How a Six-Year-Old Got Lost in the Woods—And Walked Nearly 20 Miles to Find His Way Home

His disappearance made national news. Decades later, he retraces his steps and shares the lessons he learned.

Wallowa Whitman National ForestCalvin Hodge/Getty

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At age six, Cody Sheehy was playing with his sister in the woods of Oregon’s rugged Wallowa County when he got separated—and lost.

Sheehy was gone for 18 hours, but managed to hike nearly 20 miles to find his way out. During his journey, he fell into a creek, climbed a tree to escape two menacing coyotes, and developed acute tendonitis in his ankles that would put him on crutches for a week afterward.

His resilience at such a young age made national news at the time and inspired people across the country: Some sent letters to him, simply addressed to “The Lost Boy of Wallowa.”

Sheehy, now a 39-year-old filmmaker and sailor, recently retraced his steps with Emma Marris and her six-year-old son for Outside magazine. Sheehy told Marris that the ordeal forced him to push himself beyond normal barriers and to stay focused.

“As a little kid,” Sheehy said, “I had this opportunity to be tested and learn that there really aren’t any barriers. I think a lot of people figure that out. They just might not figure it out at six.”

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  • Pen pal. When nine-year-old Tony Hood heard that the San Francisco 49ers’ Solomon Thomas lost his sister to suicide, he decided to help. Hood knew what Thomas was going through: His father, a police sergeant, had also killed himself. Hood wrote a letter to the football player offering to be friends. Thomas wrote back and invited the family to San Francisco for a game—and to talk more. Thomas said that Tony and the Hood family “have helped me more than they’ll ever know.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Holiday gift. A man who flies hundreds of thousands of miles each year gave away most of his frequent flyer miles to help people travel home for the holidays. This will be Peter Shankman’s fifth year in a row offering his miles to strangers in a social-media contest on Imgur, an image-sharing platform. Other frequent flyers have now joined his effort and contribute their own miles. “I can’t think of a better way to use miles,” said Shankman. (Washington Post)
  • Saving an island. Kokota was on the brink of disaster, with fisheries that had been depleted, rivers that had run dry, and forests that were almost gone. Now, after a decade of reforestation and a new rainwater collection system, the Tanzanian island is on the road to recovery—and has even opened its first school. The efforts offer lessons for larger communities. (National Geographic)
  • Another “Hidden Figure.” At 87, Gladys West is finally getting her due. In the 1970s, West helped developed GPS while working as a mathematician at the US Naval Weapons Laboratory. She was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame last month. (The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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