume giving blood as soon as he is able.

“I’d go and give this week if I could,” he said. “Thank goodness people donated so it was there when I needed it. I owe them as big as I do the doctor because, if not for the people who give blood, I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Hardy, 47, remembers nothing from the accident but still keeps a before photograph of the motorcycle he was riding that day on his home computer screen. He said he misses the freedom of the open road but that his riding days are probably over for good.

“I loved my motorcycle,” said Hardy, who had been riding since a teen. “It was my pride and joy. But for right now, a motorcycle is out of the question.”

Hardy said he hopes to be back to work by fall if his doctors will allow it.

“I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “It’s a miracle, really. It was a lot of people praying and people giving me blood when I needed it. That’s what saved my life.”

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