Tahj Tasco, a curly-haired 13-year-old, planned to go fishing Friday afternoon, April 4, hoping to catch a fish equal to or bigger than the one that got away last summer. He thought fishing would be a good way to end a week that has been fraught with anxiety.
Two potentially life-altering events - occurring just three days apart - would be enough to send a man of any age to his favorite fishing hole.
Tahj, his 9-year-old sister, Amelia, and his older step-sister, Sidney James, were among the 30 students aboard the school bus that overturned near Ewing on Tuesday.
Tahj was pretty lucky as far as the accident is concerned. He and his younger sister, Amelia, were bounced around a bit, but checked out OK at Blessing Hospital in Quincy. Their older step-sister, Sidney James, “Is moving slow, she had a head and neck injury,” according to Sidney’s mother and Tahj’s step-mother, Melissa James. Lucky that he wasn’t hurt bad, the accident did shake him up, nonetheless.
“It was scary,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was freaking out.”
Melissa and Todd took the three children to Blessing Hospital to have them checked out after the accident. Tahj and his sister went back to school the next day. Sidney went back to school on Friday, her mother said, “with a big knot on her head.”
A court date
On Friday morning, Tahj sat next to his dad and step mom in the circuit courtroom at Hannibal, amid attorneys, armed deputies and an inmate in shackles, awaiting a decision that would affect the next five years of his life.
Todd Tasco was asking for a change in the custody agreement forged in this court a decade ago, when Tahj was just 3. Instead of sharing custody with Tahj’s mother, as originally agreed upon, now he is asking the court for full custody.
When Todd Tasco stepped forward to be sworn in before Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd, Melissa James took her stepson from the courtroom.
Tasco’s attorney, James D. Terrell, outlined the reasoning behind his client’s request.
Terrell said that in July 2009, Tasco’s ex-wife absconded to Texas or Arizona with Tahj, born during the marriage, and Amelia, born after the marriage ended. In 2011, Tahj and his mother were caught by police going through a dumpster in Arizona. The children were taken into protective custody. Arizona authorities were not informed of the presence of the children’s father in Missouri, who had been unable to locate his children. Tahj and Amelia told authorities about sleeping in a park at night, and being fearful of their mother’s boyfriend.
“They were in foster care for a significant amount of time” before Todd Tasco found out, Terrell said. He brought the children back to Missouri in May 2013, and since then Todd Tasco has been working to straighten out legal issues, culminating in his request for full custody.
Terrell told the judge that they do not know where the mother is. “Everyone has lost contact with her,” he said. “I ask the court to modify the order to provide custody to him. Sole legal and physical custody.”
Ironically, Tahj’s mother called Todd this week when the news of the school bus accident made national news. But she didn’t say where she was.
From this day forward
Tahj wanted to go fishing at Deer Ridge in Lewis County on Friday. He was just 12 the last time he fished there - when that big fish got away.
Things are different now. He’s settled into to a normal family routine with his dad and step mother. He goes to school during the day, and has a roof over his head at night.
While all fishermen at one time or another bemoan “the one that got away,” Tahj could be the one who actually catches that fish. After all, he seems to be on a lucky streak.
He survived the bus rollover. The judge looked favorably on his father’s custody request. And he has a rod and reel ready to cast into his favorite fishing hole.