Meet the Guy Who Accidentally Shot Himself in the Heart with a Nail Gun
Getting a two-inch splinter while sanding plywood is a drag. Smashing your thumb into gooey pulp with a hammer is also a drag. But accidentally shooting yourself directly in the heart with a fucking nail gun is the sort of thing that makes you stop and wonder what the hell you’re doing with your life, and why you’re anywhere near a situation where that’s even possible.
Eugene Rakow is a 58-year-old self-employed carpenter living in St. Bonifacious, Minnesota. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it—a 2010 census set the town at just 2,283 people. This past Friday, Eugene was helping his neighbor build a deck when he made a little mistake, and accidently fired a three-and-a-half inch galvanized framing nail directly into his heart. Worse still, Eugene doesn’t have health insurance, and he’s got seven kids, all home-schooled. Luckily, his daughter Naomi has set up a Paypal accountwhere people can donate to help him pay the bills.
The whole thing became a bit of a local story, and I’m fascinated with the macabre, so what the hell. I hit up Naomi on Twitter and she actually got back to me, and was really, really nice, especially considering that her dad just went through the scariest thing that could happen in professional carpentry. I wanted to know what it felt like to fire a nail into your own heart, so I gave Eugene a quick call. He turned out to have more bravery in one little punctured chamber than I probably have in my whole body.
VICE: Hi Eugene. So I read in the Minnesota Star Tribune that you’re the guy who shot himself in the heart with a nail gun.
Eugene Rakow: Yes. Well, I was building a deck for a neighbor, and I was driving in nails at about chest-level. I was pushing the nail gun up, and my arms were in the air. Then the gun bounced and hit me, and just sort of shot a nail right into my chest.
I don’t understand. Did it bounce out of your hands?
No, not quite. It bounced up in the air and I caught hold of it. When the weight of the gun came back down it hit me in the chest, but I still had my finger on the trigger.
If You Stick Things in Your Pee Hole, Bad Things Will Happen
Male readers of the internet crossed their legs and let out a unified grimace of pain yesterday when a story made the rounds about a 70-year-old Australian man who got a fork lodged in his dong. While plenty of people who read the report (or even worse, saw the pictures) had no idea why a person would try to shove anything—especially a rouge piece of cutlery—up his pee slit, those of us who frequent the kinkier side of life know this is a fairly common practice known as “sounding.”
If you really want an education, search for the term on XTube (NSFW, idiot), and revel in a variety of videos featuring guys putting all sorts of junk into their junk. Yeah, it’s not really my bag, either. But not everyone is going around putting forks or pencils or other household items up there all willy nilly. You can get a surgical urethral sounding kit for about $60 delivered right to your front door for your own perverted enjoyment. These kits include the same smooth metal cylinders, sometimes curved, that are used in doctors’ offices. That seems a bit safer than a fork, but I wanted to find out if there was a surefire way to have fun with your personal geyser hole without ending up in the ER, so I called Dr. Frank Spinelli, a Manhattan internist and author, to talk about the practice of sounding and its dangers.
VICE: Hello, Doctor. I’d like to talk about the pros and cons of sticking stuff up your pee hole, otherwise known as “sounding.” What is the surgical purpose of sounds?
Spinelli: You have a urethra, which is what carries urine and semen out of your penis. For some people that might be small or narrow, just anatomically speaking. A urologist can dilate your urethra by using various sized sounds. They probe to increase the diameter, and they can locate an obstruction.
How far should you go down?
That depends on how big the sound is, but you don’t want to go too far. It’s used as an instrumentation. They use catheters in the same way, to get into the bladder so you can relive someone of their urine when they’re in surgery. These are all done under heavy medical guidance by people who have been trained.
See Donald Weber’s Brutal Ukranian Interrogation Photos in Person in NYC
Donald Weber is one of our favorite photographers. In addition to traveling the world and shooting for every publication that matters and winning a Guggenheim Fellowship and Lange-Taylor documentary prize, he recently put out an amazing photo book, Interrogations (Schilt Publishing, 2011), that documents the psychologically humiliating interrogations of Ukraine’s petty criminals. The crimes of the accused are listed underneath their photos. If you can look at this kind of raw human shame and perverse humiliation without cringing, you’re probably a corrections officer or in the CIA.
In regards to the photos, Donald said, “Without confessions, courts everywhere would grind to a halt in an instant; more than 90 percent of all charges in the Russian and Ukrainian judicial systems end in guilty pleas, and only experienced criminals and highly educated defendants stand a chance. This is what the cops are doing behind their closed doors—the feudal system’s trial by ordeal is still much with us.”
Donald will be having an opening reception for Interrogationstonight at the Foley gallery in New York City, and the photos will be remain on display through the end of May. In anticipation of his big fancy opening, we sat down to talk to him about spending nearly a year hanging out in dirty Ukrainian police stations, watching people get beat up, Sharpied, and pistol-whipped.
VICE: These were all from Ukraine, right?
Donald Weber: Yeah, exactly. It was in 2010 and 2011. I made two separate trips for three or four months each in the winter time.
How did you even know or stumble upon this? Through the police?
My very first trip was in 2005. I met the policeman who ended up becoming my guide into the criminal world. Over the next five years, I got to know him more and more and began to understand the idea of criminality and how it works. That’s basically how I came up with the idea of doing an interrogation. It took me two or three years when I had the idea and then another two years to convince him to let me photograph.
How did you meet him in Ukraine?
It was my very first trip to the Ukraine. I didn’t have much to do and my friend said, “I know a policeman. Why don’t you go meet him?” That night he was going on a raid, and he asked me to come along to see what it was like. From there, I always maintained contact with him. Every time I’d go to the Ukraine, I would see him and go out. For one of my very first projects, he was a key component for introducing me to certain types of people.
What kind of people?
Kind of gangster dudes. Just low-level Mafia guys. Nothing serious.
What did you think of his character?
He is an incredibly conflicted character, I think. In one aspect, I’d hear him talking to criminals in Fenya—the language that criminals speak—and then he would call either his mom, wife, or his daughter and he’d be very goody-goody. He’d say, “Oh hi, Mommy! I love you and miss you so much!” There were these dual characters about him.
KILLERS OF SERPENTS – THE PYTHON CHALLENGE IS THE ONLY THING KEEPING THE EVERGLADES FROM BECOMING A TWO-MILLION-ACRE SNAKE PIT
On July 1, 2009, a pet Burmese python in Oxford, Florida, escaped from its terrarium, slithered into the crib of a two-year-old girl, and strangled her to death. The snake, named Gypsy, was eight and a half feet long, weighed 13 pounds, and had not been fed in a month. The child’s mother and her boyfriend—who had six prior felonies—were each sentenced to 12 years in prison for third-degree murder, manslaughter, and child neglect.
The incident was Florida’s first known case of a nonvenomous constrictor killing a child, and it set off a media frenzy. In stepped a tattooed Florida wildlife rescue expert named Justin Matthews. About a month after the girl’s death, Justin made national news when he captured a 14-foot Burmese python in a culvert outside a Sweetbay Supermarket near his Manatee County home. He identified the snake as an escaped pet and scolded its owner for not having a radio-transmission device implanted in the animal, as required by law. He named the snake Sweetie, after the Sweetbay chain. Local news outlets declared him a hero.
But later that summer, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discovered that Justin had actually purchased the animal at a reptile supply store and staged the capture. He made a public apology, insisting that he had simply been trying to demonstrate the dangers of keeping pythons as pets. “I did it for wildlife education,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. But Justin was quickly written off as a loose-cannon redneck seeking personal glory and publicity for his rescue business and faded from public view.
Now, more than three years later, Justin, a rangy 50-year-old with a beard and a Pall Mall-induced rasp, is walking through Big Cypress National Preserve—a 720,000-acre patch of cypress marsh in the northern part of the Florida Everglades. His mission is to kill Burmese pythons, which can grow as long as 20 feet. He is one of 1,400 people who have signed up to hunt, shoot, and decapitate as many of the snakes as they can in a month as part of Florida’s first-ever Python Challenge.
Many media outlets have described the 2013 Python Challenge as a “bounty hunt.” But the contest’s chief organizer, Frank Mazzotti, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Florida, prefers to call it an “incentive-based market solution.” Participants compete in two separate divisions: one for general competitors, another for year-round permit holders. The winners receive cash prizes for kills—$1,000 for the longest, $1,500 for the most.