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Chapter 14: Scene 52: I need help!


ThinkLink: Did you ever do something that caused other people to fear for your safety?

       Now that it's too late, I'm worried that this is a rotten idea. I ditch the rope and come running back up the trail, yelling, "Help! I need help! Come quick! Neil's fallen off the trail. Somebody come and get him up." I wait. Nobody answers. Where are they? I yell louder. "Dan. Randy, don't you guys hear me? Come on. Neil needs help." Finally, the thump of boots pound down the trail.

       "We're coming," Dan calls back. "Randy, make sure all your crew gets here quick. On the double!"

       Then I see Dan half-running, half-skiing through the mud-slick. He's got Randy by the elbow. They skid to a stop. Dan looks around. "Where is he?" He looks down the hillside. "How in the ... how did this happen? Never mind. Let's get him out of there." He leans out over the edge and looks at Neil in the tree and the skid marks down the bank. "You all right, Neil? Hang on. I'll get you right up."

       The rest of the crew skid down the trail and tumble to a stop behind Dan. "Shit," Randy says, looking at his watch. "Look at the time."

       Dan yells at him. "Randy, don't just stand there. I need your help."

       "There's a rope on that pile of gear over there," I tell them, trying to sound helpful.

       Randy looks at Dan and then he looks back up the trail. "Let's get this over with. Hand me that rope," Randy bellows at Cal. "Don't just stand there. Randy grabs for the coil that Cal pulls toward him. "You guys brace behind that tree so you can pull me and him up." Randy playing Superman! I can't believe it. He's the one gonna come out of this looking like a hero.

ThinkLink: Can you climb a rope? Is it the same climbing down as it is going up?

       "Wait a minute, Randy," Dan tells him. "That's a brave thing to offer, but this is a staff job. You had the right idea, though. Wrap the rope around that big fir and get your guys on the other end. Be ready to pull us up." Dan snaps the end of the rope to test its strength, makes a loop in it and lowers it to Neil. "Can you let go of the tree with one of your arms long enough to get this rope around you? Grab it and pull it over your chest and under your arms."

       Neil looks up at him and shakes his head. "I can't let go. I can't."

       "All right. Hang on then." Dan puts the loop over his head and arms and fits it down over his own chest. "Randy, are you guys ready? Keep the rope wrapped around that tree and ease it out a little at a time while I work my way down." He leans back against the rope and steps back over the edge of the bank, slipping in the mud, feeling around for toe holds in roots and rocks sticking out of the wet dirt.

       "Give me a little more rope. That's it. It'll be all right, Neil." He pulls himself in toward Neil and the tree. "I'm going to get behind you and wrap my arm around your chest. While they pull on the rope, you and I are going to walk ourselves right back up the bank to the trail."

       "It's too steep," Neil says, and he clings harder to the tree. "I can't do it."

       All the time Dan's getting a grip on Neil, he's talking real firm to him. "Look at me! Look at me! Don't look down. Now, turn your head up. Look up at the guys on the trail. Watch what they're doing. That's it. Lean back on me."

       "What if I fall?"

       "You're not going to. Trust me, and remember the things we learned about ropes and climbing. You'll be fine. You can do it."

       Dan has Neil in front of him, with his arms around his chest. Dan looks up. "We're all set, Randy. Start pulling ... slow ... just a little at a time.... don't jerk ... not too fast."

       All the time Dan walks him up, he keeps talking to Neil, telling him he can do it. "As long as we keep the rope taut, we'll be fine. I'll be right behind you, hanging on tight. That's right, lean back into my chest." They slip twice, and once they dangle on the end of the rope, and I can't breathe good until Dan swings them into the bank again. In my head, I keep telling them: Make it! Make it! Step by step, they work their way back up the slope. Then they tumble up over the edge and everybody yells.

       Me, I just sink to the ground and thank God, for them and for me. If Neil fell and got hurt, I was the one... . It was me that thought this crazy thing up.

       "Great job, you guys," Dan tells us. "You all deserve life-saving medals. Randy, you really came through as crew chief." Dan feels Neil's arms and legs, and all over his head, looking for bumps and bruises. "Neil, are you hurt anywhere? Can you walk? I can't find anything." He pokes some more. "Bend over a little. Now rotate your head. Stand up now. Looks like you're all right, but we'll have you checked over as soon as we get back to camp."

       Dan turns and looks the crew over. "You're some great bunch of guys. I was waiting to tell you at lunch, today, but I'll do it now. We've set the rafting trip for tomorrow. Corrie's leading our crew white water rafting on the McKenzie River . We'll go back to camp and spend this afternoon getting ready. Randy, you come with me, and we'll walk Neil back down the trail. Cal and John, all of you, gather up the gear and follow us down to the bus."

       Randy wrinkles his face up at Cal as he turns to go down with Dan and Neil. Then he turns back. "You heard him, you guys. Pick up the shovels and the other stuff here and get back to the bus."

       Randy, the hero. He makes me want to puke . I grab a couple of shovels and hurry down the trail. I thought maybe Randy'd make a dash for it soon as Dan and Neil got back on the trail, but he doesn't. He and his guys go down the trail, with Dan, meek as mice. When I get to the meadow, Dan is opening up the back of the bus for the equipment. I lean in close to Neil. "I'm sorry. I didn't think it would be that scary."

       "Who was scared?" Neil says. "I'm just a good actor." He grins as he climbs up the steps into the bus.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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