Submitted June 2, 2009

Half way down the hill I started staggering and falling down

One Sunday morning, when my dad was visiting me on vacation, we decided to go to General Patton's museum in Desert Center Ca. It's about a 2 hour drive, so we put a few beers in an ice chest and took off. It would be a nice way to spend a Sunday. Two weeks prior to this a couple of my friends and I went to the museum, so I knew where it was. The museum is right off the freeway, but where the soldiers lived and trained, is about 18 miles away in the desert.

My friend knew the area, and we had our 4 wheel drive trucks, so he showed us around. After I got back from this trip I was buying groceries, and as I was in the water aisle, I saw a bottle of water and something told me to buy this bottle of water. At that time, I didn't buy water to keep in the house, so I threw it behind the truck seat. To this day, I don't know what possessed me to buy that water or put it behind my seat, but it would save my life.

It was Sunday and the museum was closed, so we went to where the soldiers lived and trained. After exploring the area I asked my dad if he wanted to see an old miners shack that we found 2 weeks earlier. It was across the desert flood and up in the mountains, 12 miles from the highway. At the miners shack we took pictures, drank some beer and did some exploring. When it was time to leave, the truck wouldn't start. I wish I could explain the feeling that came over me.

The first thing I thought of was my dad. He was in India during WWII and had desert survival training, but he was now in his seventies. We tried everything we knew to start the truck, but nothing worked. I finally said I'm going to have to walk out. I had second thoughts because I was tired from pushing the truck back and forth while my dad popped the clutch, and, I hadn't eaten since dinner Saturday. I told my dad there was a blanket and a few pieces of hard candy in the truck, and I would leave the ice chest and beer with him. We hugged and said our love for each other and then I remembered the bottle of water behind the seat.

I felt a little better after this, my dad would have ice and beer, and I would take this bottle of water with me. I told my dad I WILL be back. As I walked away, in a shaky voice, my dad said do you have an ID with you? I got the meaning of what he said and it really hit home. It was Sunday 3 P.M., 105 degrees.

I was walking at a fast pace, but it didn't seem to bother me. I kept trying to figure out how far it was out of the mountains. When you're driving and looking at the sights you lose track of the distance. I was taking small sips of water trying to make it last, but I soon realized I was going to run out of water. Once I got out of the mountains, I still had all that desert to walk across. I couldn't believe how focused I was. I had only one thought, get down to the road. I kept thinking if something happened to me, they'll never find my dad back there. The road I was walking on was rock, dirt and sand, and I had on new cowboy boots. Not the best combination. I finally made it to the edge of the mountains. I was exhausted and had about half of my water left. I stopped for a little break, the first time I stopped since I left. It seemed so long ago. As I stood there looking down at the road, it was so far away it was the size of a piece of thread. It was a long sloping hill down to the road. Walking in the mountains, I had a little shade, but this was across the desert with no shade. Fear set in for the first time.

I'm too tired and I don't have enough water to make it. I stood there trying to calm myself down. Even though it was far, it was a straight line down to the main highway. I told myself I will make it to the highway. My focus came back and I kept saying if something happens to me they'll never find my dad. About half way down the hill I started staggering and falling down. When I made it to the highway I couldn't take 2 steps without falling down. Every now and then a car would come by and I tried to flag it down but I couldn't stand. I kept staggering and falling down, and I realized they probably think I'm drunk and not going to stop. I looked at my watch and it was 8:30 and getting dark. I was crawling along the road and when a car would come by I would raise my arm and wave my hat. All they did was blow their horn and yell something out the window. After a while I was so tired and sore and in so much pain, I took off my glasses and hat, laid my head down and said here I am God come and take me, I can't take anymore. After some time I felt energy coming back in my body. I opened my eyes and thought of my dad. I was not going to leave him there. I struggled to my knees and knelled there on the side of the road, and whenever a car would come by I waved my hat. Nobody stopped.

Finally I saw red flashing lights. It was a fire truck with search lights on lights flashing. They were looking for me. The fireman said someone called 911 and said there was a man staggering along side the road. I owe my life (and my dad's) to that person. The firemen called BLM and they went up to get my dad, and they towed my truck down to the highway. The firemen couldn't believe I walked out in 5 and 1/2 hours. They took my dad to the fire station and took me to the hospital, were I spent the night in intensive care. After getting the truck fixed, it was a long quite drive home.

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