Zip to Zap participant forgives soldier who stabbed him with bayonet
The National Guard arrived to restore order when the now-legendary 1969 spring break party in western North Dakota got out of hand.
WILLISTON, N.D. — When Curt Krebsbach talks about his life, the 70-year-old will tell you stories about working in all kinds of jobs in all kinds of places around the United States and the world.
If life has been something of a wild ride for the Williston native, perhaps it's because he had something of a wild start.
Krebsbach was in his late teens when he took part in the "Zip to Zap" event in May 1969.
Zip to Zap began as an alternative spring break destination suggested by the North Dakota State University newspaper, "The Spectrum," but it transformed into a legendary event in state history when throngs of young people showed up to party in the small town of Zap.
Initially welcomed, the young people ultimately turned unruly, leading to the National Guard being called in to restore order.
Krebsbach's participation was documented in a photograph that ran in the pages of The Forum showing a young Krebsbach moments after he was stabbed in the lower back by a member of the National Guard carrying a rifle with a bayonet affixed to the barrel.
In a recent interview, Krebsbach recalled what happened, stating he was holding a beer and watching another young man accost soldiers with a length of chain when he felt a sharp pain in his lower back.
"All my attention was on this absurd thing, I can't believe my eyes, and next thing you know — Bang! I get stabbed. Something happened behind me and it hurt, so I whipped around," said Krebsbach, adding that after turning around he couldn't determine which soldier did the poking.
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"I'm standing there right on the main street where I got stabbed and there's all this commotion and kids running wild. It was a great feeling," Krebsbach recalled, noting that the beer he dropped in his surprise can be seen lying on the ground in the photograph that ran in The Forum.
Neither Krebsbach nor any of the Guardsmen visible in the photo were named when the image was published.
And while Krebsbach never learned who stabbed him, he wants that person to know he holds no grudge.
"I always kind of wanted to tell the National Guard (soldier) I don't blame him," Krebsbach said.
"He was following orders. And they were killing people in Kent State," added Krebsbach, who said he sometimes wonders whether the soldier carried any guilt for having "stabbed a kid."
"I haven't harbored any ill will for him. I feel sorry for him," Krebsbach said.
Wound caused ongoing problems
Although Krebsbach doesn't know which of three soldiers who figure prominently in the five-decades-old photo prodded him with a bayonet, the man who snapped the image believes he knows the answer.
"The middle one," said Colburn Hvidston III, adding that the soldier he believes did the poking also shouted something, but he doesn't recall what he said.
"The interesting thing they all said was, the Guardsmen were all out drinking the weekend before with the guys they were rousting, because they were all the same age, give or take," Hvidston said.
Krebsbach said the bayonet wound caused him problems over the years, starting about five years after the incident when a large boil formed that had to be drained.
He said the problem returned periodically until a doctor determined the issue was hair follicles and oil glands that had been forced below the skin by the bayonet. Once that was addressed, the problem was solved, according to Krebsbach.
"I haven't had any more trouble," he said.