It all happened on a morning when I was a little late in my daily outing. Fast walking down the trail I came to the little bridge over the first stream I always passed in my daily jaunt.
I was approaching at my usual speed of about four miles an hour. Not too fast but fast enough to please my doctor. He wanted me to do at least twenty minutes of aerobic exercise everyday. I did him one better and did forty minutes. It was good for me.
I'd been walking since the wife and I had moved to our new townhouse in the college town nearest to our little village. We moved in and I began my workouts. It'd been virtually impossible where we lived before. No sidewalks and mostly dirt roads. Not conducive to walking.
Anyway, as I said, I was approaching the bridge when I saw the American flag waving out of the stream. Of course I stopped and looked down into the stream bed. It was worse than I had expected.
The flag was attached to a wheelchair. And in the stream was the body of a man. I scrambled down the slope to him and grabbed his shoulders. He had been face down in the water and I pulled him up on the bank as far as I could and began doing CPR. I had no idea if it would work, but I knew this guy. I was not going to lose him if I could help it.
It was no use. I had pulled my cell phone out of the bag I carried on my shoulder with my ID and keys. I called 911 between working on his chest and breathing into his mouth. I don't know if I was doing it right or not. I was just doing what I had learned years before when I was in school. No go. He was gone.
The EMTs arrived in about eight minutes. I checked my cell phone. They too scrambled down the bank and tried to revive him. They worked on him as they took him up the bank to a gurney. They had driven down the nearest road until they had to come down the cycling trail. Not done usually, but this was not the usual. They hauled him away still trying to revive him as the police arrived. I was there alone with them now.
While the forensics staff started their investigation a detective took me aside to get my statement. It was not too long. I related what had happened. It was straightforward enough. I told him about seeing the flag and investigating, then doing what I did to try and save him.
Also I made it clear that I knew him, or at least I had seen him almost everyday. We often passed each other on the trail. He was wheeling himself in his chair and I would say "hey" as I passed and he would do the same. After my statement the detective gave me his card and told me to call if I remembered anything else, anything at all.
It was looking like an accident. He was handicapped and had probably lost control and went over the edge. Anyway, I turned back and didn't finish my walk that morning. I went home to tell the wife all about it. I changed out of my Army PT uniform at home and washed up. Then I waited for her to wake up and when she had risen and did her stuff I told her the whole story.
Mulling over the story for the next few days I tried to think of anything I could that might help. I remembered the tracks of his wheelchair going into the stream. Then it struck me. I had seen no tread marks! I mean, you know, tread marks like squiggles you see from tires. I had seen flat ruts in the wet bank, like he had been holding the wheels and someone was pushing him against his will. I needed to call the detective.
So I used the card and called. It was maybe a week after the incident.
"So what do you have for me Mr. Fargo?"
"You remember the tracks of his wheelchair, Sergeant Winston? I just remembered, I saw no tread marks. You know what I mean?"