Joe Tagliente is lucky to be alive, and he knows it.
“You’ve heard the old saying, ‘A cat has nine lives?’ I’ve used up eight and a half,” he said. “I have no more room for error.”
In September, Tagliente was seriously injured while hanging a tree stand on his property near Nellis.
“My son and I had placed a ladder on the tree a couple of weeks prior to the accident,” said the 77-year-old. “He cautioned me not to hang a stand until he was with me. Who listens to their 45-year-old son?”
Tagliente admits he should have known better. Twice before, he had fallen and suffered spinal injuries. The first accident occurred 33 years ago, when he failed to follow the instructions for using a climbing stand.
“I didn’t keep my weight where I was supposed to, nor did I have the two parts of the stand tied, nor did I have a safety harness on. BAM!” he said.
He landed on the bottom portion of the stand and, without realizing it, fractured three vertebrae in his back. He didn’t find out until years later, when an X-ray revealed the injury. Then, three years ago, he took a tumble off a ladder while pruning a tree on his property and suffered another fracture.
Despite those experiences, Tagliente decided to try to hang the stand by himself.
“As I climbed up the ladder, I cut several small limbs,” he recalled. “I had a gut feeling I should have cut them flush to the tree, but I didn’t.”
He tied the stand’s platform to the tree with a new 25-foot rope.
“The platform was real sturdy, I thought,” he said. “I normally chain the back of my tree stands, but on this day, I couldn’t find my lock. I wrapped the rope on the backside to a large limb.”
He didn’t tighten the rope well enough. When he climbed onto the stand to test it, the rope in the back came free.
“I grabbed some apple limbs as I fell, and one caught me under my armpit, ripping my arm open to the bone,” he said. “When I hit the ground, I broke three bones in my left ankle. I couldn’t stand, and my arm was bleeding. I knew if I didn’t get off the hill to a farmer’s house, I would die.”
He took off his T-shirt, wrapped it around his arm, and pressed the injured limb to his chest, and wrapped it tightly around his injured arm. He dug his good heel into the dirt and scooted on his side to his truck, parked about 30 feet away.
“The shirt was starting to get saturated,” he said. “I only stood on my left ankle long enough to get into the truck. People probably could hear my scream for miles.”
He drove about a mile to the farm, leaving “blood everywhere in the truck.” His neighbors called 911. After being stabilized at a local hospital, Tagliente was helicoptered to Charleston Area Medical Center. He spent nine days in the hospital and an additional 23 days in rehab.
He only recently had the boot taken off his foot. His arm, which was torn three-quarters of its length, still hasn’t healed.
Tagliente, a long-time educator in the Boone County school system, wants his ordeal to be a lesson to other tree-stand hunters. His message is simple and direct:
“Please, hunters, follow tree-stand manufacturers’ directions,” he said. “If you follow their recommendations, very few accidents will occur.”