The horrible news shattered the peace and tranquillity of my small farming community, the little town of Holden just outside of Bangor, that warm summer day just after World War II ended.

The inconceivable had happened. A child was missing.

Skippy — his name was Walter Tardiff Jr., but everyone called him Skippy — was only 3, and could not be found. He had wandered off into the acres and acres of dense forest that surrounded his home. It was late afternoon and soon it would be dark. He was next to youngest in a close-knit family of 12 children.

A search party was formed, and the county sheriff organized a grid for the volunteers who had come from many surrounding communities to aid in the search. Throughout that afternoon and early evening the search continued, concentrating on the thick woods in the area circling around the little boy’s home and widening it as time went by.

Fear and tension mounted, as by now he had been lost for hours; how far could a 3-year-old walk in that amount of time? This was rural area, there were acres and acres of woodlands, and it was sparsely populated with the farmhouses miles apart.

My mother had gone to be with Skippy’s mother for what little comfort she could give. I am sure they were saying the rosary and praying to St. Jude for Skippy’s safe return. My father and brothers had joined the search as they had hunted in these woods and knew them well.

I was 10 years old when this event happened, and did not have words to describe my feelings. I only knew I felt frightened. What would happen if they could not find him?

I was standing in the middle of the gravel road in front of my home when an eerie sound coming from the sky broke the silence. From a search plane flying low came the plaintive voice of Skippy’s father, calling “Skippy, come home. Skippy, come home.” The sound reverberated over the sleepy little town.

There were so many miles of dense woods to search, and so many ravines a small boy could fall into. Volunteers combed the woods all around the toddler’s home, and more and more people came to aid in the search as the word spread.

Our small community banded together in the face of this catastrophe. And the whole town had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity for any news of the little lost boy.

The message was passed from neighbor to neighbor by the few means of communication we had in those days, either the party line telephone or people stopping by the door yard in their cars or on foot. I do not remember how long this ordeal lasted, as time seemed to stand still during the tragedy.

Then a miracle happened, and the whole town rejoiced. Skippy was found less than a mile from his home in an orchard sleeping under an apple tree. He was safe and sound and home in time for supper. The teenage boy who found him was our hero.

– Special to the Telegram


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