One very long, cold night for Cooper!


It’s Saturday night. The phone rings. The caller ID says, “Coop.”  No mom wants to hear the words that come next. Especially not on a very cold November night in Eastern Oregon during elk hunting season. Nothing prepares you for those words. So many nights, I’ve worried for nothing.  All those years of conditioning myself to never let those thoughts come into my mind when my husband and son are gone for a week in the mountain wilderness. All that positive self talk  I’ve learned to do. Stay busy. Know they are OK. Everything’s fine. I’m not prepared for what I hear next.

I answer the phone, assuming they got an elk. “Hey, Coop!”

“Mom, I’m lost.”  I can hear the intense fear. “The wolves are howling.”

I have to stay calm for him, but I want to throw up. It’s dark. I want to cry. It’s supposed to get down to ten degrees. I’m shaking. But I have to stay calm for him. Reassure him that everything is going to be fine. Remind him the first thing he needs to do is build a fire. Remind myself he’s not a little boy, he’s fifteen. Remind myself he’s got a gun. Remind myself he’s prepared. Remind myself he’s an excellent marksman. Remind myself he’s been hunting for many years with his dad. But the fear I hear on the other end of the phone is real. Very real!

I hear myself calmly say, “You’re going to be fine, Coop.” Where did THAT come from? I tell myself to breathe. There’s so much I want to say to him. Not much phone battery left he tells me. I just want to keep him on the phone. He’s my youngest. He’s my surprise. He’s my Coop. Just breathe I tell myself again. I somehow get the strength to say again, “Coop, just build a fire, stay put and everything will be OK.” I know I need to hang up to save his cell phone batteries. But those darn thoughts. It’s dark. It’s cold. The wolves.  The voice that must be someone else’s manages to say again, “Coop, just build a fire, in the meantime, I’ll call your brother, we’ll make a plan and call you back.” It takes all my strength to push that button and hang up.

The rest of the night slowly drags on.  Coop builds a fire and stays remarkably calm. Buster is sure he knows where he is, but the search can’t start ’til morning. No one sleeps, not down here, not up there. I desperately want to call him, just to hear his voice, just to check on him, but that low battery. I push out the scary images that continually try to invade my mind. I won’t let myself go there. Self talk. He’s safe, he’s warm, they will find him in the morning. He’s safe, he’s warm, they will find him in the morning. He’s safe, he’s warm, they will find him in the morning. My thoughts go instead to all those parents that have to wait through something like this with no contact at all. My heart goes out to them. I’m thankful for the phone, so thankful for the phone.

It’s finally Sunday morning. The phone rings again. This time the caller ID says, “Steve.” Every mom wants to hear those precious three words that come next. Especially after such a long, cold night in Eastern Oregon. “We found him.”  I can feel myself breathe again. Everything is going to be fine. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to feel his reassuring hugs. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the stories, there is no battery left now. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to let him know how proud of him I am. But for now, we can all rest a little easier and perhaps get some sleep tonight.

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94 Responses to One very long, cold night for Cooper!

  1. Thanking God, right now!!!! What a wonderful Thanksgiving you will have!!!! So happy for you!!
    ~Louise

  2. WOW! Even when our little boys are big boys it is scary. I am so glad to hear that he made it home safe.

    • Thanks so much. He’s not home yet, won’t be able to come down out of the mountains til tomorrow, but thankful at least he’s back at camp with his dad and his uncle! I can’t wait to hear the stories and give him a big hug when I finally get to see him!

  3. You showed the immense strength of a mother and passed it on to him. Knowing you would be on the other end of that call and know how to handle this and giving him just what he needed in that moment is the greatest gift of love. I hope you both share the pride in the shared strength that made this outcome possible. Have a wonderful Day of re-connection on this Veteran’s Day…

  4. goodbyevalentino says:

    What a horrific experience for your family. Glad Cooper is home safe!

    • Thank you, I can’t wait to give him a hug and hear his stories tomorrow when they come down from the mountains! I think there was probably some serious growing up going on throughout the night last night.

  5. Char says:

    So Scary Beth. But I’m so glad everything turned out fine. Hug your son.

  6. Rastus says:

    I am so happy for you and your son. I would have gone nuts! God Bless you both.

  7. Becky says:

    Omigoodness! That must have been terrifying for all involved! So happy he is OK!

  8. Marty says:

    GPS for Christmas

  9. Cara Olsen says:

    My goodness, Beth . . . what a fright all of you must have had. There are simply no words to describe that low pull in your gut when unbearable news is broken to you. That you were able to remain calm was truly a gift from God. Cooper needed that, and I think sometimes even when we go through the motions of being courageous or calm, it helps to guide us toward actually feeling them. So, so glad that he is safe!

    • Oh, yes, I had to declare out loud that he was going to be fine to push all the other thoughts from my mind. I had to pretend I was calm when all I wanted to do was scream. God was definitely present in Eastern Oregon last night!!! Thanks for your concern!
      Beth

  10. Tammy says:

    I am so glad Cooper is safe!! I can’t even imagine going through what you did as a mother. God gave you the strength to be strong for you and him and to know what to say to comfort him. Cooper is a strong and smart kid, thankfully he knew the right thing to do. I am so happy for your family that everything turned out okay. Although, this just confirms that when Wade goes hunting with Dad in the Minam I do have a reason to worry. At least he will have a good hunting story to tell all of his buddies!!

    • So true, Tammy. Our boys are smart and capable, but even grown rational thinking adults do irrational things the moment they realize they are lost in the wilderness and it’s dark. I’m so proud of Cooper and the strength he had to make it through the night with those wolves howling. And so thankful for cell phones these days!

  11. How scary for all of you! So thankful all turned out well, Beth. Give your son a hug from all of us, too!

  12. Riviting! Talk about timing. Tonight, my husband is three hours from home hunting. He left early this morning and will be home very late tonight. As you said though, us Mom’s/wife’s must remain calm and strong in the face of fires. You done good Mama. I am so thankful your son is safe and sound. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Paula

    • Thank you so much, Paula! With a hunting husband, too, you know what it’s like to have to wait and wonder. You know, too, how to push any bad thoughts from your mind while waiting for them. Here’s to your husband’s safe (and hopefully successful) return!
      Beth

  13. Kris says:

    What a nightmare! So thankful for the happy ending. I wonder if Cooper knows how many people love him!

  14. Marty Frasier says:

    Oh, Beth! How long last night must have been for you and your family! Back when Mike and I first got married, and Mike was learning to hunt, he got lost… didn’t come out at the end of a drive. It was mid afternoon. My dad made me stay at the meeting point, while five men started a search. It was long before cell phones and the men had taken the portable CB’s. It was dark when dad came back to get me; the rest had headed to Ukiah to get more men and horses, and notify search and rescue. I was sure I was going to be calling my new family with horrible news… that I would be raising my unborn child by myself. But there, on the side of a logging road in the beams of the truck lights, was my city boy. Cold, scarred

  15. Marty Frasier says:

    Continued… cold and scared . 25 years later he still has to hunt with a buddy!

    • Oh, Marty, so you know too how hard the waiting can be. It’s a terrible place to be, but I’m so thankful for the cell phone that gave Cooper some contact with people who loved him to keep him from doing the irrational things that even rational adults do when they realize they’re lost in the wilderness. I’m so proud of how he handled himself!

  16. mamacormier says:

    I was holding my breath as I read your post. I can’t imagine the courage it took to stay calm. So glad that your son is safe.

  17. Lili & Mum's says:

    I am so glad that he is safe! That is something to be thankful for for sure!

  18. Oh, Beth, I don’t know how you made it through the night. I can only imagine your fear for your son. Thank God he will be returned to you safely. This year you have much to be thankful for. A loving family, beautiful children, a new grandchild, lots of friends and people who care about you, and your precious son who’s now safe and sound. For his next trip, maybe he could bring two cell phones with him (one of those pre-paid phones would work) to give him twice as much battery power.

    • Thank you so much for these kind words of encouragement! I am truly blessed by so much in my life! Such a good idea on the second cell phone. He could just leave it off unless there was an emergency. I’m so thankful he had service, there are not many places up there that do. I’m proud of him and I can’t wait to hug him and hear his stories tomorrow!

  19. Steph A says:

    Oh my, my heart skipped a beat while reading this. I’m soo glad to hear he was found (thank goodness for cell phones). It reminded me of when my sister sprained her ankle while hiking to a hunt camp in the Yukon to go caribou hunting. She had to spend the night alone because her husband and friend both had huge back packs themselves and couldn’t carry hers. They came back the next morning, but my sister told me she’d never been so scared in all her life! She could hear the bears or wolves roaming around her as she sat with her rifle (safety off!).

    • Oh, how scary for her! The longest night of her life for sure! I’m so glad all ended well for her, too. I know Cooper’s gun was ready all night, also. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must’ve been like for both of them.

  20. Heidi Netland says:

    Hi Beth! Mom called me today and told me this story…I am so sorry you had to go through such a horrifying night! I can’t image the horrible feeling you must have had, the feeling of the unknown. I am so glad that it all turned out so good and that he is found and okay. Give him a big squeeze for me too tomorrow!

    • Thank you so much, Heidi! I’m so thankful that he had service where he was. Not many places do up there. I knew he’d be OK when I told him I was sure I’d see him tomorrow and he said, but there’s one more day of hunting left. Even in the midst of a long, cold, lonely night complete with howling wolves, he’s thinking about hunting. I’m sure you’re no stranger to that frame of mind. :)

  21. Oh goodness! I’m so very pleased it worked out in the end. What an adventure!

  22. cathy diacetis says:

    Wow-! what a night for all-do you know where they were, asks Paul? Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 00:39:29 +0000 To: cadiacetis@hotmail.com

  23. Anonymous says:

    So very thankful he is ok!

  24. Mother Deer says:

    That was truly a mother’s nightmare. I’m glad that everything turned out ok :)

  25. I’m so glad everything is back to normal now. How incredibly scary! I found myself holding my breath as I was reading the story!

  26. oh. my. word. tearing up for you, how terrifying! I thank God for you and your family that your little guy is fine, and I pray I never have to receive that phonecall!!

  27. ooobop! says:

    Oh Beth!!! I just sat down to read this over my branflakes and couldn’t chew the first mouthful. How terrifying for you and your son and wow! Just how different our lives are. Was about to express how ‘safe’ we are in our little West London Maisonettes. But actually that would be a lie! So glad you got him back. Just mopping up the milk from my keyboard!! xxxx

    • Janine,
      Your comments always make me giggle. I love how this blogging thing connects us all even though we do live in different parts of the world. So much of the human experience is the same no matter where we live.
      Now, go eat your breakfast in peace. ;)
      Hugs, Beth

  28. el says:

    A special Thanksgiving for your family.

  29. patsquared2 says:

    It always amazes me that when we need it, we find the strength and the courage to do what has to be done. You found both and your son is alive because of it. Here’s a hug for him and one for you, too.

  30. Beth, we are so far from each other but I felt your tremendous worry which actually was overpowered by your strength and hope. I got emotional when I was reading your post and all the comments and your responses as well. I can feel too the relief that you had after finding out that Cooper was safe with his dad and uncle. I can feel that your heart which is full of love as a mother was overjoyed. If I can only embrace you and your son, I would!!

  31. Jan says:

    Can’t help but read this over and over. I can’t help feeling so very lucky and proud to have you as my sister! You are so very strong and you did such a wonderful job raising such wonderful kids! If it wasn’t for yours and Steve’s guidance, this story might have been different. I thank God each day for my family and like a few of your readers have said, we will all have a Happy Thanksgiving!! Love you all soooo much!

    • Awwwwwww, sniff, sniff! Such incredibly nice things for you to say! I love you, too and I couldn’t ask for a better sister! Thanks for listening to me ramble on and on about the whole ordeal yesterday. We will have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, so much to be grateful for!
      I love you!
      Beth

  32. bringmemycoffee says:

    I was lost in the woods myself for 13 hours (in Yosemite) when I was 4 years old. I remember some of it- running and tripping, afraid of every sound. Crying, sucking on my thumb and occasionally some of the tear/snot mixture running down my face. I hid sometimes because I was as afraid of the strange human voices calling my name as I was of the animals.
    As frightening as that was, that was nothing compared to the idea of one of my kids being lost. My heart goes out to you- that is a night I don’t want to experience. I know you’ll give that boy one big, long hug and thank God he’s safe. Hopefully you’ve earned some kind of karma points and won’t ever be going through another night like this!

    • Oh my, I can’t imagine enduring that as a four year old and I can’t imagine the nightmare that must’ve been for your parents as well. I bet once they found you, your mom never wanted to let you leave her arms again. Thank God, all turned out well for all of us!
      I hope Cooper will be able to draw strength from this experience as he goes through his life. He was able to overcome his fear and I hope he knows he can do anything now!
      Enjoy your day!
      Beth

  33. mari says:

    Just saw your post…..oh my what an ordeal for you, Steve, and cooper!! A true nightmare for all of you, but you all handled it so well. I am so amazed that you just didn’t hop in your car and drive out there!!!
    Gives us all a moment to pause and appreciate what is important in our lives.
    Thinking of you and sending out love to you, Coop, and Steve.

    • Hey Mari!!! I wish I could’ve jumped in my car to save him. It really is the worst feeling to not be able to help your child when they are in danger. But, I’m so proud of Cooper and how brave he was that night. I hope he knows now, that after spending a cold night alone in the wilderness with the wolves, that he can accomplish ANYTHING!!!
      Hugs, to you and your family as well! I miss you and still finding the little sticky notes you put everywhere. It’s like getting a hug from you every time I find one!
      Love you!
      Beth

  34. LauraLee says:

    Just saw this!
    Thanking God you got your boy back, safely. Also thanking God you found the peace to react to Cooper’s phone call (and situation) in a calm, rational manner. I’m sure that helped both of you!

    • Thank you so much, Laura! I really have so much to be thankful for. My oldest son who took charge of the situation, the people on the Search and Rescue team who were ready in case they didn’t find him right away, my friend Kris, who stayed with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone, and all my blogging friends from all over the world who have shown so much support through their heartfelt comments. I am truly one blessed woman!
      Enjoy your day!
      Beth

  35. raycheryl says:

    I’m so glad all turned out well for you and your family Beth ! You are Blessed .. :)

  36. What a scary night for you and your family. I’m so glad your son it okay…

    • Thank you so much Jeanne! I’m so ready for them to come home. I’ve got a big dinner ready for them, my washing machine is on standby, and now I’m just twiddling my thumbs waiting for them.

  37. Cul de Sac says:

    what a distressing night for every one! I’m so but so happy your son is safe and sound…. you brought me tears in my eyes! Now give him a hug from me please!

  38. Anna Keeton says:

    Oh my goodness! So glad to hear that they’ll all be safely home.

  39. gailmurton says:

    Beth, so relieved your ordeal has a happy ending. My heart goes out to you. Sounds like you’ve got some great men in your family–Steve, Buster & now Cooper.

  40. Jo H. says:

    Strong mom, strong son. So glad it turned out okay. What a relief it must be!

  41. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instagram « Grandmother Musings

  42. Very scary, glad your son is back home with you safe and sound and warm!

  43. Mina says:

    Dear Beth,

    I know how that “someone else’s voice” sounds, coming from your own throat. I’m sure this Thanksgiving day will be very very special.
    A big (and warm) hug

  44. Oh my! We’re so glad everything worked out well!

  45. Prosey Rosey says:

    Wow – what a chilling experience! I had goosebumps from the very first line you wrote. Thank you for sharing your story, and I look forward to following your blog.

  46. costuritas says:

    Hello, I read your experience with your son and I only want to say CONGRATULATIONS!!!! for the end of the story. I dont know everything of you, only something when I read your blog, but Im very happy that it only will be a terrorific dream. I hope you can understand my english. I speak spanish. Best wishes.

  47. Pingback: Little Girl’s Cable Knit Sweater Dress | The Renegade Seamstress

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