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Story ID:1188
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Anywhere New York USA
Person:All of Courage
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By Fred Wickert

Has anyone ever told you that, because of one handicap or another, you “can’t,” do something? With determination, yes you can!

In the early 1900’s an older man employed as a janitor at Slocum Hall, a building at Syracuse University, had lost both of his legs from diabetes. He soon learned to work on artificial legs. He needed transportation to and from work, a distance of four miles. He had a small wooden wagon with rubber tires, and a St. Bernard dog. He made a harness for the dog and hitched him to the wagon. The dog pulled him to and from work. He removed the harness when he arrived at work and the dog returned home. The dog was always waiting for him when he came out of the building at the end of the day.

A twelve-year old boy became afflicted with polio during the summer. Both of his legs were paralyzed. After two weeks, movement gradually began to return. The boy loved football but the doctor told him we would never play football again. He’d be crippled for life, and walk only with the help of leg braces. In late November the same year, the boy had his nose broken while playing football.

In the early 1950’s at a high school in the Catskill Mountains, a first string varsity basketball player played with an artificial leg. He had lost the leg in a mowing machine accident on the family farm.

A ski lift attendant was startled one morning to see a one legged man riding up the ski lift. The attendant moved to stop the lift to enable the man to get off safely. The man called out to the attendant not to stop the lift. The man dismounted from the fast moving lift with ease and expertise. He had lost his leg in combat in Vietnam. He loved to ski and refused to allow the loss of a leg to deprive him of it.

A member of a touring country music band included a performer who had been born without arms. The man could thread a needle and sew, play an instrument, write, and use utensils with his feet. He dressed himself, handling buttons with toes as dexterous as the fingers of other people.

A well-loved and successful singer and recording star was totally deaf.

A famous composer, also deaf, wrote some of the greatest music the world has ever known.

Currently several very popular and successful blind performers sing, play musical instruments and write music.

A very famous and much loved country music performer has a life long problem with stuttering.

A girl, born with both feet deformed, took up ice-skating when she was two or three years old. As a figure skater, she became a four-time world champion, an Olympic gold medalist and a several time professional world champion. This young lady won every title there was in figure skating.

A Russian pairs figure skater became a world champion, then a terrible accident struck her down with the blade of an ice skate penetrating her skull and slicing into her brain. She clung to life for months in a hospital in a coma. When she finally recovered, both her mind and her limbs had lost much of their memory. She had to relearn many things just to live. At the Olympics in Salt Lake City, she and her partner won a gold medal in pair’s figure skating.

Another young lady pair’s figure skater bravely competed in that competition with a stress fracture in her leg. She refused the use of pain killing injections because she would not be able to properly feel the ice.

At the same Olympics a young lady skier, having won multiple medals at the previous Olympics, was defending her Olympic titles after having both legs shattered in a terrible accident two years before. Doctors had told her she would probably never walk again and certainly never ski again.

A few years ago a major league baseball team boasted a player with one arm.

Two years ago a human-interest report appeared on TV news featuring a boy who had been run over by a train, losing both legs. At school, deciding that his wheel chair was a nuisance, he discarded it and traveled the stairs and hallways of the school on his hands and the stumps of his legs. He made the high school football team. Playing defense, he proved how valuable he could be, sacking the opponents’ quarterback an impressive six times in the first four games.

Names have not been used in this article because they are not important. Some are famous people you may recognize from the histories given. Some were adults and some were children. Some were male and some female. Some were black, some white and some Asian, but none of that mattered.

All of them had probably been told they couldn’t do it because of their handicap. They refused to feel sorry for themselves and they refused to take “no” for an answer. They all said, “Yes I can,” and proceeded to prove it. They all had in common strength of character, determination, and belief in themselves. They have proven that diversity is not insurmountable.

They never said, “I can’t.” They said, “Yes I can!”

This piece was originally published in the New York State Capital District Developmental Dissabilities fourteen county region newsletter three or four years ago.


The man with the artificial legs and the St. Bernard dog was my maternal grandfather, David Gould mentioned in the story A HEROINE OF GREAT PROPORTION, posted on OurEcho.

The 12 year old boy afflicted with polio who had his nose broken playing foot ball after the doctor told him he’d never be able to play again was me, as told in my story FOOTBALL ON MY MIND, which was published in MedHunters magazine, and is posted on OurEcho.

The basketball player with the artificial leg was a boy I knew in high school. He was a freshman when I was a senior.

The startled ski lift attendant with the one-legged skier and Vietnam vet was myself.

The deaf singer was Johnny Ray.

The great figure skater born with deformed feet was Kristy Yamaguchi.

The lady figure skater that had come back after the horrible accident that resulted in her head being sliced open by a skate blade was a Russian pair’s skater. When she won the gold medal at the Olympics there was great controversy with the Canadian pair winning also and the Olympic Committee decided to award the Gold medal to both pairs at the same time. It is something that has never before been done in Olympic history.

The Olympic lady skier was the American Peekaboo Street.

I today learned from a new post on OurEcho of another who should have been a big part of this story. Reading that story caused me to remember this article that I wrote about three years ago. The story to which I refer, and I urge everyone to read and be inspired by it, is the story of Wilma Rudolph. The story is titled, “Mama Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Sprinters,” by Toni Giarnese, dated 11/7/06.

A member of the OurEcho family could also have easily been mentioned in the NEVER SAY CAN'T article. That person is Kathe Campbell. Kathe lost her right arm in her mid sixties in a tragic accident. She has never let it stop her or slow her down. She taught herself to type with her left hand. She has won competitions for one handed typists. She accomplishes whatever she sets out to do. She is a wonderful and accomplished writer, as anyone who has read her work can attest, and she is and has been a mentor to others. She continues to do charitable work for the benefit of others. She is a true hero who has never said, "I can't."