The Outhouse Was Empty (C)
kevin Sean kelly

It was a city family, Dad was a mechanic, mom worked for the phone company.  They had two children, a seven year old boy and an eleven year old girl.    Living with them was the wives sixty six year old widowed father.  A two hour drive north of them the mountains started.  One of the things they enjoyed doing was driving up there on Saturday mornings, and spending the day in the fresh air and have a picnic.  They did have a favorite spot.

The State Forestry Department had cleared an area in the center of a six thousand acre forest and installed five picnic tables and an outhouse.  It was quite and beautiful.

This area was about two miles off the paved road by dirt road.    Many times they were the only family here.  They were very comfortable and content when they came here.  After a period of time, comfort turned to complacency.   The children were permitted to wonder off, out of the picnic area, go to the outhouse when nature called.  The grandfather was more attentive to the coming and going of the children, than the parents.  At four in the afternoon, mother said "Where's Billy?"  Grandpa responded, "I saw him go down to the outhouse about an hour ago."  Dad said, "What in the hell is he doing down there all this time?  He started down the trail to the outhouse.

He was back in five minutes, pale and shaken, "He's not there."  They screamed his name expecting him to reply, "Im Coming."    There was only the dead silence of the forest.  Panic set in.  They rushed around calling his name till they all realized he couldn't hear them.

A healthy man can walk on a flat land in the forest three miles in one hour.  A seven year old boy, chasing after a deer he encountered as he came out of the outhouse, can go that far also.  At a point, the child realizes he can't catch up and decides to return to the picnic area.

Seldom does he select the right direction, unless someone has taken the time to teach him one very basic lesson.

When you walk or run in the forest, look up to the tree canopy.    When you want to return, look up to the tree canopy.  Nature has provided you with a compass.  In this hemisphere, we all know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  What few people know is that all this happens in the southern sky.   The branches of trees in the forest reach out for the sun on the southern side, there are more of them and this side is lush.  on the northern side, the branches are bent upward toward the tree to try to get sun.  There are much less branches and they are not lush.  By looking up, you will be able to determine north-south-east and west.  Billy was never taught this, for if he had been, this story would end right here.

The boy's father took the correct action.  Instead of starting to search himself, thus wasting precious time and taking the risk of getting himself lost also, he drove to the paved road and to the nearest phone.  He called 911.  By five thirty, the picnic area was teaming with firemen, forest rangers and volunteers with air scent dogs.  They still had two good hours of daylight and started their search on the side of the picnic area that the boy was last seen.  The outhouse side.

Nobody had seen the boy return, so common sense says he is still on that side.  It was getting dark when someone said, "Get the bloodhound guy."    I was there in a little over an hour, it was dark.  I brought my best bloodhound and Buckeye the Back Dog.  A dog that is specially trained for night time work.  He is trained for only one purpose.  To be able to return to the exact spot you started from at night.  What good would it have been for me to find Billy and then be lost myself.  He is trained at the command, "Go Home" to retrace the path you came in, by following the scent of the bloodhound, and is trained to never go to far ahead of the returning searcher.

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At night he wears a harness with a flashing light on each side.  He can be followed back in darkness to the very place you entered the forest.  The picnic area was well lighted by the rescue vehicles.  I scented the bloodhound with the boys sweater and started him on the opposite side of the picnic area, from the outhouse, intending to circle the entire area to try and cross his scent trail.

Everyone hollered at me, "No-No, he's on THIS side, not THAT side."  Rather than trying to explain to them, that I really did know what I was doing, I used a statement I have used many times in situations like this.  "Got to Warm Up the Dog."  We crossed his scent trail about 15 yards outside the picnic area and on the opposite side from the outhouse.  He was 15 yards deep in the woods, and to the right side of the picnic area, when he passed it chasing deer.    That's why nobody saw him go by.

The bloodhound turned hard left, his tail went up and over his back, he started baying and I knew he was on the boys trail.  We followed his scent trail, turning right than left, then back right again.  Telling me he was trying to find his way back but was deeply lost. I followed the dog for over an hour,when through the darkness, I heard a small voice.
"Over Here Mister". I raised my head to direct the light on it towards the voice,and there in the beam he sat. Another thirty feet and the dog would have been in his lap. We found him sitting on the stump of a tree almost two miles away.

He was one frightened little boy, but uninjured.  He had been told by his father, if he ever got lost to stay where he was.  I tied a rope around my waist, leaving three feet of it dangling behind me and told him to hold on to it and follow me. After shortening the bloodhounds lead from fifteen feet to six feet, to keep him at my side and not in front,  I turned on the strobe lights that were attached to Buckeye's vest, and told him, "Go Home" and followed him back.

I could see the lights in the picnic area a hundred yards before I got there.  The reunion with his mother had every man and woman there with a tear in their eye, some of the men were dabbing their eyes and trying not to cry. The ladies that had the air scent dogs were openly crying and
not ashamed to show it. The mother, father and grandfather were pouring tears. The sister was running from the car.   This made me realize why I do this work.  The grandfather came over to the van as I was loading the dogs.

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He had his checkbook in his hand and asked what he owed me.  I explained to him that we make our living breeding, boarding, training and selling these dogs, and do generate some income from contracts with government agencies.  We Never will accept payment, for using them in situations like this.

He was a gentleman about it and did not argue and insisted like many do.    Ten days later, a UPS truck drove into the kennel and delivered a hi-fi stereo radio, record, tape, compact disc player with no information on who sent it.   I opened the box, and inside was a note, "Thank You" was all it said.

The rules of ethics are very specific about taking Payment for using bloodhounds to search for lost children, hunters, sick or infirmed elderly.  It is forbidden but don't mention anything like this, and not knowing who sent it, I could not return it if I wanted to, so I kept it.  When income tax time rolled around the next spring, my accountant called and asked if I had the paperwork ready for her.  I told her it was all set to mail to her and we chatted a bit.

She asked if I had been busy this year and I mentioned to her how lucky I was to get the complete music equipment.  She agreed that it was a wonderful gift, and asked for the make and model.

When my income tax forms arrived for me to sign, there under miscellaneous income was, "Donation in Kind" (music station) $156.00.

I should have kept my big mouth shut.

Copyright (C) Kevin Sean Kelly- 2001- All rights Reserved.
May not be copied or forwarded without the written permission of the Author.

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