Courtesy photo Lane Pattison was critically injured in a logging accident in 1961.
By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
The opening credits come, and a shot of Clay Driscoll driving his family to Oklahoma in a 1955 two-tone green Chevrolet soon follows.
The car is “Cinderella,” restored by Lane Pattison of Clovis, and the movie is “Believe in Me,” partially filmed in eastern New Mexico.
A few years before the events that inspired the movie happened, Pattison’s family believed in him, despite a potentially fatal accident, a coma of more than 10 months and less than favorable diagonoses.
Nearly half a century later, on April 25, Pattison died at age 69 — even, his brother Hoyt Pattison said, outliving some of the doctors who envisioned that a 1961 logging accident would kill him in a matter of days.
Born Jan. 6, 1940, in Kermit, Texas, William Lane Pattison grew up on the family farm near Claude. He was a 1958 graduate of Clovis High School and was good in math, as Hoyt said Lane’s 1958 high school yearbook is full of notes with students thanking him for trigonometry help.
He went to New Mexico State University, majored in agricultural engineering, and had one year left on his degree before the summer of 1961 changed everything.
In August of that year, Lane and his brothers were helping their father, Orville, with logging in the Taos area. They were cutting down a fir tree to use for a ski lodge Orville was planning, but it wouldn’t fall.
They hooked the tree up to a winch, Hoyt said, and as it fell, it snapped off two smaller aspen trees. One caved in the roof of the family truck where Lane was sitting.
The accident, Hoyt said, broke Lane’s skull from his right eye socket to the back of his head.
He was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, where doctors weren’t sure he’d live through the night, and soon moved to St. Joseph’s in Albuquerque.
“ It was touch and go for a week if he’d even live then,” Hoyt said.
He spent more than a year at St. Joesph’s — 10 months in and out of a coma, and three months of rehabilitation before he was cleared to go home.
Even while he was in the coma, Lane’s immediate and extended family stayed supportive. Hoyt said a prayer group from First Presbyterian Church in Clovis “wouldn’t quit,” and Joy Pattison, Hoyt’s wife, said “nobody ever said anything negative in (Lane’s) presence,” something Lane remembered for the rest of his life.
“I didn’t know they weren’t expecting him to come out of the coma,” said niece Rose Ellen Dunn, “but I knew it was serious.”
It didn’t turn him into a vegetable, as doctors predicted, but family members said the damage was evident.
He had his limits, and Hoyt said his brother tested them. A 4.0 college student before the accident, Lane expressed a desire to finish his senior year. Hoyt went with him to take a calculus course at what is now Clovis Community College — then a branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University.
Lane did well enough, Hoyt said, that he and his mother, Luciester Pattison, took the 1955 Chevrolet down to Las Cruces and shared an apartment as he gave school another go for a few months.
“All of his teachers were very supportive,” Hoyt said, “but with that kind of a head injury, there were just too many problems a normal student wouldn’t have to deal with.”
He came back home and lived with his parents, and found other interests. His time went to model cars and trains, and even ham radios. He built one from scratch and often had radio conversations with neighbor Sidney Pipkin.
The family had no television. Luciester would read to him each night from either Reader’s Digest or historical novels, and Rose Ellen, now a teacher at Zia Elementary, would come over every Sunday to read him his four favorite cartoons — Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Blondie and Family Circus — after his vision started to deteriorate.
His biggest project became a five-year restoration of the 1955 Chevy, which eventually came to be known as “Cinderella.” It had its share of fans and awards at area car shows, and got its biggest recognition when it appeared in “Believe in Me” as the main character’s car.
By the 2006 movie release, Lane’s health had deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t go to the theater. But he was able to see it a few months down the road with help from a DVD release of the film and a large-screen television at the extended care home.
“He thought it was really something,” Hoyt said. “He took things in stride (but) we could tell he was pleased.”