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April 29, 2008

Values instilled in the lobby of the county jail

As I walked through the front doors, I walked past a young man with short blonde hair and a glowing smile strumming a guitar and singing. He nodded and I walked on through to the lobby of the Whitley County jail.

There, I encountered several things going on simultaneously as I approached the information desk in search of the person I came to interview for a story.

Here and there, I saw neatly dressed men carrying Bibles and talking in hushed voices. They didn’t seem anxious, but calm as they waited in the lobby. They walked here and there, greeting each other. I later learned it was church night at the jail, with each clergy member awaiting their chance to reach out to those in the jail population with God’s word.

Everything experienced thus far in my visit was unexpected. As I got further into the lobby, however, I encountered a situation I’ll never forget.

A woman sat exasperated in a chair and several seats away, sat an equally frustrated-looking man. It was the last two people I saw that really caught my attention, however.

Seated with a chair between them was a Sheriff’s deputy in his brown uniform and a curly haired boy.

About five or six years-old, the little boy with a cherub’s face and a hint of mischief behind his dark, sparkling eyes, sat talking to the deputy. He told him he’d never steal again, he wouldn’t be naughty again and he’d try to be a good boy.

The deputy, strictly, yet compassionately talked with the boy for some time about the virtues of leading life on the straight and narrow. He was down on the boy’s level and spoke with his heart, the voice of a father, a community leader and an adult who cares all wrapped into one.

As the boy talked, his eyes darted around the room, examining the pictures on the walls and the people nearby. Sensing he was, perhaps, not reaching the boy entirely with his message, the deputy then spoke to the boy about the importance of looking someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. It was as though this boy had never heard that before, and truly, he might not have. Some of the lessons parents took the time to instill in children years ago about respect, right and wrong, honesty and doing the right things might not be taught in all households today, after all. So, it was moving that in his voice and position of authority, a local Sheriff’s deputy took the time and the opportunity, to teach those lessons tonight to that little boy. In a lot of ways, I felt the deputy was doing something he shouldn’t have had to do – was it not the parent’s role to educate their child? Yet if they were so exasperated and frustrated with the child at the age of five or six, perhaps it was good they brought him to someone with the care and compassion to teach the boy what they could not. He didn’t have to do what he did. As a member of this community, though, I’m grateful to that deputy for taking the time to pass knowledge on to that child; as they say, it takes a community to raise a child. Isn’t it wonderful that he wasn’t too busy to get involved in this situation and to say the things that needed to be said. I wanted to thank him personally, but the timing was wrong. I wonder if the boy will think of the deputy as he’s growing up? I wonder if, as a teen talking with an older adult, he’ll look that person in the eye and remember what the deputy told him?

As serious and heavy as all that was, I nearly cracked a smile watching this unfold from a corner in the jail lobby as I waited for my interview. I was so moved by this situation and that I had been given the gift of observing it. At the end of his conversation with the deputy, the little boy looked up in my direction, though I don’t know if he was looking at me, and held his finger and thumb about a centimeter apart and said, “I was about this close to going to jail tonight!”

Perhaps what that deputy said will keep that boy out of jail – tonight and for the rest of his life. Perhaps tonight will be the foundation for a just life. Perhaps that boy, years from now, will reflect on the wisdom of the young deputy and reach out to another young child in need of guidance.

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...the three hour tour....

I was told in advance that the South Whitley Garage Sales were quite a spectacle and I had no concept of how big until I went there on Saturday morning.


I’m glad I was told in advance that there was no real point in trying to drive to the sales – you basically have to park somewhere and just walk. The walking was probably the best part of the experience in my opinion – oh, and the visiting with people. That was fun too.

I made one purchase on Saturday that turned out to have been well worth the $8 that I spent.

I bought a pair of wooden canoe paddles that appeared to have bit of age on them. Actually, if you haven’t noticed, I like about anything with a big of age on it. I digress. I found these paddles. Knowing we only had one in the boat (what good is one paddle?), I planned on buying one, but since they were a set, I bought them both. Lugging them around the booming metropolis of South Whitley during the garage sales wasn’t really easy, but my sister’s baby stroller helped tremendously.

When I got home, I immediately tossed them into the boat and thought nothing of it.

Later, after my husband spent the majority of the day tinkering with the 1955 Johnson motor that motivates our ’56 Thunderbay Runabout across the lake, we decided to take the boat out for a spin.

It all began well enough, but we ended up stalling near the northernmost island in Loon Lake. The wind on Saturday afternoon was brisk and before we knew it, we were marooned on the island. The two paddles came into immediate use – more as a means of pushing us away from land and water hazards than they were for actual paddling since the wind was so harsh. We bounced off bushes, around stumps, into rocks and eventually managed to get onto the wind-protected side of the island and got the motor running again.

I was at the wheel when some maneuvering of the carburetor resulted in some high speed action to which that boat had not seen in some years. I was flying! The nose went up in the air and we looped around the center of the lake. I had not ever driven a speed boat, so this was new to me. I had brief visions of touring the whole lake this way – thank goodness Loon Lake is a “ski lake,” I thought, so this high speed joy riding wasn’t illegal or anything.

This went on for what was actually about 2 minutes when we stalled again, this time in the middle of the lake. The paddles came out again. We restarted again. We stalled again. We restarted. This pattern repeated as we made slow, slow progress back to the boat launch.

I was never so relieved to get off a boat. For now, my urge to ride in the boat is temporarily satisfied – at least until the tinkering with the engine is complete. My husband asked if I now have the need to have a vintage motor on my vintage boat out of my system – i.e. can we buy a new motor? Stepping off the boat, my answer was YES! Now, I’m not so sure. Regardless of the adventure, it was really fun. Oh, and by the way, it did actually turn into an almost Gilligan’s Island Three Hour Tour by the time you calculated the whole time our “quick” trip around the lake took.

So, to whomever in South Whitley decided they no longer needed their boat paddles on Saturday -- thank you! If you hadn’t been selling them, I might have been setting up camp on the island and still be waiting to be rescued. That wouldn’t have been exactly the island vacation I was dreaming of, but, hey, it would have been fun too!

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April 13, 2008

Rumors & Speculation

The weeks of rumors and speculation were set to rest Saturday evening when neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama appeared in person at the Third District Democratic Dinner held at The Eagles Nest Event Center in Columbia City.
As the possibility of the Democratic grappling for the presidential nomination drew closer to the annual banquet, many wondered if either candidate or another public figure might appear before the large crowd of assembled Democrats.
The rumors are a potential reason that attendance at the event was much higher than normal -- with well over 300 in attendance Saturday evening to hear from several Democratic candidates, including Michael Montagano who is running for Congress and Jill Long Thompson who is seeking the Governor's seat. It was one of the largest crowds I've ever seen at The Eagle's Nest, actually.
Additionally, a new rumor began circulating early Saturday and could be heard in whispers Saturday evening at the dinner regarding the possiblity that someone from the Clinton campaign might be visiting Whitley County on Monday. The exact source of that rumor was unclear -- and it varied like the message heard on a can and string phone you may have played with as a child.
As the dinner progressed and the vague reference to someone speaking on behalf of the presidential candidates appeared in the evening's program, more than a few people wondered if something big might happen during the event. A few people kept at eye on the door or out the window, wondering who might walk in as the evening went on. Each car driving by could, theoretically, hold Bill Clinton, Chelsea, Hillary or, perhaps, Barack Obama.
It was conceivable...the Third District is heavily populated, campaigning activities had been going on not far away on Saturday and it would have been a good opportunity to see a lot of Democratic voters in one place at one time.
Joe Hogsett's announcement that Bill Clinton would be visiting Decatur on Monday seemed to put the rumor of a Monday visit to Whitley County to rest and when no one appeared by the end of the dinner, it was clear that a major candidate's visit had all been rumor and speculation -- and a bit of the magic Hoosiers are experiencing for the first time as major political candidates are not only making token visits to our state -- but popping up on a weekly basis to capture attention and, they hope, votes at the May primary.
So, will the next rumor of a major political candidate or their famous family member's plans to tromp through out county come true? Who really knows for sure -- and it sure is fun watching and wondering!

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