DARRINGTON — Watching the news Tuesday morning, Mikel Cook decided he could no longer sit around doing nothing.
He had never heard of Oso before Saturday’s mudslide, and he doesn’t know anyone in the area. But after a quick phone call to his buddy Hunter Jefferys, the two 25-year-olds collected tools, food, a guitar and sleeping bags and jumped in Cook’s red Saturn Ion to make the drive from Shelton to Darrington.
“Saturday it was just three dead and eight missing, and then Sunday the same. … Monday was when everyone started to realize how bad it really was,” Cook said. “I heard about the 4-year-old getting pulled out and thought, ‘That could have been my nephew.’… I just had to go because it was only three hours away.”
Cook and Jefferys have been sleeping in the two-door car at night, and making themselves useful in any way possible during the day — loading lunches into Red Cross delivery trucks for volunteers out on the mudslide, unloading donation trucks at the fire station and cleaning muddy floors and shoes.
“If we can’t get out to help find people, then while everyone else is out looking there are still things that need to get done, and we can do that,” Cook said. “If there is one less thing for the volunteers to do when they get back from the slide so they can just take a minute to relax, I feel like we are making an impact.”
Jefferys is a musician and made the trip with his guitar and harmonica. When volunteers are back in the Darrington station to have a cup of coffee or eat lunch, he plays for them.
A little “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” by Harry McClintock, mixed with some John Denver and Bob Dylan.
“A lot of the songs I know how to play are very somber, so I have been trying to come up with some that are a little more hopeful,” Jefferys said.
He said he knows playing music is not something most people would think of at a time of such devastation, but he said that and digging holes for his father’s water-system business are all he’s got in the way of skill sets.
“If my family was grieving, that is what I would do, I would play music,” he said. “When I see the volunteers come in and sit down to a cup of coffee and they just close their eyes and listen … I know they appreciate it.”