…”this desert landscape is the indifference manifest to our presence, our absence, our coming, our staying or our going. Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern to the desert.”
–Edward Abby, Desert Solitaire
This morning while researching desert maps I came across a headline: “Stranded Man Rescued After 10 Days in Nevada Desert, Friend Dies.” I read the article and, being a frequent traveler in the Pershing County region of the Nevada Desert, could not help but be moved. The men, who endured great hardships, earned my admiration for their courage. I wondered if their courage was based on faith.
James Klemovich, 76, of Colorado and his friend, Laszlo Szabo, 75, of Nevada became stranded in Pershing County, Nevada after the Lincoln Town Car in which they were traveling became stuck on an isolated road. The men were on their way to inspect a gold mine in which they held an interest.
Subsequent to getting stuck, Klemovich and Szabo stayed hydrated by drinking ditch water and melted snow strained through a towel. Unable to dislodge their vehicle, they lit flares and built fires to signal for help, to no avail.
Pershing County is a vastly isolated expanse, its population of 7,000 predominantly clustered around the I-80 freeway, leaving the remainder of its 6,000 square miles virtually uninhabited. It is possible to travel for days in Pershing County and see no one. It is rare to see a plane overhead. Most of its unpopulated territory is without cell phone service.
After four or five days, Szabo left the vehicle to walk out in search of help despite Klemovich’s urgings to the contrary. Klemovich, who stayed alone with the car for the duration of the 10 days, kept a daily journal of how much water he drank and what he did. He remained confident in the return of his friend and wrote a letter each day to his wife of 48 years. His ability to stay focused undoubtedly contributed to his survival. One key to surviving a crisis, is the ability to integrate structure into a structural void rather than succumbing to despair.
In Klemovich’s case, his age and medical conditions make his courage and mental fortitude seem extraordinary. He is a diabetic with a pacemaker and a survivor of a triple bypass surgery.
Klemovich was rescued by a military team performing exercises, after the team discovered the Lincoln Town Car and found Klemovich inside.
Szabo’s body was found about a mile and a half from the car. An autopsy is being performed.
My extended prayers for the deceased and his family, and for James Klemovich in his time of grief.