HELENA - A 67-year-old country musician from St. Regis who spent four days in his car stuck on a remote mountain road said he wrote a goodbye letter and was preparing himself for death when he was rescued.
"I thought before I lose my bearings or start hallucinating, I'm going to write my last letter and tell my last goodbyes to my friends and relations," Louis Rogers, of Lakeside, said Tuesday, two days after his rescue. "I told them to have faith in the Lord and don't go cracking up because we are going to see each other again."
Rogers - who has played guitar for big names in the country music business, including Merle Haggard and George Jones - left northwestern Montana's Flathead region Thursday to make a trip to Calder, Idaho. He decided to take the remote Gold Creek Road across the Bitterroot Mountains, a route he had taken several times before and which he knew could shave more than an hour off the trip.
After about nine miles and with dusk setting in, the road got too snowy for Rogers' 1996 Cadillac STS, which was loaded with musical equipment, so he decided to turn around - and got stuck in a snowbank. He checked his cell phone - no service.
"That is very rough country up there. There's nothing but big, steep mountains all around you," he said.
Rogers has health issues, including diabetes, liver troubles and a history of heart problems, so he decided to wait for help. He melted snow to drink and occasionally turned the car on to run the heater at night.
He slept very little the first night. On Friday morning, Rogers said he looked out the window and saw a silver wolf staring back at him 100 yards away. The wolf moved to within 75 yards of him before bounding down the mountainside.
Other than the wolf, he didn't see another living soul. Rogers said he spent his time praying and thinking about the mistakes he'd made in his life, but his thoughts kept going back to the wolf.
"The Indians say if a man ever gets in trouble, that is your guardian angel and he's there to make sure he watches you until you get out of danger," he said.
One night, Rogers repeatedly flashed his headlights at an airplane that was flying low directly above him and believes he got the pilot's attention, "but nothing came of it."
In the meantime, more than 200 friends and relatives spent the weekend searching for Rogers along with several law enforcement agencies. His sister, Iva Mather, 68, said rescuers searched for Rogers in Flathead County and in Idaho's Shoshone County, where he had been heading. She and her 50-year-old son participated in the search along with friends from the Flathead area and Idaho.
"You don't know what kind of a hell it is until you experience it," Mather said. "We were so happy, but I'll tell you what, it was a nightmare."
Rogers was weak and losing hope Sunday when a Coeur d'Alene couple, Scott and Penny Kalis, decided to go for a drive in the St. Regis area in their four-wheel-drive vehicle and came upon Rogers' car.
"She said, 'Well, what are you doing way up here?'" Rogers said. "I said, 'Dying, and if you don't believe it, here's the proof, and I showed her the letter.'
"I was serious because I thought I was a dead man," he added.
The couple returned Rogers to St. Regis. He did not require hospitalization and felt better after getting something to eat.
There is no phone listing in Coeur d'Alene for Scott and Penny Kalis and the Shoshone County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a message for comment.
Rogers said he backed Haggard, Jones and a slew of other country stars from 1964 to 1967 when their tours brought them through California, where he was living at the time. He later moved to Washington state and back to Montana about 12 years ago, where he still writes music and performs.
Rogers is grateful to his rescuers, the service that towed his car for free, and for all the people who searched for him.
"I want to thank everybody who was looking for me and saying prayers for me. I love them all," Rogers told The Daily Inter Lake, which first reported the story. "You never know the friends that you have until something like this happens. I just feel really fortunate to have these friends."