40 years later, Oran man still lives with lead shot in his back

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ernie Glastetter was hunting squirrel, not quail, as in the vice president's hunting accident in Texas.

ORAN, Mo. -- Betty Glastetter says her husband of 49 years, Ernie, is much like the bobcat he has stuffed and mounted in their home.

"He has nine lives," she said.

Ernie definitely seems like he has some enchantment hanging over his head. He was born two months premature in 1933, he's had a heart attack, survived an accident at a chemical factory and a fall from a high tree stand.

But what happened to him 40 years ago while doing what he loves -- hunting -- was more traumatic than any of Ernie's other close calls. In July 1966, he was hit by a shotgun blast in the back while hunting for squirrel in the area near his rural Oran home.

He has more than 250 balls of lead shot in his back and head to prove it, along with unending pain.

"I heard something click, and I guess maybe it was the man's safety clicking off," Ernie recalled. "I turned, went to my knees and dropped my gun.

"I looked up and he was running toward me. He got within a few feet before he realized he shot a man."

The shooting was an accident, and the elderly man who shot Glastetter helped him get medical attention. Glastetter was surprised when he felt and heard the shot, and thought someone might be trying to kill him.

"It's a good thing I had dropped my gun, because I might have shot him."

After the shooting Glastetter, covered in blood, rushed to a hospital. He said he started to go into shock in the car, but made it in time.

"I thought maybe the time between me getting there and not getting there would be the difference between night and day, life and death," Glastetter said.

Once under medical care, Glastetter found out his luck had kicked in. The shot that hit him in the back and head hadn't hit any vital organs, even though Glastetter thought at first the back of his head had been shot off.

The doctors were as amazed as their patient by what happened.

"The doctor said 'It looks like he peppered you pretty good,'" Glastetter recalls.

Glastetter answered like an old country boy -- the kind whose first job was picking cotton by hand 12 hours a day and whose favorite pastimes are hunting and fishing.

"It feels like he shot the hell out of me," Glastetter told his doctors.

Meanwhile the family -- Betty and four children -- sat at home and waited for word on his health.

"You couldn't break down because you had to keep your cool for the kids," Betty said.

Gary Glastetter was only 3 years old when his dad was shot. All he can remember is thinking his father was dead.

But Glastetter went back to work in just three weeks and started hunting again three months afterward. The marks from the shots are gone, but he can still feel the balls inside his body, especially when the weather changes. Sometimes the pain makes him want to go insane, he said.

Glastetter still hunts and fishes when he can. Betty just wants to make sure his luck continues.

"I don't dare want to get him in a boat," she said. "He can't swim."

His luck has held up so far -- unlike that of the stuffed bobcat sitting in his house.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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