BY LAUREN HENRY
Tony Crow was blinded by a hunting accident in 2003 but has used the experience to champion safety both in and out of the workplace.
He uses his own life story as motivation for encouraging others to take the simple preventive steps that can mean the difference between sight and blindness -- or life and death.
He spoke to a crowd of local manufacturers and others in the community on Friday at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
The special presentation was sponsored by Landair, John Deere Power Products and the Greene County Partnership.
"It applies to a lot more people than we had here," said Mary Mathews, the Human Resources manager with MECO, after hearing Crow.
"We should have had a lot more people here 'cause it applies to life. And I think he's really right."
Mathews said four employees with MECO attended the talk. Motioning to her co-worker, Matt Judd, she said, "We're on the safety committee so we really are thinking about safety, but sometimes we get lax when we get home and out of our work environment."
Judd, who oversees employee safety, agreed, "Yeah, I don't think about half this stuff at home. I usually think about it at work, but then it's easier to leave it at the door."
ONE MAN'S STORY
Crow, of Texas, began his presentation by saying he thought about safety a lot when he was at work at TXU (now Luminant), where he worked from 1977 until he lost his eyesight.
He said he was fortunate to have an employer where safety was first.
That first day of work in 1977, Crow was handed a hard hat, safety glasses and hearing protection. It is the hearing protection that Crow now thanks God for on a daily basis.
"Can you imagine if I were blind and hard of hearing?" Crow asked the audience as he described his first days of learning to cross the street with only the aid of his guide dog, Rudy.
At work, Crow adhered to the precautions that kept him and his co-workers safe.
He said his company was one of the safest.
"Their goal was to take care of each other and for each of us to have each other's backs," he said.
However, Crow said he did not carry this same adherence to safety into his personal life.
Crow was an avid hunter during his sighted days, and now occasionally even without his sight.
In 2003, his son, Landon, was a junior in high school and often his hunting partner. Crow recalls that fateful day when the two headed across the State of Texas to bird hunt.
Traveling in their pickup truck, they passed fellow hunters. The difference was these hunters were sporting bright orange hats and shirts.
"Son, those must be city slicker bird-hunters. They're wearing orange," Crow told his son.
Crow now regrets the example he set for his son by making fun of the orange safety gear that many hunters use for increased visibility.
It was during this trip that a lapse in communication on Crow's end landed a BB through his eye.
Crow had gone on ahead of his son, telling him he would be in one area but following his bird dog to a different area.
"For some reason that dog pointing at quail took my mind off business, and I never communicated back to our son. Why, I'll never know," Crow said.
When his son went to shoot at the prey, not realizing that his father had gone in a direction different from what he had told his son, Crow was in the line of fire.
"And not seeing me camouflaged in that khaki shirt and brush about that tall, he turned and shot me in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun," Crow said.
The BB remains sitting on his brain to this day.
It was too risky to try to remove it, and it has not caused any complications. However, Crow will be blind for the rest of his life because of the hunting accident.
Crow realized that, had he worn one of those "city slicker" bright-orange hunting shirts or even safety glasses, he would have his sight today.
'NOT JUST ABOUT ME'
During the rest of his speech, Crow described the slow and painful process of rebuilding his life -- blind in a sighted world.
The most painful part for Crow was the realization that his actions not only affected him and his family, but those in the community as well.
This prompted the title of his motivational tour, INJAM, which stands for "It's Not Just About Me."
This is the point that Crow wanted to drive home with the various community members and manufacturing personnel gathered at the NPAC that morning.
The speech was peppered with humor and good old-fashioned values.
Crow wasn't born an orator, but rather a storyteller.
He had a story worth telling, and the audience was along for the ride.
POINT IS MADE
Richard Trantham is the manufacturing manager with LMR Plastics, of Greeneville, and a hunter as well. He was at Friday morning's talk.
"We don't wear glasses. We don't wear orange so it makes you think ... and I hunt with my son, so you can kind of relate to it somehow," he said.
Trantham said that his work is safety first, but this is the first time he has really considered safety outside of work.
"I mean, we practice gun safety, but I never thought about the glasses or the orange, unless we're deer hunting -- because we have to."
"I told my son, if we go rabbit-hunting, we'll be wearing glasses."