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Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004 10:06 pm

Son of a gun

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Jason Robert Tebbenkamp (6 pounds, 5 ounces, 20 inches)

Everybody has a story. Take my husband. His story features a Triumph Spitfire and a near-fatal encounter with a hefty opossum. My pop has a story about finding true love with his girlfriend from grade school at the age of 62. I have a story that involves two dead guys named Dusty and my childhood obsession with Daniel Boone. My nephew has a story that's just too sad to tell.

You probably have a story, too. It may be about a brush with death, an act of heroism, or a cosmic coincidence. It may be about serendipity.

Whatever your story, though, odds are it didn't find you during your first few years on earth. Which is fine, because you don't really need a story until you're old enough to mingle at cocktail parties.

But some people get their stories early. Jason Robert Tebbenkamp was born with his. His story is about the way he was born.

It begins on New Year's Eve. Jason's parents, Marla and Rob Tebbenkamp, had come to Springfield (Marla's hometown) from their home in Fargo, N.D., to spend the holidays with her relatives. Everybody decided to go downtown to check out the First Night festivities. Marla and Rob were at Marly's Pub, enjoying the band, when they heard fireworks and stepped outside to watch.

They were standing on the sidewalk, holding hands and gazing up at the pyrotechnics, when suddenly, something hit Marla's arm. She felt what she describes as an "intense kind of shock" that broke her grasp on her husband's hand. She thought maybe someone had thrown a rock at her, but when she looked at her arm, she saw a bulletlodged beneath her skin.

Springfield police later determined that Marla must have been hit by a stray cartridge fired into the air by a New Year's Eve reveler. Happening just after midnight, this incident made headlines as Springfield's first shooting of the year.

But at that moment, all Marla knew was that it hurt. The wound was so painful that this 23-year-old schoolteacher pulled the bullet out. "I just kept thinking that if I can get it out, maybe it won't hurt so bad," she says.

Rob took her to St. John's Hospital, where she was prescribed pain medication plus a two-week course of antibiotics to ward off infection. A couple of months later, Marla realized that the antibiotics had also counteracted something else -- her birth-control pills.

"I think I bought three pregnancy tests, because I just couldn't believe it," she says.

Oh sure, somewhere, at some long-ago time, she had heard that antibiotics have some negative effect on birth control pills. But in all the drama of being shot, Marla, understandably, forgot.

"I kind of knew that in the back of my head," she says, "but with everything else going on, I didn't really think about it at the time."

Once she and Rob found out that they were expecting, they had some concerns about the effects that all the various medications might have had on the fetus. But as soon as doctors confirmed that the baby was healthy, Marla and Rob shifted gears.

"We're just pretty lucky," Marla says. "We were really excited."

Jason -- or J.R., as his grandmother calls him -- was born Oct. 15. In a phone interview from her home in Fargo, Marla sounds ecstatic.

"He's just a perfect little blessing for us," she says. "It kind of shows that everything works out fine, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.

"I guess some of the best things in life aren't really planned anyway," she says. "They just happen when God wants them to happen."

With all the enchantment involved -- a stray bullet, a minor wound, a magic pill, and that certain phase of the moon -- you might think the Tebbenkamps would have made a nod to the circumstances when they chose a name for the child. They could have dubbed him Colt. Or Winchester. Or Pistol Pete. Or maybe even Rick O'Shea. They settled on Jason, because they like the name, and Robert, in honor of his dad.

And that's OK, because Jason's story is so good, he doesn't need a catchy name to kick it off. He can just say, "I started life with a bang."

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