Horseshoe To Head

Henry Lansing Woodward

© Copyright 2023 by Henry Lansing Woodward

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay
Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Later, it was reported to the police that he had continued to hit her with the horseshoe while crying and yelling over and over again,You promised, you promised.”

Unconscious patient. Possible head injury,” came the message from dispatch, and it was far from where we were. It would be a long twenty to twenty-five-minute lights and sirens response to reach a community outside Reno known as Sun Valley. That is too long for any serious head injury. And this one was. Serious, that is. Actually, it was fatal.

These were tough responses usually followed by tough cases. Because of the time required to arrive, any chance of a favorable outcome was mostly lost. This case, however, was over even before the family called dispatch, but no one knew that until we arrived. This is what happened.

After four and a half months in the county juvenile facility for minor offenders, Mom’s sixteen-year-old son was released, and she had picked him up. He had been a guest of the county because he would beat up kids around the neighborhood.

It was his anger. For him, physical pain and injury at home and from fighting everywhere were all about who and what he was. His life was physical and emotional abuse and pain. His whole life. It never ended and probably worsened as time passed. He was so filled with anger and resentment they spilled out and affected everyone around him. He was a broken youth.

His stepfather and stepbrother abused him at home, and anywhere else they wanted. The neighbors said the two would team up and beat him and sexually shame him in public any time they wanted. And they did it a lot. The police had been called many times, but by the time they arrived, no one would go on record with an official statement. All who knew them feared the stepfather and stepbrother, and no one wanted to risk their rage.

In response, the kid would pick a person, big or small, and start fighting with him. He didn’t care who it was and didn’t do it to win. It was just to fight until he had been beaten enough to make him feel as he usually did at home. Mom might have been the only friend he had left, and she was usually drunk, as she was today.

On the way home, the son had talked Mom into stopping for some beer and food so they could celebrate his homecoming. Later, at home, he told the police she agreed and bought two six-packs and some snacks. He had wanted more, but Mom had no more money with her. He said she told him they could get more money later at home, so he had settled for the two six-packs.

When they arrived home, they began an afternoon of celebration without the stepfather or stepbrother. They were away for a week of hunting. Mom and son could enjoy being home with each other and some neighbors without problems. Or so they thought.

When questioned, the neighbors said it all started when the beer ran out. The son wanted more, and Mom said she didn’t have any money left for beer if they wanted food for the rest of the month. The neighbors said the son went “ballistic.”

You promised, you promised!” he kept yelling at Mom, “You promised!”

They said his yelling became louder and louder and that he would not stop. Suddenly, he had run out of the trailer, grabbed a horseshoe off the front yard gate, and ran back into the trailer. It was then his anger turned to rage.

You promised. You said we could get more money at the house,” he yelled again while threatening Mom with the horseshoe. He was crying, they said, and angrier than they had ever seen him.

Only two people remained when he first struck her. Most people at the party feared him so much they left immediately when the yelling started. Later it was reported to the police he had continued to hit her with the horseshoe while crying and yelling over and over again, “You promised, you promised,” while blood and tissue splashed everywhere.

By the time we arrived, Mom was dead. Long dead. Her forehead was gashed open and missing. Brain matter was spilling out from the area where the forehead used to be and over what was left of her face to the chin. Everything above her nose was smashed into something looking more like a bowl of spaghetti sauce than a human head. She was lying on the floor with a large pool of brain fluid and blood around her head.

The sixteen-year-old son was handcuffed and sitting in the back of the police cruiser. He was still crying and saying over and over to no one in particular,

She said we could have more beer. She said we could have more beer. She said we could have more beer…”

He was returning to the county facility, and Mom would never pick him up again. Today, at sixteen, this boy’s life had ended, just like his Mom’s.

There was nothing more for us except to report what had happened and request the coroner. We then gathered our equipment and returned it to the ambulance. While there, I grabbed another white sheet and returned to the trailer to cover Mom. We were far from our response zone, so we needed to start back as soon as possible. Our return drive would take a long time.

What a shift. What’s happening today?” my partner asked as he was driving.

I don’t know,” I replied. “But we’ve already used too many sheets.”

During our drive, we had time for a bathroom break and to buy some fast food to eat as we drove. Before returning to our station, we had to stop at the hospital to replenish our supply of sheets. As we left the hospital, I grabbed the mic and called dispatch.

What’s happening with the other ambulances? Are they as busy as we are?” I asked.

No,” she responded. “You two are the lucky ones today.”

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