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Spring 2001 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Absorbing the Sights

By Amanda Rogers, Staff Writer, Arlington Star-Telegram

Reprinted courtesy of the Arlington Star-Telegram

Daynon Welch, 10, plows through the barns at the Stock Show, dodging poop and people with skill and trying to see everything at once. Not so easy when your sight extends only six feet.

"What's in there?" Daynon asks as he darts ahead of vision teacher Joanne Kennedy's group. Daynon heads inside a barn he can barely see.

"That would hurt if it fell on you," he says as he leans closer to a Brown Swiss cow lying in the straw. "Can I touch it?" The Granbury fourth-grader sits down next to the cow to rub her side. Soon he has petted every cow in the area.

Daynon and 53 other youngsters got their chance Friday to "see" the Stock Show and Rodeo courtesy of the Telephone Pioneers, a service organization at Southwestern Bell of Ft. Worth for decades. The Pioneers picked up the $1,200 tab for 75 rodeo tickets for the students, teachers and chaperones.

The Pioneers take the children to the Stock Show and the circus every year, said Delane Archer, one of the organizers.

None of the children focuses on what they can't do, only what they can, Archer said. They visit the FFA Children's Barnyard, cruise through the barn, then head to the rodeo.

To help the children "see" the rodeo, Southwestern Bell supplies 37 headphones connected to a microphone that Paula Reed-Tollet uses to describe what's going on in the arena.

Rodeos are nothing new for 10-year-old Brittney Holland, who has been legally blind since birth. Brittney, a fifth-grader from Aledo, started riding horses when she was 4 and won her first belt buckle for barrel racing from Professional Youth Rodeo Association at age 9.

What's so nice about this is they have headphones," said her mom, Susan Holland. "Even though we go to rodeos twice a month, this helps Brittney know what's going on."

Brittney has no vision in one eye and has 20/400 sight in the other. To help her navigate the course, her barrel-racing sister, Hayley, 12, and her mom talk to her on walkie-talkies to tell her when to turn and when to slow her horse, Red. There are also people at each barrel telling Brittney when to turn.

After checking out the animals in the barns, Daynon and Brittney are eager to pull on the headphones to hear Reed-Tollet describe the opening ceremonies at the rodeo in the Will Rogers Coliseum. Both use hand-held telescopes.

"They're riding a fabulous array of horses and some of them are going to do scary tricks," Reed-Tollet says excitedly into the microphone. When a bucking horse bursts out of the chute, she tries to explain why the horse is trying so hard to toss its rider.

"We wear a belt to hold up our pants," she says. "The horses wear a belt, but they don't care much for it. These are wild horses and they buck."

Reed-Tollet started doing the running commentary for Southwestern Bell 25 years ago when she worked on a children's TV show, Kid's Korner, on Channel 11.

"I just try to describe all the colors and what people are doing," she says as fireworks explode inside the arena. "Ohh, fireworks! That sound you heard was fireworks going off. Don't be afraid. They're going off inside the building."

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