I got to play hero again yesterday.
Thalia’s fourth grade class was having a camp out up in Steele, Alabama. We showed up later than most, around threeish. Most everyone was already settled. The kids were a little wild and the parents a little scattered. After unloading the firewood I brought, exploring the camp ground a little and finishing my first beer I realized I needed to pee.
The property where we were staying had a cabin with a bathroom. It seemed more appropriate for me to find a semi private spot and just go outdoors. There was enough traffic in and out of the cabin and I didn’t see why I needed to add to it.
The property sits in an ox bow of a creek. As such it’s surrounded on three sides by water. I noticed several tree falls across the creek, one of which was just on the edge of the campfire area. Using this I crossed the creek and and found a quiet place to pee.
Unbeknownst to me, I was observed and followed.
After peeing, I explored a little. I tried to find my way down stream to where most of the kids were playing in the water and having a mud battle, but the going was too rough and I turned back.
While I was gone, Emily, 10, and Jennell, 5, tried to follow. Jennell slipped and got her feet wet. Her mother, understandably, responded with frustration. Emily got her feelings hurt and while everyone else was dealing with Janelle, slipped away to sulk and nurse her feelings.
After a while her absence was noted and people began looking for her. Before long there became a sense of urgency as she wasn’t showing up.
I started out corralling the other kids around the fire. There was still plenty of daylight, but keeping chaos to a minimum seemed more beneficial to finding Emily.
Emily’s mother, headed up a trail that ran alongside the creek bed on the cabin side of the creek. I heard her call that she had found her but couldn’t reach her and since I was closest I headed up in her direction. I assumed Emily had gone up this trail and had slipped down the embankment and couldn’t climb back up.
When I got to her mother I quickly learned that she couldn’t see Emily, only hear her. With the valleys and twists of the creek sound carried funnily, it was hard to tell but I gathered that Emily was on the other side of the creek.
I sprinted back down the trail and crossed the creek. Two of the other dads, Kyle and Brian, were right behind me.
There was the remnants of an old jeep trail, but it was mostly overgrown. The brush was thick but not unpassable and and I blazed my own trail.
I started to hear Emily more clearly. She was up ahead and maybe around another bend. Her voice was high pitched and scared.
Kyle was in eyesight of her first. I saw him in the creek bed on a shoal. He was talking to her from about thirty feet away, calming her down and letting her know help was on the way. I came to a bend just above her and climbed down to reach her.
She immediately began saying how sorry she was and then jumped into my arms and began sobbing. Her jeans were wet up to the knee but she otherwise seemed fine. She was just lost and scared. To her credit she did have a flash light she was signalling with, but the daylight and the dense vegetation made it fairly ineffective.
I squatted down, offered her my back and began to carry her out. I’m not sure exactly why I did this.
In the moment I was reminded of my friend, Trey, and his story of rescuing a young boy who’d gotten lost at a cubscout campout a few weeks earlier. It seemed the right thing to do.
Emily, however was fine, scared but quite capable of walking. Even though she weighed next to nothing, carrying her in the creek bed was not the most stable of walking and it occurred to me that I could trip and spill us both, thereby turning a “heroic rescue” into a foolish hazard.
We quickly ran out of dry footing in the creek bed and I opted to climb up the embankment. I got most of the way up and then told Emily to push off my back and climb the rest of the way. She did everything but push off my back and therefore nearly slipped. I had to put a hand on her butt and push her the rest of the way up.
Kyle and Brian met us at this point and we all walked back.
When we returned a few minutes later, Bart was the ever appreciative father, shaking my hand several times and expressing his gratitude, “Anything you need, you just let me know.”
Personally, I felt chagrined. If I hadn’t crossed the log in the first place, none of this probably would have happened. So while I got to play the hero, I didn’t feel the hero.
What I am grateful for is that playing the hero was not that hard. Physically moving through the woods, sprinting, climbing and even carrying Emily was not taxing.
While mentally chagrined over the experience and my role in causing it, physically I was up to the task of fixing it. This I owe to my training.
You all know I enjoy my time in the gym. I look forward to it and even build my day around it, instead of the more usual fitting my training around my day. Whether it’s worth it or it doesn’t usually fit into the equation. It’s usually a foregone conclusion. Today, however, in the morning light, I’m reminded of just how worth it is.