Terri and Alex

The boys, Russ and Doug, were six years old, so they were in school. Terri, only three at the time, was hanging out with her Mom as they waited for a plumber to show up. Pat had errands to run so she and Terri both were wearing their “go to town” clothes. Terri was wearing her favorite red, plaid dress.

After lunch, the plumber that Pat had called showed up and got busy. Terri was playing with Alex, the dog, while Pat kept an eye on the plumber and watched his progress. After the plumber finished his job and packed up and left, Pat realized that she didn’t hear Terri out on the patio. She went back in the house and went from room to room calling Terri’s name. That didn’t get a response so she went back to the yard and started searching. Terri wasn’t in the yard and Pat began to get anxious. She thought Terri might have gone to play with her friend, Susan, who lived on the corner but Susan and her Mom hadn’t seen Terri that day. Pat was beginning to panic and hurriedly ran from door to door, checking with other neighbors. No one had seen Terri.

We lived in a rural area just outside the city limits. Police work was shared by the Sheriff and the California Highway Patrol with the CHP being more available as they had an office near our home. Pat called the CHP and reported Terri missing and then called me at work. My job was half an hour from home so I jumped in the car and took off as fast as I could go.

When I finally arrived at the house Pat and some of the neighbors were out in the front yard. Pat filled me in on what had been done and what was taking place at the time. Some of our neighbors were checking the neighborhood and the Highway Patrol was searching a little further out. Terri was a self-disciplined little girl and never left the yard without permission. We couldn’t imagine her just taking off so were scared to death that someone had taken her.

As we talked we were scanning the area. Behind our house was a steep hill running up to the east. The hill was terraced and had been a vineyard or an orchard before being abandoned many years ago. After you crested the hill there was a canyon (now Interstate 8) and then you could pick up a dirt service road that went uphill into the foothills. This area was hundreds or maybe thousands of acres in size. At the top of one of the hills was a giant boulder that could be seen for some distance. This boulder gave the place its name of “Big Rock”.

As we glanced around, Pat suddenly spotted a patch of red with something brown beside it moving down the hill toward us. She realized then that being so worried about Terri, she hadn’t been aware that Alex was missing, too! As they got closer, we could see that it was indeed Terri and Alex. I took off up the hill to meet them. As I got up to them and made sure they were both okay, I asked Terri where they had been. She told me in a matter-of-fact way that Alex wanted to go for a walk so she went with him. There I was, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, and ready for action! But, there was no action to be taken. Terri was a very good girl and never did anything wrong on purpose so for me to go crazy would have been the wrong thing to do. When we got down to the house, I explained what had happened to Pat and she and I thanked everyone for their help and concern. Then, we went in the house and explained to Terri (and Alex) that we don’t just wander off without permission.


Dave Thomas
September 6, 2014


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