Saturday, December 3, 2022
Dec. 3, 2022

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Everybody Has a Story: Saving suffering stranger in mud flats

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This story starts out 30 years ago, with two different pairs of guys enjoying a day at the coast.

My wife Sandy and I used to spend our weekends in Lincoln City, Ore., with her sister and brother-in-law enjoying the scenic beaches, while also foraging the shores in hope of fish, clams or crab for our dinner.

One day my brother-in-law Dale and I were on one of these journeys in the Salishan mud flats. We came across two “old guys” way out there. One of them was frantically waving and yelling to us. We trudged our way to them as quickly as we could, given the deep, shin-high mud.

After finally reaching them, we found that one of them had suffered a heart attack. Mind you, this was back before anyone had a cellphone. Dale and I took turns carrying the failing man on our backs toward the highway in hopes of getting him medical assistance. He was somewhat conscious and was able to cling on with his arms around our necks.

Thankfully he was not a large man, but to this very day I remember what a tough journey it was; if he had been any larger, we most certainly wouldn’t have made it out of all of that thick mud.

After what felt like hours, we finally made it back to the road and flagged down a car to call for an ambulance — after which we had to wait.

While waiting for help, we learned that these two longtime friends had both recently lost their wives, and had decided to take a trip together. Without a set schedule, they decided to leave from California and travel at a leisurely pace up the West Coast. After that, they had their sights set on Canada and then moving on to the East Coast, exploring the South and then returning to California.

The pair had no idea how long their road trip would take, but planned to take their time and fully experience each of their destinations.

My brother-in-law and I returned home with no dinner and a nagging feeling that Lincoln City might have been the end of the road for the two close friends.

About a month later, I was on a fishing trip to Ilwaco, which is about an hour north of Lincoln City and the Salishan mud flats, and decided to stop into Red’s Restaurant for breakfast.

Sure enough, there sat the two old guys. I approached their table and reintroduced myself. They invited me to join them for what was a very interesting breakfast. The heart attack victim had recovered in a local hospital while his friend waited for him. They were sightseeing all the way and were not in any hurry.

I wished them well as they continued on their “guys’ walkabout” trip, as they phrased it. As I walked out, I couldn’t help hoping that they would stick to adventures that didn’t include any traveling into mud flats.


Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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