In a world of darkness, Dale "Hammer" Davis of Alta sets his sights high.
An avid bowler, he threw a 662 series at Century Bowl in Alta Monday, chalking up his fourth over-600 series. Davis has had macular degeneration for the last 10 years and is totally blind in one eye with only peripheral vision in the other.
He knows where to stand in the approach lane by feel, and knows he must take four and one-half steps before he delivers the 16-pound ball. Once he lets go, that is the last time he sees the ball before it comes back up to him. A member of two different leagues (one in Alta and one in Sioux Rapids) his teammates are great about calling out what pins, if any, remain standing.
When he learns what pins are left, he positions himself accordingly in the approach lane and fires again.
His scores are amazing - even for a person with perfect sight. He enjoys the challenge of the game and swells with pride as his scores increase.
The bowling alley is one of Davis' favorite places to be. When he was nearing his teen years in the early 1940s, he was a pin boy at Alta's three-lane bowling alley, located in the basement of the pool hall, now the basement of the Century Bowl.
"I made two and one-half cents per line," he said of the pin-setting done by hand. "It was a lot of work," he admitted, but added the 45 cents he made could purchase him a couple hot dogs and a malted milk at Alta's Silver Grill down the street.
As he got older, he tried bowling a little. "I got pretty good," he said.
At the age of 16, he joined the Navy; following his discharge he remained in California for several years.
He returned to Alta and again found his way into a bowling alley, then located on the outskirts of Storm Lake along Highway 7. He helped to maintain the lanes and bowled on a league every chance he got.
He moved west again where he remained for nearly 40 years.
It was here that he scored some of his best games.
He had the chance to compete in the state bowling tournament one year, with a series of 667. His prize consisted of a set of glasses and "a few dollars."
It was while in California that he began having sight problems. The eye problems were not inherited; he blames it on "bad habits. I can't blame anyone but myself."
He was once a heavy smoker, didn't eat nutritionally, didn't bother with sunglasses during the day and caught a lot of flashes while welding.
"All these things could've done that to me. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done a lot of things different. But I thank the Lord every day. I give him credit for what I'm trying to do and I praise him for the vision I do have," Davis said.
He returned to Alta in the late '90s. To cope with his disability, he contacted the Veterans Hospital in Des Moines. Bonnie Wittson made arrangements for him to attend a school for the blind at the VA Hospital in Hines, Ill. The program was two months and the students learned how to deal with being out in the public and how to maneuver inside doing everyday tasks. The students also had the opportunity to speak with psychiatrists to help with the emotional side.
He makes the most of what sight he has left. Living only a few blocks from downtown Alta, he steps out, with his white cane, to enjoy coffee with his friends on a regular basis.
He takes advantage of the state library's books on tape borrowing program and has a magnified screen which allows him to read to some degree.
While he would qualify for a trained seeing-eye dog to help him out, he prefers his little dachshund. She doesn't help guide him, but, "she sure is good company," he said.
When he needs to go somewhere out of town, he rides in the "Green Cab," owned and operated by his sister, Thelma Sherwood. "She's the best," he said with a grin.
It was her that got him involved in bowling again. They have gone to SL Bowl many times to practice their games since. He thanks Marv Otto for being so gracious to them while at the bowling alley. (Thelma is also on a league team and her scores are also quite good.)
"Bowling has helped me quite a bit," Davis said. "It gives me something to look forward to. I don't think I'm dreaming but I want to whip these scores. I feel I can do better. I don't feel like I'm bowling as good as I want to be. I want to be one of the better blind bowlers."
He also wants to serve as an inspiration to others; bowling is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone - even if they do have a disability.