Disappearing into the desert

Views on the road to Ken's last known location

Five years ago my dad, Ken Schneider, disappeared while on a road trip in Southern Utah and was never heard from again. A quick explanation—though not satisfying—is required. He had left a note on his car after it got stuck on a dirt road near Canyonlands saying he was walking to ‘the ranch.’ The only ranch was eight or more miles away, and he probably expected to hitch a ride there. He was not much of a walker after breaking a hip a few years before. A day or so after learning that he was missing, my siblings and I met in Salt Lake City and then drove out past Moab to meet with the San Juan County sheriff, to participate in some way, but most of the manhunt had finished by then. Helicopters, sniffing dogs, and people on horseback had already sifted through miles of desert surrounding the car. Motels and towing stations had been called. A backhoe even dug through a huge pile of loose dirt in case Ken had been resting in the shade of the undercut hillside as it caved in. This kind of disappearance didn’t happen very often. Only once before in his eight or so years on the job, the sheriff told us. Seventeen months later, on Dad’s 80th birthday, we finally had a memorial for him.

What can I say in a short post about a man who took his family to live all over the world at different times and for different reasons, wrote books on cities and human potential when he should have been earning a living, and who considered himself a failure even though a few people have told me his books changed their life? Well, for one, he died as he lived, taking risks in search of truth and beauty, and while not troubled about talking people into risking it with him, this last time he had done it alone.

Another observation comes to mind. Of all the people I have known in my life, he lived the leanest. Well, OK, he finally succumbed to the modern dense-pack of calories in convenience food and thus had a big belly at the end, but in all other ways he lived simply and frugally so as to live by his own rules. I remember him proudly showing me how threadbare his underwear was before he tossed it, and he hurt my sister’s feelings one holiday by telling her he really didn’t want the fancy new towels she had given him. In the last few years he lived on $800/month of social security income. He made it work by finding subsidized senior housing, and when he learned that he qualified for healthcare through the VA, he triumphantly told me he was financially sustainable for the first time in his life. Even haunted by depression, he was fearless and focused. Writing, reading, and travel were his passions; universities, cities, maps, and history of the English language were the topics he studied and collected data on endlessly. I have boxes of his maps, some marked with little dots and numbers presumably indicating a statistic for an institute of higher learning, but I will probably never know.

There are attributes of my father that I work hard to avoid, but one that I hope I can learn from is to identify and shed the non-essential in order to make room for the important. (Knowing how to pursue the important is yet another challenge… I envy those who know early in life and deep in their soul what they were meant to do. I seem to have wasted a lot of years trying out different paths and failing even as I thought I knew why I was trying them. Nothing to do but keep trying though.) Publishing Dad’s last book is important, I know, regardless of who reads it. Living lean enough to make room for the challenge I have in front of me. I can’t believe it’s been five years, Dad. I miss you.

About Leslie

In my 50th year, I had an amazing transformation that I had actually lost hope of achieving... I started a program that helped me lose 40 lbs and three sizes! The program met all my requirements for being sensible, fitting my lifestyle, nearly cost-neutral, and focused on acquiring habits for long term optimal health. This blog is to share some of what I discovered and what I am still learning. To learn more about my program, go to www.iamlivinghealthy.com, or just ask me!
This entry was posted in living creatively, living intentionally, living lean and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Disappearing into the desert

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Leslie. Keep up with the narrative, this is an engaging story and you’re doing a great job of adding dimension and meaning to what has been a terrible loss for your family. I wish you well!

  2. Wow, Leslie–this is great–you are a good writer. I am very sorry for your loss, and the fact that the mystery of your father’s disappearance hasn’t been solved. Good for you for publishing his book–I’m sure this will be an adventure in itself!

  3. Roy Hoch says:

    Dear Leslie,
    I read with interest about what you had to say about your father. Thanks for your thoughtful and tender-daughter observations. It’s difficult to know what makes one’s own self “tick”, let alone another person …. especially a family member. After my brother died his daughter described aspects of his life and demeanor about which I was totally ignorant. Maybe we all should lay out before others what is dear to us and say, “Here is the what I am. You need to know what gives me life and vitality.” I suppose living with another person should make it obvious; but that is not always the case. You have “gone after” your father’s passion with a daughter’s passion. Thanks.
    Roy Hoch

  4. dave_knies says:

    your dad didnt deserve to lay in that canyon for 5+ years…Iknow that area very well and wished i knew you when he went missing..I would have found him and got him out-this i know..Im the one that found your dads remains on april 12th back in that lonely canyon laying in that sand wash..At first I found his hat and noticed the distinct red color-marine corp. red on the patch,and then the pin which read memorial gardens 1945-1995 okinawa . At first I thought someone lost there hat..then I started to find bones..an arm bone,leg bone,blue cloth material -which i bet is where the rest of your dad remained. Then a half buried skull appeared down that wash ,I was shocked at first, hoping I wasnt in a anasazi burial ground but soon realized these remains are not anasazi .It was the hat that made me realize I had found a fallen marine , I treated his remains in a sacred manner…I photographed everything just as I found it and didnt disturb the site..The next morning i packed up camp, loaded up my 2 dogs and drove to the nearest town-monticello,Utah. I notified all of the authorities and showed them my pictures I had taken. Deputy Allen Freestone was pretty excited when he told me they lost a man back there 5+ years ago. as soon as he gave me a picture of your dad I knew I had found him,I just knew it..I asked if he was a veteran but no one knew,thats all I needed to know.I took them all of way back to the canyon that day as I had marked the area with rock cairns,we found his timex watch which showed 26 on the day.I had showed them everything including anasazi pictographs I was photographing when I found your dad.That evening I gave them all my imformation and asked them to call me when they find anything out..I headed back into the desert that night looking for a remote place to camp for me and my dogs,went climbing and backpacking for a few more days,then headed north to Montana where I live.. I have never been notified to this day..but when I called my mom on mothers day she got on line and told me the news..I was honored and privileged to have reunited such a great man with his family and to get him out of that canyon,especially a fallen marine.. I come from a marine family as well,my uncle John fought and died in the jungles of Vietnam,as johnny fought so hard he and 70% of his company died in the battle of hastings in 1966..They were all heroes, just like your dad.Seeing that marine corp hat sticking out of the sand that day made me think of my uncle whom led me to your dads remains in that desert, as one marine helps another to never be left behind.. I would like to meet Kenneth Schneiders family someday as it seems as though me and Mr. Schneider share the same views toward our severely troubled society, which is why I spend so much time in solitude in the wild desert in complete peace with myself and the beautiful canyons all around me…call me sometime as i was told the deputys gave you my number . Dave K. Belgrade Mt.

    • Leslie says:

      Dear Dave,
      Thank you SO MUCH for the immense gift you’ve given me and my family. I’m so glad you found this blog and told your story! Last week I sent a little packet to you that contained the booklet of “100 Quotes” that I compiled for his memorial service, which we held on his 80th birthday, about 15 months after he disappeared. It also has some letters at the end that tells more about my dad, one from me to the extended family, and a couple from some long time friends of his. Now that I know you are from a marine family, I am going to look for a memento of his for you. I will be in touch. Blessings.
      Leslie

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