Liberty Hill couple wins First Place on America's Funniest Videos
Amanda and Jeff Painter of Liberty Hill won $10,000 last month for a video of their dog, Sam. This photo was taken at their Manhattan Beach, CA, hotel after the winning announcement. (Courtesy Photo)
(Posted: 11 p.m. Feb. 18, 2010)
Winning video provided to Radio Free Liberty Hill by Jeff and Amanda Painter. The Painters recorded the segment of America's Funniest Videos on Jan. 31 where the winners were announced and also provided that recording to RFLH.
A teacher's aide and bus driver for Liberty Hill schools, Amanda Painter never dreamed when she pushed the upload button that the video of their yellow labrador, Sammy, would ever win.
"Our family kept telling us we ought to send it in, but it seemed silly," she said.
About six months later, she took a look at the website and decided she might as well upload it. She said she tried it twice, and never received a confirmation that it was received.
"They said they were thinking about putting it in the show, and wanted to be sure it wasn't staged and that all the voices in the background were at least 18 years old," she said. She completed a form and returned it the same day. Two weeks later the video was scheduled for broadcast and the Liberty Hill couple was headed for California. The program was recorded Dec. 15 in a Manhattan Beach studio. It aired Jan. 31.
"We had watched that video a million times and it wasn't funny to us anymore," said Jeff Painter. "I thought it might win third place."
Painter said last summer, he and his wife replaced the aluminum mini-blinds on several windows in their Liberty Hill home. He took the old ones outside and leaned them against the house so he would remember to take them to the curb on trash pickup day later in the week.
"A few days later, I heard a big noise outside and I saw those blinds piled up in the yard and his (the dog's) head was sticking up through them," Painter said. "I told her (Amanda) to hurry and get the video camera."
He said they normally take a lot of photos, but rarely use the video camera. But when he saw his dog was tangled in the blinds, he knew he had to get it on video.
"At the time, we weren't thinking at all about sending it anywhere," Mrs. Painter said. "He (Sammy) is just crazy and always tearing up stuff."
Her husband says the dog, who was about one and one-half years old at the time, likes to move things. He takes items from one room and leaves them in another room, and regularly moves things around the yard.
Mrs. Painter said when AFV staff told her they would pay to fly the dog to the show as well, she instictively asked if they were sure about that knowing what a handfull the dog would be on such a trip. She said Sammy is an outside dog and they don't take him anywhere except inside when the weather is bad.
AFV insisted they bring the dog to California and paid for a new kennel to transport him in, a trip to the veterinarian and grooming. When the big day rolled around in mid-December 2009, they arrived at the Austin airport with Sammy only to have to reschedule the flight and take the dog back to Liberty Hill. They said it was very cold that day and the airline would not fly pets if the temperature was below 45 degrees.
When they finally arrived in California later that evening, they were treated like royalty. The show paid for every expense during the three-day trip and even gave them $450 in spending money.
The Painters said the trip was like a second honeymoon. Mrs. Painter, 23, works full-time at Bill Burden Elementary School, drives a school bus, and is taking college courses at night at Texas Tech University and Austin Community College. On the couple's first honeymoon four years ago, she had to bring along her homework. She is about one and one-half years away from finishing college and earning a teaching certificate in bilingual education. She is a graduate of Liberty Hill High School, has lived in the community her entire life and dreams of one day teaching school here.
Mr. Painter, 26, spent most of his childhood in Liberty Hill although he graduated from a San Antonio high school. They met while working at the same Liberty Hill convenience store. Mr. Painter, who in recent years has worked as a firefighter in another community, plans to go back to school in May to become a police officer. In fact, the couple set aside half of their $10,000 prize money to pay for Mr. Painter's education. They used the rest of the money to pay off credit cards and buy some new furniture, and they are looking forward to a trip to Hawaii when Mrs. Painter graduates.
"The video had about a 1 in 100 chance of being selected," Mrs. Painter said. "They get hundreds of new videos every day."
She said the fact that it was chosen among so many was more than luck. "God has a plan for us and this couldn't have happened at a better time," she said.
The Painters' video was entered in AFV's $100,000 contest and the couple was once again flown to California to be in the audience. The show was recorded on Jan. 15, but did not air until Feb. 14. The fact that it was not chosen to win was just fine with them, they said.
"We didn't need that $100,000," Mrs. Painter said. "We needed that $10,000 and it has made a lot of difference."
Shin Oaks common in The Hill
Liberty Hill, Texas, is located on what was once known as the Shin Oak Ridge for the prominence of Shin Oak trees that grow here.
The Vasey Shin Oak, which is prominent in the Liberty Hill area, is drought tolerant and grows individually or in clumps in semi-arid grassland on limestone or igneous soils. It has semi-evergreen, glossy lobed leaves and acorns up to 0.9 inches, and the bark is lighter in color than a Live Oak. When the tree grows individually, it generally does not grow taller than 30 feet. In Liberty Hill, it is more common to see the Shin Oak growing as a large shrub in thickets. The Shin Oak is lightly grazed by cattle, sheep, goats and white-tailed deer. In fact, the thickets provide escape and thermal cover for deer.