The Ken Doll and the Helicopter

I’ve been a rock collector all my life, which sometimes gets me into predicaments.

As I’ve often mentioned, I’m a rock collector. Have been my entire life. Somewhere there is a picture of me as a toddler putting rocks in a cup, so perhaps my predilection is genetic. I mention this now, because sometimes rock-collecting trips go astray, as anyone who has ever ventured outside the confines of civilization knows.  One trip I took with my friend Alice went a bit off target.

Alice, who was in her mid 8os at the time, had us driving off-road trying to locate a mine. Arizona is awash in abandoned mine sites, with some estimates hitting one-hundred thousand, and neither Alice nor I could imagine anything more enticing than mucking about in old tailings piles in search of rock treasures. I will admit here that often we didn’t locate the sites we were looking for, but that’s part of rocking. Sometimes you find rocks, sometimes you don’t.

Alice and I were scanning the desert looking for our target when the truck stopped abruptly. I gunned the engine, but we went nowhere, except deeper into what had been an invisible sand trap. We’d broken through the rocky top layer of the desert floor and were now stuck.

We looked at one another, then got out to survey the situation. After trying several options and not succeeding, Alice squinted at the truck. “I don’t think we’re going anywhere,” she said.

I bet some of you are thinking, “Well, gosh, just grab your trusty cellphone,” but like many wilderness areas, there was no signal when Alice gave the obvious a try.

“Maybe, I can get a signal if I hike out to the road,” I suggested.

Alice handed me her phone and then retrieved one of the folding chairs from the back of the pickup. She placed it in the meager shad of a scraggly mesquite tree and nibbled on some trail mix, as I shoved off to find some bars.

Alice was my best rocking friend. We headed out into the desert whenever we could to search for pretty specimens. I miss her everyday.

I traveled on a faint trail, glad it was not the season when the desert is blistering hot, when the sun will melt the skin from your body, not to mention kill you in a frighteningly short amount of time. The walk was easy, so I wasn’t concerned.

Finally, I got a signal. I briefly considered summoning AAA, but from experience I knew their tow trucks would not venture off a paved road, so I called the sheriff’s office.

“What is your emergency?” the operator asked.

“Oh, no emergency,” I explained. “We got stuck in a sand trap.”

“And who is with you?”

“My friend is back with the truck. I hiked out to the road to get a cellphone signal.” Then, for no apparent reason, I mentioned Alice was 85.

“Where are you?”

I backtracked over our course and did my best to explain.

“Stay by the road.”

I assured her I would.

As I waited, I wondered around checking the ground, because one never knows when a nice rock might appear. Let me mention here that I wasn’t the least bit worried about Alice. She was one of the toughest people I’ve ever known. She could take care of herself.

So, imagine my surprise when a helicopter came into view. I could see it was looking for something. The aircraft seemed to be flying on a grid. And it kept getting closer. I couldn’t have been more stunned than when it touched down about fifty yards away in a great whipped-up cloud of dust.

I had the sudden urge to flee, quickly realizing that there’d been a bit of an overreaction. Then, out of that swirl of dust, a man appeared. A living, breathing Ken doll clad in the cutest flyboy jumpsuit I’d ever seen.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my first thought was my hair, which was sweatily squashed beneath my ball cap. He strode toward me, all pretty purpose and determination. He looked concerned. I wanted to hide.

“Where is the elderly woman?” he asked surveying the area.

“She’s back at the truck,” I said, tugging at my dirty shirt. The guy could have been a GQ model.

He nodded, displaying a jawbone that could cut diamonds. “Okay, ma’am—”

I now felt my age and realized no amount of makeup would have made the least bit of difference. I quickly explained that I was sure Alice was fine, still he seemed incredulous.

Then a truck appeared from the direction in which I’d come. Two hunters waved us over and explained that they had happened on my stuck truck and pulled it to safety. I smiled and thanked them.

“And how is the elderly woman?” the Ken doll asked.

I’m glad Alice wasn’t around the hear his question. The hunters answered that she was fine and was sitting in a folding chair awaiting my return. I thanked them and waved as they drove off.

The pilot turned to me. “Is there anything else I can do for you, ma’am?”

I thought of several options, but kept them to myself. Then, I smiled and thanked him for dropping from the sky on my behalf. I watched as he walked back to the helicopter, admiring the view. As he lifted off, I wondered briefly if I would be getting a bill from the county, quickly calculating the cost of mustering the man and his aircraft.

Then, I walked back to retrieve Alice, where the word elderly was never mentioned.



Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

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2 thoughts on “The Ken Doll and the Helicopter

  1. tidalscribe says:

    That was so funny, what an adventure. I’m guessing in some situations or places the helicopter pilot would have been duty bound to follow up his mission by rescuing the vulnerable elder whether she wanted to go or not!


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