Time to charge people who have to be rescued?

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 11, 2022

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Despite this weekend’s blast of cold weather, warmer days are coming. That means more hikers will be on our trails, so it’s time to queue up the rescue teams and check the balance on local governments’ bank accounts.

I was reminded of how foolish some people can be when I read this week about a 17-year-old boy who climbed 35 feet up a tree to “rescue” a cat but couldn’t get down and had to be rescued himself.

This will come as no surprise to those who know cats, but although the young man was saved by firefighters using a rope system to lower him, the cat decided to stay in the tree. One firefighter said the cat appeared amused by the commotion.

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I will admit that I have been owned by many cats over the years. They taught me that my job is to provide food and a warm place to sleep throughout the day while their job is basically to annoy, befuddle and bemuse. My philosophy on cat coddling is–don’t. As we all know, there are zero known cases of a cat succumbing while “stranded” in a tree.

Now this is a leap that perhaps only a cat could make, but think about this: why don’t we charge people who decide to hike into the wilderness completely unprepared for survival and then have to be rescued? Often, it seems to me, the only survival tool some folks have just before they tumble over the edge of a ravine is a cell phone.

I know that accidents can happen to an experienced hiker. I’m giving the stink eye to those people who basically think that if they can walk across a Walmart parking lot in their bare feet without being harmed then they can shimmy out onto a slippery ledge to get a better Instagram-worthy selfie.

It wouldn’t be difficult to charge these wanderlusting outdoor neophytes a small fee to send a rescue team. I know this because I read the other day that I am probably the only person left in America who doesn’t use PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay or one of those phone apps that allows you to instantly send someone money.

Let’s set the scene for this.


Robert, who has no experience hiking but loves playing war games on his computer, wants to impress a love interest who thinks hiking would be romantic. So Robert the Romantic, wearing his new Nerdy shoes and suspenders, hikes up to Elk River Falls in Pisgah National Forest, where he slips, falls and needs help.


Dispatch: “911, what’s your emergency?”


Robert: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”


Dispatch: “Sir, I can see by tracking your cell phone that you are at the most dangerous waterfall in North Carolina. We can have a rescue team at your location in about an hour. Since you didn’t fall too far down, the charge will be $6,500. That might seem like a lot, but if you were farther down the side of the mountain it could be $100,000.”


Robert: “Okay, just get me out of here.”


Dispatch: “Sir, if you go to your Venmo or PayPal app on your phone and send us your payment, our team is just finishing lunch at Bojangles, and they can be there lickety-split.”


Robert: “Will this be on Instagram?”


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com