Hometown boy offers inspiration for thousands

Monday, February 5, 2007

Many of us who have been listening to radio personality Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" for decades like to play a game. How successful we are often depends on how, shall we say, "experienced" we are.

"Abraham Lincoln!" we shout, spoiling the fun for anyone unfortunate enough to be sharing a radio with us, guessing at which arcane fact is connected with which prominent personality.

There was a special segment Friday, which should have rung a few bells in McCook memories.

Although mentioned only as Nebraska, those of us who grew up with Jerry Traylor, or those who have even met him in recent years, knew Harvey was talking about one of McCook's own.

Columnist and local historian Walt Sehnert knew him well, as he related in a May 2005 column, still available online at http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/1096811.html

Born with cerebral palsy, actually not expected to live, Traylor never the less did live, and with gusto that is the envy of most of us with fully-functioning bodies.

The rest of the story centered on Traylor's struggle to walk the six blocks to school, using his crutches.

As many of us know, he not only made it to school -- asking for no special help -- but he went on to fully participate in college, including marathon dance contests and running marathons, an activity he continues to this day, racking up nearly 40, with a best time of 5 hours, 9 minutes.

Learning to love the mountains after his parents were transferred from McCook to Pueblo with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Jerry not only became the first to climb Pike's Peak on crutches, but raced up it, three times.

That led a Rotary International executive to challenge Jerry to the challenge of his life, running across the United States on crutches.

With the help of Rotary groups across the country, he did just that, starting with a run across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and, 13 pairs of shoes and 28 sets of crutch tips later, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, 3,500 miles away.

Did he ever want to give up?

"There was not a day, not a mile that I did not consider giving up," he said. "But there were people all along the way that encouraged me."

Individually, all of us are tempted to give up, at one time or another. The temptation is just as strong for our communities, states and even the nation as we encounter new struggles we never imagined.

But when we are, we just have to think about guys like Jerry Traylor, who turned his "disability" into a springboard for an career offering inspiration to thousands of audiences.


It's a trait that will serve us well in the coming years.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: