Of Moose and Men

As I promised, here is another story from the “Jamin Files”.  Jamin, my beloved husband of over 15 years has given me many adventures to collect and write about.  Some have taken years off of my life and shaved years off of his, but nevertheless, they keep us believing in the grace and mercy of God.

It happened about five years ago…

The staff at a local Bible college was having their yearly retreat in a town 80 miles north of where we lived and I had been invited to come and lead the worship for the sessions.  My friend Kitri was there as well and helping me lead worship on that first evening when after concluding our last song, I heard my cell phone ringing in my purse back at my seat.  I was a little embarrassed that I had forgotten to turn it off or silence it, but I couldn’t get to it because I was still at the piano.  My phone stopped and then Kitri’s began ringing.  I wasn’t the only one who forgot to turn off their phone!  We left the stage and Kitri picked up her phone and said “It’s Jamin.”  We both quickly stepped outside to take the call and this was what I heard on the other line:  “Hey Cate, ummm…could you call us a helicopter?  Jonathan and I are stranded on a sandbar in the middle of a raging glacial river and the water is rising.  My cell battery is about to die, so I can’t talk long, but if you could just call a helicopter and tell them where we are we need to be picked up right away.  I think Jonathan  could be hypothermic and most of our supplies have washed downstream.” Jamin’s voice was fairly calm and even.

“Ummm…is this a joke?” I asked.

You see, Jamin and Kitri’s husband Jonathan had taken off on a moose hunt just a day or two before.  They were flown in to an area below a local glacier where they had seen some moose activity a few days before.  They had brought a tent and supplies and a raft so that when they were done with their hunt, they would raft down the small creek from the glacier to the ocean and be picked up there.  The plan was a pretty good one.  They had scoped out the whole area a few days previous and had charted their course, surveyed the water and decided where to camp.  The only variable that changed it all was rain– incessant rain.  It had not stopped raining since the day they left to hunt, and that little creek they had planned to raft down had become a torrent of water that swallowed up boulders and washed trees into its wake.

Jamin and Jonathan had successfully taken a moose and were beginning their departure plan but realized that the water had risen and was moving a little faster than what they had planned for, so they lightened their load by leaving their moose meat behind in a place where they could come and get it with the airplane later, but decided to still raft down to the ocean.  That’s where it all went wrong.  The water was fast and of course freezing…being from a glacier.  They were unable to control their raft and had been pinned several times against sheer cliff edges then soaked and nearly drowned.  The story is too involved to tell it all here, but the end result was that many of their supplies washed out of their raft, they were soaked, hypothermic and they nearly lost their lives trying to get out of the river.  Jamin told me that he remembers jumping from one edge of the raft to the other as the water was pulling it under while pinning him to a rock wall, as he was trying to force the raft to pop back up out of the current.  He knew then that he was going to die.  There was no place to climb out and no place to bank the raft.  Miraculously, the current gave up its hold on the raft and they were able to push away from the rock wall and re-enter the white water currents.  Eventually they came upon a sandbar where they were able to jump out and call for help.

Kitri and I looked at each other…”call a helicopter?”  Neither of us had that programmed into our phones and we were at a retreat center at leasts 90 miles away from where our men were.  So we quickly found a phone book and began going through the yellow pages at 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening trying to find someone to answer their business line and get a helicopter to our men.  Thankfully someone did.

It was already getting quite dark and the pilot of the helicopter was hesitant to take off in the dark for fear he would not find them.  He was willing if the water was rising, but if they could hold out til morning he would leave at first light.  He was able to contact Jamin and Jonathan on the sandbar and they decided to stay the night, but would call if the water level rose any higher.  Thankfully, the rain stopped and the water began receding some so that our guys were able to stay safe through the night until the helicopter could reach them the next morning.

Grateful for their life, the men returned home via helicopter and hired a pilot to retrieve their moose for them the following day.  Let’s just say that Thanksgiving had a more personal dimension for both of our families that year. Instead of turkey, we ate Moose Meat Sandwiches (French Dip style) and thanked God for preserving the lives of our men.

I never would have known about helicopter rescues if not for my husband.  I am glad I learned because this would only be the first time they would need to be contacted….

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