Banks County Opinions...

May 30, 2001

By Todd Simons
The Banks County News
May 30, 2001

Oh my dog
If you don't believe in a divine being or maybe you are questioning just a little, I can attest to a miracle that happened just down the road this week. You don't have to whisper down many of Athens' dark alleys to find a wise man that can tell you of the work of the most recent saint. It was seen by believers and non-believers alike. Even those that rooted against the good side, those that follow the Coastal Carolina Chanticleer, saw the miracle and knew it was a miracle when they saw it.
I know that to become a saint you must have performed a witnessed miracle.
All hail the great saint, newest in the highest class of clergy, St. Keppinger the heroic of the Parkview Keppingers.
First of all, I never thought anything that good came out of Gwinnett County. But he was, I am sure, born in the back of an SUV on the manicured lawns of a suburban Atlanta golf course. Maybe one of those unbelievable suburban baseball diamonds where the grass can only be described as baseball green. A friend, also Todd, told me that while talking to a rival coach and admiring one of those fine, fine fields that the coach said, "It's nicer than Turner field. Oh yeah, this is nicer."
Saturday I went to the game with Todd. He coached baseball at North Atlanta (where I taught for a few years) and now is going to Patriot country to be a walk-on coach at Oglethorpe High School. He dragged me out of bed early Saturday at the "crack of ten," as I heard his girlfriend say, and we saw Georgia mop the Yellow Jackets in a game that was closer than the 13-5 score, and then the Dawgs defeated Georgia Southern in a game that wasn't as close as the 9-8 11-inning score showed. It wasn't as close because we hit three-home runs back-to-back-to-back and they just hit one three-run homer to tie us. The Dawgs won and Keppinger hit for the cycle. Yes, he just hit for the cycle on Saturday when I was there. Listen to what he did on Sunday.
Sunday, Todd went back to the big city and I listened to the game on my drive up 441 on the way to the Banks County's spring sports banquet. Jeff Dantzler called the game and the Dawgs took a big lead in the first game before my car radio fuzzed out up in the Mountains of Mikasa and the Pottery and the soaring precipice that is Liz Claiborne. I was confident of a game-one win. They won 9-3.
Because Georgia had lost to GA Southern on Friday and Coastal Carolina had not lost in the double elimination tournament, Georgia had to beat the Chanticleers twice on Sunday to advance to the super Regional.
One game down, one more to play.
When I got out of the Sports banquet, I tuned in to hear that The Dawgs were in a battle. The teams had already exchanged leads four times and would change six times before the sun prematurely set just so Keppinger could ride off in it.
The Carolina boys hit a homer to take a one run lead over the Bulldogs and Dantzler just kept saying, "The Dawgs are down to just six outs." His voice, tinted with the impressions of Munson's gravel, kept relaying this like a ticking clock. "Oh my, the Dogs just five outs left. "
"Oh, we are down to three."
The ninth inning came. Two outs were made, a runner reached and Keppinger, who was four for four on the day, stepped in. He had already hit two home runs, but the boys' choir could be heard quietly in the distance singing their reverential tones.
"If Polk has a home run sign he just flashed it," the announcer said.
Smack, "Run Lindsey, run," "Oh you Herschel Walker" and "Keppinger did it, Keppinger did it."
Georgia took its final 8-7 lead on Keppinger's two-run shot.
The Chanticleers would not make another clarion call against the Dawgs and the fence on Kudzu Hill (beyond right field ) fell to the shaking fists of Bulldog glory.
Keppinger was part of a double play that ended the game in the bottom half of the ninth (Georgia was the visiting team in their own park) and the team carried him off the field. Of all the things I had never witnessed in baseball, a player being carried off the field was just another.
Ever since Polk started coaching baseball in Athens, great things were going to come. He already, even before this, was admitting that he was a mere mortal and would have to retire. There just aren't the number of years left to devote to UGA like he did Mississippi State. If he had just not bothered with Georgia Southern in the beginning maybe we would have him a bit longer. Maybe long enough for a championship. But the man who coached Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro among others said this was one of the best performances he had ever seen.
I would have liked for it to have been a local; Madison's Adam Swann or Jefferson's Pollock. But Suburbia's Keppinger makes a fine hero.
The Bulldogs will host Florida State in the Super Regional Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 2:00, and if needed Sunday at 2:00 at Foley Field.
The winner goes to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.


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By Shar Porier
The Banks County News
May 30, 2001

Old barn provides training
Last Saturday, I got a taste of what it feels to be a firefighter. I was asked to join members of Banks County District 3 firefighters at a controlled, training burn at an old barn.
Dr. Larry Meadows wanted to replace an 100-year old barn with a new one. Rather than just tear it down, he offered it to the fire department for a training burn. The Environmental Protection Department allows such burns for training.
The barn was old, battered, with weak, bowing walls. It was definitely hazardous. Deputy Fire Chief John Creasy and District 3 Battalion Chief Gilbert French, both volunteers, got together to plan how the burn would go. They gathered the crew and divided them into teams.
Preventing the spread of fire or damage from heat to nearby structures would be a major goal and an important part of the training exercise, they explained. Another more imminent danger was that of collapse of the barn. The teams would have to be aware of all aspects of the fire scene and keep a watchful eye for flying embers and weakening supports. An engine would pull water from Meadows' nearby lake to be used for controlling the fire. A few hundred feet of hose ran from the engine to the barn.
Chief French split the group into two teams and gave them their assignments. Team 1 -- Lt. Alan King, volunteer John Coldsnow and driver engineer Dana Maddox -- would control the front of the barn and a nearby building. Team 2 -- Capt. Greg Wells and volunteers Tim Smallwood and Cindy Cheek -- would handle the rear and another nearby building. Volunteer Ronnie Cagle was in charge of the engine and the water supply, making sure nothing would happen to the pumping operation. The Mobile Support Unit, manned by Linda Evans, was on hand with plenty of fluids for the men. Captain Jim Crisp was the medical officer on scene.
The teams began donning their gear and breathing apparatus. I slipped into a set of borrowed turn-out gear. The pants were placed over the boots ahead of time for fast dressing. I adjusted the suspenders and put on the jacket. The gear was heavy, bulky and awkward at first. (I sort of felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, uh, Girl.) Chief Creasy helped me put on my respirator, pulling it tight to make a snug fit -- a good seal saves precious air and prevents exposure from any smoke. He lifted the air tank and strapped it on. I was surprised at how much it weighed. A fireproof hood covered head, hair and neck. The helmet went on. And gloves. Then a quick check to be sure all skin was covered.
Chief Creasy put himself in charge of my safety and told me to stay close to him, but he really needn't have worried. I wasn't about to go wandering around in all that gear. It was hard to see where I was stepping. And the uneven ground made it difficult to keep my balance with the unfamiliar load of an extra 30 or so pounds.
We knelt a yard or so inside the barn and watched as the fire grew, licking the rafters and the floor above. It's the gases that burn in a fire, he said, not the wood. I watched mesmerized by the movement of the flames. They became as a liquid, flowing from rafter to rafter above our heads. It seemed to be alive, ravenous, seeking to satiate a hunger for anything combustible in its path. The heat was building, radiating out. Not even the fire gear could stop the intensity.
Under the normal circumstances of a house fire, we would have had to lie on the ground from the buildup of smoke. But, since the barn was open, the smoke stayed well above our heads. Chief Creasy told me if the team hit the fire with water, steam could easily envelope us in a hot mist cloud. Our suits would not protect us from steam. "We'd be cooked," he said. We backed out as he signaled for Team 1 to come forward and take up a position to knock out the flames overhead.
A short burst of water and the fire was back under control. The chief and I went back in as Team 2 moved into the barn to attack the spread at their end. Again, only a short burst was necessary to tame it.
We watched as the fire rolled again over the rafters, but this time it spread farther to the sides, into the other stalls, and reached again to the upper floor, relentlessly devouring the aged wood. The heat kept mounting. The tin roof was starting to melt, small rafters began to give way to the flames' voracious appetite.
Each team was able to complete one more attack on the barn before the safety limit had been reached. Team 1 allowed me to handle the nozzle and knock out a part of the fire. It isn't easy to point a two-and-a-half-inch pressurized hose.
With the possibility of the rafters or walls collapsing, the teams were pulled back to a defensive position and maintained a flow of water to the surrounding area to prevent any spread in the high grass. They soaked the exposed sides of the buildings to prevent damage or combustion from the intense heat radiating from the fully engulfed barn.
The chiefs had planned it well. The barn did not collapse outward, but inward, keeping the teams and the adjacent structures free from harm. The heat could be felt 40 feet away, stinging exposed flesh, reddening faces and hands. In 20 minutes, it was all over. The barn lay in a smoldering mass of charred timbers.
As I climbed out of the gear, I realized how much fluid I had lost. My clothes were soaked. It was only in the 70s that morning. If it had been in the 90s, I would have been swimming in the gear. Chief French said that a firefighter can lose as much as 10 pounds from water loss when involved in fighting a fire. I believed him
I came away with a new respect for the men and women who fight fire for a living and as volunteers. They are a special breed. It takes strength, knowledge, dedication and an admirable commitment to the community. We are fortunate to have such determined people looking after us and our homes.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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