The Lost Truck

I take two guys up to find a misplaced pickup truck.

The call came mid-morning on Tuesday, just as I was preparing to take Zero-Mike-Lima down to Mesa for scheduled maintenance. The woman told me that her son and father were out in the desert looking for her son’s pickup truck. He’d parked it somewhere on Sunday before dawn, left it for some coyote hunting, and couldn’t find it in the morning.

One thing led to another. The son and his grandfather showed up at the airport. I gave them a safety briefing and loaded them on board the helicopter. A while later, we were heading out to the triangle of land between routes 89, 93, and 71, just north of Wickenburg.

Normally, I can spot just about anything larger than a washing machine from the air — especially if it’s a color other than desert beige. The truck had a crew cab and was pewter — about as close to desert beige as you can get. But it was a truck. A shiny, four-month-old truck. And that triangle of land isn’t that big.

I started by following the son’s directions to where he thought he’d come in from route 93. No luck. He claimed he’d parked near a corral. There were about a dozen cattle tanks in the area, each with its own bit of fencing that could be considered a corral. We flew over and around each one. Nothing.

I then went into a standard search pattern grid. Back and forth across the desert, moving northeast to southwest. Nothing.

“It must have been stolen,” the son said. “I can’t believe it. I left the windows open a crack. I guess someone must have found it and taken it.”

I found it hard to believe. It’s not as if there are car thieves hanging out in the desert, waiting for a hunter to park a brand new, $38,000 truck and walk away.

But the truck just wasn’t there.

I climbed about 1,000 feet for a final look. The entire area was spread out beneath us. No luck.

I headed back to Wickenburg. I wrote up a statement they could show the police to prove they’d looked hard for the truck. I cut them a good deal on the flight time, feeling sorry for them.

This morning, I called the mom to collect my fee via a credit card. I told her how sorry I was that we hadn’t found the truck. She told me that they’d found it afterward. It was by a hill. She didn’t have all the details.

I got the credit card info and hung up.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. There was only one hill in that entire area. We circled it and flew all around it. It’s not as if it’s a forest out there, with big trees to hide something the size of a truck. If it were out there, we would have seen it.

Which leaves me to wonder whether he had me looking in the right area after all.

I guess I’ll never know for sure.

What do you think?