It was the Friday after Labor Day, and business was slow in the parking lot. My coworker had gone, and I was sitting in my chair, working on a scarf. A Forest Service Crew was on the trail felling hazard trees, and only a few visitors were parked in the lot.
I heard a vehicle coming down the road, and when I looked up, I saw it was a Forest Service SUV marked “Law Enforcement” on the side. I thought the vehicle might hold the two L-E-Os who’d pulled me over to hassle me about the cracks in my windshield, so I was glad to see it pass the parking lot’s gate.
The driver must not have gone far before turning around, because I don’t think three minutes passed before the SUV was pulling into the parking lot. I decided I wasn’t getting out of my chair to chitchat with tree cops. The SUV came in the wrong way on the one-way loop and stopped near me. At that point I got up after all to find out why the L-E-O was there.
As I approached the SUV, I looked into the open passenger side window and saw an L-E-O I’d never seen before. This guy was young too, whiskerless, blond, slight, and almost too clean and pretty to be a cop, even in a forest.
He looked at me and said, I’m here for the urn.
Surely that’s not what he said, I thought as I looked at him blankly.
I’m here for the urn, he said again. The human remains? I got a call about an urn found on the trail.
I continued to look at him blankly, and he asked, You didn’t hear about it?
I told him I hadn’t heard about it, and the L-E-O said he was surprised. I told him the Forest Service crew working on the trail had probably found the urn and used a walkie-talkie to call in and hadn’t bothered to tell me. (The Forest Service is responsible for the trail and the company I work for is responsible for the parking lot, so I understand why someone from the work crew didn’t come over and tell me about the urn.)
The L-E-O said he had to go out on the trail to retrieve the urn.
By that time, I had the giggles and put my hand over my mouth in hopes of keeping my inappropriate laughter inside. How could someone forget an urn full of human remains on an interpretive trail in a National Forest? This situation sounded like the premise of a slapstick comedy.
What are you going to do with it? I asked. I don’t normally converse freely with cops of any sort, but I was fascinated by the abandoned urn.
Keep it in the office until someone calls to say they forgot Grandpa, was his response.
I had to cover my mouth again in an attempt to keep in my giggles.
I guess the urn’s in a Crown Royal bag, the L-E-O told me. Grandma must have had a drink…
A Crown Royal bag? That was too much! A hand over my mouth was not hiding my laughter.
The L-E-O parked the SUV and headed out on the trail. He was gone a good 40 minutes before returning to the parking lot holding a purple bag. It wasn’t a Crown Royal bag after all; this bag was purple, but bigger and made from fake velvet. He didn’t show me the urn, but told me it was a case of dumping.
Dumping? I asked, confused again.
He’d opened the urn, he told me, and it was empty. Whoever had brought the urn on the trail must have scattered the ashes, then abandoned the urn and the bag that held it.
Pack it in, pack it out! I exclaimed.
Yes, the L-E-O agreed, even in the case of Grandpa’s ashes, people need to take their trash out with them.