The Red Sled

Their son was injured in a sledding accident, but no one could find him.

By Dave Mahler, Minnetonka, Missouri

Zach, our 12-year-old, woke up the day after Thanksgiving last year and let out a loud whoop. It had snowed. Not just a dusting either, but a thick blanket. He bugged his older brothers, Jake and Mike, until they finally agreed to take him sledding.

Later that afternoon the phone rang. It was Mike. His voice was tense. "Dad, you need to get here right away. Jake's hurt. He can't talk. He can't move. Hurry!"

But Mike didn't know where they were. Jake had driven and Mike hadn't paid much attention to where they went. The only landmark he could remember was the Groveland Elementary School. I called 911, told them to send an ambulance to the school parking lot, then drove there with my wife, Marilee. The police and EMTs showed up minutes after we did. I explained the situation. We racked our brains. Nobody could think of any sledding hills in the area.

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I called Mike. "I can't see the main road," he said, "just a lot of houses. But I definitely heard sirens."

We were close. "We'll drive around. If you hear the sirens again, try to follow the sound and flag us down."

With police car and ambulance right behind me, sirens blaring, I drove a few blocks until Marilee said she saw a boy at the side of the road. He had a red sled in one hand and was waving at us with the other. Zach. Thank God, I thought. I turned left. Zach had vanished. I drove on. No Zach. No tracks, even.

Then I saw it—Mike's car. I stopped, got out and saw our sons at the bottom of a hill, Jake lying on the ground. The EMTs rushed him to the hospital. His injuries were severe. He was hospitalized for weeks. But by New Year's Eve he was well on the way to recovery. That night we sat in his room and talked about what had happened. "Zach, I'm so glad you flagged us down," Marilee said.

"I what?" he asked. "Mike and I stayed with Jake till you got there."

"I saw you," Marilee said. "I couldn't have missed that red sled of yours."

"But, Mom," Zach said, "I don't have a red sled."