It was a crisp morning, I remember that much.

There were three of us assigned that day, the Medic, me the EMT and the firefighter who happened to also be an EMT.  We had decided to ro-sham-bo to see wwho took the day on the ambulance and who got to man the tender.

I lost and began to check out the ambulance, having no idea that by the end of the day I would thank the heavens I had chosen scissors instead of rock.


The medic and I had decided breakfast burritos from the gas station were in order and loaded up in 91 and away we went.  Wandering the tribal roads was always interesting, dirt to gravel, gravel to pavement and finally to the highway to loop around to the border and the gas station.  As we listened to some Alan Jackson song I’ve learned to forget we heard a panicked voice come over the air.

“Isleta, Station 1, I need 91 back here code 3 and  launch Launch Lifeguard!”  Lifeguard is the one and only helicopter in the entire state.

In the movie version of this story I scream “hold on!” and execute a perfect skid turn and peel out in the opposite direction.  But in the real world we’re in between exits on the freeway, 4.5 miles to go until a safe place to turn around.  Then back.  We’re at least 10 minutes away.

“Station 1, Isleta, Lifeguard is not available ”  maybe 30 seconds pass.

“Station 1 10-99! 10-99!” Our code for officer down.  One of 2 things has happened.  Either there is an officer down or our firefighter back home needs help so bad he’ll take anything.

Minutes pass with no transmissions, we’ve started an intercept from the north, they’ll arrive in about 20-30 minutes.  With an unknown situation and no cavalry, we tended to err on the side of getting help on the way.

As we finally hit the exit to get to the station I’m varying the siren to let him know we’re coming.  On the PD channel an officer states he’s on scene and there has been a shooting.

Oh fuck.

“Our guy is OK, but we need that ambulance ASAP!”

Another movie perfect skid into the dirt lot of the station would send a cloud of dirt past the Chevy extended cab awkwardly parked almost infront of the ambulance door.  Had we been in quarters, we’d be stuck.

In the front passenger seat, covered in blood of varying ages and degrees of clotting, is the patient, shot in the stomach with a shotgun at close range.  My friend tending to the patient had him on oxygen and was applying pressure, about all he could do.  It didn’t do much.

The weapon has been secured, and is in the back of the truck, by the patient’s 12 year old son.  And now we understand why the truck is parked so awkwardly.  In a community where middle school aged boys are expected to work in the fields, it is not uncommon for boys as young as this to be comfortable driving on the farm roads.

While mending fences on the eastern border of their land, dad always carries a shotgun for defense from animals mainly.  On this day Dad set the shotgun down against the fence barrel up.  It was a simple thing to do, perhaps he always did it that way, maybe it was just this once, but when he reached over from the other side of the fence to carry it back to the truck it discharged.

A 12 year old boy took off his shirt, dragged his father into the pickup, stuffed his shirt over his father’s wounds and drove a good 20 minutes to our ambulance station.

The transport was a fast one, understanding what little we could do in the back of the ambulance would help this man.  He needed “bright lights and cold steel” as we used to say.

The look on the face of that boy has been burned into my memory.  I hope I’m that brave one day.

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