At first glance of my calendar, my husband Dave and I, along with Pat Hulbert, were supposed to be lunching in Redwood Valley at Jaye and Bill Taylor’s farm. But for some reason we had to cancel that day, probably because of my prior commitment.
Pat Hulbert called Jaye to give her the sad news we were not coming, and immediately before hanging up, Jaye ended the conversation with “You know God always has a plan and this one must be because of it,” it being the unknown at that point.
This day was going to be a quiet and productive for me — no trips to Ukiah or Mendocino or Fort Bragg for Cow Lick’s. I had lots of study to do on my Biblical message for this Sunday at Philo Methodist Church.
My story as it unfolded. I was sitting on my couch with the door opened looking straight across the valley towards the next ridge over from ours — Bald Hills Road Ridge — located in Rancho Navarro. As the crow flies it's well over a mile away. The sun was shining, a picture perfect day. I could hear little noises off in the distance. Chain saws always break my silence up here. Then all of sudden my silence was broken by this weird muted tinny sound. That’s the only way I can describe it. I glanced up to see what appeared to be a tiny white object tumbling down the mountain. I could not make out what it was, only that it was white.
My first thought was why was someone throwing an old bathtub down that steep hill? The people who live over there wouldn't do that to their beautiful scenic hillside. Besides, Tramway Road is just below them. Cars drive up and down all day long.
I yelled to my husband,” Get the binoculars out! Hurry.” For some reason I knew it didn't seem right with what I saw and heard. The sound was stuck in my head. It had to be a vehicle.
My heart was pounding as I fumbled with the binoculars — my eyesight is bad anyway, and trying to fiddle with the darn contraption made me mad. Finally after a minute, I got the white object in my sights.
OH MY GOSH! It's a white pick-up truck. I immediately grabbed my cell and dialed 911 trying to explain the location and what I saw seemed like slow motion for me. The 911 gal connected me with Cal Fire. Again, I explained the situation and what I saw.
Just at that moment Larry Morgan came walking up our driveway for a visit. I told him to get in the truck with Dave (my husband) and help whoever might be in that truck. Larry knows the land better than we do and the person who went over the side probably needs medical help now. They both jumped into the truck and headed over.
I could barely hear the groaning of Dave’s diesel truck lumbering up the long Tramway hillside from my doorway. “STOP!” I yelled in my brain. “STOP! You are going too far.” I knew he could not hear me thinking those words. Then I see red trucks with flashing lights driving up and down, too. And more trucks and cars now. Red ones, white ones, all driving up and down Tramway. Why are they not stopping?
Oh my gosh. They don’t see what I am seeing over here. I need to call 911 to ell them to STOP. I need to tell them to LOOK UP. The White Truck is right above the hill where you are. Just look up.
At this point, to amuse my frustration, I kept thinking of a slapstick Charlie Chaplin movie I saw as a child, everyone going in every which way, the heroine being the victim. I called 911 back and told them they needed to send a truck up to my property so they would know exactly where the White Truck is located. Maybe the trees are blocking their view.
Sure enough, Mr. Long from CalFire, soon came driving up my driveway. He said, “Where is the truck?” By then a helicopter could be seen flying back and forth along the other ridge. I told Mr. Long,” You can’t see it unless you stand at my door.
FINALLY, someone will see what I was seeing! Mr. Long looked straight over the ridge and got on his radio. “Turn left,” he said. The helicopter swung over toward the left and the radio buzzed back. “I see the truck and it’s damaged.” Help was on the way.
The reason they couldn't find it was because it was in a remote part of the ridge, surrounded by bushes and trees. Only if you had a helicopter would you have been able to sight it in.
By now, with all the commotion going on, Fritz Ohm’s showed up — he lives next to us — then there was Larry Morgan and my husband and I all with our lawn chairs lined up facing all the activity. it was almost like a planned party was occurring. But we were not laughing or having a good time. We were only concerned about whoever was in that truck would be ok.
It was quite awhile before the helicopter landed at the Rancho Navarro Club House. Which was also a concern; why did it take so long to get whoever was in that truck to the hospital? Concerns grew even more than they had already.
Finally about a half hour later we heard the copter take off. It wasn't soon after that that Mr. Long in the Red Fire Truck showed up in our driveway to say that the man in the truck was cut up and bruised, but would be ok. They were taking him to Ukiah Hospital.
It was music to my ears. We thanked him for following up with us. Everyone back to what they were doing. Fritz to chopping wood; Dave drove Larry back to his place; I picked up all my paper work I had spread out on the couch, thanking the Lord the man was going to ok and thinking, How did Jaye know that God had a plan that day for me?
The next day I wake to fog. It’s clearing up now as I sit on my couch with the door open drinking a cup of coffee. I glance over the ridge and what I see is that white truck still sitting there, and I wonder, What if I had not been home?
Bonnie Clarke-Johnson is in Anderson Valley six weeks every year at this time with her husband Dave. They have property at Rancho Navarro in Anderson Valley. Their other home is in Big Bear Lake in Southern California .“We love the Valley, our Philo Church, our good neighbors.
Ed note: Bonnie Clarke-Johnson probably saved the life of the man whose Bald Hills, Navarro, accident she describes here. She was the only witness, the only person to call it in.