Editorial in the Pioneer Press
Wednesday, January 8, 2003
By Chuck Rehdorf
It's interesting listening to comments made by people as they're passing through this region and Siskiyou County. Folks come up here and it doesn't take long before they're struck by how different people are in this region.
Oftentimes, out-of-towners will talk about how aloof locals are around here. They're usually quick to say they don't really find locals unfriendly, but that it's more like they just don't want to have much to do with strangers.
Now, it might make some readers angry but there is some truth to that observation. I've always thought of it as folks up here are friendly enough, but when you spend a lot of your time dealing with the day-to-day of living, it's sometimes hard to remember to make part of yourself open to perfect strangers. So some folks from out of the area get a little persnickety because people don't jump through their you-know-whats for them. Those angry about such things might have a good case if it weren't for one thing that happens up here a lot. Sometimes it's something that shows itself when you're least looking for it.
Friday night, my wife and I were watching a movie when her cell phone lit up, signaling a call. Now, sometimes I resent this high-tech world and its intrusive nature, but Friday it was different. The phone call was a good thing. The call was from a friend and co-worker of my wife. Her husband, who is a friend of mine, and her daughter had gone snowmobiling out on Deer Mountain in the Whaleback area. She was concerned because her husband and daughter were supposed to have been back in time for a family function that afternoon. They were more than three hours overdue by the time of the call. She knew about some of my background and she wanted to know what I thought the next step should be. Her daughter is a college student and her husband has had some heart surgery and she was becoming quite concerned.
We jumped in my four-wheel drive and headed out to the snowmobile park, an hour's drive. A drive like that can seem to take an eternity when you've begun to worry.
When we got there, I met Michele Valdez, who owns the Fun Factory in Mount Shasta. Michele and her company rent snowmobiles and personal water craft in the summer, and she is a very experienced snowmobiler. I was surprised to find she knew my friend and then even more surprised to find that she'd decided it was time to get things started and she'd already called a number of the members of the snowmobiling club and they were on their way. She and I had both called the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department to report the missing pair.
Within two hours of the initial calls, there were at least twenty people from the snowmobiling club, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department, and the Sheriff's Search and Rescue team.
Michele started coordinating pair of experienced snowmobilers to search certain trails, and when Grizz Adams, the County's Office of Emergency Services Coordinator, showed up, he backed the County's big snow cat off the trailer, and everything was in motion.
Throughout the course of the evening, many different people came through the snow park's warming hut to offer their support to the wife. Everyone stayed upbeat and made things as easy as they could for a worrisome situation.
At about 1:30 Saturday morning, snowmobilers Tony Spada and Kale Riccomini found my friend and his daughter safe. They'd had a small accident with one snowmobile and the other wasn't big enough to get them out of the area they'd been in. They'd been carrying all the right survival gear and they'd built a small snow cave, so they were a little cold but otherwise hale. They got back to the snow park and within a half hour everyone was on their way home, safe.
As I headed out onto Highway 97, I was struck by what I'd just seen. After the calls were made it took just a short time for all those people to show up. The great majority of them had never met my friends. It was late in the evening on a Friday night following the holidays, yet people still came out with no thought about their own comfort. Once they were there, they worked in concert to make sure the two came home.
During the duration of the event I asked one of the Search and Rescue team if they ever had problems with not enough people showing up, and was told that never happens.
On the way home I think I figured it out. People in these parts have been relying on themselves for a long time, it's a big part of who they are. They don't rely on the state or federal government, nor strangers, just themselves. So they don't often feel the need to ask for help. I'm guessing that may be why when someone does ask for help, it's given and given quick.
Those who respond know it isn't some frivolous group-hug sort of help, but a real nuts and bolts assistance that's needed. They give what's needed freely, maybe knowing that if the tables were turned, they would want that freely given help themselves. Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom, all said and done. Not really.
The first thing is my friends are experienced snowmobilers and they had taken precautions against accidents. There's a big lesson there.
The biggest lesson of all though, is that this is the reason people up here are different somehow. Local residents are fiercely proud of their independence, as they should be. But there is still that ingrained knowledge and understanding that sometimes circumstances dictate reaching out for that helping hand, and the knowledge as well that it will be there when it is needed. And it's given by people more interested in just giving a hand than in judging actions. That's why and how we can be a powerful force in saying what happens in our corner of the world.
We don't ask for help lightly, but we give wholeheartedly when it's needed. I know a whole bunch of people that had that illustrated for them just last week.
From them, and from me, thanks to everyone who didn't even think twice when action was needed.Return to top of page