These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
About Coconino County
About Coconino County
Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.
January 25, 2009
A Tribute To My SAR Spouse
During that time nine years ago, he took care of the farm--the critters and the property--that we were employed to live on and tend to for the absentee owners. Over the course of the 185 days I was away, I saw Steve only once. That five-hour visit took place in a dump of a trail town (which shall remain unnamed) before my husband had to start back to make it home in time to do the evening chores. And he never once complained during any of our phone conversations or when I returned home after I'd completed my hike, about all of the extra work he'd had to shoulder in my absence.
And Steve has held true to form when it's come to me being part of Search and Rescue. As anyone involved with SAR knows, our pagers (or phones) can and do go off at all times of the day and night. Our gadgets have no consideration for mealtimes, holidays, great movies or dates, or a good night's sleep during a snowstorm. People sometimes--often--need help when it's not necessarily convenient for SAR personnel or volunteers. Not to mention for their families. So I wanted to publicly thank Steve for being such a great sport, not to mention bolstering my confidence when it wavers.
I recently read a book called Mountain High, Mountain Rescue by SAR volunteer Peggy Parr, in which she writes, "The patience of a husband or wife at home is often forgotten, yet this is a vital ingredient to the team's accomplishments in the field."
She goes on to say, "Sleeping spouses, unmoved by adrenaline, are awakened in the depth of night by a pager's piercing tone giving an emergency message ... and subjected to the noise of frantic dressing and departure. If the spouse wants the car, chauffeuring is necessary. During the day the tone shatters silence at the sermon, the movie and the restaurant. Dinners turn cold, picnics are cancelled, guests are left waiting. Bachelors should contemplate this neglect a spouse suffers.
After a mission, the spouse is forced to listen to endless phone calls from other members, where details are dissected like a frog. Gear is spread across the floor as in a garage sale. Two-hundred-foot nylon ropes are cleaned in the washing machine, and hang for days drying in spaghetti coils from the basement ceiling.
The spouse tolerates these annoyances with a patience worthy of sainthood. Members are aware of these qualities, for we take their spirit with us always."
How true. And Steve even gets up when those middle-of-the-night call-outs happen, to make sure I don't leave anything behind as I stumble about for my clothing and gear on the way to the door.
Just today, as Steve and I were in the middle of stuffing our faces with raw fish by candlelight at our favorite sushi restaurant, my pager went off. Immediately, I said, "Oh, it's okay, I'll skip it this time," but Steve knows me all too well. "No, no," he said, "It's totally okay. Go help."
As we've done in the past, we'd have had the rest of our dinner doggie-bagged then driven home, where I'd drop Steve off, quickly change clothes and head to the SAR building. But, as it turned out, that wasn't necessary this time and we finished our dinner date. Our coordinator's message, which I listened to with a face full of maki roll, said this was a call for the technical team. If, in the spring, I qualify for that sub-set of our General SAR team, those kinds of calls will then include me, and more doggie-bags may be necessary.
You're a lucky gal to have such a supportive companion. He sounds like a great guy.
Thank you for the reminder - I'm new to SAR and thus my DH is new to my SAR role as well. It's good to remember that this isn't something that just affects me.
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