John Payne always loved working with horses, but never could have imagined a devastating accident that almost took his life would transform him into the one armed bandit. While working on a construction site, John accidentally connected with 7,200 volts of electricity and was technically dead for about 5 minutes. The quick thinking of a friend and full throttle resuscitation efforts brought him back to a conscious state, but John was so seriously hurt that his survival was uncertain. While John had suffered serious burns, there was no brain damage and his determined attitude was also completely intact. Although his right arm was amputated, he would not tolerate the loss of his left leg since he would not be able to ride a horse in a rodeo or anyplace else with only one leg.
While still in the hospital, John Payne purchased an untrained horse and began working with it as soon as he was released. This was a strong indication that he had the will to continue the life he loved, and his can-do attitude was key in the formation of One Arm Bandit & Company. John’s attitude had always been that it takes determination, drive and a good amount of sheer nerve to excel in the field of choice. It would seem that considering physical limitations that would have side-lined most men, John Payne was not lacking in any of these attributes.
John Payne and Judy Crabtree were married in 1975, and a son and daughter joined the family within 3 years. Both Lynn and Amanda began riding horses at a very early age and have followed in their fearless father’s footsteps. John and both his children are on the “most wanted list” of performers at rodeos and other venues attended by horse lovers.
The PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) has recognized the One Arm Bandit & Company as the Specialty Act of the Year a dozen times and also tagged him as “guilty of stealing the show.” While the favorite venue of One Arm Bandit & Company is a rodeo, John and his family have also appeared at horse fairs and other horse related productions across the United States.
John Payne probably never imagined that a near-death experience would push him into a life of fame and success. John’s upbringing taught him toughness and determination to overcome the odds, and he has proven in spades “when there is a will there is a way.”
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