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Thursday, December 20, 2001

Shivering and warm at Mt. Willis

Just came down off the real mountain...Paris Mountain. It is ten degrees colder up there and the wind is whipping like a stud bull's tail. I don't go up there often and wouldn't have tonight. But, when my wife came home about nine tonight, she said she saw a bloodhound tracking team heading up the main mountain road. She stopped at the corner store, did some investigating, and found out an old lady was missing.

I shoved two pieces of pizza in my face and sat on my couch, itching to do something other than watch NBC reruns. I sat for five minutes, then I put on a flannel shirt and headed up into the darkness. I had no real business going up there, except for the fact that news IS my buisness and there was a good chance a missing lady on the mountain would turn into news.

After thirty minutes of driving skinny mountain roads, navigating quick switch-backs, and doing my best not to drive off the side of the cliffs, I found the command post. Two bloodhound tracking teams, an infrared helicopter overhead, and one very worried family.

Turns out, a 75 year old woman from California is in town visiting her daughter. And she made a mistake.

Barbara is a healthy woman. Even at 75, she walks several miles a day. And at 4:50 this afternoon, she decided to take a walk on an unfamiliar mountain. At 11:00, she still hadn't come home.

The overlook on which we stood had the feel of a story about to turn bad. While the mountain's base feels like early spring, its summit feels like dead winter. Barbara's family was bundled up, holding flashlights for which they had no use. The search team didn't want any family on the trail. It messes up the infrared and the dogs.

I could drag this out for a while, but my hands are a little numb.

About twenty minutes ago, the search team found Barbara. She's been out in the cold darkness for more than six hours, but it looks like she's going to be okay.

You know, I spend most of my days, waiting for bad things to happen. It's the ugly part of my business. When bad things happen, my sick adrenal glands start melting all over themselves.

But, you know what feels really good? It feels good to know that I won't be covering this story in six hours. It feels good to know that Barbara--a woman I'll never meet--is going to sleep in a warm bed tonight instead of on a cold mountain.

Most of all, it feels good to know that my twisted sense of reality isn't as twisted as I sometimes think it is.

Some news folks would be mad if they spent a few unpaid hours on a cold mountain and ended up with no story.

Me...I'm feeling good that there is no story to report.

Moreover, I feeling good that I actually have a few human cells left in my heart.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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