Grant Money Needed For Handless Musician To Continue Entertaining Seniors
by James William Rasmussen
(Plummer, ID, USA)
My name is Bill Rasmussen; my given name is James William Rasmussen. I'm now 64. I was born March 19, 1947, in Columbus, Georgia. My family moved to Princeton, ID, a year after I was born.
I graduated in 1965 from Potlatch High School in Potlatch, ID. I worked around that area for a couple of years, got married, and moved to Great Falls, MT, where I worked as office/parts manager at Mosch Electric.
My wife at that time was expecting our second child. I had two children from a previous marriage, so I was working after hours at a second job in a machine shop as a lathe operator. I played honky-tonk piano in the bars around Great Falls on the weekend.
The evening of May 11, 1971, I was on the roof of the Mosch Electric building, painting along the edging of the roof, 22 inches away from a high-voltage line.
At 7:45 that evening, a power surge went through the power line and arced over to my paint-roller, which was aluminum -- a good conductor of electricity. I woke up two months later in a hospital in Great Falls.
August 9, 1971, I woke up after nearly three months of being unconscious, not remembering anything of what happened or where I was. In fact, I thought I was still a senior in high school.
My arms were bandaged up -- they were awfully short -- and my legs were bandaged from my hips to my knees.
My doctor explained that I had been burned by 13,000 volts of electricity and had lost my arms below the elbows.
The electricity had entered my hands and exited through my upper legs, and there was a 90% chance of never using my legs again.
Since I was thrown 30 feet of the roof of the building I was painting, I received a brain-stem injury that caused the memory loss -- about six years of my life.
By the grace of God, I did learn to walk again and have learned to use prosthetic devices efficiently.
Worker's Compensation paid me for almost four years. Then they gave me $40 as my last check.
My medical and my monthly check stopped in May 1975, when Social Security began paying about $190 a month.
Because of the total disability, trying to convince any prospective employer that I could handle the job was futile. Their reasoning was that I wasn't insurable. My wife left me because of my inability to support her.
It didn't take long to learn to drive a car with a steering knob-ring. Because of my failed marriages and a low monthly income, I eventually went to live on a mountain near Plummer, ID.
I bought 10 acres, with payments of only $110 a month. It took me four years to build a home by tearing down two old houses and a barn, which gave me the material I needed.
I had a generator to supply my electricity; I packed my water from town. While all of this was going on, I bought a musical keyboard and perfected playing it with my hooks.
In 1975, after I lost my hands, my first job was electric controller at Fairchild Air Force Base. After two years and because of the stress of pending divorce, I had to quit.
In the six plus years that followed, I was a private investigator and traveled the Pacific Northwest looking for missing people.
I settled in Lakeview, OR, in November of 1982 and managed a motel until 1987.
I then moved to Plummer, ID, where I built my home. I was able to go to local nursing homes to practice playing my keyboard and in doing so, word got out to the local television program in Spokane. This was in 1990.
The "Positively Northwest" program crew followed me around as I was building my house as well as to a nursing home I was playing at that day.
I have been able to bring in some income by entertaining at nursing and retirement homes, senior centers and community functions.
I had a regular route for 15-17 years from Coeur d'Alene, ID, to Boise, ID, for 2 weeks a month (about 13 places); some paid my gas and some paid my room for the night. I've had to stop because of the high price of gas, and I had to move because my house burned down.
After my house burned down, I moved to La Grande, OR, and met a widow who had performed as a ventriloquist in that area. We were married and have been entertaining at nursing homes and retirement centers.
We would like to be able to continue entertaining the old folks throughout Idaho, Montana and Oregon, but we do not have the funds to do it. To simply pay the expenses would make it possible.
Presently we have a motor home and have parked it at friends' homes. A piece of property has been offered to us because of my home burning down in 2007, which we would love to make our home.
However, to bring electricity up to it by Kootenai Electric from Coeur d'Alene has been appraised at $25,000 and to drill a well is estimated at $25,000. A septic system is estimated at $6,000 or more, and a slab and roof for the motor home at $15,000.
I hope to find grant money to help me rebuild and allow me and my wife to continue entertaining the old folks.
Go to www.soultones.com, if you want to see part of what I do. Scroll down and click on to Bill Rasmussen (in the middle of the page). This will take you to photos, my music and my story.