The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Guess Who

May 2, 2014

Guess Who! Week 18!

The spring after he was flipping burgers at the Knoebels Groves Amusement Resort steak house, he found himself on the park’s garbage detail.

His change of duties had nothing to do with accidentally setting the steak house on fire that Labor Day weekend of 1992, sending patrons fleeing onto the sidewalks and fire trucks racing to the scene.

Nothing to do at all.

“I was on the grill,” the Danville native recalls of that high school summer job. “It was loaded up with hamburgers. A grease fire flared up, right up through the exhaust system. It sounded like a 747 taking off.” The blaze, which closed the restaurant for a week, he admits, “was kinda my fault.”

His face wasn’t red with embarrassment for long. Not after the sprinkler system activated.

“It sounded like a cannon went off,” he says. “We were all covered in this white, talcum-powder-like substance. It was like a couple hundred pounds of corn starch flung out of the ceiling tiles.”

That would have been about the time this future coach, teacher and farmer was listening to what is still his favorite album, “Ten,” by Pearl Jam, and 15 years before he took the plunge with his wife — and a 13-foot nurse shark in Jamaica. “My wife always wanted to swim with dolphins, and I wanted to swim with sharks and stingrays,” he says. “I said, ‘In Jamaica, we can do both.’ I’m not very brilliant, so I bowed out of the dolphin swim.”

But he did jump into the lagoon with that shark.

“I had my arms around it,” he says.

He still has his arms.

“It was intense. I coerced my wife into doing it with me. I could hear her — I wouldn’t say screaming — but I could hear her while we were under the water.”

The shark’s skin, he says, felt like roofing shingles. “The sheer power of that animal was unbelievable,” he says. “We have horses, and you think of the power in that animal. The shark was a nuclear-powered torpedo. If one of those things wanted to get you, I could not image you getting away from it.”

He can’t get away from keeping those old high school football jerseys, the No. 32 he wore at Southern Columbia High and the No. 31 at Susquehanna University. “They are in the back of my closet.”

After a hard day of teaching and coaching and trying on those football jerseys, you might find him riding his John Deere Gator around his farm.

His beef farm.

As in hamburgers-to-be.

If you’re invited over for a barbecue, bring your own white, talcum-powder-like substance.

Guess Who! in the Discussion Box above!

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