I Can’t Stop Thinking About What I Found at the River Near Billings
My Thanksgiving weekend was ridiculously low-key.
I spent 90% of the time hanging out with my family, watching tv, cooking, eating, reading books, drinking beer, etc. It was awesome. I took Monday off to extend the weekend a bit and I took advantage of an opportunity to drop my girls off at school; something I don't get to do very often with my early-morning work schedule.
Burn a few carbs? Sure, why not.
After being a lazy homebody for five days, I thought a little bit of fresh air would be nice. I dropped the kids off at school, swung back home, grabbed my fishing rod, and headed down to Buffalo Mirage Fishing Access Site (aka "Sportsmans"). For those unfamiliar, it's a popular day-use spot on the Yellowstone River between Park City and Laurel.
A nice day for a stroll at the river.
Monday morning was crisp, but the wind that had been howling all weekend had taken a break. There was a very faint dusting of snow on the ground as I pulled up to the sign for the access site. I've been here literally hundreds of times fishing or swimming or catching frogs with the kids. It's one of my favorite places to go, as it's only about 10 minutes from my house.
Something caught my eye.
I had barely entered the lumpy path to the river when I spotted something sparkling to my left. Stopping the car, I saw two bags. They were sitting right next to each other in a small parking pull-out on the trail.
What in the heck?
The two bags appeared to have been forgotten or mislaid, not dumped by a thief. They did not have any snow or frost on them and it looked like they had been placed on the ground not long before I stumbled upon them. Feeling uneasy, I peeked into the bags to see what was inside.
Women's clothing and personal items.
The well-constructed gym bag had an assortment of women's clothing and some other items. I didn't feel comfortable rummaging through it much, so I didn't. I did find what appeared to be a handful of newly purchased greeting cards/Christmas cards in the side pocket of the bag, as well as a small bottle of laundry detergent, a package of bandages, and some other odds and ends. I did not see any form of ID.
Who left the bags, and why?
My mind was spinning as I slowly bounced my car down the trail to the river, and my overactive imagination ran through scenarios. The bags/items are clearly of value to whoever owns them. Was someone sleeping in their car and maybe forgot to grab their bags when they left in the early morning darkness? Yes, I know the access site is supposed to be closed at 10 pm nightly, but I doubt FW&P cruises through there every night to check.
Was there some sort of foul play?
Human trafficking is no joke, and if you think it doesn't happen in Montana, you're kidding yourself. Or maybe it was a high schooler meeting a boy or something and she hastily left while forgetting her bags. But what kind of high schooler buys greeting cards and carries them in a gym bag?
I didn't know what to do with the bags.
Part of me wanted to take them to the Laurel PD, but what if the woman came back to the river looking for her bags, and they were gone? So I left them there. I shared a picture on one of the Laurel Community Facebook pages, but nobody seems to recognize them. Interestingly, when I stopped back today (11/29) to see if the bags were still there... one of them was. The shiny Victoria's Secret bag had been moved to one side of the parking area and it looked like all the clothing and stuff that was in the gym bag had been stuffed into the glittery bag. The brown duffle bag was gone.
For some reason, I can't stop thinking about the bags. I'd like to believe someone just happened to forget their stuff at the river. I hope that whoever left them is okay. I hope they're not sleeping in their car at a fishing access site in the middle of winter. I hope they're not in an abusive situation or battling addiction. I hope there is not a child involved. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below is the audio from our show this morning, discussing the bags.
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