The Metal Pole
Homer Page is a leader in the National Federation of the
Blind of Colorado. When he was six years old he learned a
lesson from a metal pole, and he remembers it well to this
day. Here is how he tells it:
I was born seven weeks before Pearl Harbor. As were so
many young men of his generation my father was soon caught up
in the war. For a number of years during my early life he was
away from home in the army.
My younger brother and I lived with our mother and
grandmother on our family farm. My mother and grandmother were
blind, as was I. They ran the farm, while we waited and prayed
for my father to come home. In time, he did return safely. But
during this time we were rather isolated.
During these years I really didn't understand that I was
blind. I enjoyed enormously running in the open fields that
made up our farm. I fell off a table and broke my arm, and
then another time I slipped in the water on the back porch,
where my mother was washing clothes. I fell out the back door
and broke my arm again. In each instance I hardly slowed down
while I wore a cast. Later, when I was nine, I broke my
collarbone playing tackle football at school, and still later,
when I was 15, I broke my arm again in a bicycle accident.
Sometimes my cousin, who was a few years older would come to
visit. He would tell me about going to school. It sounded
exciting. I could hardly wait until I would be old enough to
catch the school bus and go to school. I spent many of my days
playing school and dreaming of reading books.
Finally the day came when I could start school. My father
was home by then. He and my mother took me to school. No one
mentioned that I was blind. When it was time to play that
first day, I joined the other children and went outside.
Children who are six years old run. They run without purpose.
They run in packs for the simple joy of running. The children
began to run. I joined them, and I too began to run.
My next memory from this day long ago is still vivid. I
ran into the metal pole that braced the playground slide. In
a split second I was flat on my back. My nose had squarely
struck the pole. I was in a great deal of pain, and the other
children were going on without me. In that moment I realized
that I was blind.
I knew that if I lay there, or if I cried, I could not
play with the other children. I got up to join my new friends.
They never commented nor did I. I spent my childhood and
adolescence with many of those children. We seldom talked
about blindness. I just took part in whatever activity
There was no pity or sentimentality shown to me. When
teams were chosen to play softball, I was chosen last. But
when teams were chosen for math or social studies
competitions, I was chosen first. Those selections were fair
and neither I nor anyone else questioned them. It meant
nothing to me to be selected last. What was important was that
I played, that I played hard, and that I looked for ways to
make a positive contribution to my team.
In my decades since my encounter with the metal pole, I
have more than once found myself figuratively lying on the
ground. What I learned at six years of age, and have relearned
several times since, is that getting up is the best option.
The other option is to play it safe and not really play.
In 1981 I was elected to the Boulder, Colorado, City
Council. In 1986 I was chosen to be Deputy Mayor of the city.
In 1988 I was elected to the Boulder County Board of
Commissioners. During all but one of my years as a county
commissioner I was either Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the
Board. However, things were not always easy.
In 1980 I ran for the Colorado legislature. The race was
very close. Near the end of the campaign, workers representing
my opponent began going door to door in the district telling
voters that since I was blind, I could not represent them,
that I would only represent the interests of the blind. I lost
that election by 120 votes. That metal pole had just blocked
my path once again.
I got up and started to run again. I found that I had won
the respect of my community. A year later, I was elected to
the Boulder City Council.
Four years later I ran for re-election. As top vote
getter in the election, I was in line to be mayor, but once
again my blindness became an issue. I was not selected to be
mayor. I was, however, chosen to be deputy mayor. Once again,
that metal pole had gotten in the way.
In 1988 I ran for the Board of County Commissioners. I
unseated a popular incumbent. In 1991 I was unopposed. My
blindness had simply ceased to be an issue that could help a
On September 1, 1995, I assumed the responsibility of
directing the National Federation of the Blind's training
center in Colorado. Students at the Colorado Center for the
Blind learn the alternative skills that they need to live
independent and productive lives, and they learn the attitudes
that they need to accept and manage their blindness.
As I work with Center students there is a perspective
that I hope to be able to share with them. Perhaps I can state
it like this: In the lives of blind persons there are
occasional metal poles. Once it was believed that those poles
made life too dangerous or too difficult for us to be able
really to participate with sighted persons on terms of
equality, but now we know that this is simply not true.
However we also know that when those poles appear in our
paths and flatten us, we must get back up and continue to run
without bitterness or self-pity. We must also improve our
travel skills through life, so we can avoid as many of those
poles as possible. We must be tough enough to play without
sentimentality, and smart enough to know that in this way life
will shower us with abundance.