An Ordinary Outdoor Girl

My wife returned from a trip to town recently and told me she’d bumped into the McAfees at the store and that their daughter, Tori, told her to be sure to remind me of the National Wild Turkey Federation banquet the following Saturday night.

I smiled at the thought that a 9-year-old girl was committed enough to her local NWTF chapter to remind her county conservation agent of its upcoming banquet, and regretted not being able to attend because I had to go somewhere else that night.

A couple of weeks later I was working a Conservation Department booth at an outdoor sports show in West Plains, and was talking to someone when I saw Tori’s mother come in the door. A few seconds later, I spotted Tori standing next to her. She was looking directly at me to catch my eye. I made a goofy face, and Tori returned the favor.

A bit later, I walked over and said, “Where’s my hug?” When Tori lifted her arms and said, “Well, right here, Bud,” I hardly noticed the crutches on her arms or the braces on her legs. We visited a minute before I had to return to work the booth.

Personal challenges

Tori was born with spina bifida. She has undergone two surgeries and has a shunt to help her body deal with fluid build-up. Tori goes to St. Louis for check-ups every six months. Although Tori has braces on both legs she is able to get around pretty well with crutches. The twice-weekly trips she and her family make to West Plains for both physical and aquatic therapy have obviously helped strengthen her legs.

Tori is in the fourth grade at Winona Elementary School. She admits to not liking the “pile of homework” she gets on the two days a week she leaves school early to go for her physical and aquatic therapy and to sometimes giving her parents, “especially Dad,” a hard time. She says she wants to be a dancer, a doctor or a waitress when she grows up.

In other words, Tori is just an ordinary girl. When I sat down with her and her parents, Margaret and Troy, that’s what she most wanted people to know about her. She said, “Tell them I’m just like everyone else and can do everything they do, just maybe in a different way.”

Tori loves the outdoors. She’s a Jakes member of the Current River Callers Chapter