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Of Boys and Bears

This was a happy ending – and quite possibly a miracle.

It was a local (Craven County, North Carolina) story that had the state on edge, heartbroken and frantic for the parents of 3 year old Casey Hathaway.

Little Casey was playing outside with relatives last Tuesday, at his grandmother’s home. When the two older children came inside, Casey was not with them.

He was gone. Just gone.

The grandmother’s home was bordered by a thick forest with treacherous terrain. Multiple days of a very rainy North Carolina winter had resulted in deep puddles and trenches.

So was little Casey snatched, or did he wander off?

Well, he wandered off, and after several days of volunteers and professional search crews alike on the case, prayers were answered.

A 911 call came in on Thursday that someone heard a small child, deep in the forest, crying out for his mom.

The professional search crew closed in, followed the sound of the child’s voice, wading through waist deep water, and found little Casey entangled in a thicket of briars.

He was scratched up, wet and cold, but he was alive and well.

He spent several days in an area hospital, being treated and examined, and went home with his family on Saturday.

How did a small child survive for several days and nights, deep in the forest, with no food or water, in wet, cold temperatures?

This is where it gets interesting.

Little Casey says he had an unusual guardian angel –

A bear.

Breanna Hathaway, the child’s aunt, shared in a now-private Facebook post that Casey “hung out with a bear for two days” while he was missing. 

“God sent him a friend to keep him safe,” she added, according to the newspaper. 

Bears are not foreign to the region, to be sure, but can we believe that one took a little boy and kept him safe for 2 days, while he was lost in the woods?

I remember when my little brother, Joey, was about Casey’s age. He used to run off all the time, sending the whole family on a hunt through the neighborhood searching for him.

One evening, after searching high and low, calling, and watching Mama worry herself sick, Joey wandered up on his own, quietly sobbing.

Mama was so happy to see her baby, she was probably crying harder than he was.

We asked Joey where he was and why he was crying. He had quite the tale.

According to Joey, he went hunting, and he’d gotten into a fight with Daniel Boone over a squirrel and he had to kill him.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Joey didn’t actually kill Daniel Boone or anyone else. He just had a really active imagination at that age.

Odd. These days, he has no discernible imagination, nor a sense of humor, so you guys keep this one to yourselves, ok?

But back to Casey. My little story of the extents of a 3 year old’s imagination aside, it does strain the bounds of belief, but it wouldn’t be completely unheard of. Who knows how an animal’s instincts might kick in when they see a young one in distress?

Who knows how God might intervene to keep a child safe? We weren’t there, so all we have is Casey’s word.

Craven County, North Carolina, Sheriff Chip Hughes suggested the story was probably more “cute” than realistic.

“There is currently no evidence or information that indicates criminal activity in this case but the investigation is ongoing,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post on Sunday. 

No. I would say there wasn’t. It was just an unfortunate case of a little boy who took advantage of a momentary lapse in supervision. It can happen in an instant.

“This kid was strong, he was meant to survive. … He’s got a story to tell,” Hughes told TV station WCTI.

Indeed he was, and I can only imagine there is a call on his life.

Let’s hope the people around him recognize the gift they’ve been given and they nurture and guide this young man as he searches out his purpose.

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