The Charlie Bravo Story

I didn’t come for the results, I came for the experience

Dad here; two years ago today, everything went from good to not so good in a micro second. Mom questioned the wisdom of me wanting to revisit the scene of my near demise; all I could think of were the ten lepers that were healed by Jesus, and only one returned to offer thanks. As it turned out, this trip wasn’t only for me.

Charlie and I loaded up Miss Ellie and headed west for Wolf Pen Gap; the first stop was unplanned, the 4th floor of the hospital in Hot Springs where I had been incarcerated. Seeing the halls where I had made my laps, dragging a mess of wires, tubes and other medical misery in an effort to wake up the plumbing, snapped everything back into focus. I left a note for a particular nurse who had went above and beyond the call of duty, and no, it wasn’t the nurse who had performed the sponge bath, but thanks for asking.

Then it was west towards the scene of the crime; it remained overcast and the fog refused to burn off as Ellie chugged through the mountains. After the pavement turned to dirt for what seemed an eternity, there it was; what I remembered as a split rail fence were actually rail road ties bolted together. For a good while, I had the place to my self, the only sound was of Charlie very disrespectfully flouncing through the woods, totally unconcerned about any past experiences, negative or otherwise. Then the sound of four wheelers and ATVs broke the reverie, and like Charlie, it was time to move on.

I remember the ride from the the fence to the field where the helicopter could land being the most painful of my life, with every creek crossing and pothole carefully designed to shake my guts out onto the floor of the ambulance. As it turned out, there were no major obstacles of any sort, just a fairly smooth gravel road, although I would have never believed that at the time.

There is absolutely no cell coverage in that area; when Zach rode for help, the only public land line for a 50 miles radius was at the Big Fork Country Store, my next destination. The owner remembered every detail of that day, how she had stayed open for Zach until the helicopter had departed from the field across the highway from her store. She said that the trails of Wolf Pen are littered with crosses, memorials to those who didn’the make it out, and of all those that had mishaps like mine and survived, I was the first to return. It was then that I realized that this trip wasn’t meant for me.

The next stop was to meet the ranger who Zach had encountered and led to where I lay. His willingness to share his recollections of that day were vital to me being able to put the pieces together, and I had to meet this guy. He agreed to meet at the station for a quick chat before going back out on patrol, one of his initial comments when I pulled into the parking lot:
“when I saw that old brown Subaru coming up the road, I knew that had to be you”.

We had a great time discussing the twists and turns of life, how the accident in Wolf Pen flowed into the story of Charlie; I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with a fellow human being. Humble yet professional, personable yet direct, what a totally class act. I have no idea how, when, or if we will ever cross paths again, but sometimes that’s not the issue; the world is a better place just knowing that some people are in it.

I never discovered the name of any in the group that stayed with me until the paramedics arrived; the only witness listed in the ranger’s report was Zach. But make no mistake; I’m not finished yet, and someday I will find them.

We rolled hard back to the Casa as we were expecting a special guest, a rider from Cordova, Spain who is riding his Africa Twin motorcycle up, down, and around the world. After spending the night at the Casa, he’s continuing across Texas, New Mexico, California, then south to the tip of South America and Tierra del Fuego; I realize that “he that compares himself to others is not wise”, but it sure makes my little adventures look paltry in comparison. I’ll be posting a link to his blog and FB page; this guy is also the real deal.

I’ll be turning the page back over to Charlie, as she appears to he getting a little antsy to be posting again, and pictures will be forthcoming as well…

Don’t forget to take advantage of the free shipping throughout Monday; calendars and mugs are going quick!

Join the discussion

  1. Sarah Reynolds Adair

    Tears before coffee…your story, though not the same takes me to me a place I can see…my beautiful niece, in the hands of strangers holding her hand. The med flight only took her so far….she joined the angels midflight….but she was not alone…that counts…more than those “strangers” will ever know….God’s Speed…..

  2. Shawna Lynn Ramsey Nearhoof

    I have to say your stories make me smile everyday. I volunteer at our local rescue by making homemade dog treats for them to sell. I also bake and make items for them to auction off. You see my family doesn’t have much but we have more than some. We learned a few very valuable lessons in a short time. When our daughter was two she was diagnosed with a myriad of issues. She has some conditions in her brain. Medication helps but we recently found out that may be turning against her by hurting her kidneys. So back to the hospital we go next week. We stay at the Ronald McDonald House which let me tell you first hand shows that things can always be worse. 2 years ago I almost died after a minor surgery went horribly wrong. Had my husband not noticed something was terribly wrong and made me go to the hospital I wouldn’t be here right now. He is a firefighter and he just seemed to know something wasn’t right. He volunteers at our local department. That is also how we are reminded of how much worse things could be. So though we don’t have much we try to give as much as we can. Mainly our time. Your stories make me see everyday that life is so much better when you can give in some small way. Thank you for what you do. It makes me smile. It makes me cry. If you’re ever interested in dog treats I’m your woman. I can share the recipe or ship right from my home.

  3. Deborah Ferguson

    Both are the picture of health, and worth all the effort of others. Always look forward to reading your stories and seeing pictures.

  4. Elisabeth Parrish

    What an awesome journey! I always wished that I could go back and thank a few people who saved my life, whose faces were lost in the pain of the moment and whose names were never given. While I have found more good people in the world than bad, there have always been those that totally gladdened my heart with their spirit and mere existence in this world, like your ranger. I would tell you that you have also revealed yourself as just such a one, Dad, to all all of your readers, but since being humble is such an important part of the mix, discretion requires me to leave it unspoken.

  5. Sam Howard

    Now you can put a period to this chapter; all is well now and Charlie will lead you on new adventures.

  6. Jannie Maxwell

    I believe you will find your “strangers” some day.

  7. Diane Brannon-Keech

    If god brought you to it he will see you through it.

  8. Mindi Tei McConnell

    This is an amazing story. I would have done the same thing, visiting the site and everyone in it. I know these folks enjoyed seeing you as much as you did seeing them. I have been a Park Ranger for over 20 years and it is always good to hear happy endings come out of near tragedies. Can’t wait to read more…..

  9. Mary Hicks

    That’s a great picture!!

  10. Evelyn Pretty

    Amazing story! It never ceases to amaze me how things just fall into place. You definitely had someone watching over you that day Bret! I am not a movie person but if they made a movie out of this story I would be glued to the TV and would also need a box of tissues!! I’m also thinking if everyone shared this story asking to locate the people that were there that day, you may just find who you are looking for!!

  11. Jeanne Mancinelli

    As awesome as this story is, it is only setting the stage for the message you and Charlie and all the inmates of the casa are spreading. No matter what compromises our “cage”, don’t let it limit you. Follow Charlie’s lead… CHARK deium!

  12. Darlene Cartier

    Wow. What an amazing day. I bet the ranger and the store owner were touched by your visit. Thanks for sharing your story.

  13. Kathy Moody

    What tangled lives we lead. Or something like that. Definitely applies to you. What a great journey. You never know how your passage affects others. Blessings for you and yours

  14. Kathy Moody

    Tried to order today. Free shipping monday?

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