Mason County News
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Rescue Me
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 • Posted October 28, 2009

The emails have been pretty strange lately. Some of them have been weird enough that it’s doubtful if writing about them is even advisable in a polite, family newspaper. One particular story is downright offensive.

But then, in this case, being offended is probably a good thing. It means you’re not as stupid as the people at peta, who should all be rounded up and sent back to planet Goober where they came from.

About a year ago peta sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, to try to get them to stop using cow’s milk in their products. The idea peta had was that they could instead use human breast milk. Which is probably illegal, or should be, anyway. Honestly.

On second thought, planet Goober probably doesn’t want the peta idiots back.

And then a reader sent me a link to a story entitled ‘Can your underwear help save the planet?’ You have to admit that’s a question you don’t hear every day. It’s also a concept only a space cadet from California could come up with. I think we can all agree that if my underwear can do anything for the planet, the planet is in pretty deep.

The story is about a company named PACT, and their idea is evidently to capitalize on the fears of people who believe the sky is falling. The company donates 10 percent of its sales (net, I’m sure) to nonprofit environmental organizations. Plus they don’t mail their underwear out in plastic packaging. They use the leftover scrap material from making the underwear to make bags for it. And, of course, they use recycled paper for the labels and such.

But then, this kind of ecological responsibility doesn’t come cheap. PACT’s underwear costs about $30 a pair, or $15 per leg hole. The argument could be made that you could do more for the rain forests by buying your skivvies at Wal-Mart and sending the extra $28 to Ecuador. Or to me. The rain forests won’t mind.

Another strange story that came in was the one about the pilots of Northwest Airlines flight 188, who have not yet revealed why they flew past Minneapolis, where they were supposed to land, and then turned around and came back. Most officials seem to think the pilots were asleep, which is probably the best way to endure a flight from San Diego to Minneapolis, anyway. The only clue we have as to what actually happened is a quote from the copilot, who said, “We weren’t asleep, and it wasn’t a big deal, and besides, that other guy in the cockpit, he stole my pillow. And he snores.”

And speaking of airplanes, the story I mentioned last week, about the pilot in Alaska who crashed in Denali and walked 20 miles for help, has been bothering me. That very thing very nearly happened to me, while I was in Alaska a few years ago. I mean, if I had hired a plane to fly me over Denali, and if the plane had crashed, and if I had survived the wreck, I might have had to hike out, too. So it was a near thing.

But downed pilots and stranded hikers and damaged rock climbers don’t usually have to hike out of pickles like that one anymore, because nearly everyone who goes into the backcountry these days takes a personal locator beacon with them, just in case. According to a story sent to me by my wife, this has become a serious problem for rescuers.

Rescue transmitters used to be pretty pricey, so not all that many people carried them. Lately, however, they’ve gotten pretty cheap, around $100 at the low end, which is less than you’d pay for a flightseeing tour in Alaska, even one that will probably crash. So everyone has them. And they use them. Even if they don’t need to.

For example, a couple of guys and their teenage sons were hiking in Grand Canyon last year and called rescuers three times in three days. Once because they ran out of water (by the time the chopper found them they had found a stream). The next time they called it was because the water they found to drink “tasted salty.” They declined a lift out and rescuers left them water. The third time they were forced to leave on the chopper.

A couple in British Columbia activated their beacon when they found they could not climb back down a trail they had just come up. Sometimes people call for help just because they’re wet or cold. And sometimes the beacons get activated by accident, in backpacks.

People used to tough it out, because they had no choice. Now, they’re attempting terrain they shouldn’t, and wouldn’t without a beacon. And they’re putting rescuers in danger for what we used to call ‘hemorrhoid runs’ in the EMS.

What we should do is take the locators away from these yahoos and give them to airline pilots. And if the companies that make them would throw in an alarm clock, we’d have it made . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who has never fallen asleep while flying a plane. Or hiking. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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