The Other Warrior
Story and Photos by Melinda Stiles
When I moved to Idaho twenty years ago, I found paradise up a creek in a rental trailer with a jaw-dropping view of the Continental Divide. As if paradise weren’t enough, I also won the landlord lottery. The Olsons were good neighbors, trusted friends, and advisors on all things Idaho. Memories of them are etched with positivity, smiles and adventure. It just always felt good to be around them. Still does. Heather, their daughter, is a big reason why this is so.
Heather was fourteen when I met her. I was immediately struck by how one so young had such comfort in her own skin, looked adults in the eye when she spoke, and never failed to ask what she could do to help me get settled, or with anything else. I would learn that she always wanted to help others and was never too busy to do so. I knew her approximately five minutes when I understood that her services extended to animals as well.
Through the years, I met a menagerie of animals she saved: a sparrow with a broken leg that had fallen from her nest, a coyote pup, a raccoon, a fox, a rock chuck, a goose and duck that she peeled from eggs, and lots of goats. When skunks took up residence beneath my trailer, re-homing them was the only solution in Heather’s mind.
Seemingly seamlessly, she bypassed the “it’s all about me” phase so many kids journey through on their path to adulthood. Recently I asked how she thought this had occurred.