The following summer on August 1, 1979, just two years after my older brother was shot at the pond, my younger brother Dustin's life would also change forever.
Everyone had gotten up early that morning. My father had left for work in the oil fields and Mom was busy cleaning house. Richard who was 14 and Dustin who was nine had decided they wanted to go shooting at turtles and snakes at the pond, then go swimming afterwards. It was my little Suzy's and my turn to do the dishes before we would be allowed to go. We changed into our swimsuits, and then continued doing the dishes. Richard and Dustin headed off to the pond with Richard's 22 that he had gotten for his birthday.
We were finishing the dishes when Richard came running into the house shouting, "Dustin's been shot!"
The same look of horror came across my Mom's face that I had seen before. Tears were streaming down Richard's face. We all looked at each other and knew it was serious. Mom raced outside and jumped into the camper truck we had at the time. She turned over the engine, but it wouldn't start because the battery was dead. Thinking quickly, Richard and Mom raced to find another battery that would start the truck. Using the battery charger, they finally managed to get the truck going 10 minutes later. Richard was drained, physically and mentality, so he stayed behind with Suzy, as Mom and I raced wildly through the pasture towards the pond. We were there within a few minutes. Mom quickly jumped from the truck, leaving it running and ran up over the steep pond bank. I was half-way up when I heard Mom let out a loud ear-piercing, heart-pounding scream. It caused my heart to beat so wildly, it hurt. I couldn't see him yet, so my first vision was of him floating dead in the water. My adrenaline flowed as I forced myself quickly up over the steep pond bank. I topped the bank to see Mom dropping down to her knee's near the water's edge. As I got closer, I was shock to see he was naked, but moving. I had expected him to be dead.
"What happened?” Mom asked him hysterically. I could see the panic in her eyes, as she began checking him over.
"Can you stand?” Mom asked.
He moaned out a low "No".
“How are we going to get him to the truck?” Mom asked as she began looking around at a way to get him to the truck as close as possible.
“You could pull up on the pond bank and drive up here real close to him.” I said pointing to the way I had seen our father do it before.
Mom began shaking her head no, “It just doesn’t look safe.”
“It’s easy, Dad has done it many times before”.
“No! I don’t think it’s safe.”
“Well what do you want to do?”
With a terrified look on Mom’s face, she finally shouted, "Tayla, just grab him under the arm and let's carry him to the truck."
“Okay,” I said then I grabbed him first up under his left arm and pulled him upwards. He let out a loud moan of pain and I started to lay him back down, but Mom had grabbed a hold of him under his right arm and we began dragging him towards the truck. As I drugged him up away from the waters edge and down the other side of the pond bank towards the truck, I could smell the blood and the pond water on him, which made me feel ill to my stomach. Blood drained from his back and chest, as we drug him down the pond bank, which caused me to almost lose my grip on him several times. Mom and I were exhausted by the time we got him to the truck. I was just 2 1/2 years older than he was and I wasn't that much bigger than him, but I managed to pick him up and put him in the truck as Mom went around on the other side and helped pull him in. Mom laid him down in the front seat, as I jumped into the back of the camper truck alone. As I looked down all the blood that had been on him, was now all over my swimming clothes and hands.
When we got back to the house, Mom ran inside and grabbed her purse. She told Richard to wait for our father to get home and tell him what happened. I washed my hands and grabbed a shirt to throw on over my swimsuit. I wanted to change but Mom said no, just get in the back of the truck with Suzy. Mom drove to the hospital in Nowata faster than she had ever driven before. Suzy and I were thrown around in the back of the camper truck as she took corners wildly. When she got there, she raced inside and quickly brought a nurse outside. Dustin was then quickly placed on a stretcher and taken inside.
The bullet had entered through his chest and exited in his back, near his spinal cord. Within minutes, arrangements were made to transport him to a larger hospital in Tulsa. Suzy and I stood in the hallway as they discussed what to do. I heard them talking saying that he was paralyzed from the waist down because he was moved.
"Who moved him?” I heard one of them say. The nurse pointed toward me, as they loaded him into the back of the ambulance, then she shook her head. I wondered if it was my fault. Was it because of me that he would never walk again?
Mom told Suzy and me to walk to our Uncle Jack's house and stay there until she got back. They were going to rush Dustin to trauma in Tulsa because there was no way they could handle it there. They loaded Dustin into the back of an ambulance and quickly took off for the 50 plus mile trip to Tulsa’s nearest trauma center. Normally it would be approximately an hour drive, but they said they could make it in twenty minutes. I watched as the ambulance drove off in the direction of Tulsa, I wondered if I would ever see him alive again.
It was almost a mile to Uncle Jack's house and by the time we got there, the blood on my swimsuit had completely dried. I quickly explained to my Uncle what had happened, then headed straight for the bathroom. The more I tried to wash the blood out, the more smeared it became. It wasn't much, but enough that it made me cringe when I looked at it.
Several hours later, the ambulance drivers stopped by my Uncles place to make sure we had made it safely and to let us know Dustin would be okay. They told us Mom wanted us to stay at our Uncles house for the night and she would come by as soon as she could. We continued staying with my Uncle for a few days, while Mom stayed at the hospital with Dustin. When she returned, she explained that Dustin would be in the hospital for a long time. He couldn't feel anything from the waist down and would probably never walk again. For the remaining days of summer, Richard was allowed to stay home by himself, while Mom was at the hospital and Dad was at work. At times, we would go with Mom to the Children's Medical Center in Tulsa. We weren't allowed in his room, so we spent the time wondering around the halls in the waiting area. Dustin spent the next year in the hospital, only coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Suzy and I began staying with whoever my parents could find to watch us. I hated being moved around from place to place, but I had no choice. On week-ends, holidays, or anytime school wasn't in, I was moved around from house to house; not really knowing the person I was staying with. That was when I first began to believe that Mom knew what was going on, but she didn't say anything. Maybe she just wasn't sure, and maybe she did know and that's why she tired not to leave us alone with dad. That entire year that Dustin was in the hospital my father always took it as a chance to do something private and alone with me. Inside I felt like I was falling apart.