Tuesday, May 20, 2014

After 33 Years, The Search...

For over 30 years, our family has wondered what had happened to some of dad's things.  His watch, wedding ring, Fish and Game belt buckle ad badge had never been recovered.  It wasn't that we hadn't tried to find these things, we just hadn't been successful.

At Claude's last parole hearing we asked the Parole Board to ask him where the items were.  He told them he didn't know.  We knew that wasn't true.  I found a guy on a public forum about the incident who had taken Claude sailing after his release from prison and asked him to ask him.  Again, he "couldn't remember." 

So, several months ago, I got ahold of this friend again and asked him (on the public forum) to ask Claude if he and I could meet so that he might feel the need to finally tell us where these items were so they could come back to the family where they belong.  Here is our conversation:

Sam, next time you talk to Claude ask him if he would consider meeting me. I know he's close enough that I could make the drive to wherever. I'd like to think if he's the decent guy you say he is, he could give me the answers to a few questions I have. No angry words, no cameras. It's time. Let me know what you find out, you know how to get ahold of me but I don't need a call with your opinions, just let me know if he's willing to meet and where.

Roger that. No calls with my opinions. Where Claude is remains not for publication. The next time I talk to him I will ask him about meeting you. Claude and I have talked about this before, some time after you and I talked. At that time the answer was an emphatic no. I will see what he has to say now.

Jodi: I talked to Claude last night about your request. It simply will not happen. Even if he were living as close as Meridian, which he is not, he would not do it. Sorry.

No surprise. I thought maybe after all these years he might feel it was the right thing to do - to tell us where my dad's belongings are. He still isn't man enough to face a woman. The dark side of the devil... What a shame.

Have it your way. I have no dog in this hunt. He said, again, he won't meet with you. He also said that he has no idea of what happened to your father's things. As far as he knew, they are where your father's remains were--which has to be a matter of public record, though I am not privy to it--and could be located with a metal detector. That's been posted here before.

Although it has been over 30 years, I decided it was time to go to the site with metal detectors where dad's body had been found.  In my heart, I knew the chances of finding anything were beyond slim, but I was tired of wondering and knew I had to put an end to it.  I contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff' office to see if they could give me the location of the site.  Undersheriff Curtiss Kull let me know that not only would he find the site for us, but he and the Sheriff wanted to bring their Search and Rescue Team with metal detectors to help us.

We gathered a group of family and friends (some of the best people on earth) and set a trip and went down last Thursday. Curtiss made the drive from Winnemucca to meet us Thursday evening so that he could show us the site before the group of searchers arrived the next day.  He was so sensitive and he made it obvious that he truly cared about our family.

While this was an emotional trip as far as knowing that we would finally have an answer to this part of our questions, I had told our group that I didn't want this trip to be solemn and sad.  I wanted us to be able to enjoy great company, meet new friends, and spend a few days in a new area.  Mission accomplished.

I wanted to tell everyone about this trip before we went, but we didn't want the media to find out we were going.

So, here in pictures, is our trip...

 Setting up camp

I took 2 bottles of huckleberry wine down and Linda and I drank one rather quickly.  Missouri decided we needed a sobriety test.  Fail.
Missouri taking a shower under the rancher's sprinkler system 

They had to do a little shooting

Bright and early the next morning, a rancher stopped by to let us know they would be bringing some cows right through our camp

Those young cowboys were, ummmm, CUUUUUUTE!

and then we have a whole other story here.  Linda (God Bless her) was still in her uh, morning garb as the cowboys came through.  One came back to go get his truck and Linda decided to help him by offering to close the gate behind him so he didn't have to get off his horse.  He politely took her offer then sped off as fast as he could leave her behind.  Poor, sweet, terrified cowboy had his horse at a dead run as I watched him and his horse fall in a huge cloud of dust.  Being a good cowboy, he kept hold of the reins as he pitched over the horse's head.  He slowly got up, looked back and saw Linda in her getup, and jumped back on his horse never to be seen again.  I'm sure he's in therapy...

Nancy and Cliff cooked us breakfast.  It was yummy!

the volunteers started showing up

 Undersheriff Curtiss leads the way

Linda wanted to leave a marker so she made something out of beads and she and Nancy stacked some rocks

When the search was over, we visited and ate some doughnuts with our new friends

This was Joe (in the red shirt).  He's retired from Washoe County SO and was involved in the original manhunt.  He and a friend drove from Reno because they wanted to meet us and help.  He was so sweet.

Lots of hugs and thank you's, but I don't think we can ever tell these folks what their help meant to us.  I can't count how many times I heard these folks say "God bless your family."

and then, believe it or not, it was over and my camera batteries died...
We took Curtiss, Joe and our wonderful friends to dinner that night as a small token of our thanks.  As we left the next morning, we had to make a curiosity stop at George Neilson's bar.  Missouri pee'd on it.
 I like to think I learn something from every experience in my life.  So, what did I learn from this one?  To quote one of my favorite movies of all time - "Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get."
I learned that we will never find dad's wedding ring and watch - but I'm glad we tried.
I learned that I wish we had been emotionally able to do this 30 years ago.
That there are soooo many good people in this world.
That I love huckleberry wine!
That a cowboy can be scared right off his horse.
That Missouri is afraid of no one and nothing (but snakes)
That I love seeing Cliff laugh until he cries.
That Charley is one hell of a man to live with my sister.
That I made what I hope will be, some new life-long friends.
That dad's belt buckle, badge, and name tag were burned at George Neilson's bar, found, then sent to Owyhee County.  Hopefully, they will be discovered there and returned to our family along with his cowboy boots.
But most of all I learned that I have the most wonderful family and friends and I will always be grateful to you for helping me finally realize the dream of taking on this task.  Although we came home with nothing we went for, it was by no means, a waste of time. 


Dee said...

Well documented, well told and a trip filled with love from so many. And a last "good bye".

Thank you Jodi, Linda and all.

Teri Grever Stoffer said...

This touched my heart. Despite all the bad in this world there are some truly amazing people out there. Good job, all of you. As always I'm proud as hell to say I know you, and to call you my friends.

Jodi said...

I also learned that for some reason, my camera put at least 30 extra pounds on each one of us!

jaci said...

- shoot, must be some of that sand you stirred up getting into my eye!

Lovely post.

Unknown said...

Jodi, you must have the best traits of your Mother and the best traits of your Father to make you the special person you are.

So many people love you, including me. Bonnie

Jodi said...

Oh Bonnie, you're so sweet. It was a trip I'll never forget. Jaci, I know what you mean about that sand.