Book Review: Scenes from a charmed life

March 1, 2011 11:57 PM

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Farm kid. Dairy producer. Ag teacher. Nutritionist.

International consultant. Risk taker. Daredevil. Spiritualist. One incredibly lucky dude.

Scott Gottschalk is all of these. In his memoir Nine Lives to Eternity: A True Story of Repeatedly Cheating Death, the Minnesota agriculturist describes 27 near-death experiences he has had in his 55 years here on earth.


These range from drinking ant poison as a toddler and farm machinery accidents as a youth to motorcycle and car crashes and an episode with a runaway mule team as an adult. And then there was the time he and his wife were trapped in a van in the midst of a Ugandan riot.

Gottschalk has broken or fractured 26 bones, including 11 ribs and three vertebrae. He has been rendered unconscious at least five times, the last of which was when he lay undiscovered for 4½ hours in the Nevada desert following a close encounter with a mule deer while cruising his Harley at 75 mph.

"I was alone, I was unconscious, I was severely injured, I was nearly dead, and my fate lay with God," he writes of this last encounter.

Through it all, Gottschalk retained his zest for life. And that is why you should consider reading this book.

He has taught ag classes, run his own farm and consulted in no less than six foreign countries. These include Poland, just months after it was reopened to the West following the fall of the Soviet Union, and Afghanistan in 2006, when the Taliban still controlled much of the rural countryside.

Gottschalk’s writing can be wordy and cumbersome. Few people I know "dialogue" with their spouse; Gottschalk does so repeatedly.

He is at his best in describing the numerous action scenes: eluding police as a 24-year-old on his Yamaha XS1100 at 130 mph; going for help after hitting two horses in a South Dakota blizzard; escaping a bar brawl in Poland.

Each time, he quotes Scripture, thanks God and then hurtles forward to his next adventure. I just can’t imagine the difficulty in calculating his insurance premium!

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