Jonesboro Sun, July 16, 2007
BY BEN COWENS
SUN STAFF WRITER
JONESBORO — It’s Sunday morning and a dirt track off Old Harrisburg Road is buzzing with activity. A half-dozen riders whip
around the winding, bumpy trail, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.
Shane Tacker is among them, a Bono resident with nearly a decade of racing experience. From the shade of a canvas
tent 50 yards away, a handful of onlookers watch as he zips around a curve and vanishes into a depression on the track. He
returns to view just long enough to launch himself over a jump, only to disappear once more.
Tacker’s motocross vanishing act was more a matter of obstruction than magic, but his participation on this day is nothing
short of amazing.
Every time he hops on his bike, he does so with only one leg.
Tacker, whose left leg was amputated eight inches above his knee in 2005, will compete in the Moto-X event this Thursday in
the second Extremity Games in Orlando, Fla. The games are July 19-21 and feature such outdoors and extreme sports as
BMX and mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, wakeboarding, skateboarding and surfing. All participants are living with
limb loss or limb difference.
It will be Tacker’s first trek to the games, but he’s been racing for more than a decade. Just as he did before the accident,
Tacker competes in the Arkansas Hare-Scramble Championship Series (AHSCS), which holds cross country motorcycle races across the
state. He’s that organization’s vice president and treasurer, and retains sponsorships from Powersport Graphics and
Jonesboro Prosthetic and Orthotic.
Tacker uses a prosthesis day-to-day, but doesn’t compete while wearing an artificial limb. He prefers to ride naturally — and
as fast as possible.
“He’s fast,” said friend and fellow rider Jeff Wilson. “We’ve got a 2-mile loop that I’ve been riding for several weeks. And when
he gets in front of me, I can’t stay (within) about three corners of him.”
Added another friend, Matt Burnett: “He jumps out and outruns a lot of guys at the races.”
Who knows how many vehicles Shane Tacker had safely crossed paths with over the course of his lifetime. Surely thousands
upon thousands, coming in all shapes and sizes — most without more than a passing glance.
On Aug. 12, 2005, he crossed a vehicle that would alter his world.
It was a simple maneuver, an oncoming vehicle attempting to turn left from Dan Avenue onto Willett Road. The young driver
looked up the road, spotted an opening in the rush hour traffic and turned hard to beat the oncoming cars. In his haste, the
driver didn’t notice Tacker zipping by at around 50 mph on his motorcycle, blocking the path.
“He was trying to look ahead at all the traffic and see the gap and make the turn into a curve,” Tacker said. “He never slowed
down. He was turning hard enough his tires were squealing. He never saw me.”
The oncoming vehicle slammed into Tacker’s left side at a 45-degree angle and the bumper made a direct impact with his left
leg. The initial injuries were compounded when Tacker and his bike hit the pavement. Man and machine slid along the
pavement until finally coming to rest 91 feet from the collision.
Somewhere along the line Tacker lost his helmet, which came to rest 200 feet from the accident, and suffered a large gash in
his head. His leg wasn’t nearly as fortunate.
“The level of amputation, that was my highest break,” Tacker said. “From there down my leg was shredded. Cassie, my wife,
told me you could see bone pieces laying beside me on the gurney. My pelvis opened up and was broken in three places
and I tore my spleen.”
The first person on the scene was David Ellison, a friend of Shane’s who just happened to be just a few cars behind when
the accident took place. Tacker said Ellison kept him calm and kept him from trying to stand up and put pressure on the leg.
Ellison called Shane’s brother Trav, who was visiting with their mother Lynn at the time.
Five minutes later they reached the scene.
“He was sitting on the side of the highway in a daze,” Lynn said. “He said, ‘Mom I think I messed my leg up.’”
An ambulance took Tacker to St. Bernards, where he was treated before being sent by helicopter to Memphis later that night.
Burnett, a respiratory therapist, was working in the St. Bernards emergency room that evening when he found out what
happened to his friend.
“I don’t know what to tell you. His leg was mush, it was awful. It scared us,” Burnett said. “It was as bad of a limb injury as I’d
By the time Tacker arrived in Memphis he was completely unaware of the chaos that surrounded him. The medicine he
received had intentionally rendered him unconscious, so he had no idea that his fate was becoming clear.
“That first night when he was in the unit, intibated and unconscious, the head orthopedic surgeon told me at that time ... the
leg needed to go,” Lynn said.
The family would not acquiesce; it would have to be Shane’s decision.
An unfortunate loss
In a traumatic situation, anything can trigger a flood of emotions. In Shane TACKER’s case, it was a simple signature.
“It wasn’t a whole bunch of pages,” Tacker said “It was a short little form that basically said, ‘You understand that we’re fixin’
to take your limb and there is no reversal.’ Man, I signed that and when I finished the signature, inside my head there was
just a crash. The reality kind of soaked in.”
It had been a week since the accident and Tacker knew what he had to do. His doctor said keeping the leg would require 20-
25 surgeries over an 18-month period. Even then he would have walked with a severe limp and suffer from near-constant
Or he could lose the leg.
“‘If I was your son laying here, what would the choice be?’” Tacker recalled asking the doctor. “He said, ‘Without a doubt, I’d
tell him to get the amputation.’”
Ten days after the accident, Tacker went into surgery to remove his leg. It didn’t take long for the decision to pay dividends.
“When I woke up from coming out of surgery, it was like a different person,” Tacker said. “That leg was so bad off it was
sapping everything out of me. Things started to get better after that leg was taken off.”
Back on the bike
Cassie Tacker thought it was the medicine talking. Shane thought of it as a worthy goal. On Thanksgiving weekend — just
three months after his surgery was scheduled — he expected to race in the Riverfront Grand Prix motocross in Fort Smith. It
was the final AHSCS race of the year.
This proclamation came from a man she said was too weak to hold a conversation without losing his breath.
“He was telling the doctors to do the amputation right because he had a race in three months,” Cassie said. “Those races
are over two hours. I’m going, ‘He’s out of his mind.’”
With his goal in sight, Shane set out to make it happen. With a lot of rehab and a little conniving — he never let his doctors in
on the plan — Tacker started and finished the race.
“I showed up and kind of forced myself to get on the bike,” he said. “I didn’t ride the motorcycle, I just sort of drove it ... I just
survived for two hours is all I did.
“As the race went on I could tell the word was passing around, because around every corner ... more and more flashes (from
cameras) started going off ... It was special.”
Business as usual
It’s been almost two years since he lost his leg, and Shane Tacker is riding like never before. He’s in his ninth season as an
AHSCS rider and continues to pursue his passion. Leaving his dirt career behind was never really an option.
“I was scared not to continue,” he said. “A bird is going to fly, a fish is going to swim. That is what I do. That is what all my
buddies do. That’s just the way it is. To one day lose a limb, that’s bad enough and then you’re going to lose (riding) too? I
had to get back. I had to.”
Although he hasn’t worked at Hughey Auto Parts since he lost his leg, Tacker’s been known to take on a restoration project.
Right before the accident, he promised a bike to Jeff Wilson, who hadn’t been on a bike in seven years and hadn’t owned
one since 1987.
The bike Wilson was promised? It was the same bike that was totaled when Tacker lost his leg.
So the two worked on the machine together in the months following the accident and Wilson made sure TACKER took the
first ride on the revamped motorcycle.
Through the experience, Tacker gained a greater appreciation for his family and friends, including Winston and Shelly
Brown, who were with him almost every day in the hospital and set up a Fun Ride in Mayflower to offset some of his medical
Without their support, Shane is sure he would have been much worse off.
“I’m super, super thankful to all of my family and friends and anybody who did anything along the way, because it was the first
time in my life where I was knocked down and felt absolutely helpless,” he said.
With a stable of friends at his side and a bike underneath him, Shane Tacker now has all the help he needs.