A STORY FINDS YOU
You don’t find stories
Perseverance is defined: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
I am convinced that a good story finds you, not the other way around. We typically travel and seek out out-of-the-way destinations passed by most nomads who stick to the freeways and national parks. This past weekend we ventured-camped at a typical tourist attraction—the International Peace Gardens. The plan was simple; we could take images of the flowers and write about the experience—The story that found us is about perseverance and water skiing.
America and Canada share the International Peace Gardens. It is a wonderfully peaceful place nestled in the Turtle Mountains just 15 miles north of Dunseith, North Dakota. It is a gathering place for festivals and flowers; it is an excellent restful camping experience.
We have lived less than 20 miles from the gardens for most of our lives and have only had short day trips to this special place. Our recent purchase of Lucille, a short 20 foot long van-style motor-hotel room, convinced us a visit to these gardens for two nights might be just what the doctor ordered to spare us from the relentless scare provided in the media. Our plan was to camp and tour the gardens and take pretty pictures of flowers.
A quick check on the weather channel told us this stay might be a wet one—I have seen thunderstorm warnings mentioned on the weather, but never a rain warning. Our first night was a Noah event; six inches of rain fell, collapsing most tents. The next day broke into a sunny warm day with scattered clouds—great for photos of flowers and bugs.
As Paul Harvey would say, “But now for the real story.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 9/16/2020 Headlines read: “Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells is closing permanently because of business losses.” Sarah Hauer and Joe Taschler covered the story—they wrote:
Every summer for nearly seven decades, water skiers, high-speed boats, and stage acts performed for thousands of tourists who watched the Tommy Bartlett Show from the shores of Lake Delton. The Bartlett shows survived a flood, fire, and previous economic downturns. But the coronavirus pandemic delivered the fatal blow to the historic business that laid the groundwork for today’s water parks and mega-hotels.
The Tommy Bartlett Show announced Wednesday that it would not come back in 2021 as it had hoped. After 69 years, the business would shut down.
A Grand Forks Herald July 19, 2020, written By: Conrad Engstrom, tells an associated story to ours; it reads:
Man breaks unofficial world record water skiing on stilts.
The area man estimated it took about 20 tries to finally get up on the high stilts. When he fails, it takes about four minutes to get the stilts built back up again to try another attempt. On Sunday, July 12, Dens water skied around Hartley Lake on 11-foot-tall stilts, unofficially breaking the previous world record of 10 1/2 feet set by Glen Sperry.
Our story is Glen Sperry, waterski hall of Famer, a man of faith and an all-around great guy. How did this story find me at the Peace Gardens eight-hundred miles from the Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton and 1500 miles from Glenn’s home in Fort Worth, Texas—as always a chance encounter? We were visiting the North American Game Warden Museum, and a white-haired sparky-eyed man turned and asked me, “Are you the owner of that Pleasureway RV?” I responded, and the story blossomed from recreational vehicles to Glenn’s seventy-plus years as a water skier.
Now in his eighties, Glen still does guest appearances at water shows, travels the world, and even gave advice to the man who broke his 10 foot 6-inch stilt ski record. Glenn, wherever in the world he is on New Years Day, has one thing in mind—to ski. Glenn asked me, “do you know how many horses it take to ski—one”— he skied behind a horse. Once in Japan, six men pulled him across an Olympic pool to satisfy his need to ski in celebration of the new year. Glenn’s story cannot be entirely told in this short blog post, and hopefully, He and I can have many conversations about passions and never getting too old to follow them. Just do an internet search on “Glenn Sperry Water skier,” and his stories fill multiple pages.
For this blog, I will give a shortlist of his many waterskiing accomplishments:
In 1998 Glen Sperry was inducted into the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Hall of Fame. He has skied worldwide to include: China, Japan, the Seattle World Fair, and it seems every lake in North America.
- Glenn won the National Championship Waterski Awards in 1957 and 2007 – the only man to win the award fifty years apart.
- He holds the world’s record as the longest waterskiing career.
- July 8 of this year, he was a guest skier at WaterWalkers, the central Wisconsin Water Ski Show Team, and again got up on his stilt skis.
- The USA waterski museum has a unique set of Glenn’s ten-foot, six-inch stilt waterskis.
I hope to cover more of the Glenn Sperry adventure in years to come. I think Glenn would offer us all advice never to give up your passion and enjoy them your entire life-long. Glenn and all of us share the remorse for the end of sixty-nine years of the Tommy Bartlett Show—another small business crushed by the needless, non-effective shutdown of this overhyped covid pandemic.
Hope to see you and your lovely wife again soon Glenn!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4