Michael A. Sawyers
RAWLINGS — Doug Conlin can’t forget the photographs he found in the woods in 2007 of a little girl that he viewed again about a week ago.
Conlin wants to meet the girl and tell her that he understands the love between a father and a daughter. He wants to ask her how she made it though that first Christmas after her father died while hunting on Dan’s Mountain. He wants to tell her that, if she agrees, he will maintain the heartfelt monument she placed in the woods.
“I was living behind Dale’s Pit Stop and went for a hike up the mountain,” Conlin said Wednesday by phone from his new home in Delaware, recalling the day six years ago.
Conlin crossed into the Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area and eventually something seemed out of place in the otherwise wooded and natural environment.
“There was a wooden cross that said ‘Dad, Merry Christmas, we miss you.’ There was a little Christmas decoration, green and blue ribbons, a little plastic deer, two spent rifle cartridges and a little pin like you’d put on your chest that said ‘I love you Dad.’”
And there were two photographs, one a school class photo showing what appears to be a preteen girl and the other showing a toddler.
“Both have red hair,” Conlin said. “I’m not sure if the pictures are of the same girl at different ages or of two different girls.”
Conlin quizzed residents in the area, but could not come up with a name of the hunter, who was said to have died from a heart attack, or of anybody who brought his body out. Conlin said he was told the deceased hunter was not a local person. He could not ascertain if the death took place in 2007 or some earlier year.
Efforts by the Times-News have failed in that regard as well.
On March 22, Conlin drove from Delaware to Dan’s Mountain to revisit the memorial. It took him a little while to find it again.
“Everything was still there, but the wooden cross was split lengthwise and the bottom was rotting. A wire holding the cross had rusted and broke when I tried to bend it. The little toy deer had lost an antler, but I found it in the leaves and put it back on the deer’s head.”
Conlin made a video of his recent hike. In it, he pauses at the memorial and toasts the memory of the fallen hunter. He talks about how the love between a father and a daughter can never die.
In an emotional moment, he expresses his love for his own three daughters.
Conlin said if he can find the young lady in the photographs, and if she is willing, he would guide her back to that sacred spot in the woods.
“If she wants to talk, I’ll ask her to tell me about her father and about how she made it through that Christmas the year he died. I’d want to know how she is doing now.”
Conlin said he is willing, too, to let the memorial blend in time into the mountainside, if that is the survivor’s wish.
Conlin has a short video (about 4 minutes) and a long video (about 35 minutes) of his recent hike to the memorial. Both are on youtube.com and can be found by searching that site for “mystery memorial.”
Conlin may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.