At the age of 16, Colt Brake was a stud on the football field at Rocky Mount Academy High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At 18, he was a quadriplegic fighting to get back to a “normal” life—a life filled, once again, with hunting and enjoying the outdoors. That’s where Tammy Koenig stepped in, after two years of physical and occupational therapy for Colt.
Tammy is a professional hunter. She has appeared for the last 15 years on a variety of television shows. Her own show with her daughter Brittany, Leading Ladies Outdoors, now in its second year, highlights bow hunts across the Midwest. Tammy made plans to get Colt Brake afield as her special guest hunter.
The destination was Legends Ranch in Bitely, Michigan; made possible by many caring people including Quest Ministries and guide Colby Bettis, the manager of Legends Ranch. Colt would use a uniquely crafted blow-tube trigger and iPhone crosshairs for his rifle, donated from Be Adaptive Equipment. Colt was excited to be afield. And he shot an awesome buck. It was an amazing day, but that is not where the story ends.
Tammy films all of her hunts with three different cameras. All high-definition quality, yes, but some of the cameras are more robust and state-of-the-art than others. Yet all three cameras play a role in producing her television shows. The smaller GoPro camera, Tammy’s third-tier rig, usually provides only B-roll elements. Maybe, in the course of a hunt, the show would use one or two images. Mysteriously, in a way that she can’t explain, that little camera became the most important camera of the day.
One night after the hunt, with the film from the other two cameras already off to the producers for a future show to air months later, Tammy awoke with a start in the wee hours of the morning.
“Boing. I was wide awake,” Tammy said as she gestured of eyes popping wide open. “It was an instant awake, and it came with a message: put together a little video for Colt.”
The video Tammy made is embedded below. Read on past the video for the stunning story of its production.
Tammy dutifully got up at 2:00 a.m. and started work on pulling the video file from the GoPro camera to DVD for Colt. Unfortunately, it was too large of a file. Wide awake, she decided to load the file into Movie Maker—simple software available to just about any of us with Microsoft Windows. She chopped and edited, chopped and edited. Soon she had a four-minute-plus mini-show complete with Colt getting off the bus, his arrival at Legends Ranch, siting in his new adaptive equipment, getting into position for the hunt, and of course—the successful conclusion. The story shows a happy young man. Challenged? Yes. Moving on and making life great in the midst of all the challenges? Yes, indeed.
Amazing, all of those pieces were captured on Tammy’s little GoPro camera. That doesn’t usually happen.
At 3:30 a.m. Tammy was still wide awake. She added text to the movie. While the file was rendering she decided to add music. Her first thought was a Jason Castro song, but as she inserted it, somehow a different song played—not the one she thought she selected.
“It was Laura Story’s song ‘Blessing’ that I actually grabbed,” Tammy recalled. “As I listened to the words with the video rolling, I realized that ‘Blessing’ was the perfect song.”
As the music wove intricately through the video, Tammy watched and listened in the dark of her studio at four o’clock in the morning. She watched Colt, a handsome young man with a wonderful outlook on his situation, and listened to the words of this accidental pairing. She couldn’t help herself, she was bawling as the images and music came together. As the last second of video appeared, so too the last note of the music ended. The song and the video segments were exactly the same length—to the second.
Tammy pulled herself together, uploaded the video to YouTube and posted it on Facebook for Colt. Friends and family watched it, offered congratulations to Colt for a successful hunt, shared their love and encouragement for the young man he was—inside and out—and his journey.
A few hours later Colt replied to all the greetings on Facebook.
“Thank you everybody. It was exactly two years ago today since I broke my neck. I needed this.”
K.J. Houtman is author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for 8-12 year olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.
Image courtesy Tammy Koenig