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A shot, and now a handshake

All it takes is the closing of Glen Bogart's sleepy eyes each night to trigger a vivid replay of the last and worst day of his life in the woods.

His mental movie rewinds and endlessly replays the moment when Bogart was shot and nearly killed in the woods east of Ashland by a hunter's errant shot at a black-tailed buck.

It's as horrific now as it was Oct. 1, 2006, when a rifle round burst into his back, pierced his left lung and severely damaged his left shoulder and arm.

"When I close my eyes, I can smell the bullet," Bogart says. "When I hit the ground I got some dirt in my mouth. And when I close my eyes, I can taste that dirt."

But finally, after more than 17 months, Bogart hopes this week that he will begin smelling a little less of that bullet and tasting a little less of that dirt every night.

The acquittal of the bullet's accused shooter on a felony assault charge Friday after a three-day trial has turned Bogart's tragedy from a criminal case into a civil one.

It begins Bogart's chance to move on with the physical and mental healing that the 44-year-old uninsured owner of a Medford auto-detailing business has lacked since he awoke in a Medford hospital with doctors unsure whether he would survive.

The "not guilty" verdict ends the criminal proceedings against accused shooter Cole Reeves of Klamath Falls and opens the door for Bogart's attorney to negotiate financial settlements with the Reeves family's insurance carrier.

Bogart wants Reeves' carrier to pay for more than the stack of medical bills too embarrassing and demeaning for Bogart to tally. He wants coverage for future complications and more surgeries to add strength and ability to his withered left hand.

Bogart wants to tie his own shoes and button his own Levi's some day.

"A $30,000 settlement won't buy me a hand," says Bogart, whose hand remains numb and regularly shakes when moved.

"If I get to be 60 years old and it starts freaking out on me, I want that taken care of," Bogart says. "That's what's important to me."

Despite these ills, Bogart feels oddly more important to family, friends and even customers at his North Central Avenue shop.

He has talks with and accepts handshakes from old customers grateful he's still here. New customers are trusting him with their $50,000 cars knowing little more than Bogart is the auto detailer — that guy — who got shot in the woods a few years ago.

"It's like I had to get shot to get respect," he laughs.

Laughs alone can't quell the pain in his shoulder and arm. It can only mask the bullet's smell, the dirt's taste and the overwhelming fear created that last day in the woods.

"If I stay busy, I don't think of it much," he says. "When I'm home in my chair relaxing, that's when I get frustrated."

Even worse are attempts to go back into the woods.

On occasion, he's driven his Suburban back to the woods near Howard Prairie that were his family's traditional deer-hunting grounds until the shot happened.

"It's weird," Bogart says. "I get out of the truck and start yelling. You ought to hear what I say. It's not pretty."

Bogart fears he might not ever hunt again.

He's sold all his guns, a near-death bed promise to his wife.

"Guns are guns," he says. "You can always buy new guns."

What he can't buy back is his nerve. The woods where he once saw freedom he now sees as a "bees nest" of armed people ready to shoot him. Again.

"The single time you step out of a car to take a piss, you might not come back," he says. "That's what happened to me. I stepped out of my truck, took a walk and got shot."

It also was a bathroom moment during a break in the trial that became an accidental part of Bogart's healing.

"I stepped out of the bathroom and he was standing there, and he stuck his hand out," Bogart says. "We talked.

"It's easy to apologize after the verdict, but me and him talked before," Bogart says. "That was important to me."

It turns out that Bogart and Reeves have shared more than just a bullet.

For decades, the Reeves family camped and hunted near the Bogart family, often driving by each other's camps to see if they had a buck hanging from a tree.

But not until that encounter outside the courthouse bathroom did they ever shake hands.

Standing there without attorneys to shepherd the defendant away from the victim, Reeves and Bogart shared remembrances of happier times when their paths crossed in the same woods before their lives became forever entwined.

"They're good guys," Bogart says. "One guy said, 'I remember you. You always had a deer hanging.' "

Reeves invited Bogart to his family's home for dinner.

"I'll go," he says, "once all this is settled."

Bogart hopes the moments of the past week will help get him to where he can settle into bed expecting to sleep without the horrible smell and taste enveloping his mind.

At minimum, Bogart says, it's brought him something missing the past 17 months — empathy.

"I'm sure when Cole Reeves closes his eyes, he doesn't go right to sleep either," Bogart says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

A shot, and now a handshake