Just like Arizona has a stupid motorists law – which makes stupid people pay for their own rescue – the state should consider a stupid hiker law. This way the Pima County Sheriff’s Posse could really rake in some cash.
So many calls are to rescue folks who not prepared or not thinking – or not bothering to take along simple things like water in the sizzling Arizona heat.
In fact, lack of water probably tops the list of rescue calls, right up there with leg injuries. No way, however, are all rescue situations one that could be avoided. And no matter how people get into their predicaments, the posse is there for them.
The guy with the pink gloves
Second Lt. Colleen Leon will never forget her first rescue – and we’re betting neither will the guy that was saved.
The 21-year-old hiker separated from his cross country running group on Mount Lemmon. They told him to meet them at the loop.
OK, he had said. Then realized he didn’t know what loop they were talking about.
While the rest of his group got back fine, the guy went missing overnight. It decided to snow.
By some very good luck – or a very astute guardian angel – the lad ran across a fully stocked tent some hunters had left behind. The tent had food, water and all else he needed to survive for the night.
Leon and crew located the tent the following morning.
“This pale-looking young man, holding up his white shirt over his head, ran out at us,” Leon said. “I immediately gave him my rain slicker, my gloves, dressed him up.”
A helicopter came to take him swiftly to safety.
“I started bawling,” Leon said. First she was crying with joy.
Then she was crying because she realized the guy still had her jacket – with her keys and other items still in the pockets.
The guy also appeared on the evening news wearing Leon’s bright pink gloves.
The Alzheimer’s patient
One rescue that had various agencies from all over – and the community – scrambling was that of an older man with Alzheimer’s. The guy wandered away from his mobile home in Maricopa County and disappeared.
Why the hype?
It ends up this man, now in his 80s, was one of the original searchers for the ill-fated boy scouts some 50 years ago. The scouts became stranded at Josephine Saddle in Madera Canyon when 3 feet of snow hit the mountains in November 1958.
The search for the scouts lasted 19 days and involved some 700 searchers. Three of the boys were found dead, while the other three were rescued.
Their predicament prompted the formation of rescue groups that have evolved into the search and rescue teams we know today.
The 300-pound hiker
There’s not much to say about a 300-pound hiker who didn’t bother to take water on his broiling summer trek through Tucson Mountain Park.
The reason he’s a notable example is because, unlike other dehydrated, lost or weakened hikers, there was no way he could be carried out on horseback.
Rules dictate horses should haul no more than 20 percent of their body weight. Leon’s horse Chapo weighs 800 pounds. A horse capable of hauling a hefty 300 pounds would have to weigh in at 1,500 pounds.
“We gave him water and followed him out,” Leon said of the portly hiker. He found his way home.
The girlfriend and the show horse
One girl was seemingly out to impress her boyfriend by taking him out through the desert on horse ride. On her mother’s show horse. Some of those show horses are worth $35,000 or more.
The horse, of course, gave up when tromping through the unforgiving landscaping in the equally unforgiving 107-degree heat.
“It’s like being in a frying pan,” said posse Capt. George Herget, who was called to this rescue. All the desert rocks, especially, absorb and intensify the heat.
The posse got to the threesome, airlifted the girl to the hospital to deal with her dehydration and helped the boyfriend back to safety.
They were in the midst of calming and tending to the show horse.
Then came a lightning storm.
Herget said it was one of those moments where your life flashes before your eyes – in this case, in between the lightning bolts.
After what seemed like eons, the storm passed on and the horses calmed down, actually refreshed by the rain that followed.
The horse and the tow truck
Herget has a special connection with horses, one that worked like magic when he was called to help a fallen horse.
The horse slipped and hit its head while getting out of its trailer. It had fallen and could not get up.
Herget got to the scene, joining the posse’s liaison from the sheriff’s department, Rural Metro rescue crews and plenty of mayhem.
One woman was so worked up about the fallen horse that she started beating on the sheriff’s liaison. She was hysterical and lashing out. Her boyfriend even got involved in the fray.
Herget looked to a tow truck. He figured he could hoist the horse up with the proper equipment – and then hope for the best.
The best, of course, would mean that the horse realized it had to stand up and would find its legs. It would also mean the horse had not sustained spinal injuries or damage that would get worse if it were hoisted by a tow truck.
But how the heck do you hoist a horse?
Herget chose two 25-foot sections of webbing, lined them with saddle pads and hooked them around the horse. He figure a way to hook the webbing through the two truck cable’s carabiners.
He lined rubber mats on the back of the truck so the horse wouldn’t ram into the metal and become further injured.
He came up with all this on the scene, thinking of every possible hazard and obviously using the creative part of his brain.
Then he had to hope the horse would understand what this human was trying to do.
He looked into the horses eyes as the mission went down. They shared the connection. The horse was hoisted, elevated – and it stood.
“Savings lives is a big deal,” Herget said, “but that horse was probably the most rewarding.”
Although his duty was done – and well – Herget couldn’t leave the scene just yet. He had to stick around as a witness to the hysterical woman’s assault on the sheriff liaison.
What story do you like the best?
Do you know any rescue stories?
Have you ever helped save a life?
What’s the strangest thing you’ve run across out in the wilds?