2018 Rewind: Iowans Do The Unexpected

IOWA -- 2018 has been full of stories. That may not be the headline, but the fun of working in TV news is there are always stories yet to find.

A couple years back, former ESPN announcer Brent Musberger was asked at an Ames Chamber event what was his favorite game he ever covered. He thought for a moment and said his answer might not be what you expect. “The next one,” said Musberger.

That is kind of like what I get to do. Find stories. That’s the thrill and the struggle, to find a story we have not done before, one that is really news to me and others.

Here are some of my favorite stories from 2018.

In June, I got a text message from a friend of mine, Sarvinder Naberhaus. She said she had a story for me, so I contacted her and when she shared her story, I was blown away with the tale.

It was true.

The next day I interviewed her about how she had flown with a barnstorming group in an antique bi-wing plane. As she was taking pictures from the open cockpit plane, her phone was blown out of her hands.

She got on find my iPhone, at first, no trace, then later the program gave a location off east Lincoln Way in Ames. She borrowed a friend's phone and went to the location on the map. She dialed her number and heard the phone ringing!

She found it, without a scratch and working fine, laying in some tall grass.

Another great story happened at the Iowa State Fair. Something happened which had never been done before.

Gary Hefling and his team from Spencer were working on an old John Deere 1941 M. They had been working to tear the tractor apart and put it back together. The tractor was in 283 pieces when they started. When they got it back together, they fired the engine up. The crew got it back together in 27 minutes and 35.48 seconds to beat the old record.

In Decorah, Jim Dotzenroad and his daughter, Danielle, welcome people to their farm north of town. Jim remodeled an old silo and turned it into a cabin. That renovation went well, so the two bought a caboose and renovated that into an Air BnB overnight accommodation.

In Dakota City, Merlin Fort has been lighting up the night with 150,000 Christmas lights for years. Now in his 34th season, this will be the last. Fort will turn 90 next March, and he said spending weeks putting up the lights is too much for him.

In Red Oak, Ernie Smith celebrated his 101st birthday by going flying. He was not taking a joy ride. He flew the plane. When he was 99 years old, Smith was named the Guinness Book of World Record's Oldest Pilot in the World.

Last year he suffered a minor stroke which meant he could no longer pass the physical needed to fly solo. On his birthday, he took friend and pilot instructor Norm Yeager airborne. Ernie did all the flying.

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