One Arm Bandit
John S. Payne, the notorious One Arm Bandit, was born to a rancher in the oil rich town of Shidler, Oklahoma on April 19, 1953. Ranch life with four brothers taught John to “Get out of the way or get run over”. John believes “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and “If there is a will, there is a way”.
On June 12, 1973, while tearing a house down for his dad and thinking the electricity had been shut off, John climbed an electric pole to cut some wires. Problem was, he was dead wrong about the status of the wires. 7,200 volts of electricity ran through his entire body for an unbearable 10 seconds. John remembers the electrocution clearly. He tried to release his grip, but could not. It burnt through his fingers of his right hand, releasing his grip and fell 25 feet to his death.
After lying dead on the ground for approximately five minutes, he came to with his sidekick pounding on his chest and giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Gary Hughes delivered John back from the dead, but he was in bad shape. The electricity grounded to the pole through his abdomen, leaving his intestines protruding. The voltage had also burnt his left thigh, as well, exposing his thighbone from his knee several inches up. His flaming clothes had to be put out upon reaching the ground. He couldn’t focus his eyes, he thought he was blind.
What is it like to receive a shock of 7,200 volts? “Super hot.” “It felt like my blood was boiling, and that my brain was going to explode. It felt like a monster was savagely attacking my body.”
The doctors wanted to cut off John’s left leg but he told them; “I can’t ride a horse with one leg, and if I can’t ride a horse I don’t want to live.” The doctors did, however, cut off his right arm below his shoulder.
Despite the massive electrocution, he survived. What hurt the most afterwards was his chest, which had been worked over by his rescuer during CPR. After a mad dash to the Ponca City Hospital, an ER nurse asked John what he was allergic to. While staring death in the face, John wittingly answered “Electricity makes me break-out a bit”, proving his sense of humor was still intact.
After 5 weeks in the Tulsa burn center, the doctor reported, “No apparent brain damage, but he will be short handed.” So John checked himself out and went home to start breaking a horse he had bought while in the hospital.
In 1975 John took a liking to Judy Crabtree and they married. John and Judy are responsible or what is now the most sought after gang in the rodeo world today, The One Arm Bandit Gang.
His occupations have included: Rancher, Saloon Owner, Gambler, Wild Cattle catcher, and Professional Rodeo Entertainer!
Thanks to family and friends, The One Arm Bandit & Co. has won the prestigious title of PRCA “Specialty Act of the Year” an unprecedented 12 times.
John believes anything can be accomplished through sheer nerve, determination, and the drive to excel in one’s field.