Ticks and honeysuckle, thorns and trash — but no sign of Carl DeBrodie.
That's what the members of the volunteer search party found when they convened Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Park.
"I don't actually know the family," said Kimmy Bodle, who helped coordinate the volunteer effort. "I have an uncle who lives back in New York. Mentally, his capacity is around a seven or 10-year-old, so it kind of hit home for me."
Bodle swung into action Tuesday evening, finding at least 50 volunteers and persuading local businesses to donate water for the searchers. She plans to continue the searches until at least Sunday evening.
"It hit home," Bodle said. "I'm the mom of a little girl and I can't imagine having to wonder where my kid is . Is she safe? Is she scared? Is she hurting?"
Bodle's daughter, an infant, was the youngest member of the search party that gathered about 5 p.m.Wednesday.
The other participants were diverse — from workers at the Presbyterian Manor who heard about the search effort through the grapevine, to folks with developmentally disabled family members of their own.
"We have special needs family members ourselves," Angie Cruickshank said. "I once did a search like this a long time ago and it didn't have a good outcome."
The Fulton Police Department provided a map of the area, marking off places they already searched. Participants split into groups, equipping themselves with whistles and bright orange stickers to mark potential evidence.
"If you should find clothing, blood, a white New Balance shoe that's why we gave you stickers," Shellea Young, another of the coordinators, said.
The volunteers headed west along Stinson Creek.
"Where we live is pretty close to wear he lives," said Tina Rogers, who works up at the Presbyterian Manor and brought her two daughters to the search. "We could've walked here."
Her daughters crashed off through the undergrowth and splashed into the mucky creek. Search members were warned to stay within earshot of each other, so a second search party would not be needed.
"It's easy to get lost in the woods," said Tina Hatfield, who wore a pocketed apron and gumboots, and shrugged off stumbles and falls like they were nothing.
She spotted the first potential clue: a red shirt on the far side of the creek. DeBrodie was last seen wearing an orange-and-white striped shirt, but this one was worth a second look.
"My heart stopped for a moment," Hatfield said.
As the afternoon stretched on and it became clear DeBrodie wouldn't be easy to find, chatter died down. Volunteers wandered deep into the tangled woods between Old Jefferson City Road and Highway F. Honeysuckle choked the forest with woody vines and a sickly sweet scent.
"I'm clearly not a country girl," Bodle said as she struggled through the brush. "Flip-flops and a baby don't match. Tomorrow there will be no baby."
Jeremy Cameron was more used to the deep woods. He and his nephew, Dezmin Galbreath, spend plenty of time at a family cabin and Cameron navigated the search area with ease.
"My thinking is, he'd go the easy way," Cameron said.
Cameron suspected DeBrodie would follow game trails through the woods, rather than plunging through dense growth. He paid special attention to bodies of water, which DeBrodie is said to be drawn towards.
Cameron found a mattress with a pair of jeans nearby, along with other items of clothing. It appeared to be a vagrant's campsite.
Afternoon turned into evening and the air cooled. Searchers trickled back to the Veterans Park Pavilion to check out.
DeBrodie's father, Larry Summers, sat on a bench talking with the searchers.
"It's starting to wear on me," Summers said.
He expressed gratitude for the searchers and urged others in Fulton to join the effort. He said it's not like DeBrodie to wander off, he said.
"This is the first time (DeBrodie) has done anything like this," Summers added.
He said DeBrodie is shy and easy to startle.
"If anybody has happened to see him, he's friendly," he said. "He doesn't talk that much. Just keep an eye on him and let him come up."
Anyone who wants to join the hunt should contact Bodle either on Facebook or through text (573-953-2080). She added that those who can't physically search the woods can help in other ways.