On a crisp day last April, as Bode Beirdneau, then nine, and his father, John Taylor, 54, wrapped up their afternoon of snowmobiling around the Lake Tahoe backcountry, a twig jammed in the throttle of John’s vehicle. Unable to slow down, John careened toward a pine tree. He moved to jump off the vehicle before it crashed, but his pant leg caught underneath it. John felt his leg snap. As he sunk six inches into the powdery snow, he could tell his ribs and shoulder were injured too. Bode rushed to dig out his father, but John stopped him. They had no water, little food, and no cell phone service. “Get on your snowmobile,” John told Bode. “Follow the road, and try to find help.”
After a 20-minute ride, Bode spotted a tour group and asked the guide to radio for help. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit and firefighters quickly appeared on the scene, and Bode led them through the white wilderness to his dad, who was pale and in pain.
While waiting for a helicopter to airlift John to nearby Barton Memorial Hospital, the rescuers stabilized his leg. Within an hour or two, he was receiving surgery for a broken femur and internal bleeding.
Today, John’s leg has healed enough for him to take Bode out on dirt bikes. Father and son now carry extra gear on their treks, including a walkie-talkie with an emergency button. “I’m still a little afraid to go out [on a snowmobile],” says Bode. “But I’m starting to feel better about it.”
Tisha Shaw, Bode’s mother, says her son’s courage and quick thinking have led her to treat him as more of an adult. She lets him stay up later at night because “I trust his judgment,” she says.