The Indiana Ag Teachers Association held an in-service workshop to train teachers at the Indiana FFA Center, and the place was jammed with teachers learning new ideas. People who wanted to reach teachers with new ideas or new wares were invited, and set up booths around the perimeter of the meeting areas.
I attended to learn about new teacher mentoring programs, and I soon spotted Bill Field, the Purdue University Extension safety specialist. I wasn't surprised to see him there – he has been an advocate of teaching safety to ag students, FFA members and 4-H members since his arrival at Purdue more than 35 years ago. His biggest message for teachers at the conference was to involve students in training for grain bin safety.
"Did you know that one in five deaths in grain bins happens to someone under 21 years old?" he asked Kyle Bailey of Norwell High School in Wells County, an ag teacher who stopped to chat. Of course he didn't know, Bill – I didn't either. We rely on you to remind us of those things, and to keep us alert to what young people need to know about.
What I didn't expect to see when I arrived at the ag teacher's conference was Bill Field in a red sweater. In case you live under a rock, Purdue's colors are gold and black, and Indiana University's colors are red and white. When it comes to sports the two are fierce rivals, and so are the fans, whether the fans ever set foot on the campus of the school they support or not. It's a Hoosier tradition.
Field's Purdue Extension gold name badge clashed with his sweater.
"OK, Bill, why are you wearing red? Have you switched allegiance?" I asked.
"Of course not, Tom," he answered. "But when I leave here, I'm going south to Brownstown to present grain bin safety training to volunteer firefighters. Do you know how close Brownstown is to Bloomington?
"Do you know how many Indiana basketball fans live around Brownstown? I don't want to offend them off the bat – I want them to listen to my message."
I wasn't buying it until another Purdue specialist who happened to be standing nearby popped up, "Yeah, I drove a Purdue University car to an Extension meeting in southern Indiana one time, and a policeman got behind me, and stayed behind me for 20 miles! I'm sure he was just waiting for some excuse to pull me over, but he didn't."
Related: Take Steps Toward Grain Bin Safety
OK, Bill, I see your point. And after all, accidents don't care what color you wear or who you root for. Everyone needs to be colorblind when it comes to safety training and awareness.
Just the same, as promised, I'm sending your picture to Jay Akridge, Dean of Ag at Purdue – your boss!