Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lost and Found

On a powder day in February the doctor left his friends at the top of one of the ski lifts.  He wanted to do one run through the backcountry, out of bounds, he told them.  None of them wanted to come; it was getting late, there was a storm expected later.  But he skied there all the time.  A lot of people do: they drop down into one of the back bowls, and then it is a short hike back up to a lift and civilization.

But the doctor never came home.  A blizzard blew in that night, a big one.  Cars were stuck in drifts all over the valley.  Temperatures dropped.  Feet of snow fell in the mountains.

They started looking as soon as they could: a helicopter, expert skiers, dogs.  The weather was against them, but they went anyway.  They wouldn't stop looking for him until they found him, the sheriff said.

They had to stop for awhile, of course.  Time went on, and there was no sign of him.  More blizzards dumped snow; clouds covered the hills.  He probably went in a tree well, people thought, and was buried.  Everyone knew he was out there somewhere.  He wasn't the type to run away and start a new life.  He had a family and a job he enjoyed.  In the valley, he was beloved.

I didn't know him.  I had met his wife years ago but didn't really know her.  But our community is a small one.  A tree in a downtown park became a rallying point.  A bucket full of pens, note cards, and yarn hung from one of the branches.  People wrote notes of hope and love and hung them on the tree.  The family visited and left mini Snickers bars with a note asking those who left cards to take one of the treats.  It was Jon's favorite snack, they said.

I left a note.  Months went by.  The search resumed on sunny, warm days.  Three days ago, word came: the search for the doctor was over, after almost three months had gone by.  Apparently he had been caught in a small avalanche the day he had gone missing.  Jon could now come home to his family.

Sometimes life isn't easy in this mountain town.  It can get overrun by tourists.  It is expensive.  Winters can be long and cold.  But when it matters, people come together.  They will leave messages hanging on a tree in the middle of March, saying how much they care.  They will look for you if you are missing.  They will try to find you and bring you home.
Photo by Peregrine Frissell/Daily Interlake






8 comments:

  1. I heard about this. So sad. A real reminder that life can change in an instant.

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    1. Yes, really sad! And two tree well deaths at the resort this winter too.

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  2. Thia is heartbreaking, and also heartwarming, that he and his family were so supported by your community. The best of people can come out at the worst of times.

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    1. I loved the tree. It was full of notes.

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  3. What is sad story… But what a wonderful testament to the town!

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    1. It's good to know so many people care.

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  4. So awful that he went missing. But he was doing what he loved...

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    1. I don't think avalanche danger was very high that day. Bad luck.

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