GILLETTE — Frank Reynolds considers himself fortunate because not all search and rescue efforts have happy endings.
“I’m alive," Reynold said Wednesday from a Casper hospital room, where he recovers from an ATV accident that easily could have ended his life.
On Sunday, the 53-year-old rancher was in a neighbor’s pasture by American Ranch Road attempting to round up a cow and a calf. He was riding an all-terrain vehicle by a creek when he realized he could not go forward.
When he put the ATV into reverse, the rear wheels fell off the edge and gravity took over and flipped him down in the creek.
“It tipped off of a bank and rolled on me,” Reynolds said. “I was kind of out of most of it. I had no idea how it landed.”
He was trapped under the ATV with no one within a country mile of him.
“It was scary as hell is what it was,” he said.
Late Sunday and early Monday, family members thought Frank had gone camping or was with his buddies, said Quentin Reynolds, the Campbell County undersheriff and Frank's brother. But as Monday progressed, they began to worry.
They started calling his phone Monday, with no answer. Quentin’s wife texted Frank’s girlfriend.
“She hadn’t talked to him since the morning on the Fourth (Sunday), then we started calling friends and they didn’t see him,” Quentin said.
An aunt had talked to Frank sometime Sunday afternoon. She told Quentin that Frank had planned to open some gates on the property.
“We jumped into the ATV and ran up there and the gates weren’t open, so then we started a search,” Quentin said. It started at 2 p.m. Monday.
A neighbor and family friend offered Quentin the use of their airplane to search for Frank, but the plane could not fly in the area because of a nearby oil field where a crew was working on a rig.
Still with no clue where Frank was, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Posse was called to help in the search and rescue operation. Quentin tried connecting by cellphone with his brother and other searchers, but there was no service. He instead used a police radio to keep the search organized.
“I had hope for most of the day on the fifth (and) night on the fifth,” Quentin said, then admitting that, “I was starting to worry it (would be) a recovery, not a find.”
While Quentin, family, friends and the posse were looking for Frank, he remained trapped in the ATV with a dislocated left shoulder and broken ribs.
Alone with agonizing hours of physical pain and his own thoughts, Frank tried to help anyone looking for him.
“He tried to use the horn on the four-wheeler so much he ran the battery down,” Sheriff Scott Matheny.
Frank tried getting out from under the ATV, but "there was no escape" in large part because of his injuries, he said.
Through his pain, he saw the sun set and rise twice.
“(When) nobody shows up you kind of give up hope,” he said.
He tried to stay in the moment and do whatever he could, which included keeping himself hydrated.
He had a cooler and was able to ration a couple of bottles of water and a couple of Keystone Light beers, the sheriff said.
As Frank was doing what he could to hold on and survive, neighbor Don Hamm was searching the area on horseback. At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Hamm found the missing rancher.
By that time, “I was pretty much out of it,” Frank recalled. “I didn't know where I was when (Hamm) talked to me. He tried to keep me down as I was trying to get up (but) I couldn't get up anyway.
“Everything on the left side pretty much hurt, from the top of my head to my toes.”
By the time Quentin showed up, his brother was sitting up and talking.
Frank was initially taken to Campbell County Memorial Hospital, but there were no doctors available to treat his injuries, which were not life-threatening, so he was driven to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, Matheny said.
Frank is expected to remain at the Casper hospital for a few more of days.
“He is up to talking,” Quentin said. “Luckily, there are no head injuries, mainly just the left side of his body. He has a black eye and he had hit his head some, but he's cognizant. Everything will heal.”
Even experienced Wyoming ranchers aren't immune from suddenly finding themselves on the wrong end of a search and rescue operation, Frank said.
“Accidents are going to happen,” he said, adding that he's grateful for all those who went out looking for him. “You just need to be as careful as you can.”