Tifton-- Most of us have played those frustrating, mind-teasing games, and rarely do we figure them out. Often, the solutions make common sense once we know the answers.
But who creates those games?
One game maker might look out of place on a tennis court. But Norman Hill, or Red Hill as most people know him, feels right at home. He coached 60 All-American college tennis players, and one player won a national championship for two consecutive years.
"Ok. Ready? Go," shouts Red Hill from the net, as two students get instruction at the tennis complex at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton named for him.
Red Hill discovered decades ago that a little honest encouragement goes a long way. "That's a good shot every time," shouts Hill. The student hits another ball with the grace of an emerging professional. "Drop it, Swing. Look a there," says Hill as a yellow tennis ball sails over the net. It sure helps to have your own cheerleader. "That's a good one right there," shouts Red, again.
When a player makes a mistake, Red doesn't say a word, often never gives them a hard look. If the mistake continues, he shows the student again how to hit the tennis ball, with the net effect of a person doing better than first imagined.
A personal cheerleader must know how to emotionally connect, and Red Hill does with most everyone he meets on and off the tennis court thanks to his bag of tricks. "One thing's for sure. I'm going to make you happy first," says Red as he pulls a black bag from under a table that sits on his porch. "I take it out like a medical doctor takes his black bag, but I'm going to make you laugh," says Hill as he unzips it. He enjoys creating his own games or brain-teasers that seem impossible to solve at first.
People have been known to spend hours trying to solve one of his puzzles to no avail. The nail game, with the objective of balancing six common carpenter nails on the head of another nail, sounds impossible at first. But he arranges each of the four nails to off-set the weight of the other ones. The remaining two nails provide top and bottom support for the four nails.
He gently picks up the array of six nails and sits it on the head of a nail driven in a small piece of wood. He makes it look easy, and you wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?" "It's just a matter of concentrating," says Hill, like when he shows you a tick using a round magnet, with an invisible spring.
Of course, no spring exists. He uses magnets to repel each other sometimes, and attract each other when he turns one magnet over. "I enjoy my puzzles," says Hill with a big smile, as he puts his hand into the black bag to get another game.
His mind thinks about puzzles subconsciously and ideas seem to pop up out of nowhere. A block of wood to most people becomes something much different to him. "I call this a Barbie table," says Hill as he removes two rubber bands. The block holds a miniature furniture store, with 11 pieces inside.
The block of wood holds tables and chairs of different sizes, each delicately crafted to fit inside. "It took a long time to figure it out because if you cut one side, you may cut a leg off the other piece," says Hill. Once you deal with one of his puzzles you might feel inadequate, but he will show you how it works.
Red Hill created some of the puzzles of life, not only for himself. "I live on friendship and making you laugh," says Hill, with his bag of tricks, always ready to go wherever he goes.