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A Look Down the Road

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I was thinking of some numbers this week — 32, 39, 74 — among them. In some ways, my prom date came to mind, but that’s not why these numbers were important to me. If I add 136 and 231, do you see the significance?

These are the numbers of the highways connecting towns in the Sagamore Athletic Conference. That’s the conference that Crawfordsville, North Montgomery, and Southmont share. It’s the conference that also includes Danville, Frankfort, and Tri-West Hendricks schools.

It is home to Lebanon and Western Boone.

A conference isn’t anything more than a formal association of individuals — in this case schools — who decide to join ranks for a common reason. In the case of the SAC, it is to play each other in sports throughout the year. The schools usually are about the same size, often from communities of the same size. They share proximity. They nearly always share the same values.

This week they share sorrow.

You see one of those numbers above — number 32 — was the scene of a horrific traffic accident early last Thursday. Three Western Boone High School students were struck head-on while on their way to technical school. Two — Lance Oldham and Alissa Melton — were seriously injured. Sydney Foster, age 18, did not survive.

Miss Foster played soccer for the Stars. She spent time with her teammates right here in our community. She was also active in 4-H. She was planning on going to Marian University, and become a nurse.

We recognize Sydney. She could easily be our own. In a way, she is.

I can imagine that people who live in big cities have a hard time understanding us. People who don’t live in small towns might not comprehend how compassionate we are for other small town folks.

Our kids understand.

At Friday night’s Sectional semi-final games — between Lebanon and Southmont; Crawfordsville and Greencastle — the students reached out to support their rivals. “Change of plans!” read the Tweet. “Wear red and blue. Tonight we are Western Boone!”

Cheer sections for the competing schools were awash in the Stars’ colors. The gesture was so special that many Western Boone students joined them, even though their team no longer was in the tournament.

In tragic coincidence, Lebanon City Councilman Jeremy Lamar was found dead, also on Thursday, apparently of self-inflicted trauma. Twenty four hours later, Boone County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jacob “Jake” Pickett was gunned down chasing a felon.

Each tragedy occurred just down the road from the other. Each time we wept.

All of that sadness in one place. It just couldn’t help but radiate our way — out 32 and 39 and 74; out 136 and 231. It could be us. If ever it is us, we’ll count on our friends down the road. That’s what we do in small towns.

Small towns, you see, are not solely connected by highways. We are connected by the heart.


A scholarship fund is being created in Sydney Foster’s memory, to be awarded to future nursing school students: Western Boone Education Foundation, 1201 North SR 75, Thorntown, IN 46071.