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Zeb Bell Figures He'll Make It with Friends like These

By Katrina Odom
Published September 27, 1999 in the South Idaho Press

MURTAUGH - What started out as a sore shoulder turned into a life-threatening situation for one Murtaugh man. Now his friends are rallying around him, seeking donations and putting on a money-making event to help him.

Zeb Bell thought on Aug. 31, the pain in his shoulder was probably from roping the night before, or from an old injury. He would soon find out that pain could kill him.

Bell was the announcer at the Evanston Cowboy Rodeo Days Rodeo in Wyoming when the tragedy hit.

"The pain was nothing like I'd ever felt before," said Bell. "I've had a lot of pain before, but this was something else."

Bell endured a terrific amount of pain prior to the diagnosis, thinking at the time that it was just an injury to the shoulder.

"I really had no idea where I got the injury from," Bell said. "I just figured it was from an old injury."

After nearly passing out from the pain, and not being able to walk, the tough cowboy consented to be taken to the hospital, where his temperature registered at 104 degrees.

Later, after a series of tests, Bell was told he had a staph infection.

"I thought OK., so, I've got a staph infection," Bell said."I told the doctors if they would let me go back and announce the rodeo, I'd promise to go and check myself into the hospital the next morning."

The doctor looked at me and said, "If you go do the rodeo you might not be here tomorrow."

Bell was stunned.

A large pocket had formed inside the back shoulder bone, and was full of staph infection. Surgery would have to be performed soon or Bell could lose his arm and possibly even his life.

"I just don't know how this happened to me," Bell said. "I hadn't changed anything in my life."

Bell is now at home resting, and will be for the next six weeks. He has been placed on IV antibiotics, which he receives several times a day.

This has had a devastating impact on his family, which is living on just the income of Bell's wife. Deanne.

Bell has been self-employed for many years, so his inactivity means his income is cut off.

Bell has been the announcer at many area rodeos, including Cassia County fairs.

Bell also has a radio talk show on K-BAR. The show is called "Back to the Farm."

"We talk about everything on the show," said Bell. "It's not really a farm show, it's more like morals and getting back to the values of the old days. We talk about everything from abortion to values, just everything."

Bell misses doing his show and hopes to go back to doing it soon. But the future is unclear.

Bell has had several other major problems in his life as well.

When Bell was 5 years old, he contracted polio, and for the next 11 years, he would be in and out of the hospital.

"At least every year, I was in the hospital to have an operation for the polio," said Bell.

Bell overcame his polio and met his wife, Deanne. Shortly after they were married, tragedy stuck again. Bell was in a plane crash in November 1972, but recovered well. Because of Bell's polio and the later accident, he has been on crutches most of his life. But Bell's perseverance and tough cowboy attitude wouldn't let him dwell on the past.

This bout for Bell has been tough for him to handle, though.

"It's really hard for me to just be sitting here," said Bell. "Sometimes I feel like going off the deep end. Then I think of the people worse off than me. I just don't know how they do it, and I pray for their patience."

"I'm determined to get through this," Bell said. "This has been harder than when I was little and in the hospital all the time. After enjoying 27 years of nothing major, it's hard."

Bell vows he will go back as soon as he can, back to his announcing, roping, riding and radio show.

"My wife, Deanne, has been just super," said Bell with a smile. "It's really tough on a marriage when something like this happens and you don't know where the next money will come from to pay the bills."

Bell does have medical insurance, but it will not cover everything.

And he has some caring friends who are trying to help in any way they can.

Just the other day, a wheelchair-access ramp was added to his home by his friends.

Bell's friends (who don't want any recognition) also came up with the idea to help their friend by having a benefit auction and a dinner for Bell, which will include the singing entertainment of Ernie Sites, Johnny U and Dirk Godby. The money raised will help Bell and his family until Bell can one day, hopefully, go back to work.

"My friends are the greatest people around," said Bell. "It's a God's blessing to have friends like them. How do you thank people like this to equal the measure what they have done?"

Bell contemplates this question every day.

A bank account has been set up for Bell. People wishing to donate may send money to the Zeb Bell Fund c/o D.L. Evans Bank, 2281 Overland Ave., Burley.

Those interested in attending the dinner and auction Oct. 3 at 6 p.m., may call for tickets from Ron Elliss at 677-4471; Lewis Eilers 1-800-736-1953; Kyle Carpenter 431-1546; Bill Scott 436-0322; or Jerry Von Eldern 543-8240.