We are the McDaniel’s, Billy Jack, A’Leta and Carney. A’Leta and Billy Jack were married in the spring of 1997 after dating for a few years. We decided to really start a family in late 1998 and our beautiful daughter was born in the late summer of 1999. Carney was a premature baby and required to be in ICU for about ten days. That was very hard for new, young parents. Carney fully recovered and is a real blessing to our lives.
Billy Jack was born in Laurel, MS in the summer of 1976. His early childhood was very good what he can remember. His parents divorced at an early age. He chose to live with his father that is until he remarried and the new family was just too much for Billy Jack. He then moved to Jackson, MS where he lived with his mother. The life they had was hard, his mother, a single parent living off a very small income with no help from the father did all she could. Billy Jack and his mom had a lot of fun although having it rough. Billy Jack always believed there was a God and had attended church a little when he visited his grandmother. God was always taking care of him and his family. Billy Jack learned how to make the hard decisions from the life he lived that he would later need to just simply survive.
A’Leta was born in Dewitt, AR in the real late summer of 1978. She had a pretty normal childhood where both parents were in the home and are still together today. A’Leta”s father owned a construction company which was the reason they made the move to the Jackson, MS area. A’Leta’s family always had attended church and been involved in church. Actually A’Leta had told Billy Jack that if he wanted to date her he would have to come to church. A’Leta and her family were always as far as I can recall been a praying, and a God trusting family. Little did A’Leta know that one day that trust would be tested to the fullest extent, and her prayers would be so intense that it would be the sole thing that enabled her to make it thru the day.
As Billy Jack and A’Leta’s life moved forward they became members of Briar Hill Baptist Church as a family. Now, even though we all were saved and attended church we were not perfect and we still are not. We did things and still do things that we probably should not do but we do strive to be the best we can be.
Billy Jack had a few good jobs in the first few years of their marriage and all were great jobs but it seemed that none were meant to be. I had worked for A’Leta’s dad and really enjoyed the relationship I had with him. Billy Jack had become a water works operator for the system of Monterey. One day as he and a friend were just hanging out the subject of the oil field came up. Billy Jack thought it was interesting and it held more benefits than the job he currently had plus lots more money. A’Leta and Billy Jack discussed it in depth for a few weeks and when Billy Jack Called the superintendent he reply was pack up you leave tomorrow. That was it; he was gone to the fields. Billy Jack really hated leaving cause his baby girl would run down the road after the truck and when he would call home that little voice would say for example “3 more days daddy”, wow it was satisfying knowing he was supporting his family but he did miss a lot of things.
As Billy Jack started his career in the oil field A’Leta had went to school to be a nail tech. Her and her best friend start the salon “Hello Beautiful” It was on track to be the top salon in the state in my opinion. She had a great career going. A’Leta was a great mother and mostly stayed home with Carney while Billy Jack was at the rig and she scheduled most of her clients for the week he was at home so he could stay with Carney. It was a great set up and they were saving a little money as well as having a lot of fun. As A’Leta was excelling at the salon Billy Jack was moving up in the oil field and I mean literally. Billy Jack started out as a clean up hand [picking up cigarette butts on location. It wasn’t long before he had moved up to floors and then when the old rig 72 stacked he was moved to a new rig 226. It was there that Billy Jack was given the opportunity to really shine. He was asked to fill in for a guy who was moved up to derricks but was scared of heights. The derrick board is about 150ft off the ground. It was not long before Billy Jack had the job and he loved it.
On March 3rd 2006 just after 11:30pm on that Friday night a stripper Rubber failed and allowed gas to escape the hole. I believe it was static electricity that caused a spark just large enough to ignite the inferno. Billy Jack was trapped in well over 1500 degrees and it lasted for over 20 seconds. He was actually melting alive. Just about 12:03am A’Leta received the dreaded phone call. It was the same superintendent that hired Billy Jack telling A’Leta to come to the door. All that he knew was there was an explosion on the rig, which he knew the operation we were in so he knew where I was and that I was probably dead. As A’Leta was getting her few things together and getting her dad to get Carney Billy Jack was fighting for his life. Billy Jack had to work with the other hands to try and get down. Yes, He was still conscience. After they got him to the rig floor the toted him to the ground in a basket type gurney. They sit him in the gravel and he heard one say “ how are we going to get him out of that”. Billy Jack stood up, and it was a fearful sight to say the least, but he walked into the ambulance and lay down.
Billy Jack is one of the worst living burn survivors in the world. The mental and physical strength this family has is truly a gift from God. Billy Jack amazed the doctors and nurses that came to see him from all over the world. He was given less than a 0 percentage to live and told if he did survive he would be years in the hospital, he walked out 4 months and 17 days later.
In late 2010 Lenard and Carolyn Goss came to their home and listened to them tell their story and helped them compile their journals and recorded the voice of Billy Jack as he told his story. It resulted in the book “DEAD MAN BREATHING”. The McDaniel’s hope that all of you enjoy their story and find that personal something in it that relates to you or your life.
Billy Jack and A’Leta both desire to speak and tell this incredible story. They will come to your group or event and speak. If you want them to come just go to the contact portion of the website and send a email or give us a call. We are really excited about the book cause it can go into places and get into the hands of so many people, more than we can ever get the opportunity to speak to. They have been on several syndicated radio shows and are always willing to do interviews or simply talk you thru a problem.
You can visit Jack and A’leta at: http://www.billyjackmcdaniel.com