Escape From Death

The Slaybaugh Story

By Rose Slaybaugh



It happened on Sunday, August 19, 1945, at about nine o'clock in the morning. Two boys, fifteen and nineteen years old, had left their home near Chicago and started out on a life of crime, which was to end in the Oregon State Penitentiary. They had arrived in Gold Beach, looked the little town over, and waited until the early hours of the morning. They picked out the store they were going to rob, a ready-to-wear establishment. They broke the glass in the door and gained entrance. When they had their car loaded and were ready to go on south, something happened. There was a bakery shop next door, and the baker had come down early to start the ovens. He heard a commotion next door through the partition, discovered what was going on, and gave the alarm. The boys were arrested and placed in jail. They had several guns in their car, and one of the boys had concealed a tiny pistol in his shirt sleeve. This gun was overlooked by the officer.

The following morning the boys held up the sheriff when he went into the jail to talk to them. Taking his car keys and gun, and tying him up and locking him in the jail, they jumped into his car and started south.

The sheriff knew they couldn't get very far. There is only one highway down the coast, with the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east. The boys started south; then they turned around and started north again, soon catching up with a new Pontiac driven by an elderly man. The boys were driving with authority, for there was a siren on the sheriff's car. They drove up behind the Pontiac and sounded the siren. The boys jumped out, ordered the people out of the car, and drove off, leaving the sheriff's car behind. They were now disguised in this second car and traveling north, going toward Gold Beach again.

By this time the sheriff had called a passer-by for help and had been let out of jail. The alarm had been given, a posse formed, and all the highways blocked. The coast highway is very crooked in that section of the country and about thirty miles an hour is as fast as one can drive safely. But right in front of the tract that we bought the road straightens out for about a mile and a quarter, and going north it is slightly downhill. At the end of this straightaway there is a very sharp curve to the right around a ravine.

Some of the officers had already reached the Wiener place, inquiring if they had seen anything of the lads. The Wieners are Seventh-day Adventist friends of ours who had moved to Gold Beach. Just then the boys drove past at a terrific speed. (The officers told us later that they must have been going eighty-five or ninety miles an hour.)

Fred Wimer shouted, "Officer, I don't know who you're after, but if I were you, I'd take after that car."

"No," said the sheriff, "we're not after anyone in a Pontiac. We're after two boys in my car."

Nevertheless, Wimer shouted again, "The way those people are driving, they're going to kill someone." Just then they heard a crash.

While the foregoing events were taking place, "Dad" Wiener had come to our place and asked Roy if he could help them get their power saw ready for work. Roy is always happy to help his friends whenever he can, so he got ready to go, thinking I was going with him.

But I said, "I must stay home this morning and do a little work. I'd like to work in the garden a little while and perhaps do a little canning."

"Well," he said, "I'll run along, and you plan to go with me this afternoon. I'll be home at one o'clock for lunch. You plan your work so you can go with me, and we'll work and visit and have a good time."

I said, "All right, that will be fine."

Since we had become Christians we never started our day's work or journey without first getting down on our knees and asking God's watchcare over us. We had had our worship before Roy got ready to go.

So he left the house. He took just a step or two and came back. Thinking he had forgotten the car keys, I said, "No, you have them."

"Oh, yes, I've got the keys." But he came into the house and said, "Rose, have we had our worship this morning?"

"Why," I said, "yes, don't you remember?"

"Well, I was just thinking about it," he said. "But let's kneel again and ask God to watch over each of us."

So there in our tiny little kitchen we knelt and again asked God's watchcare over us. With this he left the house again. Down the little lane he went to where we parked the car. I watched him as he stood there for several moments, with his hand on the door. Then slowly he turned around and came back up to the house.

I said, "What is it this time, dear?"

He came all the way into the house and said, "Rose, what did you say you were going to do this morning?"

I told him.

He said, "I wish you wouldn't do anything this morning. Come in the living room here, sit on the davenport, and watch the boats down on the river." We had a large window overlooking the mouth of the river. I sensed that he was worried about something.

I said, "Roy, are you worried about anything this morning?"

"No," he said, "I'm not worried about myself, but I never like to leave you behind." We stayed pretty close to one another since we lost Jack.

He had a premonition that something was going to happen, but he thought it was going to happen to me.

"You'd better run along now, Roy," I said, "or we won't either of us get anything done."

With that he was gone. This was about nine o'clock in the morning. As he was slowly driving around the dangerous outer curve I have mentioned, the boys suddenly appeared, driving at terrific speed. They crashed into the front left-hand corner of our car, and those cars just doubled around one another. In our travels all over the United States we have seen many automobile accidents, but we have never seen a car more demolished than the one the boys were driving that morning. It was nothing but a mass of wrinkled metal and broken glass, and yet the two boys managed to crawl out of it. Our car was also demolished. But with Roy it was a different story. He was taken to the hospital, badly injured.

I, meanwhile, was busy all morning. At one o'clock I had lunch ready and was waiting for Roy. Soon some one walked around the front part of the house. I looked through the window and saw it was Vicky Wimer (Mrs. Wimer) and her father-in-law, "Dad" Wimer. I called to them to come in.

"Did you come with Roy?" I asked. "No"

"Well," I said, "he'll be here in just a moment, and then we can all have lunch together."

Mrs. Wimer said, "No, Rose, Roy isn't coming home."

"Oh, yes, he is."

"No, Rose," she said. "Roy got hurt"

"Did he in some way get mixed up with the saw?"

"No, there were two boys who ran into him."

"Vicky, where is Roy?" I asked, frightened.

"He's in the hospital."

"Is he badly hurt?"

She said, "I don't think so; just a little bump on the head."

I knew very well that people are not taken to the hospital with little bumps on their heads. "Wait just a moment while I change my clothes, and I'll go back with you," I said. I felt something was wrong.

"No," she said, "I mustn't wait now, Rose. The bus is due right now and Clyde will come, and I must be there when the bus reaches the station or he won't know where I am." Clyde was her husband, a minister, who was coming from Spokane to spend a few days' vacation on the coast.

I forgot all about Dad Wimer. He walked out and around the house. Hurriedly I changed my clothes. I couldn't wait for anybody to come back and pick me up.

I must get to Roy! I left the house and walked down the little lane. Then I looked back and saw Brother Wiener. I called to him and said, "Come, let's walk on over! I can't wait for anybody!"

He is usually a talkative little man, but this time he didn't have one thing to say. He looked pale and frightened, and we walked along swiftly. It is quite a walk across the bridge, almost half a mile. We had reached the end of it when a bus passed us, and in just a few minutes the Wimers picked us up.

Soon we stopped in front of the Gold Beach Hospital. As I was getting out of the car, someone said to me, "You may go in. The doctor is with your husband."

Why hadn't they called me before? The accident had happened in the morning, and now it was after one o'clock. During the war doctors and nurses were scarce, and there was only one doctor along that coast highway for many miles. He was an elderly man and was kept busy almost day and night. On Sunday morning he would drive many miles up the coast and then back into the hills to his ranch where he could have a little rest and recreation away from his busy office. There was not even a telephone out there. And that is where he was when the accident happened. His office nurse had to send a messenger to find him, and it was one o'clock when he arrived in town. The nurses did not want me at the hospital until he came.



Stepped through the door into the small hallway. The first door to the right was open. I looked in. There were three or four beds all made up, but only one patient. He was lying in the bed nearest the door. I looked at him and recognized him as Roy. His head was all bandaged. The bed railings were up, and his hands were tied down to them. At the foot of the bed were his blood-soaked clothes and shoes. There was a man standing by his side, and when I stepped in, he backed away.

I said, "Are you the doctor?"

He was a very quiet man and very deliberate in everything he said. He nodded his head and said, "Yes, I am."

I walked over to him and took both of his hands in mine and said, "Doctor, please tell me, how badly is my husband hurt?"

He said, "Very badly."

"I can see that. But I mean what are his chances for life?"

He said, "Mrs. Slaybaugh, you're asking me a very frank question."

"Doctor, I must have a frank answer. There are only two of us, and we're here alone. There are certain things to be thought of and planned."

"Of course you should know," he agreed. "I can't give you very much hope for his recovery. Perhaps one chance in a million."

I wondered how he could be so sure. I didn't think that they had taken any X-ray pictures of him yet. He must have sensed my thoughts when he said, "It's this way, Mrs. Slaybaugh. I just examined your husband's injuries. He has a compound fracture of the skull, and the cerebral fluid is draining out of the left eye and ear. There is no possible way of stopping it."

"Then I must hurry and send for his people," I exclaimed.

"Yes," he said, "don't lose any time if you want them to get here. By the way, where do they live?"

I said, "Some are near Spokane, others in Portland, and in Seattle."

"Then don't send for them."

"Doctor, they love Roy," I protested. "They would want to be here."

"Mrs. Slaybaugh, you haven't understood what I've told you. Would you want these people to start down here on that long journey and then arrive too late?"

"Oh," I cried, "will it be so soon?"

He said, "Why don't you call one of your relatives and let them tell the others, and we'll wait a little while."

That is what I did. Then I looked over at the bed and asked him if it would be all right to talk to Roy.

He said, "Yes, it won't hurt him one bit, but he'll not hear a word you say, because he's unconscious."

I walked around behind the bed. There were perhaps three or four feet between the bed and the wall, and there was a window there. Roy looked so helpless lying there tied down. First I untied the right hand, and then I wondered how I could get the railing down. I didn't know the mechanism of these beds, but I lifted it up, and down it came. I was just untying the other hand when a lady in white stepped in.

"You can't do that," she warned.

"Why, nurse? Is it necessary to have him tied down like this?"

"What you are doing is dangerous. The first thing he'll do, although he is unconscious, will be to reach up and tear the dressings off his head. That could cause instant death, and I can't take that responsibility."

"Nurse," I begged, "I have only one request to make. Please don't ask me to leave this bedside until it's all over."

She then said kindly, "That's all right, Mrs. Slaybaugh. You may stay as long as you want to. But we must put the railing up, and we must tie those hands down again."

I was glad she insisted, for then I had something to lean over during those long, weary hours I stood there; and it was much better to have his hands tied, for he didn't realize what was going on. The hospital staff took wonderful care of him, and the nurses were all kind to me. That evening they brought in a special nurse for night duty. She stood on one side of the bed and I on the other, and finally morning came. This was Monday morning. Between nine and ten o'clock the doctor came in and said, "I see we still have our patient with us. Now we must do something. Would you like to call in your own physician?"

"Oh, no, our doctor is far away in Spokane."

"Is there anyone else down here you would like to call in?" he asked.

I said, "Yes, there is."

As it happened, we had once spent a week end in Crescent City, California, seventy miles away. We were lonely for church fellowship and had driven down there one Friday afternoon. We called at the minister's home and were invited to spend the night there. During our visit the minister told us about the wonderful doctor there and what a fine Christian man he was.

I said, "Would you please call for Dr. F. M. Stump at Crescent City? We've never met him, but I am sure he's a good doctor, and he's a member of our church."

The doctor said, "Oh, yes, I'll be glad to call him. Dr. Stump and I have worked together on many cases."

He went to the telephone and called and was told that Dr. and Mrs. Stump were out of town and would be gone some time. He came and told me and asked, "Is there anyone else you'd like to call?"

"No, Roy is your patient. Please do everything you can to save his life! Why don't you take him away from this little place out to some larger hospital where you can have better things to work with?"

He answered, "We wouldn't dare move him in his condition. But I would like to have another doctor help me."

Several hours later the door opened, and in walked four professional people, all in white-two doctors and two nurses. I watched as they took the bandages off Roy's head, and when I saw the terrible wound in his forehead and the ear, which had been tucked up in the bandage, I was afraid I couldn't stand it. I had to get out into the fresh air. As I went out, r overheard the nurse saying, "Doctor, what are you going to do with this ear?"

"We'll sew it back on, and then he'll be all in one Piece."

It seemed hours until they were all through fixing him up. They had now taken the X-ray pictures showing the fractured skull and the broken jawbones. The doctor seemed to avoid me as he went out to his car, but I followed him and said, "Please, doctor, tell me, what did you find?"

"Of course, Mrs. Slaybaugh, you should know. As I told you yesterday when I first examined him, his skull is fractured and the cerebral fluid is still oozing out of his eye and ear. There's no way of stopping that. I repaired the wound in his forehead the very best I could. I sewed the ear back on, but don't worry about that. If he lives we can get an artificial ear made for him. They make them of plastic so natural-looking you can hardly detect them from a real ear. Both of his jaws are fractured, but I can fix them. I can wire his teeth together, and they'll grow back quite normal."

He hesitated when he told me about the eye. "Mrs. Slaybaugh, the sight in the left eye is destroyed."

"Do you mean he'll be blind?"

"No, I've examined the right eye," the doctor answered, "and it will be all right. But don't worry about that if he lives, we can have an artificial eye made for him."

I said, "Doctor, we'll get along all right, but what about his mind?" He didn't answer me.

That night they brought him another special nurse for night duty. She did not work at her profession all the time, but always responded to an emergency. Her name was Mrs. Jennie Schneidau. We stood together all night with our patient-she on one side of the bed and I on the other. Toward dawn she said, "Mrs. Slaybaugh, don't you have any people? Don't you have any relatives?"

"Oh, yes, especially Roy. He has many."

"Why aren't some of them here? Why are you here all alone?"

I told her the doctor had asked me not to send for anybody for a little while. She said, "I don't care what the doctor told you; you can't go through this thing alone. You must have someone here with you. Go and call someone. Slip down to the telephone office about three blocks down the street and call somebody now, before I go off duty."

I put on my coat and started out. Someone was opening the outer door. I waited a moment, thinking another patient was coming in, but no one came. Again

I opened the door, and then I saw who was there. It was Roy's brother, Joe Slaybaugh, and he wasn't alone. His two sons and one of the son's wives were there. My youngest brother also came about the same time. So I wasn't alone after all.



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