I’m not talking about duck versus pheasant versus deer. No. For the past few days, hunters just outside my town have been trying to track a human. He wasn’t their prey, though. Denzle Stanley is a small, slight, 84-year-old man who wandered off into the frozen rural hills two mornings ago. After three days of searching, officials called off the search.
Those of us who didn’t know Mr. Stanley learned of the search’s end the same way as we heard he’d gone missing: through the county’s 911 alert system. (Which, I might add, I’m happy to see put to intelligent use.) The second 911 call ended on an odd note, though. While the sherriff continues to investigate, citizens are positively warned off of further searching.
I realize that hopes dim after three days. The county threw all its resources into the search, ranging from dogs to helicopters to infrared. Meanwhile, nights have dropped below freezing, with a few inches of snowfall since yesterday. It would take a miracle to find him alive.
But that’s not why the search was called. Instead, as NBC 4 (Columbus) reports:
Authorities said the public should not search in the wooded areas and fields surrounding Albany because of the start of muzzleloader deer season Saturday.
What would it take to call off the deer hunters, instead of the trackers of a human being? Local officials report that the family has agreed to suspending the search, and volunteers are exhausted. And yet, at least a few members of the public evidently want to keep searching; if they’d all gone home, there’d be no need for a 911 warning. Couldn’t the deer hunters wait a few more days? Maybe Mr. Stanley still wouldn’t be found, but his loved ones might suffer fewer “what-ifs.”
I don’t know if Mr. Stanley suffers from dementia, though at his age, it wouldn’t be surprising. Caretakers for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias worry about exactly this scenario. My father is not yet so confused that I worry about him wandering off, but that day will surely come. I feel for Mr. Stanley’s family. (If any of them were to arrive here via Google, I would say this: You did the best you could. You tried to strike a balance between protection on the one hand, and allowing him some freedom and dignity on the other. That is all any of us can do when age befuddles our elders.)
This week we also got an alert for a local teenager who’d gone missing. By the end of the day she’d been located, safe, in Missouri, after the police tracked her cell, and every parent in the district rejoiced a little, whether we’d known her or not.
Her rescue makes me think that we should equip our elders with cell phones. They may never learn to text, but hey, I don’t text either. I’m betting you could buy a lot of cheap cell phones for the price of a single manhunt.
In the meantime, though: Couldn’t we just delay muzzleloader deer season a few more days?