Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Weekend Story: "Help"

Early Saturday afternoon Chris and Tami call me on the walkie. They're at the turnoff to Jackson Hole putting up fences where people have been driving down the creek bed to the east and tearing things up. They say someone is calling for help. The wind is blowing pretty hard so it's difficult to figure direction but they think it's coming from over by the boat ramp. I tell them to ignore it, everyone at the boat ramp needs help.

They call back fifteen minutes later and say they can tell someone is really in distress. It's not a joking help. I walk out on the back porch with binoculars to search the area between the lodge and the boat ramp. I don't see anything and no one on the back porch has heard anything. As I'm leaving one guest says "I heard something."
Andy and Irene have been staying at the lodge close to a couple weeks so they are the most knowledgeable about the lodge. I ask Andy to come with me. We take the Polaris and head over to the boat ramp. We see Chris and Tami on the way just past the turn off to the boat ramp searching for where the help is coming from. They say they only hear the help call occasionally now and it's getting weaker.

I pull up to the boat ramp and The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, before Young, Janis Joplin, they're all are sitting around the tables in chairs under the tarp. I ask if they are missing anybody. They all shake their head or say no. One guy says he heard something over that ridge but they have music playing.

I take the Polaris around the top of the gravel pit so I can look down into the very rough area between the lodge and the gravel pit. I look to the right from the river and then move inland. I see her, barely sticking out from under a fallen tree. I wait for a break in the wind and yell to her to stay, we're coming. We drive around to the Base Camp driveway and Andy lifts the creek fence so we can drive through.

We go a couple hundred yards down the creek bed and find a girl, maybe 20, halter top and shorts, barefoot and burned by three hours of 90 degree sun. She's bright red and her hands, arms, legs, feet, and even elbows are full of cactus and stickers. Andy and I help her to the vehicle and take her back to the lodge where with tweezers and magnifying glass the 45 minute cactus removal operation begins.

She was at the boat ramp, too far out, caught in the current, and swept down river. She said " I ask my friends to throw me a rope but they didn't. They're really nice people and deep thinkers but they waited too long. I don't blame them." Later I heard another version that they tried to get her with a paddle board and she was holding on but they had to cut her loose because the paddle boarder was going under also.

When she finally got to shore she tried to crawl out to the road but the stickers and cactus kept building up and she was so badly sunburned she finally crawled under the fallen tree and had been yelling for help a long time.

When she was able Andy and I carried her back into the side by side and drove back over to the boat ramp. Everyone was still sitting under the tarps at tables and chairs. I thought I saw Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, or at least his hat, and Joan Baez. Didn't see them earlier. I said "Here's the person you're not missing." A girl came over and said "Serena where you been. We've been looking for you for three hours."

At 5pm five people show up and ask where their friends are. I recognize one of them. He says "Remember me? We're looking for our friends." I said "If you want to stay I would not associate yourself with the people who will be leaving in the morning." He says "Ok, maybe you'll remember this. You almost ran over my friend a couple years ago." I said "The guy sleeping in the middle of the road at 4am with the tshirt that said "I think I just saw a ghost?" He says "Yea." I said "You think that's a better reference than the people at the boat ramp?" Go camp over by the curve in the road that heads to Jackson Hole because everyone else is getting kicked out early morning." They do.

At 2am three people pull right up to the lodge and get out and start waking people up asking where their friends are. I walk outside and tell them how to get to the boat ramp. Bottom of the hill, turn left, go through the no trespassing sign, first left, follow the road. I watch as they drive down the hill, turn left, pull into the sheep pen and get stuck in the sand. I go down and guide them out. Guy says "Thanks, we just drove six hours we're tired."

I can't sleep. It has finally hit me. Nobody is leaving in the morning. None of them have jobs. They don't have to be to work Monday morning. I'm not getting any money. They don't have any. This is their new home.

At 7am two girls pull up and say they're looking for their friends. They just drove eight hours to get here. I am reasonably sure they didn't drive eight hours to check out at 11am. I guide them over to the boat ramp and ask for the guy that booked the boat ramp. I say "It's over. You said eight to ten. They're still coming, all hours of the night, waking everybody up, coming from six to eight hours away. Everybody out by noon and make sure you collect the $5 a night camping fee from everyone." As I'm walking back to the Polaris I look out to the sides of the road and there are clumps of toilet paper everywhere. It occurs to me I haven't seen a single one of them come use the bathroom since Thursday when they started showing up. As I get in the Polaris the last two girls that showed up and followed me over say "You're kicking everyone out?" I say "Yes. It's over." She says "But not us right? We just got here." I said "You too. Everyone."

Over the next few hours a few people stopped by and paid and apologized for the crazy. Most just drove by and left. At around noon the guy that organized it pulled up, walked up on the porch and said "We cleaned up and I got $10 from everyone so here's $550."

I drove over to the boat ramp, found one sock, one glove, and about 20 clumps of toilet paper deep in the bushes. Somebody still has cactus and stickers in their ass.

As I'm typing this Tami just called on the walkie from the boat ramp and said her and Chris just cleaned everything up. Everything.

I told her "You are now and forever my heroes. Tomorrow when I go to town I will shop for medals of honor and make sure you are appropriately rewarded." She said "Thank you." I called back and said "In the future if you ever hear anybody yelling help, don't call me, let nature takes it's course." It's amazing how many times it's happened in the 13 years. All the opportunities I've had to be chlorine in the human gene pool. Yet every time I've stepped forward and brought those back, some that probably didn't deserve to come back.

I'm going to have to think about it.

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