Dear reader and visitor, you never know what you have or how good you have it until you lose someone or something...and I was nearly in that position this past Memorial Day weekend. My family, some friends and I went to a cabin in the Conecuh National Forest (where I hunt during season) to enjoy some sun, fun, good cooking and canoeing and kayaking....
...the latter is where things became scary. My wife, daughter (whom you saw in a previous post holding Charlie Scarbrough's bowling shirt), a friend of ours and her two boys (one my daughter's boyfriend) wanted to go canoeing and kayaking on the Yellow River. No problem- we thought- since our family had done it numerous times before with no problem. I floated them off at the northwest corner of the Forest, with a radio (there's NO cell phone coverage in this entire area), with instructions to page me via the radio and so I could track them. We had a predetermined pick-up point some 7 or 8 miles downriver on Highway 4, where there was easy access via boat ramp.
Several hours later, not hearing the page, I started paging them. No answer. By 7:15 PM, things were getting dark, so I left for the pick-up point. Upon arriving, no one was there...all the picknickers & swimmers were gone and I was alone...no canoe or kayak in sight. I stood on the bridge for an hour, paging, beeping "S-O-S" on the Jimmy's horn and yelling their names...no dice. I finally got a couple to stop, who said they just lived up the road and would call the Sheriff's Department.
The deputies arrived an hour later, at 9:30 PM. I wanted to make a quick trip back to the cabin (4 miles away by dirt road) to see if they beached & walked out and they agreed to wait for me 20 minutes. They weren't there, so I beat a path back, and met the deputies coming in about halfway back. They said they had a call from someone who heard someone yelling down by the river, so we turned around and headed back.
To make a long story short, after travelling down pigtrails down to the river and covering some 15-18 miles, they finally found them...two to two-and-one-half miles above the cabin! Seems as if the river was 'way down, from the drought conditions we were experiencing. They had to portage over, around and across logs, stumps, sand bars and such. When I heard the deputies sound the siren and yell on the hailer, and I heard them yelling back, I danced a jig! But, I could hear my wife saying something about "trouble breathing" and I feared the worst. The deputies had told me to stay on the main road, but I put that Jimmie down that pigtrail...I figured that if he could take a car down it, the Jimmy could get there.
When I got to the riverbank, I put a headlight on, had an extra light and took off throught the brush to where they were about 400 yards downriver. When my wife heard I was there, she said my daughter was having an asthma attack and to get her meds out of the car. Another dash through thick brush back to the Jimmy, then back to the rescue site. Where we could get down, it was a twenty foot drop, so I slid down and they got my daughter to me in a few minutes. I cradled her, giving her the Advair, which she drained, but she was still in severe distress.
Two of the three deputies and I got her and her boyfriend (who'd recently had knee surgery and couldn't climb) back into the canoe and they towed them back upriver to where they could get them out and to a vehicle...there was an ambulance back on the road awaiting my daughter. I had to help the women and younger brother back up the bluff, then get back to the Jimmy, which was blocking the deputies' car- fortunately, we got back there just as they loaded her up and were about to PUSH the Jimmy out of the way.
My daughter was transported thirty or so miles away to Andalusia Hospital, where she got a second treatment (she got a first Albuterol treatment on the way) and I had to borrow our guest's Jimmy to make the trip- I'd run out a half-tank driving with the deputies and was nearly out of gas- and they escorted me to the hospital. The lead deputy's name was Lamar, the other who found them they called "Cowboy", who was an older fellow, drove a 4-wheel-drive Dodge pickup with a Cummins engine...and he fit the bill! Blue Jeans and a badge, he was tough! I didn't get the other deputy's name, but ALL of them were excellent, taking care of all our needs- Lamar even scraped a tree on the way out of the woods getting my daughter to the ambulance and when my wife mentioned that, he said, "Ma'am, I don't care about this car- your daughter is more important!"
It all took about 3-1/2 hours to find and rescue them, then another couple of hours for the hospital trip, but it felt like the WHOLE weekend. I left out a LOT of details...but one I won't leave out is what my wife told me my daughter was trying to call out, as she was in distress from the asthma: "Daddy! Come get me, daddy!" She couldn't yell it loud enough, but my wife told me. I almost broke down....
They all said, "You never gave up on us!" I never would. I told them that it wasn't me who found them, it was the deputies (there was more of them than it was of me!), but they insisted that I never gave up. I wouldn't, either...I didn't want to recover bodies.
Needless to say, they did the smartest thing: stayed grounded, even thought they couldn't see. They stayed in the canoe and kayak, away from the alligators and snakes (yes, the Yellow River has a reputation for quite a few of both). And if it took me all night, I would have kept searching.
We got back to the cabin, showered and in bed by 3:00 AM. I awoke at 5:30 AM, unable to sleep...the realization of what I almost lost woke me up. I got up and watched the sun rise, and thanked God for delivering my family and friends.
Folks, you never know what you have....and, like Clyde Clifford always said before sign-off: "Tell the folks you love that you love them...", because tomorrow might be too late....
Bud S. (firstname.lastname@example.org)