Monday, January 16, 2012

Finders, Seekers

The kids and I took a late afternoon walk  down around the lake and then up through the old pasture of the Daniel place.  Somewhere along the trail Sam dropped his i-Phone.  He discovered it missing just as the sun came crashing down in a blaze of dark orange ice crystals.  Seven degrees out and "why exactly did you bring your phone with you Sam?"

So we hiked back to the house.  There Sarah and I began rummaging through cabinets in search of enough batteries to load three flashlights and Sam went to work locating his phone through the GPS tracking program on his Macbook.  The satellite eye placed it just off the east edge of our neighbor's pond, somewhere among the thorny multiflora rose and spindly stalks of golden rod.  Sam then hoofed it up to the pole barn and brought down the Dodge Ram. He slid over to let me drive and Sarah climbed in between us.  

The Daniel farm is only about a half mile ride, so we were there before the heater started blowing warm air.  We pulled off to the side of the road in the dip where the inlet crosses through an underground sluice. I backed the rear end of the Dodge up against the fence gate on the high side of the road so the headlights were pointing out across the pasteur.  We left the truck running to prevent the battery from going dead and then climbed over the rusty barbed-wire fence and single filed down the shadowy slope toward the spot the GPS had pinpointed.

Sarah had her cell phone with her and kept calling Sam's number, but service was spotty and it would jump to voice mail without ever ringing.  We picked up a deer trail on the north side of the pond and  followed it along the water's edge, slopping in and out of muddy spring seeps and over ice flows until we found Sam's three hour old footprints heading back up the slope across a thin crust of snow.  Half way up the hill, the tracks met a second wire fence and we searched the ground thoroughly beneath it, thinking that this would have been a likely place for the I-phone to have slipped from his pocket.  But no luck, so we moved on, our flashlights bouncing light beams off the sparkling white snow.  A tall stone sheep wall, capstones on edge, greeted us behind a thick briar of thorn bushes.  It was the spot where Sam had doubled back, having found this century old relic too formidable an obstacle.    

By this time my ears were tingling, my fingers numb and an ancient Door's melody, "Riders on the Storm" had planted itself in the frosty attic of my mind.  I found the memory of Jim Morrison's dopey baritone frightfully inspiring, and in breathy white puffs, I began to howl a slightly revised version of the  tune: 

"Guys, you gotta love your Sam, 
Guys, you gotta love your Sam, 
Walk this icy dam, flashlight in your hand 
Guys you gotta love your Sam."

On our second pass down the hill, we concentrated our Search & Rescue efforts by the inlet.  We were all getting really cold.   The first evening stars were now hanging crisp and clear above us.  Suddenly Sarah's voice stopped us dead in our tracks.

"Guys, its ringing, listen!!  Turn off your lights, maybe we can see it!!" 

Flicking off our hand beams, I noticed a vehicle coming down the road far up on the hill, its head lights bright on the silvery road.  I wondered if the driver had noticed us douse our lights and I wondered what he would think when he came along side our driverless Dodge, motor running and high beams on. In the long moment that it took for the ring in Sarah's phone to travel the airwaves, the headlights disappeared into the dip.

"HOLY SHIT!!"  Sam screamed, almost leaping out of his leather clad hoodie.  Right by his foot, startling as the shake of a rattler's tail, sounded the "ping" of the activated i-Phone as its illuminated face flashed to life in the snow by his boot.  Another inch, and Sam would have been standing on it.

"Found it!!  he shouted, with the glee of a miner striking gold.

"Well how about putting it in your pocket,"  I chided.  I was standing maybe twelve feet from him.  We had all walked over this length of trail three times, but as the phone was white and turned on edge, we'd missed it.

"Yeah, and this time it goes in my pocket with the zipper.  Thanks guys."

Sarah and I just grunted and watched the mystery car rising up the adjacent hill.  What was I thinking?  Why would some one actually stop to see if there was trouble?  This is rural America!  Home to independent self reliance.  Folks mind their own business.  They don't bother with what some one is doing in some one else's field on a subzero Sunday night.... regardless of the fact that every local knows the Daniel place has been in the hands of an absentee owner for more than forty years.  So much for that "like a good neighbor" bullshit State Farm Insurance circulates. 

With the look of a small train of pack mules, we queued up on the skinny deer trail and headed for home.   Buoyant with success, I couldn't help but add a second verse to the plagiarized melody I was now calling "Riders in the Truck."  

"Yeah you gotta love your Sam
Guys you gotta love your Sam 
Hold his freezing hand, try to understand
GUYS, you gotta love your Sam"

Back at the farm house, we kicked off ice caked boots and pulled off muddy trousers.  Now that I am almost thawed out, I am sort of waiting for big brother to say:

"Hey guys, since you helped me find my phone, how about I buy you all a dessert at the Harford Dinner?"

I figure I might be waiting awhile for that, so maybe I had better make the offer myself.  I mean, what else are dads for?  Besides, the evening is still young and after all that high adventure, who wants to stop now?

1 comment:

  1. Why did he bring it with him? Because for his generation, being without his phone would be like being without lungs or a limb.