Monday, March 6, 2017

Art Sallee RIP

Art Sallee 

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Art In The Commo Trailer At A Florence Lake Search

As near as I can figure now I became a part of the Mountaineering Unit of the Fresno County Sherriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team about eleven years ago. A team member, Dave Calvert, told me to get in touch with Art Sallee. Dave and I had crossed each other’s paths on skis near Tamrack Ridge.
I met with this kind of crusty John Wayne type who had been involved in search and rescue for years at that time and was the unofficial Mountaineering Team leader even when someone else was the team leader. There was no official process for getting on the team at the time but Art made the rough ways smooth by helping me to initiate a background check with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and introduced me to the other Mountaineering Team members at their monthly meetings.
As the years passed we both became less active because of the infirmities that come with age. Art still conducted the Man Tracking Class but we both opted out of the arduous work of off trail searches.
We often met with other team members for lunch for an informal debrief of searches. Then it became Art and me with an occasional visit from Lieutenant Curtice.
Many of Art’s friends will talk about their relationship with him via the SAR organization that was so much a part of his life for so long but our friendship remained and developed long after we were a part of SAR.
Art was a storyteller and he had more stories than you can shake a stick at. I don’t believe I ever heard the same story twice. Most of his stories were self-deprecating and full of personal foibles. There was no self-aggrandizement and posturing. I was listening to the real unvarnished humble man who had a heart to help others in need. He was generous to a fault and loved to give things away. He was driven by his compassion for others and sometimes made the wrong choices. He was more into forgiveness than permission. 
Art was introspective and sometimes guilt ridden about things he had failed to do. I was always quick to suggest reconciliation or pronounce God’s forgiveness.
Art was quite a sportsman and especially a fisherman who loved base camping in his earlier days. I am a backpacker and he could never understand why I didn’t go fishing in any of the many lakes I camped near along the trails. I would send him an article I wrote with photographs and he would always respond with, “…but did you wet a line?”
Art was not a complainer and in his final days it was obvious that he was in a great deal of pain and having difficulty breathing. His body was pretty much used up. He sat patiently through my ‘organ recitals’ but rarely complained about his many physical problems.
He worked ‘pulling’ sign permits up to the very end and drove his Toyota 4 Runner proudly for over 400 thousand miles. Many of the miles took him to and back from his beloved cabin on a river near Mt. Shasta. He bought a game camera and the only wildlife he photographed was him relieving himself on his lawn at dusk. He spent time at his cabin and took his dogs with him wherever he went. Their exercise was the first item of the day but they suffered from many ailments also. I think Art may have helped finance one of his veterinarian, Dr. Waterhouse’s many trips to Africa.
Art and I had Christ in common and it is comforting to know that we will see one another again. A portion of  “The Great Thanksgiving" in our Liturgy states, “…and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.” That is my hope.


Father Dale Matson

From Nick Kohli

 Nick Is In The Center

Note: (03-31-17) Art's Memorial Service Can be Found Here:


  1. Memorial services for Art are set for Friday March 31st at 11:00am at Northwest Church in Fresno California.

  2. Here are some comments sent along by Nick Kohli one of our former team leaders.

    "I intend to travel back to Fresno to be there for his service- but please pass this on to his daughter/Family, and share should I not be able to. Attached some photos I found too.

    Art will remain one of my greatest mentors, a great friend, and just pure legend in some of the stories I keep close at heart; both from my first-hand account and from tales told to me by others who had the honor of his company a lot longer than I ever did. Before our fateful meeting at the Florence Lake Ferry ramp, outside the general store in early spring of '05, I was just a backcountry bum dragging my way through college. His skepticism of me was actually inspiring from the first handshake and hesitant instructions on how to fill out the DSW application, all the way through to telling me I was better off hasty searching since a good flanker never drags his feet while tracking. Hah.

    Fast forward a handful of years and I think I won him over! The fellowship (read: banter) at lunch every week with our core group of folks is still one of my most treasured memories. We all loved him, when you disagreed with him, you'd better be ready to spar with passion and conviction, but no doubt he was one of the good ones. Will never forget him."

    Well said Nick! I have added some of his photographs of Art to my original posting. Credit to Nick.

  3. I'm sorry I missed the memorial service, I just didn't know when it when and where it was being held.

    I met Art Sallee back in mid 1999. I had been a deputy sheriff for only a year and a half and I just made the department's search and rescue team. One of the first trainings I participated in was Art's "Man Tracking" class. At first I wondered who this old dude was because when I met Art it was obvious he had seen some miles. He walked with a crook in his back and shuffled his feet. In a short amount of time though I realized that this guy knew what he was doing.

    After that class I worked with Art for more than a few years. Art cut back on actually searching but he always came out and volunteered in the command post. Wether it was helping with the radios, acting as a scribe, cleaning up trash around camp, or being a "victim" during our annual multi-day trainings.

    One time (I don't remember the year) it was my turn to design the scenario. I had two guys (victims) in the field all set the day before training started. The morning of the first search day I planned to put Art in the field so he could be found, I just didn't want him to be found too early. After the lunch break he told me to drive him out to where I needed him to be located. I got to drive Art's Forerunner and being in a hurry I drove a little faster than Art liked. After he was "found" and brought back to the command post he let me know he didn't like how I drove his truck. I apologized and we moved on from there.

    Art mentored many and was a friend to all, he will be missed. While remembering things about Art's life I thought of the poem "Footprints in the Sand":

    One night I dreamed a dream.
    As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
    Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
    For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
    One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

    After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
    I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
    I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
    especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
    there was only one set of footprints.

    This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
    "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
    You'd walk with me all the way.
    But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
    there was only one set of footprints.
    I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."

    He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
    Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
    When you saw only one set of footprints,
    It was then that I carried you."

    That is the official version. The unofficial version starts out with three sets of footprints in the sand and then in the difficult times it was two sets of footprints. The extra set of footprints was off to the side so as not to disturb the "signs". Art Sallee was there and he was tracking them the whole time.

    God bless you Art.

    Robert McEwen