A tiny booth down the street behind the Grandstand at the Indiana State Fair is cluttered with colorful pendants in all shapes and themes. Gold and silver chains hang from hooks, swaying and clinking together in the breeze and sparkling in the sunlight.
The stand belongs to Will Caudill of Indianapolis, who has been working here every summer since he was 16, or for 44 years. He makes his year's worth of income during just three summer months of festivals and fairs. But there is more to his story.
The jewelry booth pays his bills and finances his dream of selling an invention. Zoogle is a sport for two people akin to catch, derived from a game he and his brother made up when they were children. What's unique about it is that a person with disabilities can easily win over a person without disabilities. A person in a wheelchair can participate completely in this game.
Caudill invented a sport that includes people with disabilities because he has his own.
Caudill endured a fall in his yard at the age of 3, which resulted in multiple hip surgeries and his contraction of polio while in the hospital. During this time, his left hip and leg didn't grow properly, and as a result of this he wears a special five-inch platform shoe to make his legs equal in length.
Now Caudill travels to schools and does presentations across the U.S. for children about his game. He explained that Zoogle improves hand-eye coordination skills and also dexterity. It can greatly help children's motor skills. Caudill has hosted multiple Zoogle tournaments and says he has been sponsored by Reebok and Coca-Cola.
One of Caudill's dreams is to have a trailer that transforms into a stage so he can make presentations about Zoogle when he travels. He also wants to hire retired physical-education teachers so they can go out and present his Zoogle game at schools themselves. That way more people will know about this unique sport.
“You can do positive things for them,” said Caudill. “If I could spend 100-percent of my time with kids and animals, I'd be perfectly happy.”
Josh Wilkes, an employee at the engraving booth, said his favorite part of going to work is being with Caudill.
“He's comedy,” said Wilkes. “He's outgoing. He knows how to talk to people, and he's a good teacher, also.”
Wilkes assists with the booth by helping customers select their pendant, writing down the engraving they want on a notecard, and relaying the information to Caudill. Wilkes has not yet been taught how to engrave the pendants, an art form that Caudill has mastered.
Bruce Sigmon, concessions manager for the Indiana State Fair, says the fair embraces variety and local businesses.
“Ninety-five percent are people who return from previous years,” he said. “If it's something we don't already have it gets some precedence.”
Caudill's favorite part of working each summer out of his colorful stand is socializing with people and getting their feedback.
“It's very pretty! I love it!” said young Mallory Vieck as she examines the necklace she picked out for her mother. It was engraved with the initials ACB in honor of an uncle who passed away.
“When you get them to smile, it's so cool,” said Caudill as he stepped to the side to assist the next customer.
Alex Kincaid is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a Ball State University immersive-learning project placing 25 student journalists at the heart of the Midway to tell the weird and wonderful stories of the 2014 Indiana State Fair.
How do you play Zoogle?The ways to win:
Beat your opponent by seven points or restrict the use of both arms and/or both legs.
To start the game:
Stand approximately 20 feet from your opponent. Now plant your feet comfortably, because you can't move them until a point is scored.
How to Zoogle:
Hold your Zoogle [a foam and ripstop nylon stick] in the manner specified in the rules.
The basic Zoogle throw:
Swing your arm back, keep your Zoogle parallel to the ground, bend your knees slightly and throw, spinning the Zoogle from your wrist.
The basic catch:
Always catch a Zoogle by its black handle. Your hand must touch a part of the handle on every catch or you get a penalty. You catch the Zoogle with one hand only.
The catcher can keep the Zoogle from touching the “Zoogle Zone,” or legs, by blocking the Zoogle with the free hand or arm while catching it on the handle area with the other hand.
If either player catches the Zoogle off of the black handle area, the catcher loses the use of that arm.
Striking a leg:
If the Zoogle strikes a leg or foot of a player, the player loses the use of that leg.
How to score:
Catch a Zoogle by the handle, don't lift or slide your feet, stand 20 feet apart, snap your wrist when you throw, don't let the Zoogle touch your body or legs.
Too much flip:
If the Zoogle flips over 180 degrees, the catcher gets one point whether or not the Zoogle is caught.
If the Zoogle is thrown out of reach of the catcher (too short, too high or too wide) the catcher gets one point.
If the catcher misses or drops a good throw, the thrower gets one point.
If either player lifts or slides a foot while a point is being played, the other player gets one point.
Hitting the Zoogle Zone:
If the catcher allows the Zoogle to hit his body in the Zoogle Zone (from the top of the head, through the torso, to the top of the legs, but not including arms or legs) the thrower gets two points.
Loss of arm penalty:
When a player catches the Zoogle off of the handle area the player loses the use of that arm for the remainder of the game. If the player uses the lost arm to catch the Zoogle, the other player gets the point. When a player loses both arms the game is over.
Loss of leg penalty:
If the catcher allows the Zoogle to touch one of his legs or feet, the catcher loses the use of that leg for the remainder of the game. When a player loses both legs, the game is over. When playing on one leg, the player may hop around without being penalized for moving the foot.
To purchase a Zoogle:
Zoogles are available for purchase through Will Caudill only, for $10 plus shipping.
Questions? Contact Will Caudill at (317) 442-9519.