Month: April 2005 (page 1 of 2)

Life in a Small Town

Living in Nashville, Indiana, has tremendous benefits, many of which, however, are also its drawbacks.

I can’t recall the last time I went to the grocery store and didn’t see someone I knew (store employees notwithstanding). And it is impossible to walk down the sidewalk without repeatedly lifting an arm to wave at a familiar passing motorists or pedestrian.

Because of this camaraderie, citizens here both celebrate each others’ victories and mourn their losses.

Today we mourn.

Gregg Watson wanted to do something for the kids around here — something to get them off the street and into a clean, caring, Christian environment. So he acquired the property that once housed a car dealership and built a miniature golf course. He lined the walls inside the former showroom with video games and placed pool tables throughout, then named his new business The Victory Family Fun Center.

The location was ideal — just blocks from schools and near a part of town used as a hangout by several of the community’s youth most in need of such an opportunity. Instantly, the Family Fun Center was a hit and it has survived for nearly six years.

Unfortunately, Gregg Watson didn’t. The man who loved kids and loved giving them pieces — chunks — of his life in order to improve their own, became the victim of perhaps the most bizarre accident I’ve ever known of.

On Tuesday evening this week, Gregg was helping coach a youth basketball practice at Van Buren Elementary School. At one point, he was running down the court backward, in front of and coaching a player running forward. Gregg tripped, fell back, struck his head on the hard gymnasium floor and fractured his skull, causing irreversable damage to his brain stem.

We heard the ambulance get dispatched on the police scanner that night. The dispatcher told EMS that bystanders were performing rescue breathing to assist the victim’s labored respirations. Later that night, Linda said, “You realize, don’t you, that whoever that was, we probably know them?” It wasn’t until the next afternoon, however, that I learned it was Gregg.

I was shocked, to say the least. He was one of those people you saw around town three or four times a week, always greeting each other by name. Occasionally, the meeting would result in a short conversation, but most of the time he was in a hurry deliver lunch to someone in town. Regardless, he always brought a smile to your face with his highly contagious energy and enthusiasm.

This afternoon, countless notes of support were taped to the front doors of the Fun Center and displays of flowers lay scattered on the walk before them. Tonight, several candles stood lit in a tribute to Gregg and what he meant to our community.

I hope people who pass by the display will have reason to look inside their own hearts and realize the light that Gregg ignited in everyone he touched. And may we always be aware of how fragile our own lives are and how quickly our loved ones might be taken away from us — or us from them — and live accordingly.

Godspeed, Gregg. Godspeed.


Just Pastoring Through

Tomorrow, the entire congregation of the Nashville United Methodist Church will find out what some others of us have only recently learned.

Our pastor is leaving.

The decision to depart isn’t his, mind you, but that of the Bishop and a committee of District Superintendents. It is,unfortunately, a normal occurence in the United Methodist faith.

Tom came to our church about four years ago from Bloomington, where he was an associate pastor. The single father was very amicable and had a fantastic rapport with the younger generation of our congregation, my family included.

Since moving to Brown County, Tom has been an active participant in his sons’ school and sports activities, unlike many parents these days. Our congregation has grown significantly under his leadership, and for that we are grateful.

Now we must trust God to direct the leadership in our area to deliver us someone who will be as successful as Tom has been. My concerns, however, are many.

While I do put all my faith in Him, the Bishop and District Superintendents, I fail to appreciate the need for these moves.

Ultimately, I am happy for Tom. This certainly means that his work here has not gone unnoticed. If there is another congregation with needs similar to the ones ours had before he arrived, he is certain to meet them head-on, succesfully.

Often, the right thing to do is the uncomfortable thing. I wish Tom, Manuel and José all the best in Evansville.


What’s in a Name? … Reprise

For the final time, the name of this blog has changed.

I wasn’t real pleased with Messenger in the name, but at the time, it was the best I could do. And I was hell-bent on changing it from Observer before much more time had passed.

But I believe Hill Country Sentinel to be much more accurate, especially in my role as a full-time journalist who firmly believes in the role of the press as watchdogs — or sentinels — of government.

Concurrently, as a husband and father, I believe my role to naturally be as guardian to my family.

Hence the name Hill Country Sentinel.

So again, please join me in tossing out the old name in order that I make room for the new. And welcome to the Hill Country Sentinel.


What’s in a Name?

As a photographer and writer, I appreciate the value of protecting the rights to intellectual property. Copyrights, trademarks and other forms of piracy prophylaxis exist for a purpose.

The fact that I chose Hill Country Observer as the original title for this blog was not something I took lightly. I weighed heavily the implications of the words and how they reflected what I anticipated this publication to be.

But in my consideration, I failed to determine conclusively whether someone, somewhere, already held the rights to the name. I recently stumbled upon other references to Hill Country Observer as used for the apparent title of a publication. As a result, I’ve opted to discontinue its use.

Instead, this blog has been renamed Hill Country Messenger. While I don’t feel it describes my intent as accurately as the site’s maiden name, it still summarizes my purpose.

Therefore, out with the old and … well, you know the rest. Welcome, then, to the Hill Country Messenger.


Another April 3

For whatever reason, the third of April has repeatedly provided me with some type of bad experience.

Call it fate, bad karma or just a more intimate awareness of incidents occuring on this date. But since 1974, oddly bad things have happened either to me or around me.

The first was a series of tornados 31 years ago on this date, which doubles as my half-birthday, if there is such a thing. The twisters tore apart the state of Indiana, including three that passed just south of my southern Bartholomew County home. While my elementary school put us on buses for home in the midst of a hailstorm, our neighbors stood and watched the three tornados from their picture window.

Since then, it’s been odd. I recall receiving an injury at some point in my childhood on April 3. There was a tragic accident in Madison, Indiana, on that date, prior to my arrival, however. And peculiar little things, like running out of gas, having a utility shut off and some things too personal to share.

Lately, I’ve felt that the “jinx,” if you care to call it that, has been lifted, though. Thinking back over the last few April Thirds, I don’t remember much bad happening. Today was, for the most part, one of those.

Zach fishing at Bear Lake in Brown CountyAfter church and lunch, I took Zach fishing at Bear Lake, in northwestern Brown County. If the day were measured by the fishing success, it would be a failure. But it isn’t, and wasn’t. We had a wonderful time, despite nary a nibble. But being outside on such a beautiful day with my youngest son — on my half-birthday, nonetheless — was a terrific treat.

I’m so glad that Zach enjoys fishing. I’m happy to find anything he enjoys doing, and even more so to participate in it with him.

On the downside, a horrific trend continued in our county today.

Last year, seven of 11 traffic fatalities in this small community were motorcyclists, drawn to the twisting, winding roads that allow them to challenge their bike riding skills on sunny spring, summer and autumn days.

Today, another biker lost his life by driving recklessly and out of control. I don’t know any other details at this point, but I did go out to photograph it for the newspaper. CPR was performed at the scene, but once EMS arrived, it was determined that the injuries were mortal.

I don’t know what can be done about this terrible trend. We’ve tried to cover the fatalities as much as possible, hoping that riders would learn the danger lurking around every sharp curve. But that’s not doing the job.

For me, it just adds to the April 3 mystery. I wish I understood it better.

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