Four young women working on art projects at the Red Barn at Rhyolite got an unexpected shock early last Wednesday afternoon, when a disheveled man came hobbling out of the desert with his arms in the air crying, “Help me! Water! I need water!”
John Garrick, 50, of Las Vegas had become lost in the desert near Beatty after getting his car stuck off a dirt road somewhere in the Beatty area Jan. 3.
Garrick’s mother, Marilyn Garrick, said her son told her he was going for a drive to deal with an emotional trauma.
“He just wanted to get away,” she said. “He’d just been told that his uncle was dying. He was distraught because he had worked so hard with his uncle.”
Garrick had been his uncle’s full-time caretaker for the last three and a half years.
When Garrick’s car got stuck, he managed to find his way back to U.S. Highway 95 and Springdale, where he was given some food and drink by Gary Salisbury and Debbie Caparra.
They also gave him a shovel and a flashlight because he wanted to try to dig his car out of where it was stuck. Evidently, he did not find it, however. He returned the shovel and flashlight.
Garrick used the telephone at Springdale to make some calls, and his mother made an effort to get him a room at the Stagecoach in Beatty, and Salisbury gave him a ride there.
Unfortunately, he was unable to get a room because he had neither money nor any identification, having left his wallet in the lost car.
He then went to the Sourdough Saloon. When bartender Eric DeBauche was closing up, he knew the man had nowhere to go, so he took him home and let him sleep on his couch. Saturday morning Stephanie Selfe gave him a ride to try to find his car again. He told her just to drop him off and he would be able to find it on foot.
This proved not to be the case. The desert here is crisscrossed with a maze of dirt roads, and Garrick followed one after another, becoming more and more disoriented.
Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Garrick’s mother became increasingly worried. She thought he might be dead.
She reported him as a missing person, and thinking that someone might have killed him and taken his car, she reported it stolen. “I thought I could find John if I could find the people who had the car,” she said.
In talking with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, “They told me, ‘Don’t come out here. There are people here who know the area,’ and I’m handicapped.”
Garrick kept following dirt roads that seemed to lead to nowhere. He could sometimes see the glow of lights in the sky at night, and once he made a difficult climb up a hill hoping to see its source, but it was probably just the glow of Las Vegas many miles away.
Nights were the worst time for him.
“I would shake so bad. I just wanted to lay down, but I knew I shouldn’t. I’d doze off and wake up screaming, ‘I’m so cold!’ I knew if I just kept moving I’d have a better chance.”
At one point he was shivering so violently that he bit his tongue. He was terribly thirsty, and his feet were sore from walking. He also says they were full of stickers. He had lost his glasses and couldn’t see well.
“There was some real soul searching,” he says. “I’d scream out for God to help me, and I’d get down on my knees and beg forgiveness for my sins.”
“Eventually the scared part became the determination to survive.”
Garrick says he was an Eagle Scout with 63 merit badges, one of which was in survival, “but that was a long time ago.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 7, when he didn’t think he could last another night, he came upon a road “with a different texture. It had tire tracks where it had been traveled.”
This was the road he followed to the Red Barn and the young artists who gave him water and summoned help.
Garrick was taken to the sheriff’s office in Beatty and put on an ambulance to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump, where he was later picked up by family and returned to Las Vegas, where he continues to recover from his ordeal.
As for the young visiting artists at the Red Barn, their question was, “Does this sort of thing happen all the time?”