From the moment one hits the grounds of the Fort Worth Stock Show, the sights and sounds are overwhelming, especially for kids who are amazed by practically everything they see.
And for the youngsters who “see” through sound, touch and their imagination, the Stock Show can be just as exciting as for sighted children.
Each year the Lighthouse for the Blind and AT&T Pioneers (a volunteer group of telecommunications employees and retirees) sponsor an all-day trip to the Stock Show and Rodeo for blind and visually impaired kids from several North Texas school districts.
On Friday, about 45 school-age children walked the grounds, visited the petting zoo, got a horseback ride and took in the rodeo. Coburn’s Catering provided lunch.
Kenneth Brazo, 9, was able to see through his hands as he felt a goat, held a chicken and ran his fingers over the bronze bust of Will Rogers in the building named for the great entertainer, a tradition that is supposed to bring good luck.
Saginaw senior Chelby Farley can make out some images through the lens of her monocular, but she can’t tell exactly what they are.
In an interview with Joel Thomas of KTVT/Channel 11, she said, “I can tell where the cages are for the animals. And then figures I assume are animals, but I can’t tell exactly.”
Along with the sounds and descriptions from others, Farley said she uses her imagination to paint a picture.
That’s where Paula Reed comes in.
As the youngsters arrived in the rodeo arena and were fitted with headsets, Reed, a special education teacher at Oakhurst Elementary School, was getting her microphone ready for the volunteer job she has been doing since 1976. She narrates the action for the kids.
“I try to make it as colorful and exciting as I can — everything short of bringing bulls into the stand,” she said.
When the colorful grand entry got under way, with horseback riders carrying banners of the six flags that had flown over Texas, Reed described the various units in the procession and then prompted the students to stand when the American flag approached their section.
A clown led a miniature trained pony into the center of the ring and had it go through its paces.
Reed provided the color for the kids: “He’s a shaggy little horse, about the size of a dog. He’s rolling around on his back. He looks like a stuffed toy, with a black tail and a black mane.”
During the bearback bronc riding, the kids, through Reed’s words, were able to see the bucking horses, the riders’ hats flying off, their heads bobbing back and forth and the rescues by the pick-up team once the eight-second buzzer had sounded.
Billie June “B. J.” Cox, 77, who said she’s been volunteering with the group since before she was 30, pointed out that 13 volunteers from the sponsoring organizations, plus 30 other adults accompanied the kids to this iconic Fort Worth happening.
I got a thrill watching the kids as they took in the experience, becoming awe-struck as I did when I was their age.
The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has a lot of great traditions. This special day for these visually impaired youngsters is definitely one of them.