CBS Morning News today features the dramatic story of the Arkansans lost for days in the rugged wilderness of Big Bend Ranch State Park in west Texas. It includes on-camera interviews with the couple — reporter Cathy Frye and photographer Rick McFarland of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Texas Game Wardens’ Facebook page has many photos of the long search, which involved dozens of employees from several government agencies. The couple got lost Wednesday. McFarland found help Friday, but Frye wasn’t found until Sunday afternoon. She was dehydrated and banged up, but appears to be recovering well in an El Paso hospital.
Searching for coverage on this story, I was surprised at how many episodes of lost hikers occur around the country and the spinoff coverage it inspires on hiking precautions and the cost of rescue operations, such as this in Los Angeles Times. But this is what I thought about: Many of us love to hate government and the lazy bureaucrats until we need them. But when we turn the water tap, we want cool liquid to pour out. A bunch of church volunteers, well meaning though they might be, are not a substitute for trained search-and-rescue people with satellite phones, ground-clearing tools, radios, communication systems, helicopters and the knowhow to systematically search the most unforgiving ground and then provide emergency medical help when a life hangs in the balance. It costs a lot of money — not just to deploy those people, but to have them trained and ready on standby for the call. Those who’d shut down government thoughtlessly, to put it mildly, don’t have an acute long view. Line of the day was this sentence in today’s Democrat-Gazette, attributed to their favorite congressman, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who signed a government shutdown threat and then delivered on it when he couldn’t force the president to accede to his wishes to block health care for millions of Americans. He was on the phone and email with the Democrat-Gazette and its publisher Sunday. Said the newspaper:
Griffin’s first instinct was to gather information about the search and try to get federal resources involved.
Federal resources? Of a government he shut down? Griffin said the Interior Department nonetheless returned his call. And the Game Warden website is among several local sources that said the U.S. Border Patrol helped in the search. Perhaps they went as volunteers. I wouldn’t be surprised. I have a higher opinion of federal employees than the shutdown posse does.