The LCSTARs page was established to recognize the achievements of team members who have gone above and beyond the necessary requirements to be a professional search and rescue person. They are truly an inspiration to other team members. It is also about getting to know our fellow team members and getting a peek at what makes them tick and some insight into the diverse kinds of people that join the SAR community and what they find so captivating about their experience.
by Mike Fink -- Published Summer 1996
Our LCSTAR for this edition of the newsletter was born in Wisconsin. After only 4 months of life, she and her family moved to Minneapolis where they spent the next 4 1/2 years and then finally settled in Kansas City, Kansas.
Both of Shelley's parents were teachers but when her brother was born and medical problems arose, it became necessary for dad to find better paying jobs and the family had to do a lot of moving for a while. Shelley's bother, diagnosed with a brain tumor, eventually died in the 1950's.
When Shelley was 3, her father took her to a polo game. Little did he know that he would ignite a passion that would burn in Shelley for all the rest of her childhood and adolescence. She didn't get her own horse until she was 12 but they were never far from the top of her mind. School work and learning were not very important during this time either but she managed to keep a passing grade.
Living in the Kansas City suburbs meant there were stables and pastures nearby where Shelley could board her horse. The first of her 3 horses was named Jackie, a good and faithful horse but not a show horse. In order for Shelley to get her next horse, she had to sell Jackie, her saddle, her stereo and most of the other things of value that she owned, and she still came up about $100 short. Seeing her disappointment, her dad agreed to help but only if he could name the horse. Officially, Shelley's second horse was called "DAD's POCKETBOOK" but Shelley always called him Sundae. Sundae was Shelley's favorite horse and he was with her for a long time. Unfortunately, Sundae was not a registered horse and although he was a beautiful animaL he could not win any awards. Many of Shelley's friends were showing their registered horses so, not wanting to be left out, she reluctantly sold Sundae and purchased a registered Quarterhorse. This turned out to be the single best lesson Shelley learned in her life, that if you have something that's really good and really nice, you shouldn't sell it for superficial reasons. Although the registered horse was an excellent horse and she won lots of ribbons, he just wasn't Sundae.
All Shelley remembers of Jr. High was "hating it" and Bruce Smith's Drug Store for Cherry Cokes. High school was 0 .K. and Shelley was very active in Drama. Her favorite play was Kismet because of the unique and unusual stage settings and the challenge of bringing it all together. Although she stayed away from acting, she enjoyed behind the scenes activities like stage managing and props. She chose to be employed through most of this time to help pay for horse care.
When it came time to decide about college Shelley says it was a toss-up between school and horses. She admits fortunately school won out so she sold everything again, this time to pay for school. Since the family vacationed in Colorado (frequenting the "Y" in Estes or a friend's cabin in Granby), CSU was an attractive place to begin college life. She told her father, on one of their vacations, that she was going to attend college at CSU and that she was going to spend the rest of her life in Ft. Collins and he promptly replied "yea right!" - just like a dad. At first Shelley thought she might like to be a veterinarian what with her love of horses and all, but chemistry was just not interesting. During the dark ages of her college years, basically on a whim, Shelley decided to take a psychology class and developed an immediate fascination. She remembers college life as mostly fun in spite of the fact that the university could assume the role of parent and legally direct most of your life outside the classroom. Hiking and fishing became her two favorite past-times and the only riding she did was a very enjoyable "easy A" semester obtaining her required PE credit at the equestrian center.
During this period, she also met her first husband. After the first 4 years of college were over, the plan was for Shelley to work to pay for his graduate school and then his work would pay for hers. Well, the first piece went as planned with them living in California and her husband finishing graduate school. Then the divorce bug bit and Shelley was faced with raising her only son Sean and a strong desire to finish her graduate studies. Back At CSU in the late 70's, Shelley the graduate student and mom, was living in Spring Meadows apartments on Stuart west of Lemay. Invited by friends to attend a bar-b-que and stick ball game, Shelley was a fielder on one of the bases when a hit by Dan Calisher ended up in her glove. As Dan was approaching the base he could see he was clearly going to be out so he went for the knees in a flying tackle. Shelley hung on to the ball, Dan was out, and Dan's father Charlie was impressed by Shelley's handling of the situation. Dan was also good friends with Sean. Shelley and Charlie got married in 1979 and Shelley adopted Charlie's two children, Dan and Sarah, and they began living where they still do today. Still trying to finish school, Shelley the morning person would get up at 5 and head off to school to do lab work. By this time she had her Master's Degree so she was also teaching Basic Psych as well as taking classes. Charlie would get the kids off to school in the morning and Shelley would be home by 3:30 when they got home from school. Shelley would fix the family supper when Charlie got home and they would all spend their evenings together.
Shelley finally finished graduate school and she and Charlie received grants to do some work in Finland. They spent a year there with Dan and Sarah along as well. Sean stayed with his father. The town they stayed in was called Turku. The food was somewhat bland, and the residents somewhat suspicious of outsiders. The overall experience however, was fun and interesting. She remembers it being cold there even in the summer. Shelley turned down an opportunity for a second post-doctorate grant, in Stockholm this time. Even though this was really the place she wanted to go the first time, she missed Sean and they would only guarantee her 6 months of funding. After watching Dan and Sarah adapt to Finland - it was a grueling 6 months before they started to enjoy being away from home - Shelley declined the offer and came back to Ft. Collins.
The first year back Shelley was pretty much unemployed with the exception of helping Charlie study viruses occasionally. Then she received an offer for a temporary position at the University of Colorado and is still there today, somewhat more permanently, teaching psychology, being Director of Undergraduate Studies, making lesson plans as well as being the President of LCSAR and an active searcher and rescuer.
It wouldn't be a complete story of Shelley Calisher without the lost souls incident. ..
Once upon a time, a few years ago, Shelley and Chatka (the faithful dog and hiking partner) were off to catch some fish in a small mountain lake near a lightly used trail up the Poudre. They spotted the lake from the trail and just decided to make a b-line for it rather than seeing if the trail would take them there. They never stopped to look behind them to see what the way out might look like. There was a lot of snow around the lake and the ground was very wet but fishing was good and the scenery was spectacular. When it was time to leave, Shelley started thinking about the way out and began looking around. Nothing looked familiar and everything looked the same. All she knew was that they came down hill to get to the lake so they must have to go up hill to get out. There should also be a marsh on their right on the way up to the trail. She found a marsh but it was on their left so they turned left and went across the marsh looking for some big rocks that she now remembered seeing. The rocks never showed up and Shelley and Chatka realized they were walking in circles.
Shelley began thinking about the drive up and the hike in, remembering the compass directions they traveled. She also had a small, inexpensive compass in her pack so she started heading off in the direction she thought the main road should be. When they came to a stream that was heading in a direction that didn't seem right, she got out the map she remembered bringing. She thought she had found the correct stream on the map, and it indicated she was heading exactly the opposite way she should have been. Although she was anxious and nervous and scared and angry at herself for getting lost, Shelley did not panic but rather continued to look for ways out. In spite of the fact that things on the map started making sense and Shelley felt as though she knew what she had to do and where she had to go to get out, she had lost some confidence in her skills. She worried about who was going to take over her summer school classes and had to keep telling herself that she was going to get out and she was going to live to fish and hike another day. When it finally got dark, they stopped and built a big friendly fire and cooked half the fish they caught, one for Shelley and one for Chatka. It was a fitful night with tree parts for a lean-to and a bed, but they did manage to get some sleep. Shelley situated warmed rocks close to her body from around the fire to help stay warm. It was probably around 36 degrees F.
Sometime during the night a couple of interesting things happened. Shelley had Chatka's leash tied to a tree and for some reason, he broke the leash around midnight and wandered off for a while. Then, at about 3:00 am Shelley woke up and there, standing no more than 6 feet away, in the light of the fire was a white wolf. It appeared to be shedding, with ratty, tangled pieces of hair hanging off it's body, very tired looking, like it had traveled a really long way to get there. The white wolf just stood there and stared at Shelley. She tossed a few rocks nearby, not wanting to hit it, and the wolf still just stood there. When she got up and moved around, it still just stood very quietly and never let it's eyes wander away. Being fairly well exhausted, Shelley stoked the fire, gathered some warm rocks, and pulled up her tree branch blanket, told her (the wolf) to have a really nice trip and then Shelley went back to bed mumbling something about not being able to deal with this right now. All this time Chatka was curled up near the fire, fast asleep. As soon as Shelley closed her eyes this time, she remembers seeing flashbacks of that day, in a slide show format, all very clear and detailed. When she woke up the next morning, she looked all over for wolf tracks but could find no trace. Turns out old Indian legends say the wolf is regarded as the teacher and the guardian of the trails and Shelley felt very safe and secure rather than scared by the presence of the wolf
Back in town, Charlie had become very worried early that evening when Shelley didn't come home on time. It was very unlike her. So, he called the Sheriff, and LCSAR responded and searched all night and the next morning. Shelley heard helicopters about 8:00 am but they were a long way off. She knew she was a long way from the lake she fished - about 8 miles as the highway went. She became very depressed. A little later when she heard the helicopters fly off (She finally decided they must have just needed gas). Shelley did not want to spend another night in the woods so she planned to hike towards what she thought would be the Poudre if help did not arrive by 1:00 pm. Finally the helicopters came back and they were much closer this time.
Terry Govan, Jesse and Greg Luger had been following strong alerts and were able to direct the helicopters towards where they thought Shelley would be and the crew spotted Shelley. Twenty minutes later, with Jesse and her jingle bells leading the way and wanting to play with Chatka, Terry and Greg emerged from the trees. After sharing some food and water with Shelley, they led her out to the Poudre and then everyone (including the dogs) got a short helicopter ride across the river to incident base.
After a year of feeling bad about getting lost and keeping the SAR team up all night, she remembered Terry telling her when they first arrived at Shelley's campsite, that we do the searching because we like it and it's fun. And Shelley agreed and now she is having fun too.