Surviving in the sometimes harsh environs of Northeast Oregon has never been particularly easy.
We are reminded of that fact again this week with the stories of two Wallowa County women who have overcome overwhelming challenges through an amazing combination of courage, tenacity, and faith. Their stories are chronicled in today's edition.
The first example is Mischelle Hileman, who survived eight days in the freezing cold holed up in the bottom of Alder Creek after she was injured and could not get back to her hunting camp.
Long after many people had written her off for dead Hileman was still fighting for her life by eating berries and moss and sleeping in a hole she had dug within crawling distance of Alder Creek at the bottom of a steep canyon covered with snow. She didn't have a coat. She didn't have any gloves. Her leg was seriously injuried, presumably from a fall. An army of searchers using dogs, horses, ATVs, helicopters, and four-wheel-drive vehicles worked around her for days, and yet no one discovered her whereabouts until after most of the 300 members of the search and rescue team had gone home. Imagine the feelings of frustration, helplessness and despair of listening to a search in progress and not being able to get the attention of the searchers. At one point Hileman reportedly even waved her red sweatshirt at a helicopter over head in an attempt to draw its attention ... to no avail. Somehow Hileman was able to tap into a reservoir of inner strength and beat the odds.
The other extraordinary example of overcoming adversity is the case of Patty Turner. Turner has endured two leg amputations, a shattered knee, rheumatoid arthritis and other medical problems, plus a divorce and the death of her 12-year-old son. Has she given up in the face of these challenges? Not a chance. In fact, quite the contrary. Rather than waste away in front of a television set Turner chooses to make the best of her difficult situation, spending as much time as she can in the barnyard working with her horses and Brahma bulls - an unusual and challenging pursuit for a woman who spends most of her waking hours seated in a wheelchair.
These are exceptional people, to say the least, who have inspired others to keep the faith when the going gets tough. They are excellent examples of how to act and think when confronted with seemingly impossible circumstances.
Who knows how many lives have been changed for the better by the examples of perseverance that these two women have set. R.S.