JOPLIN, Mo. —
For more than a week now, budding country singer Kaleb McIntire has sat and slept inside a Joplin hotel room, slowly mending from a horrific car accident that took place outside Oklahoma City late last month.
For a man known for his high-energy stage performances and constantly on the move, the dormant lifestyle inside the hotel room has been torture.
“Not being able to play and do my thing, the things I love to do?” McIntire paused to shake his head. “It’s driving me absolutely crazy.”
For the self-proclaimed “reformed bad boy,” 2012 had been shaping up to be a banner year for the regional Colgate Country Showdown winner.
McIntire had released his newest single, “Redneck In All of Us” back in January -- reaching No. 33 on the Country Breakout Charts by Music Row. A music video, with portions filmed in Joplin by veteran director Julian Cjojnacki, soon followed.
He fielded a number of offers from interested record labels, driving back and forth between Joplin and Nashville, Tenn. to sit through one long meeting after another.
And all the while -- three or four times a week -- he and his band performed at night clubs and honkytonks throughout the Greater South.
“Music is the only thing that makes sense to me,” McIntire said, who grew up in nearby Diamond. “I am a guy who just worked his whole life to fulfill this dream. Right now we’re doing better by ourselves than what we’ve gotten (in offers) from some (record labels). I’m waiting for a dynamite offer.”
And than the accident outside Oklahoma City happened.
He was driving eastbound on Interstate 40, from Dallas to Nashville, the lanes around him empty save for a white pickup truck way ahead of him. Glancing down to fiddle with his Tahoe’s CD player, he looked up in time to see the back end of the pickup truck filling his windshield.
“I was a half-inch off his tail,” he said.
He reflexively swerved out of the way, losing control, crossing the medium into oncoming traffic. In the next few seconds, one-by-one, four different vehicles would smash into his SUV.
The first three cars crushed the Tahoe into a box surrounding him in the driver’s seat, though he sustained no real injuries.
“It made a wall right in front of me; all around me, (but) it didn’t touch me.”
The fourth vehicle had enough time to swerve, so the subsequent impact was a glancing blow. But this one did all the damage to McIntire.
The impact nearly decapitated him. It wiped away his elbow and part of his biceps muscle on his left arm in a spray of blood. All his ribs were broken; his sternum cracked; his left lung punctured; and two back vertebrae cracked, causing his left foot to go numb.
But he was alive. Somehow.
“Man, I tell you, the Lord was with me,” the singer said. “I was one lucky dude.”