Orphan Survival Stories Index |
BEING A "HERO"
For some strange reason, I was sitting in the middle of Wyoming at the intersection of Highway 287 and 220. I had stopped, because the old car I was driving had overheated. I saw an old picnic table beside the road and decided to stop while the radiator cooled down a bit.
It was about 8 or 9 p.m. and the sky had stars as far as the eye could see. There was not a sound anywhere; after all, I was in the middle of nowhere. As far as I knew, no one lived within 50 miles of this deserted place or so I thought. Why would they? There was nothing here except a few trees. In fact, it was so quiet that I could actually hear a slight ringing in my ears.
I sat down on the tabletop with my feet up on the bench. I was trying to relax as I had been driving more than 20 hours straight. I guess I had been there about 45 minutes when I noticed car headlights off in the distance. As they moved closer, I turned my head so the bright lights would not hit me in the eyes. As I turned to the left, I noticed another set of headlights coming from the road behind me. Both sets of headlights were coming upon me and at a fast rate of speed. I noticed that neither vehicle was slowing down, which was unusual as the road came to a tee right where I was sitting. The road coming from behind me dead-ended into Highway 287 and the road to my right (220) came from Rawlins, heading toward Casper.
I kept looking back and forth from vehicle to vehicle, until they finally collided at full speed. Sparks, glass and fire flew everywhere. The van stood up on its front end, twisting end over end in the air. When the van reached about 15 feet in the air, the doors flew open; sleeping bags, clothing and bodies were flying everywhere. I just stood there looking at an event that appeared to be happening in slow motion.
When everything stopped about 10 seconds later, without even thinking, I immediately ran over to the station wagon and found five people inside. A young boy was bleeding badly from a cut and was crying. A young girl had several cuts and bruises about the face and neck. A mother, who was pregnant, had a broken pelvis and was screaming. A grandmother, who had several ribs sticking out of her side, was trying to comfort the two children. The father, who was driving was very bloody and disoriented. I told them to remain calm and I would be right back; I was going to get help. I also told them I was going to check on the people in the van.
One of the young men from the van was lying on the roadway. I moved him away from the road just in case another car came along. Another boy was yelling for help off in the darkness, but I could not find him. About that time, I saw headlights coming at me again. I ran out into the middle of the road to wave them down, but they would not stop. This happened three or four times in about half an hour.
I will never forget how hard it was trying to get people to help me. I immediately ran back to the van to look at the young man who had been driving. I noticed that he was slumped over the steering wheel. When I touched his arm to get a pulse, I noticed a steel bar (which was used for hanging clothes in the van) had actually gone through his head. I gently released his arm, letting it fall to his side. I stood there for a moment in shock, not believing what had happened and wondering where this young, invisible life had now gone.
I ran back to the station wagon and removed as many people as I possibly could without injuring them, just in case their vehicle caught fire. I ran back and forth between the van and station wagon trying to keep everyone calm. I kept yelling at everyone that everything was going to be okay. I will never forget the one young man who had been thrown from the van. He was more concerned with his friend than with his own serious injuries. I just did not have the heart to tell him what had happened to his friend.
From out of nowhere, a woman came running as fast as she could. When she realized what had happened and how serious the injuries were, she ran back to her house and called for several ambulances. They did not arrive for 20-25 minutes, as the nearest town was about 40 miles away.
After the ambulances had loaded everyone and headed down the road, several police officers came over and thanked me for what I had done. The paramedics had told them that if someone had not been there at the time of the impact, most likely three more people would have died.
The strange woman came up to me in the darkness and told me I had done "a wonderful thing" and that I should be "very proud of myself." She said God was going to "bless me" and "great things were about to be bestowed upon me.”
I was rather embarrassed and just stood there smiling. There was very little doubt whether I needed a blessing about that time, as I had only $12 left to my name. And now the police had asked me to stay around for several days in case additional statements were needed.
I drove into Rawlins, Wyoming and found a dark parking lot where I parked my automobile, deciding to sleep in the backseat for the night. After finally settling down, I heard a tap on the window. When I sat up, I noticed a police officer staring at me with a blackjack in his hand. He told me to get out of the vehicle, which I did and then told me he was going to give me a ticket for loitering. After giving me the ticket, I tried to explain I had been asked by the police department to stay around for several days. Due to the accident they said they might need additional statements from me. The officer seemed surprised to learn I was the person responsible for pulling all the people out of the wreck. He slapped me on the back and asked me if he could buy a "Hero" a cup of coffee. I readily agreed!
On the way to the coffee shop, he told me that he could not take the ticket back once it was written. He would, however, allow me to sleep in the parking lot for the remainder of the night. He added that I had to be out by day’s light. While having coffee, the officer had an emergency call and ran out of the restaurant. That left me paying for both coffees’ out of my mere $12. Not to mention, the two-mile walk back to my automobile to get some sleep.
The next day, I went to the police station, gave another statement and was told I might have to stay in Rawlins for another week or so. The young man who was killed had a very rich father in the construction business; his attorneys were flying in and wanted to talk with me. Now I was really up the creek, but I was too embarrassed to say anything or tell anybody that I could not afford to stay.
One of the police officers asked me if I liked to fish and I told him I did. He said he had a friend who wanted to take him trout fishing, but that he had to work a double shift. If I wanted to go, I could take his place. He would call his friend and he would take me fishing at one of the best reservoirs in the state of Wyoming. I agreed and waited at the station for his friend, who arrived about 30 minutes later. As we started to leave, the man asked me if we could take my car as he was low on gas and had a tire he did not trust. I put $2 worth of gas in my tank, now leaving about $9 to my name.
The police officer was right; this was one of the most beautiful, crystal clear reservoirs I had ever seen in my life.
Within 15 minutes, I pulled in one of the biggest trout ever caught in that body of water, not to mention five other good sized ones. About that time, a truck drove up and out stepped the Game Warden; he was amazed at the size of the trout I caught. He told us he had never seen a trout that large caught from this reservoir. He then walked around my car, got into his pick-up truck and drove away.
We continued to fish for about five minutes when we noticed he was driving back toward us. He parked his truck, immediately walked over to where we were fishing, and asked, “Whom does that vehicle belonged to?”
I told him it was mine. He asked me why there were out-of-state license plates on the vehicle. I told him I was from out of state. He walked back to his truck, reached in and headed back toward us with a note pad in his hand. Then he asked me for my fishing license. I told him I did not have a license, since I did not live in Wyoming.
"Well, that will cost you $25 for no license and $25 for each fish that you caught, and I think you told me that you had six. Is that correct?" he asked.
Well, now I had $9 to my name and fines totaling about $200. Not to mention, he took the damn fish!
On the way back to town, the person I had fished with asked me to buy him a burger and fries. Now I had about $7 and change. When we arrived back at the police station, the officers’ thought what had happened to the two of us was funny as hell. They told me not to worry about it, because they would take care of the tickets. About that time, the Game Warden came into the building and one of the officers asked him to tear up the ticket. He refused and told them, "You fellows are police officers and you should have known better."
"Come on," they pleaded. "This guy is the one who pulled all those people out of that wreck the other night."
The Game Warden just turned around and walked off, not saying a word.
The next day, I was driven to the hospital by several officers to visit the man who had been in the wreck, as he wanted to thank me for saving their lives. I really did not want to go, but what can you do when everyone is slapping you on the back and telling you what a great person you are. On the way, one officer told me he had heard that the man I pulled from the wreck was the president, or vice-president of Rock Springs College in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I never did know for sure who he was, but he did say something about Rock Springs while we were talking.
We arrived at the hospital and went to his room where I met and talked with the man. He thanked me with tears in his eyes and asked if there was anything he could do to repay me. I told him I did not need anything and that he did not owe me anything. However, he just kept on and on and on, until I finally said, "There is one thing I do need and that is a job, but just for a few days.”
He told me he would see what he could do, and I left the hospital very embarrassed. Later that afternoon, I went back to my car and noticed that someone had broken my front windshield, and as well as both my windshield wipers. I was hungry, so I got in my car and drove looking for a restaurant to eat. Before I found one, a state trooper pulled me over and asked why I was driving with a broken windshield. I told him that when I returned to my car, someone had broken the windshield and this had all happened while I was inside the hospital. He walked to the front of the car and when he retuned, he called me a liar. He told me he would have believed me, if the windshield wipers were not missing. I told him the wipers were broken by whoever broke the windshield.
"Then why didn't you say something about the wipers when I stopped you?”
"Because you asked me about the windshield," I replied.
Well, I got two more tickets.
After I had eaten, I drove to the police station and told one of the officers at the desk that I was leaving. I promised to forward my address in case anyone had any further questions. They told me there were several lawyers looking for me, they would be there shortly and they wanted me to wait. I waited for about 30 minutes. When they finally arrived, I was given a very stern, harsh talk about trying to extort money in order to change my testimony. I told them I did not know what they were talking about. They said one of the nurses had overheard me ask the Rock Springs College president for a job. These two lawyers made it very clear to me that I could be sent to jail for this type of conduct. I was told to wait in the hallway while they discussed what they wanted to do with me. I walked down the hallway to get a drink of water, when I saw the Game Warden walk into the building.
"And how are you, Mr. Hero?”
"I'm fine and you?” I mumbled.
"Full of trout, I can tell you that," he replied.
Late that night, I put every penny I had left into gasoline and I headed down the road as fast as I could. I have never returned to Wyoming. I have no idea what became of those people and I never did learn what God was supposed to bestow upon me. However, I do know that I saved three or four lives that night and being a hero felt very good. I also know that I do not care to be a "HERO" ever again. It is just too darned expensive!