Location: Montrose, CO
Member #: 26,183
Compared to many brothers and sisters on this board, I have not seen Lynyrd Skynyrd live too many times. This Saturday will mark the sixth time I have seen them, and I squandered the only time I could have seen them before the fateful plane crash back in 1977 by getting into trouble.
The pervading reason I take every opportunity to see Lynyrd Skynyrd every chance I can, is because I am a traveler, I love being on the road, and this is for many reasons, but in great part to the songs written by the band. And not only that, we are all street survivors to some degree, and I feel it necessary to pay my respect to every one of us that has made it through life and death so far.
In the following posts, I am going to attempt to share some of my anecdotal experiences in relation to Lynyrd Skynyrd, to share a deeper extent of my story in hopes that it may influence someone else down the road to make the right choices in life. May it reach those God intends it to.
Location: Montrose, CO
Member #: 26,183
It was late August in 1982, and the San Bernardino County Fair was in full swing. Tom (a friend of mine) had met a couple of the carnies that summer, and we took advantage of the connection to stay in the campground area after hours to drink. After two nights of this, we had become accepted into their group. I even began entertaining the idea of hiring on and hitting the road with them.
One evening several members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club rode into the campground on their Harleys to drink with the carnies. The Vagos were flying their bold colors of bright green, and they were completely fearless of anyone in the circle. The road captain was big, resolute, and utterly foreboding. After a few beers with them, I was content to soak in the environment.
Everything was cool.
But the idea of etiquette could be lost on Tom, and soon enough he was hitting up the Vagos for beer after beer.
Finally the road captain had seen enough.
"I'm tired of you sponging off of us, pal. You had better leave. NOW."
Tom tucked his tail between his legs, turned heel, and left the circle.
"Let's go, Vance," he said in parting.
The road captain looked over at me and said, "If you're with him, you're gone too. Get moving."
As I turned to leave -- cast out of a ring of outcasts -- I realized I had picked up a shadow in the process. The road captain had decided to escort me away from the circle. I had been kicked out of parties before and was always happy to oblige; but I refused any handholding in the process. This had always struck me as downright humiliating, and I refused to change my stripes even then.
I turned around and faced the road captain.
"I know you could beat me to death right here and now if you wanted to, I have no doubt about that. I don't want to fight you, but an escort out is going to be a problem. If you allow me leave without one, you will have earned my ultimate respect. Otherwise you're just going to have to pound on me."
The road captain stepped back and looked me dead in the eye, measuring me up. I thought for sure I was dead meat, but he then solemnly reached out and shook my hand.
True to my word, I left the party circle. I left Tom to his own devices at the fairgrounds, jumping the fence to head back to Apple Valley in anticipation of a much needed shower and a good night's rest.
On Thursday morning, August 19, 1982, I woke up feeling refreshed and energized. By early afternoon, I was looking forward to hitchhiking back out to Victorville for another evening out at the county fair. I wanted to be in peak condition for the night's festivities, so I bought about fifteen cross-tops from a local connection before hitting the highway.
Cross-tops were a form of speed, and even thought two were enough to provide the required effect, my standard operating procedure was to take about five of them. Just enough to maintain my edge and to make my head tingle.
By the time I had passed Forrest Drive on my way up Seventh Street, I had taken two more. I was feeling good by the time I entered the fairgrounds.
The night was warm and the crowd electric that evening. As I chased down my cross-tops with a few beers, I reflected on how lucky I was to be alive. I was perfectly content to relax and watch the activities of the evening come to fruition.
Eventually, I ran into Jack and Tim LaRue, who had come to the fair that evening with Frank Jimenez and Ron Halderson. I was incarcerated with Ron at Glen Helen over the holidays, and it was good to see him again. We drank a few more beers and eventually met four young ladies who lived in Apple Valley. They were happy to have us escort them throughout the fairgrounds.
As the night progressed, I shared the rest of my cross-tops with the others, and we drank a few more beers to chase them down. Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that we should retire to the LaRue Ranch for the remainder of the evening.
Once the nine of us had arrived at the ranch we became better acquainted with the ladies we had brought along with us. Tim and I were kindred spirits when it came to the consumption of hard liquor, and this evening was no different. We split a fifth of Jim Beam for old times' sake, and reflected on our chances with the young ladies.
We had promised to return the young ladies to Apple Valley, but all the gas stations in town had long since closed for the evening. We concluded the only viable solution was to drive into town and siphon some gas - and since siphoning gas was something I was familiar with, I knew exactly where to get it. Eager to get on with the task at hand, the nine of us piled into Jack's early 1950s era Chevy Apache pick-up truck and coasted it into town. I stood on the step side of the pickup truck as we drove down the highway.
About halfway down the hill from the LaRue Ranch we ran out of gas, and that's the honest truth.
As we began our long walk back up the hill toward the ranch, time for idle conversation had come to an end. There were five of us along with the four young ladies. One of us was going to be the lonely dog for the evening, and none of us wanted to be. I considered returning to Apple Valley before the trouble started, but only briefly.
As we were walking up Highway 18 toward the LaRue Ranch, Larry Kadessi pulled up alongside us with a couple of ladies of his own in tow. One of them had forgotten her purse at Kaiser Permanente, and they were driving up there to retrieve it. Larry was 21 years old, and, like me, he was driving on a suspended license. Larry owned a beautiful metallic green 1972 Chevy Chevelle, complete with hood scoop, sidepipes, and bucket seats. One of his female passengers sat beside him and the other one sat in the left rear seat of his impressive looking car.
Frank Jimenez and one of the young women jumped into the back seat of the Chevelle. Everyone else jumped up on the hood. As Larry yelled for everyone to get off his car, I walked over to the passenger door. Frank quickly reached over and locked the passenger door, giving me his middle finger.
He then sat back in his seat and laughed tempestuously.
Frank and I had always had problems with each other. He was a spoiled kid from a modestly affluent family, especially for the confines of Lucerne Valley. He had stable, caring parents whereas I had come out of the dregs of society and had long since accepted my fate. The problem with Frank was that he had a tendency to be petulant about it, and that is what created the friction between us.
The only sensible thing to do was to become the odd man out and return to Apple Valley. I thought about walking the rest of the way to the La Rue Ranch to cool off. But the whiskey was in control, and I decided that Frank and I had to square things up with each other once and for all. I stepped over to the right front fender of the Chevelle and climbed up on to the hood alongside Tim.
Tim and I were the only ones with nothing to break our fall, and as Larry accelerated away from the roadside we knew that we had upped the ante beyond the point of return.
We were young kids blind to the way we were manipulated by the effects of drugs and alcohol. None of us wanted anything to do with the death of another as we drove up that hill. But sometimes when you pursue the beast, it eats you.
Larry drove up the highway much faster than anticipated, and I knew Tim and I were in deep trouble. Neither one of us had a way to break our fall once our momentum shifted. Disaster loomed ahead.
As we neared the last bend in the road before the LaRue Ranch, I realized this location was where disaster would ring true to its mark, holding no quarter on that early Saturday morning of August 20, 1982.
Larry entered the bend in the road, overcorrected, and swerved. Tim and I rolled over our respective quarter panels in an attempt to avoid the momentum of the onrushing car. Tim was able to successfully roll clear of the Chevelle with inches to spare.
I was exceedingly less fortunate.
The young lady sitting next to me grabbed me in an attempt to recover my fall. As a result, I was thrown directly in front of the oncoming Chevelle. I managed to take two steps before my head cracked hard against the pavement as the lower half of my body was collected up underneath Larry's car. The low-lying sidepipes of the Chevelle then drug me along the pavement, embedding skin and denim into the highway for approximately 14 feet before I cleared the underside of it. The next morning, investigators from the California Highway Patrol office would testify to the evidence of it.
In a panic, Larry slammed his car into reverse and roared backwards in order to find me. He accidentally ran over me again.
I felt no pain as I hit the ground or was run over by the Chevelle, just the deep, undeniable sleep that overtook me.
As I lay unconscious on that stretch of desolate highway complete pandemonium ensued. Jack later told me that he ran up to me thinking I had already died. As he held my head in his hands, he watched in horror as my head swelled to twice its size.
He grabbed my shoulders, shook them violently, and started to scream.
I was awakened by the sudden excruciating pain in the right side of my chest. As I grabbed at my chest, my right hip exploded with pain as well. As I grabbed my hip, more pain met me from my right shoulder.
The quiet night in the foothills of Lucerne Valley became utter chaos as I began to scream in agony. This was further punctuated by the hysterical screams of the young ladies who were with us.
Jack yelled out an epithet of profanities, concluding with, "Don't you die on me!"
In the midst of all of this, Ron Halderson overheard the distant whine of a semi barreling down the highway at 70 mph from Kaiser Permanente. He quickly understood the implications of this and pulled me out of the highway by my heels. Unimpeded by our presence, the 18 wheeler cruised by, leaving us in the howling blast of its wake.
At that point Larry left the scene and sped down the mountain with his two lady friends to report the accident. At 2:37 in the morning, the metallic green Chevelle screeched to a halt in front of the Lucerne Valley Fire Department next to Pioneer Park. He ran inside and notified them that somebody had been hit by a car up on Highway 18 near Geetam. The Lucerne Valley Fire Department responded with prompt and professional efficiency.
One problem: Geetam was two miles downhill from the scene of the accident.
We watched helplessly as the fire department scoured the mountainside on the highway below. Miraculously, a lady only known as Mountain 4 drove up to the scene in a green Ford station wagon, and I was thrown into the back of it. Ron Halderson jumped into the passenger seat of her vehicle, and as Mountain 4 drove down the mountain toward the rescue vehicles below she began hailing them on her CB radio. The two eventually met up with each other, and I was transferred to the ambulance, which then transported me 16 miles to Saint Mary's Desert Valley Hospital in Apple Valley.
After reporting the accident, Larry drove back up Highway 18 only to watch as the ambulance raced down the highway in the opposite direction. He then drove to the Ace Motel and sat down, uncertain of what to do next.
I have spoke with Larry on numerous occasions about this. He has apologized to me every time, and every time I have forgiven him. It was my decision to jump up on the hood of his car, and I hold myself accountable for the consequences of my own actions.
After arriving at St. Mary's Desert Valley Hospital, I was transferred over to the care of the emergency room staff on duty that evening. I was still extremely intoxicated, and I began attempting to tell jokes in hopes of easing the gravity of the situation.
Dr. Thomas, the emergency room physician, eventually placed a chest tube into the right side of my chest. He visibly paled as bright red blood began gushing into the drainage system below. As I witnessed my own ex-sanguination, the brevity of my life was undeniable.
When Dr. Su, the emergency surgeon on call, arrived I was quickly prepped and rushed to the operating room. While en route to the operating room, I signed consent forms for emergency surgery. It was then that Dr. Su somberly advised me of my chances of survival.
He told me, "I don't think I can save you, young man! You had better make your peace with God!"
I went into surgery that evening with little hope for survival. I cannot describe what it felt like not having a chance to say goodbye to family or friends. As the anesthesia began to take effect, I barely had time to say a quick prayer for mercy.
I took complete advantage of that opportunity.
Location: Montrose, CO
Member #: 26,183
Back in July 1977, Jack LaRue (my best friend who held my head in his hands on the roadside) and I hitchhiked down to the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino to buy tickets to a concert in late August at the Anaheim Stadium. The lineup featured Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent, and REO Speedwagon. We were unable to return to Victorville until after dark, and while we were walking down D Street in Victorville a couple of young ladies pulled along side us. They eventually asked if we would come back to their trailer with them. We were happy to oblige. We sat drinking Southern Comfort and telling stories with the young ladies until about two in the morning, when one of their parents arrived and chased us off. We spent the rest of the early morning hours sleeping underneath the Stoddard Wells Bridge and hitchhiked back to Lucerne Valley when the sun came up.
My girlfriend at the time (someone I will call Deborah) was an attractive, slender girl with dark brown eyes. She was also whimsical, blown to and fro by whatever boy she fancied at the moment. I was unable come to terms with that fact, so when she called for me, my tendency was to lose my focus in the process of chasing her.
One evening Deborah phoned our house begging for a place to stay, and mom let her move in to the spare bedroom.
As a young seventeen year-old male, life could not have been better.
But as they often did with my family, things deteriorated shortly thereafter. I had begun smoking pot with my mom, and this tended to make her highly unpredictable.
In late August, Deborah took off with my sister, and I was sent out to find them. I caught up with them on George Air Force Base, but Deborah slipped away with my sister and disappeared again. I slept for a few hours below the knoll of a grassy hillside in community housing before departing for Lucerne Valley the next day. When I arrived home that afternoon mom was furious. My misadventure had failed, and mom demanded that I go back out to search for Deborah immediately.
I was dead tired, and insisted on a couple of hours of rest before heading back out to the Adelanto area.
I was awakened by a San Bernardino County Sheriff several hours later. When mom pointed at something in between the mattresses of my bed, the Sheriff Deputy took her cue and found the nickel bag of marijuana that had been planted there. I was then transported to Juvenile Hall in San Bernardino to face charges on possession of marijuana. Deborah and my sister were found three days later hiding in the back of the Spirit Shop (a local liquor store in Victorville) after hours. Deborah was arrested and sent to juvenile detention as well.
I spent only three weeks in Juvenile Hall, but it was long enough to miss the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. I was completely devastated. To make matters worse, Elvis Presley died as well.
Eventually, I received one year of probation, and had to show proof of enrollment in school as a term of it. I subsequently enrolled in a GED preparation class for two nights a week at Victor Valley High School and began hitchhiking to attend them.
If I made it to class at all, I often arrived too stoned to function.
Location: Montrose, CO
Member #: 26,183
Looking back on my youth, I remember thinking my life was the same as anyone else's. But then again, I grew up surrounded by alcoholics, drug addicts, and people involved in chaotic relationships. It was only a matter of time before I would pattern my life on the things that surrounded me.
My dad had a severe speech impediment, and that probably had a lot to do with his direction in life. While in high school his interest in motorcycles and the lifestyle it represented became an absolute obsession. His senior yearbook statement said it all: "Live to ride and ride to live." Nothing else mattered to him. Dad had dark hair, striking blue eyes, and a smile that would have made Elvis jealous. Dad stood a mere 5'10", but was solid muscle. He was tough and foreboding when he wanted to be.
After graduating from high school, dad joined a club and began living the life he had dreamed about. I understand that back then -- the late 1950s -- this biker club drank heavily, but used fewer drugs than they did in the 1960s and 1970s. Dad worked at the Inyokern Airport and owned three motorcycles: two Norton 500 Manx single cylinder "poppers" and a Kawasaki twin he used for a show bike.
As with dad, mom battled her own demons. She ran away from home at 13 and was raped shortly thereafter.
When my parents were married, they both refrained from drinking and settled down for a while in Inyokern. During this time, mom and dad were so poor they had to steal food in order to survive. I was born June 24, 1960, at 11:48 a.m at the Ridgecrest Hospital, and life for them was never the same.
It was when I was three years old that things began to fall apart between mom and dad. They had returned to a life of drunkenness, and I remember numerous loud arguments that occurred after we were put to bed. I don't know which one precipitated the other, but they both began having affairs. Eventually these affairs would lead to their divorce.
Mom's life would then become patterned with numerous broken relationships, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and suicide attempts.
On March 4th, 1980 dad's van was found parked alongside an offramp in Orange, California. His lifeless, vomit-covered body was found inside of it. While passed out the night before, dad became so intensely sick that he aspirated on his vomit and suffocated. He was 42 years old when he died.
I endured until the age of 15 before self-destructing. At that time, I began to grow numb to the effect that my surroundings were having on my character. An outcast among outcasts, I could not find the type of mentorship that could sustain me. Therefore, I concluded that society deemed me expendable.
I gradually became apathetic to what was right or wrong and began a slow descent into my own entropic version of self-destruction. It was at this point that addiction grabbed a firm hold of my thoughts and emotions and took vested control of my life.
While I was 17 years old, mom's drinking and phenobarbitol abuse had gotten to the point where she was incoherent most of the time. Consequently we physically restrained her and escorted her back to San Bernardino's Ward B for yet another round of detoxification. My younger brothers and sister were placed in fosters homes. I was left to fend for myself. I began falling in and out of trouble as I began to drink heavily, and as my drinking escalated, so did my visits to local jails in the area. Indeed, the drunk tank became my friend.
Three months after my 22nd birthday I was riding on the hood of a car with several of my friends. I nearly lost my life after being ran over by the car I was riding on.
My liver had been lacerated, my spleen and bladder had been ruptured and my pelvis had been shattered. The skin on my knees and the palm of my left hand had been ground completely away as the result of being grated into the rough asphalt of Highway 18.
Later that evening, as neurosurgeons were evacuating blood from the brain injury on the left side of my head, they discovered an old head injury caused by the fight I had been in on my 22nd birthday. They evacuated it as well.
The surgeons had to remove a piece of a rib in my back, and the three-inch open wound was packed "wet to dry" just as my abdomen had been.
Every morning the surgeons would arrive to remove the old dressings from in between my ribs and lungs, only to push clean ones back into the cavity.
The pain was beyond belief. I am sure my screams could be heard on the other end of the hospital.
I quickly learned to forgo any Morphine medication until after the packing, since getting shot up beforehand did nothing to help alleviate the agony.
I spent three months at Loma Linda, and I had to undergo three more surgeries. I presently endure paralysis of the right side of my diaphragm and a permanent limp as a result of this accident. I was a seasonal fire fighter with the U.S. Forest Service, and would have to give up my aspirations of working for them year round.
As I was discharged from Loma Linda, I was warned not to drink again. Barely able to walk, I celebrated my release from Loma Linda later that evening by cracking a couple of Rainier Ales with a friend down the street.
I fell in and out of trouble as a result of alcohol and substance abuse for the next three years. I was a low life, certainly not worth the price of saving.
But then one day, I noticed something peculiar.
I woke up one morning feeling as if I was suffering from a lingering hangover, and this was after drinking only two or three beers.
The hangover lasted for more than three days.
I began to consider the possibility that I would not survive past the age of 30 in my current condition, and that prospect was one I found a bit concerning. I once again had been brought face to face with my own mortality. Death surrounded me everywhere I looked.
So one night, I began a search for answers.
I found myself looking down at a poor, pathetic old man on the brink of death with nothing to hope for. It was then that I was hit with a sudden and profound revelation.
I was in fact looking down at myself.
Then, as I tried to blink away the epiphany, it became apparent to me this was how other people saw me as well.
The anguish of the moment was almost too much to bear. It was as if an arrow had been shot through my heart and had pierced the depths of my soul.
I realized that I had been thrown more than my share of lifelines. The endless downward spiral of self-destruction had completely eroded any false sense of control I clung to. As I reflected on this fact, I began to come to terms with the shame of wasting God's purpose for my life.
All I had ever wanted to do was to drink, score, and meet women. I never had any intention of getting into the legal trouble that constantly hounded me, and I never intended to come as close to death as many times as I had. All those good times I had spent drinking, going to concerts, and chasing women had led to nothing but empty, wasted years. None of those experiences had provided me any enduring satisfaction.
I was a smart kid once. But then again, the road to hell is well paved with good intentions.
I became convinced that my life had to change. If my friends were going to have a problem understanding this, then they weren't really my friends after all.
On the following afternoon, I called Alcoholics Anonymous, found a local meeting, and went to it. It was my first self-chosen AA meeting, and I actually listened to what was being said instead of just pretending to. Shortly after that, I gave my life to Christ.
A respiratory therapist who knew of my chest injuries had frequently encouraged me to pursue his profession. In essence, he told me that whereas most health care professionals could at most sympathize with their patients, my chest injuries could allow me to truly empathize with and relate to them. I don't know how true that really was, but it sure sounded good to me.
In June of 1988 I graduated with honors with an Associate in Science degree in Respiratory Therapy. I was also the co-recipient of the Dick Frey Memorial Award that year for outstanding graduating respiratory therapy student at Victor Valley College.
I currently hold licensure to practice respiratory therapy in Colorado, Missouri, New York, California, Kansas, and South Carolina. I am also VetPro certified. I have been honest and forthright about my past when applying for licensure, and even though the standards are very strict I have never been denied it. I have been in the respiratory therapy profession for the past 19 years. Although the pay is modest, the rewards for serving the community are a blessing.
Working in the field of respiratory therapy I have seen the indisputable destruction that drug and alcohol abuse causes. In fact, almost all critical patients require our services at some point. Tragedy encompasses the profession, but to dwell on that fact would spell disaster for patients depending on our care.
I have seen countless individuals hospitalized as the direct or indirect result of alcoholism and drug addiction. Many of them are placed on life support machines for extended periods (if not for the rest of their lives). It is a miserable way to die; certainly not the kind of life sex, drugs, and alcohol promises.
But that's the thing; addiction slowly entices and twists the truth in such a subtle way that before long, the trap is set and the ill-prepared can feel unsalvageable. That is exactly what happened to me.
I cannot stress enough that a good portion of my old friends are now dead because of that lifestyle, and have been so for quite some time.
Even though what happened in my young life cost me the opportunity to do something I love (fight forest fires), I have acquired some simple truths from my fire-fighting experiences to fall back on.
First of all, an escape route has to be kept in view. That escape route may be a church, a pastor, a counselor, a 12-step program such as AA or NA, a local mentorship program (such as Young Life or Partners), or even a close friend to confide in. But most of all, it should be Jesus Christ himself.
David wrote in Psalms 18:16-17 (NIV), "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me."....
May God receive all the glory for His love, His compassion, and His longsuffering quest to rescue us all out of our own deep waters.