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DeWayne's World - Why do I have trouble with seniors and telescopes?

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

In my first column a few weeks ago I alluded to a couple of stories people would have to ask me about.

People have been asking.

They want to know what the senior citizen called me after I saved his sister’s life.

They also want to know how I got beat up by a telescope.

Well ... OK, I’ll tell.

Unfriendly senior

The first story finds me in Morton, many years ago.

It was a Sunday morning.

I was watching TV and listening to the police scanner. Yes, listening to a police scanner is how I relax.

I heard a call go out that the police were looking for a woman who was missing from a retirement center.

I ignored it and went back to watching TV.

Some time later, the Morton Police were calling out auxiliary officers to aid in the search.

I told my wife I was going to go check it out and that I’d be gone 20 minutes.

She said, “Uh, huh.” She’d heard that before.

I went to the retirement home.

As I walked through the home looking for the police I saw several residents were gathered in a small sitting room. They recognized me and called me over.

They said the cops were not interested in listening to them. So, they said they were going to tell me where the woman was.

They said she snuck out all the time and went to Farm N’ Fleet.

I left the building.

I walked to a nearby restaurant to check out the garbage area which was hidden by a brick wall.

She wasn’t there.

I looked there because I figured an old woman wandering around the aisles of  a store for a few hours would have gotten someone’s attention.

As I started to walk toward Farm N’ Fleet, it occurred to me if the woman was headed there and wanted to take a shortcut she would have to cross a small creek that ran behind the store.

I started to walk the creek. Soon, I heard some moaning and saw something white in the water.

I had found the missing woman.

She had tried to cross the creek, lost her balance, and fell backward into the water. She was stuck in the mud.

I jumped in and grabbed her head and shoulders and pulled her partially out of the water.

Then Morton Police Sgt. Mike Dunlap, who noticed I left in a hurry, came out to see what I was up to.

He heard me yelling for help and called the rest of the police and paramedics on his radio.

We got the woman out of the water. She was suffering from hypothermia and had suffered a stroke.

I was wet, muddy and had lost my right shoe in the mud at the bottom of the creek when I was pulled out.

The director of the retirement home and the woman’s older brother came to the scene. The victim’s brother walked with a cane. The retirement home director was holding his arm. He looked rather frail.

They wanted to know who had found his sister. They were patting me on the back and thanking me.

I pulled my reporter’s notebook from my back pocket and identified myself as a reporter.

The face of the retirement home’s director fell. She suddenly realized this was going to be news. She didn’t want this to be news.

The woman’s brother had a similar take on the situation. His face turned into a scowl.

I asked him for a comment.

He raised his cane.

As he hit me in the left arm with it, he said, “I don’t want to talk to any @#&(#%^ reporter.”

A “no comment” would have sufficed.

Seeing stars

Now for the telescope story.

It was Oct. 6, 2008.

The Peoria Astronomical Society was taking apart the almost 100-year-old telescope we have at Northmoor Observatory located at Leo Donovan Golf Course.

A new dome was going to be put on the observatory.

So, I went to get pictures for the Peoria Times-Observer.

As an amateur astronomer, I have worked with this telescope for years. It’s a monster — about 13 feet long and a heavyweight.

There were just the two of us there.

As it was being taken apart I took pictures.

As the other guy took the objective lens off one end, which weighs about 150 pounds, the telescope swung around.

I was looking at the photo I just took when the scope hit me on the right side.

The impact picked me up off the floor threw me about 6 feet where I hit the floor on my right shoulder and the back of my head.

I suffered a concussion, a damaged right rotator cuff and several cuts and scratches.

I don’t remember a whole lot after hitting the floor.

I saw stars without the aid of the telescope.

A friend suggested if I was going to take up telescope wrestling I start in the light weight category. Good idea.

I have sworn off heavy-weight telescope wrestling.

I have other stories like the one about being beat up by gang members in Morton and that story leading me into the living room of a member of a radical white supremacy group in Morton.

And, then there’s the story about myself and my family becoming the targets of a national Neo-Nazi group.

But, those are other stories.

You’ll have to ask me about those when we meet in person sometime.

Or, maybe I’ll tell those stories in another column.

We’ll just have to see.

DeWayne Bartels is news editor of the Woodford Times