Well, I don’t know how everyone else’s weekends went, but I can tell you that mine wasn’t so hot — actually, it was really hot; maybe that was part of the problem.
The thing is that Mr. Patterson, my dad, and I (among others) were all shocked by a lightning strike Friday night. I would say we were struck, but that brings to mind a Looney Toons cartoon character being zapped into a charred version of themself, and that’s not exactly what happened.
Outlaw Rodeo Productions was contracted to put on a rodeo in Fair Grove, near Springfield, this past weekend. The rodeo was held in honor of a young lady named Lindsay Austin Smith, who had passed away. The proceeds made from the event would go towards a crisis fund established in her name.
For those of you who dont have windows or access to the outside world other than this newspaper, it has rained – a lot – lately, so this was not picture-perfect weather for a rodeo anyways, but that wasn’t going to stop us.
Ignoring the fact that the fair grounds were a muddy, sticky mess, the rodeo performance Friday night went off without a hitch.
Fast forward about an hour and we’re in the middle of “slack” (excess rodeo contestants that don’t fit into the alloted number of performances during the normal rodeo make their runs/rides afterwards); a storm that we’ve been anticipating for hours blows up about half way through. Unfortunately for us we have no options but to finish the few runs that are left.
Three words: Torrential Down Pour. If I’d only brought my shampoo with me, I wouldn’t have had to take a shower. As much as I dislike riding my horse in dripping-wet (no exaggeration, you can ask The Mom), I could handle this compared to what was yet to come.
Moving on, slack’s over, most of the contestants have left, the crowd in the bleachers is long gone, and it’s the rodeo crew and host committee finishing the final chores of the evening as quickly as possible. At this point the storm is beating down upon us with all its impressive power.
Here’s how the process goes after the rodeo is over: Those that are still mounted (on their horses) will unsaddle, put tack (saddles, etc.) away, and begin to feed horses and bed them down for the night; the general crew members will do the same for the bucking and roping stock (horses, bulls, calves, steers); the secretary and timer(s) will finish the most important bookwork for that evening’s performance and start making up the paperwork; announcer and soundman are busy packing up the electronics, including the large speakers suspended 25 feet in the air and the 1000’s of dollars in computers and sound boards. Basically, we’re all running around like chickens with our heads cut off.
Meanwhile, as all of this organized chaos is being completed, the storm is still raging on over our heads. Lightning strikes a tree just on the west side of the arena. According to what we’ve all gathered, it then travelled through the ground to the steel pipe fencing that makes up the arena and backpens (pens for the animals behind the arena). It then makes a mighty swath of a tour around the arena, and conventiently enough, through the majority of our crew members.
The first ones to get struck were my dad and a committee man named Josh. Presumably, since they were the first ones, and also considering they were leaning on the metal fence, they got it the worst. Both were knocked unconcious.
Next in line was our announcer. He said the shock moved up his body, but that was the extent of the damage there.
Moving on, it was my lucky self, I was holding my horse, Tim, standing in about four inches of water from the rain, getting ready to turn him out into the arena for the night. I felt the shock move up both of my legs from the bottoms of my feet and out my right arm through my fingertips. Poor Tim, the electricity travelled through the lead rope and into him. Tim’s smart enough to run away from the pain, I guess, because he plowed into our other horses, who were tied next to him. In the meantime, I found myself knocked off my feet by the jolt and sitting in the said four inches of muddy rain water. Yippee.
Moving on, the strike got Mr. Patterson, one of the bullfighters, who was knocked off the gate he was standing on, and Mr. 5J Rodeo-right-hand-man. I know there were a few other people there that were shocked as well, but I didn’t get to speak with them, so I won’t testify to their experiences.
Dad was admitted to Mercy hospital in Springfield for two long, miserable days. Josh was there, too. They enjoyed the world’s slowest ambulance ride together. The rest of us walked away relatively unscathed, save for Mr. Patterson’s bright red wrists and burnt knuckles.
Needless to say, we hustled our game up a little bit, except for the 30 minutes of downtime tending to a knocked-plumb-out Dad. Fortunately Mrs. 5J/Resident Nurse lady was on hand to whip all of us into shape and take charge of the situation. Thanks again, Jo!
The rest of the weekend proceeded on without any issues. Saturday afternoon broke out with a bad case of sunshine, blue skies, and puffy clouds, so no complaints there. An excellent crowd showed up for the Saturday night performance and everyone was happy. For those of you who concern yourselves with the well being of the livestock, they’re all perfect; fat, but perfect.
Here’s the ironic twist for you: Obviously Dad owns Outlaw Rodeo Productions; generally speaking, he was the one out of the entire crew that is closest to the committee. Josh, the other man that was admitted to the hospital? He’s Lindsay’s brother. Lindsay Austin Smith died when she was just 20 years old after she was struck by lightning while on a float trip. Creepy stuff.
Here’s my tip for the readers: if at all possible, do your best to not make contact with metal fences or stand in what felt like 14 feet of water during a lightning storm. No good will ever come of that…