He maybe had about 2 more hours and then he would likely start to die. It was 20 minutes past official dark and the next nearest other rescue vehicle was a Honda quad about 6 miles away. We had a man out on the grid with a broke down quad who was lost, could not find a pin flag to tell us where he was and about a minute ago his radio began beeping rather than transmitting. A dead radio meant that he couldn’t tell us now when he had found a pin flag .The pin flag number would tell us exactly where he was on the grid.Darkness combined with 20 mile per hour winds and blowing snow wasn’t going to make my job of finding him any easier. I declined the offer of taking along a spotter to help look. I didn’t want to add to the body count. I am not being overly dramatic either. It was less than a quarter mile visibility in blowing snow and rapidly getting darker. The flight would be very low level to give any hope of finding the man with my pissy little search light. As many of you know, running any lights into blowing snow will screw up what little night vision you have and add to that steeply climbing and descending jagged terrain and it was not going to be easy. Thankfully there were no wires in the area and no trees over 25 feet in height. This was high desert country and the temp would be dropping to about minus 20 tonight.
The young man that was lost was new to his assigned job as a trouble shooter. I had my doubts about how well he could read a map also. He sure as hell had no cold weather experience. He was part of a crew we had inherited from Mississippi and the first couple of days I had asked the Mississippi crew if anybody spoke Spanish?
That got a lot of laughs and comments that I could not understand. ” Spanish, now how cum you askin’ that? ” one of the men said.
“Well, because with you guys laughing and talking your Mississippi Ebonics I can’t hardly understand a word your saying to me ” ,I answered.
More laughs and more comments but other than my name I had no idea what they said back to me, but apparently it was all pretty funny stuff.
Tonight, nobody was laughing as I headed over to my helicopter to find Junior. Some body called out to me from the Mississippi crew. “Don’t you go worrying about Junior, he too fat to freeze”. A bit of nervous laughter followed and I answered that I would be back in a few minutes with the lost boy.
That was about all it took too. I was darned happy to be landing beside Junior. He was happy to be on board, laughing and telling me what had happened,most of which I of course couldn’t understand. Talking fast,laughing and coughing he looked at me through blood shot eyes that told more than the words I couldn’t make out.
“You owe me a drink Junior”,I said. ” Hell, I’ll buy you a whole damn bottle, Keith”
” I heard that” I laughed as I came in for a landing. “I heard that !”