This Week's Story

Glenn Cunningham, age 11, competes against high school boys in his first track meet without knowing the rules.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Kansas Flyer, part two

The neighbors reported, “The fire was put out, but the schoolhouse was destroyed. There will be no school until we build a new one. Little Glenn Cunningham is still alive. He’s seven years old and burned from the waist to his toes. His brother died.”

Glenn’s burns were deep. Slowly they became deep scars on legs that struggled to move. Many leg muscles had fallen off when Glenn’s bandages were changed. Several times a day he instinctively reached down and rubbed and rubbed his legs. His family took turns massaging them.

As weeks passed Glenn tried hundreds of times to stand. Each time he collapsed. Then came a joyful day. He stood! Words burst out, “Doc said I won’t walk again, but I will.”

He learned a new tactic when he leaned across the seat of a chair and pushed it across the floor. “Mother, Raymond, watch; I’m walking.”

Glenn’s legs were crooked. He couldn’t stand or walk straight, but he was determined to play outside and get his legs working. He would grab the tail of a family mule or even Paint, the pony, and stumble and run behind. Often it hurt.

Newspapers in Kansas had articles about World War I ravaging people and countries around the world, and a local story about two boys caught in a schoolhouse fire. Young people throughout the state prayed for Glenn to recover.

The fire had been February 9, 1917. By spring Glenn’s father thought that Glenn needed to be doing chores. He began cleaning shovels, pulling weeds and hoeing, feeding and milking cows, and helping his mom.

By time he was nine he could stand almost straight. He kept working to move, walk, and run. He loved to be active with his body, with his family, and with animal pets.

Glenn had a special understanding for animals. He calmed horses. Johnny was his pet burro. Glenn shared, “I watched over him, fed him, and never abused him.” Another pet was a goat. When the goat wanted to butt Glenn, he got down on the ground and butted with it. From then on, the goat butted him easy, for fun. Others got a fighting butt.

In the fall of 1920 Glenn returned to school as a fourth grader, though he was eleven. There were 59 other students in his class of many grades. His teacher did not understand why he was only a fourth grader, until she was told about the fire. She had not seen the scars on his legs, though often she saw him massaging and exercising them.

School fascinated Glenn! He learned fast and was absorbed every day in learning. His teacher was impressed with how active his mind was and how kind he was to any student who was bullied.

In fourth grade he entered his first track meet, running against high school boys. He did not know the rules, but he could run. When he finished first, he ducked under the finish line rather than hit it. Adults yelled at him, “Boy, you have to break the string, in order to win the race.”

He jumped up, grabbed the string, and then jumped on his pony. He rode home before his father got mad because Glenn was late. He missed getting the medal that shone like gold.

This is Barbara Steiner with Glenn Cunningham. More of his story is coming. Enjoy

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