Sometimes An Apple Core is just an apple core. On Monday, April 7th, TNSAR was paged for an out-of-area search in Markleeville, CA. Searchers from multiple agencies combed the Markleeville environs looking for signs of a Reno woman missing since March 28th. As the search intensified, the rumors intensified. Speculation as to her whereabouts escalated as kayak search teams and specially trained ‘cadaver’ dogs checked the rivers and creeks; ground pounders, ATV teams, and a sole ‘man-tracker’ (should have probably called the ‘woman-tracker’) rummaged around the sagebrush; like coon dogs hot on the trail, search teams hunted for any kind of indication that the missing woman had indeed been out there in all that sagebrush. All for naught…until we discovered the apple core. I say ‘we’ because I wasn’t alone. My accomplice, however, begged me for newsletter anonymity. So Jimmy Smith and I came across an apple core. Not just any apple core but THE apple core. We were sure it was chewed and discarded by the missing woman. We had her in our sights. It had to be hers because we’d been kicking around the sagebrush for two days and had found exactly nothing that even remotely looked like a missing woman. Hub caps, shot gun shells, plastic bags, gold chains, Budweiser cans aplenty, but no sign of the missing woman. Until the apple core, that is. Bingo. Clearly she stopped here for a healthy and delicious little snack and then disappeared. We’ll find her now. Quick Jimmy, get the GPS coordinates of the apple core and radio them in to headquarters. I’ll take multiple close-up and wide-angle photographs of the evidence (from lots of strategic CSI angles) and then conduct a thorough examination of the teeth marks to get a match on the dental records. While the helicopter is in transit we can match the boot prints with the missing woman’s shoe, stuff a fingernail sample into this here ziplock bag for DNA analysis in our portable lab and…and…..and…maybe we should just sit here and have lunch. Because sometimes an apple core is just an apple core. Because sometimes people just want to disappear and try as we might, we can never bring them back. They give away all their worldly possessions, forward their mail to a bogus address, park their car at Hangman’s Bridge and simply wander off into oblivion. Hopefully wherever she went is far enough away from whatever it was she was running away from. Enter that last sentence into the World’s Best Worst Grammar Contest. Congrats! You’re a winner!
Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Five Hidden above the thriving megalopolis of Markleeville sits the Markleeville graveyard which was undoubtedly the high-light of the last search. Tucked into the pine trees and sagebrush and completely out of sight from any main road, the Markleeville graveyard quietly hosts about a dozen permanent residents. The oldest gravestone we found was a fallen down piece of cracked granite dated 1865. Whoever rests there beneath the clay died 144 years ago. Doesn’t really seem that long ago until you sit down next to that piece of cracked granite and think about it. Not yet connected, the Central Pacific railroad was pushing east through the Sierras while the Union Pacific railroad was pushing west across the Platte River Valley. William Tecumseh Sherman was marching through Georgia and the Carolinas, pounding the Confederate army into eventual surrender. John Wilkes Booth was taking aim at President Lincoln. Lewis Carroll was walking his Alice in Wonderland manuscript down to the publisher’s office. Britain’s official speed limit was set at 2 mph in the city, 4 mph in the country. In Switzerland, seven alpinists reach the summit of the Matterhorn for the first time, four of which perished on the descent. William Butler Yeats and Rudyard Kipling were new born babes, taking their first breaths. And somewhere out there in the Markleeville sagebrush an unknown settler took their last breath and was laid to rest beneath this cracked piece of granite. And dust to dust, 144 years later, an unknown woman’s final breath was scented with pine and sagebrush and the history of days gone by.
Done Gone I can’t believe the 2008-2009 season is already waning (though it ain’t over yet). Seems like I was just cleaning out my search pack and getting ready for the search season to begin…and what a season it ‘twas. TNSAR officially conducted seven searches this season beginning in June, 2008. Sadly enough, four of those seven searches ended with fatalities, and a total of five people died this
season. The loss of life is always hard to deal with and, quite frankly, it is something that we’re not really used to as an organization. We’re actually really good at finding live people and over the years, we’ve discovered that it is way more fun than the alternative. But I am constantly comforted by the fellow TNSAR faces that end up next to me on those hardest of hard searches. It’s so nice to know that we’re always in good company. And speaking of good company, this season we’ve been incredibly fortunate to add so many new faces to the TNSAR roster. So many talented and devoted folks gravitate to the Granlibakken Hut. Thanks so much to everyone for yet another grand TNSAR season!