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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'Aceing' life's challenges is just a part of the game

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Victor Vaughn sits at his restored antique desk in his 148-year-old home on his 800-acre property with his trusty tennis racket by his side. Despite his disability, Vaughn lives an active and full life. Photo/ Baker
Where the rest of the world sees a life burdened by an unfortunate disability, Victor Vaughn can only see endless opportunity.

"I guess my greatest accomplishment is my children, restoring (Wildcat Hollow), and I'm proud of my business career," Vaughn said after a long deliberation on what an accomplishment was to him.

Vaughn, 60, of Hardy, leaves off his list that he is ranked eighth in the nation in wheelchair tennis, a sport he has played for nearly 10 years; that he participates in four to five 5Ks each year for various charitable causes; and even that he owns 800 acres of scenic and fertile land. Although these credentials seem impressive to many, Vaughn knows only that he does what brings him happiness and does it with the idea that he's no different than anyone else.

"My parents made sure I didn't shirk any responsibilities. I had chores just like my brother," Vaughn said, attributing much of his energetic character to his parent's support.

Vaughn was born in Saddle on Nine Mile Ridge, healthy and energetic in 1947 to Victor and Mary Vaughn. He doesn't look at the incident that caused him to lose his full mobility as a tragic event as some might assume but instead talks of his childhood with fond remembrance.

Polio was a disease that claimed many lives, damaged many others and became the cause of Vaughn's partial handicap at the age of 5.

"I only remember not using crutches or braces very vaguely," Vaughn explained.

Other than those vague memories, Vaughn said he has no recollection of walking without assistance, so along with the unending support, becoming adjusted to his handicap was never an issue.

"My parents were great and I had great classmates who were very supportive," Vaughn recalled.

Unlike his classmates, Vaughn was unable to attend the public school system in Saddle until the fourth grade.

"Looking back, I guess the only reason I got to start was because my dad started driving the school bus. I was the first one he'd pick up in the morning and the last one he'd drop off at night," Vaughn recalled.

With a casual tone and seemingly no sense of the inspiration he brings to others he discussed his graduation from Highland High School in 1965 and how his class was the first to graduate after the consolidation of Ash Flat and Hardy school districts.

"I graduated on Friday and left on Saturday morning," Vaughn said in regards to his anticipation to see the world.

Along with many of his fellow classmates, Vaughn went on to college, attending Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and ultimately graduating with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. While attending college he met the mother of his children and ex-wife, Sandra Roach. Although their marriage ended in divorce Vaughn gained one of his most prized possessions during that time -- His children.

Vaughn spent many years working for companies like Borg-Warner, Allergen, U.S. Industries and Sunbeam traveling the United States and Europe.

During his travels, Vaughn lived and explored places such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California and countries throughout Europe, and said the only challenge he recalls facing due to his disability were stairs and catching trains while carrying heavy luggage. Vaughn explained progressing to vice president of finance in his career is another accomplishment, next to his children, he can say he is proud of.

After 33 years of traveling, Vaughn came back to Arkansas in 2000 and settled in a place he can now call his personal slice of Ozark heaven. Still located on his large acreage is a 148-year-old house that Vaughn took only around three months to personally renovate using many original materials and antique decor and furniture. Vaughn's rustic landscape, gravel road, old barn, babbling natural spring, hay field, scenic, mountainous views, blueberry field and vegetable and fruit garden make this property enticing to any who wish to envision country living.

Of course, owning such a large piece of land and many plants and gardens requires continuous upkeep. Vaughn has no trouble maintaining his blueberry field and running the tractor to farm his hay, and while there are some jobs Vaughn must hire out, he takes pride in performing much of the work himself.

Only a short time ago, Vaughn had additional responsibilities in the form of 80 head of cattle. As of March, Vaughn was forced to give up the herd he enjoyed so much due to a back injury sustained from a fall.

"Before that accident I could still use braces but as of now I have to use a wheelchair," Vaughn said.

This is no hinderance to Vaughn who has won three national tournaments in wheelchair tennis, a game played similarly to regular tennis with only two exceptions: the ball can bounce twice and a wheelchair must be used. Among his winnings are a first place in men's doubles in Baton Rouge, La., second in doubles and second in singles in Atlanta, Ga., and first place in doubles and second place in singles in Nashville, Tenn. While ranked eighth in the nation in his division, he is ranked first in the southern region of the U.S. and is one of only around 10,000 wheelchair tennis players throughout the world, according to Vaughn.

His love of tennis arose from a simple request from his doctor in 1998 to get more exercise and has turned into a hobby that Vaughn said he encourages many others to try.

"It's a sport a person in a chair can play competitively and I encourage anyone who needs the exercise to try it," Vaughn said.

As if tennis, farming, 5Ks and remodeling a home wasn't enough Vaughn said he hopes to someday try basketball and will be leasing his property to cattle farmers from the local area.

"I'm excited to have cattle out here again and excited that at least I won't have to feed them in the winter," Vaughn said with a laugh.

Vaughn's next tennis tournament is in St. Louis, the week of Aug. 15 and besides just completing a 5K July 3 in 18 minutes and 45 seconds, has two 5Ks coming up in the next few months.

Sometimes it is hard to judge what constitutes a significant accomplishment when others feel as if just partaking in everyday activities can be seen as one. For Vaughn, being in a wheelchair and living an active life is not an accomplishment but simply a part of who he is and what he enjoys to do.

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