By Kristen Miller
KINGSTON, MN For as many near-fatal events as Scott Gottschalk has encountered in his 55 years on this earth, he has been told he must either have three times the lives of a cat or there is a guardian angel watching over him. He has become more convinced of the latter.
In his recently published book, “Nine Lives to Eternity,” Gottschalk, a rural Kingston resident, shares true stories of how he has repeatedly cheated death 27 times.
“From the very day of my most recent encounter with death, I’ve concluded that God’s plan for me is somehow not yet finished,” Gottschalk wrote in the book’s introduction.
What has been described as an inspirational and faith-driven human triumph, Gottschalk’s book gives 27 raw accounts of how he cheated death by what he is convinced is “spiritual divine intervention.”
Gottschalk was born on a livestock and cropping farm near Rochester. Even at a very young age, he was known to be a risk taker and an “adrenaline junkie.” He has lived by the motto, “Live life like you may die tomorrow.”
His book tells stories of farming accidents, falls from rooftops, motorcycle crashes, and work-related debacles that he none-the-less survived, but oftentimes, not without serious injury. Gottschalk’s several brushes with death have resulted in a total of 26 fractured bones, including a vertebrae that had been broken in three places.
In “Nine Lives to Eternity,” Gottschalk begins each chapter with a scripture that he feels aligns with that particular ordeal.
“Without my strong faith and belief in an all-loving and gracious God, I’m convinced that my life would have been cut short,” Gottschalk said.
His first life-threatening encounter came at just 9 months of age when he ingested ant poisoning and had to have his stomach pumped.
Gottschalk was 8 years old when he first witnessed what, he believes, was God guiding him through what could have been a tragic event for his entire family.
Gottschalk was a second-grader at the time and his family had just moved into a 100-year-old brick farmhouse near the community of Byron.
It was a blustery January day and school was let out early due to blizzard conditions and sub-zero temperatures.
His father was working nights as a urology technician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and questioned whether he would be back in time for morning chores if the storm continued.
In his book, Gottschalk goes on to tell how he awakened around 1 a.m., disoriented and covered in his own vomit.
He was weak and had difficulty getting out of bed to turn on the light. But when he did, he also found his 4-year-old brother covered in vomit, and would not respond to his brother’s attempts to awaken him.
“Mom, come quick, we are all sick,” Gottschalk wrote in his book.
He then went to his sister’s bedroom, where he witnessed the same scene.
Receiving no response from his mother, he went to her bedroom to find the same situation.
After shaking and screaming at her, Gottschalk was able to awaken her and explain the situation. She told him to call his father at work since she was too weak to get out of bed.
Carbon monoxide poisoning wasn’t a commonly-known threat at the time, and they assumed one of the kids had brought a bug home from school. They had ruled out food poisoning since his father wasn’t sick and had shared the same supper with the rest of the family. His father suggested they all sleep it off and they would be better in the morning.
“With absolutely no understanding of why I felt compelled to do so, I began opening each and every window in the downstairs portion of our home,” Gottschalk wrote, adding that the windows were old and warped and would’ve needed more than the strength of an 8-year-old under the best of circumstances.
The fresh air helped his mother and siblings regain consciousness.
The following day, a heating and ventilation expert concluded a furnace exhaust pipe was improperly installed and was covered by a snowdrift, ceasing ventilation from the home.
Later, his parents began thinking about what had driven their eldest son to react in such a way, which inevitably saved each of the lives in the home that night.
His father asked him to open each of the windows once again, as he had done that night.
“Not only could I not open any of those old and warped windows, but it was not until I was many years older before I was finally able to open them without struggle,” Gottschalk wrote.
“I have little doubt that my God was standing alongside me and guiding me,” he added.
His most recent near-death experience came in June 2009, during a cross-country endurance motorcycle ride. On any given year, he will put 15,000 to 20,000 miles on his motorcycle. What happened during this particular trip was also what inspired him to write this book along with some coaxing from his son, Travis.
Having reached Nevada, where it’s state law to wear a motorcycle helmet, Gottschalk strapped his on for what would be an all-night drive to San Francisco.
With the cruise set at 75 mph the state speed limit Gottschalk would be at the Golden Gate bridge in time to watch the sunrise.
Sometime around 2 a.m., “I hit the biggest deer I had seen in my life,” Gottschalk told the Cokato Dassel Rotary Club April 7.
His headlights couldn’t keep up with his speed, and he and his Harley Davidson were sent flying off the freeway.
It wasn’t until five hours later, that a passerby happened to stop to follow a single-wheel track leading into the desert to where Gottschalk was lying.
“I can’t explain it,” the stranger told Gottschalk, who had since come to. “I was somehow compelled to follow the track.”
The stranger then left to go get help.
Three weeks later, Gottschalk called the Nevada dispatch office to see who it was that had called the accident in so that he could give his appreciation. He was told, this particular call was untraceable.
His injuries were extensive three broken vertebrae, several fractured ribs and a nearly-collapsed rib cage, a shattered collarbone, dislocated shoulder with torn cartilage, a fractured leg, broken fingers, and a broken molar tooth.
Judging by the condition of his helmet, Gottschalk is well aware that without it, he would not have survived such a crash. Nor would he have survived without the assistance of a stranger, whom he believes was a guardian angel.
Book signing April 30
Gottschalk will be signing copies of his book, “Nine Lives to Eternity” Saturday, April 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. at The Grounds in Cokato. Books are currently on sale there for $19.99.
For more information or to order online, visit www.gottschalkbooks.com