Sunday, July 30, 2006

Banshee hill

In our part of the Oregon dunes, there is a place called Banshee hill. It is a lovely tall mountain of sand dotted with firs. Tourists from all over come here to ride quads, 4 wheelers, rails, ATV's, OHV's up and down this hill. They make a huge tent and RV city in the sand by the roadside. At the hospital at night, the scanner tells us how brakes went out going down the hill and a man died. An ATV rolled over on a man and he broke his pelvis. A man's rail crashed, trapping him inside, unable to feel his legs. A man got off his quad and had a heart attack.

EMS has special dune buggies to rescue these guys. They show up in the ER covered in sand. And often blood. Worrying about fixing up the new, expensive quad. Wives and girlfriends and mothers call from far away or arrive in the entourage, all worried that his expensive, dangerous pasttime has done him in at last. The staff works hard to keep hearts pumping and lungs breathing. Often the adventurer leaves with a bandaid, sometimes he stays with us, occasionally he is flown out by helicopter or shuttled by ambulance to another facility.

I don't usually hear the outcomes. But when I see a 4x4 truck with an ATV in the back parked in the doctor's parking when I arrive at work, I always grimace. Sometimes I feel like crying when, through radio static, they tell us they're bringing another one.

Now, the really scary part. The government sells tickets. That's right. This is all done by permit on federal land. Funded by your tax dollars. Fueled by advertising. And driving the economy of our small town. Writing my paycheck, I suppose. Well, this is the land of opportunity; nobody ever said anything about the land of safety.

R. Connors

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