I can compare the experience of volunteering with Texas EquuSearch as going from the high of taking a NASCAR ride with Dale Earnhardt to the low of a head-on crash. When the search is successful, there is a feeling almost spiritual. On the other hand, when you spend hours, then days searching in the heat, rain and cold with no success, it is the lowest of lows. Through it all, our members remain intensely loyal to Texas EquuSearch, Tim Miller, Frank Black, Jack Boggess, etc. I left the work force in 2013 and joined TES immediately afterwards. I just wish I could bottle up the spirit of TES and take it back to my working life in the construction industry. Volunteering with TES requires a lot of commitment from our members from the out of pocket expenses, hauling ATV’s through Houston’s rush hour traffic, to the long hard hours searching regardless of time of day or weather. Yet when you take the NASCAR ride it is all worth it and you’re ready for the next search!
I was asked to tell the story of one of our recent search experiences searching for little Ezra Parrish which became one of the NASCAR rides. When we saw the breaking news of a 3 year old child lost in the Sam Houston National Forest, we sprang into action. Frank Black and I discussed a plan forward and Gary Chinnis went to the search site near Stubblefield Lake Recreation Area and spoke with Jason Slot, Chief of the New Waverly Fire Department and acting Search Commander. At the time, Chief Slot told Gary that they had enough people for the time being. At 1 AM the following morning, we received a request from Chief Slot for Texas EquuSearch assistance in the search as their people were exhausted. Tim Miller and I responded and we began preparation for a call-out. Jan Tipps issued a call-out around 3 AM and we were on our way. Thanks to all our loyal members who responded in the early morning hours. Some were waiting on me when I arrived around 4:30 AM. Upon getting to the search area, it was very eerie hearing family members out in the woods calling Ezra’s name in the dark. Around 8 AM, after talking with Frank Black, we made the decision to do a second call-out due to the emergency of Ezra not being found during the night. Chief Jason Slot was relieved around 8 AM by Captain Jimmy Williams, as Incident Commander from New Waverly Fire Department. Captain Williams called me aside and asked Texas EquuSearch to take full command of all resources to plan and execute the search which included numerous dog teams and search teams from Texas EquuSearch, ALFA SAR, MONSAR, and the Department of Corrections. Captain Williams expressed his appreciation for TES showing up with our reputation for success. He committed to supply any resources we needed in the search. We worked hand in hand with support teams from the Texas Game Wardens, the Forest Service and the New Waverly Fire & EMS. As a team, we searched the area immediate to the camp-site where Ezra disappeared and started moving outward to surrounding brush and woods, Tim and Pauley arrived with sonar equipment to search a small pond nearby. We called for drone support from Gene Robinson who lives 4 hours away. After working with law enforcement and the Forest Service to clear the use of a drone, Gene was on his way. We developed a plan for the dogs to check the areas first, and then foot searchers and ATV’s would move in when they cleared. There was a forecast for severe thunderstorms later in the afternoon. Since the weather was humid and becoming very hot, we started rotating personnel in and out of the search areas to allow cool-down time. There were a couple of personnel who needed treatment due to over-heating. Our foot searchers are the toughest people I know. I want to compliment all of the personnel on their outstanding effort.
By noon, everyone was exhausted and hope was waning. In spite of the exhaustion, our troops continued to give their all as we trudged forward. Ezra’s family was searching separate from the organized search due to our rules. Everywhere we went, we could hear the family out in the woods around us calling Ezra’s name. As the exhaustion was taking its toll, time was running out.
Then around 1 PM, people started running up the road and out from the family’s camping area….then came the yelling that he had been found alive. I cannot put into words the feeling that ran through all of us and the entire search area. People were cheering and praising God. A couple from Ezra’s family had found him just outside of our present search area. The New Waverly EMT was yelling for us to bring Ezra to the ambulance immediately. Ron Overman rode his ATV to meet the family and picked up Ezra due to our concern for his condition after being out in the elements for 24 hours with no water or food. As they came down the road, searchers along the road were cheering for Ezra. When he came into site and passed me he had a huge smile on his face and was waving to the crowd. He loved riding on the ATV and it was like he was in the Houston Rodeo Parade. The search helicopter came and hovered overhead and then started circling the search area congratulating Ezra and all the search personnel over their loud speaker. It is very hard to explain the feeling you have at this time….come to think of it, it’s much better than a ride with Dale Earnhardt in a NASCAR car. That feeling is why we continue to do what we do!
We released all the searchers and thanked them for their outstanding efforts. They signed out and headed home for a much needed rest much happier than the ride to the search. Most of the time, our searchers do not receive a lot of attention outside of occasional media shots. I wish I could name everyone who participated but the story would be too long. I called Gene and told him we would not need the drones because little Ezra had been found alive. This is another example of our members support. Gene had already made it three-quarters of the way when I called and had to turn around and drive several hours back home.
I know that from time to time we become tired and discouraged when we are out for days or sometime for weeks with no results. Occasionally, we search in places that we wonder why we are there. It is all part of making sure we leave no area unsearched. If we were successful every time we went on a search our membership would be considerably larger. With that said, I am proud to be a part of such an inspiring group as the Texas EquuSearch Searchers because they have the will to overcome all obstacles and all negative situations. Tim’s motto rings loud and clear “Lost Is Not Alone” as long as Texas EquuSearch is here.