Eventful few months for Jim "Cougar" Reilly
The urgent knock on the door in the pre-dawn hours on that Saturday morning would usually have gone unanswered. On most weekends, Jim would have been at his cabin about 12 miles northwest, above Kooskia.
The persistent pounding, at 3:30 a.m., gave rise to fears of a sleepless malice lurking on the other side of the door at the trailer park off U.S. 12 at Camp Arrow Head.
On that March 5 morning, however, Jim Reilly was still there. He didn’t yet know why, but he was about to find out. 
The door burst open and a frantic young mother screamed that her baby had stopped breathing. Jim, nicknamed “Cougar,” immediately called 911.
The 911 emergency operator wanted to know where the baby was located. Reilly, a worker since late 2000 with ITD’s north-central Idaho Orofino maintenance shed, told them the four-month-old girl was at the next trailer, but because he only had a landline phone, the father had to bring baby RaeAnn to Jim’s trailer as the 911 folks talked them through the respiratory rescue. 
“The father was begging the baby to breathe. He tried to give CPR, but didn’t know how,” Jim said. The father began performing CPR but was pushing on her little chest way too hard Jim thought. “You only need to use two fingers over the heart,” Reilly shouted. 
Remembering his CPR training, Reilly stepped in — 30 reps, two breaths. 
“The baby would take a breath, but then stop breathing. So, I would continue with CPR and eventually the baby would take another breath. Gradually the baby began to take breaths more frequently.”  
“It seemed like forever, but finally the baby gasped after about 17 reps, then again after about 10 reps, then 7, then 4, and finally she was breathing on her own when help arrived.”
An EMT had driven directly to Jim’s trailer in the 25-unit campground, and the ambulance arrived later.  Ultimately, the baby was transported by ambulance to Clearwater Valley Hospital, and once there was taken by Life Flight to Spokane.
A special commission 
“Those parents had no phone and no car, and no one else in the trailer court did either except me,” said Reilly.  The manager of the trailer court had a phone, but was gone that night.
“It felt good to be able to help with a life like that.”       
“I truly believe it was God’s will to keep me there that night. In fact, I was planning on NOT being there that night. He kept me home to help.”
“I wasn’t sure why I stayed home that night until it happened, and then I knew.”
“I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done had it been them in my shoes,” Reilly said. “I was just thankful to God that I could help.”
Reilly was in the right place at the right time again a few months later, mowing part of the yard at that same trailer court.  Jim was riding his mower down to the manager’s office when he drove past the trailer of baby RaeAnn and the young couple.
“I saw this sudden streak, and it was a rattlesnake that struck at my ankle,” Reilly explained. The fangs of the snake were embedded in the top part of his boot.  
Reilly kicked at it with his foot, got it knocked off and drove over it several times with the lawnmower to kill it.  
“About that time, the father walked out of his trailer, saw the snake in my hand, and asked where I’d gotten it.”
“I told him it struck at me as I was driving the mower by the steps to the porch of their house.” 
The father said their two-year old son had just been out playing on the porch, right above where the rattler had been lying in wait.
“This is going to hurt.”
And even more recently, on his way home from work, Jim's truck was hit head-on by a drunk driver. 
“I saw her car cross over the centerline, saw the car sideswipe the pup trailer of the truck in front of me, and I knew I could not swerve to the left to miss, because there were cars following behind.” 
So, he braced for impact. 
“’This is going to hurt,’ I kept thinking in those moments before the crash. I was right.”
Despite ricocheting off the big truck, the drunk driver’s car was still traveling at 60 mph when it hit Reilly’s vehicle. The collision ripped off her own door and fender and the trailer's fender, blowing her own front tire and two tires on the trailer. 
“I can’t believe the damage she caused even after she hit the semi,” Jim said. The collision destroyed her 2010 Nissan Vogue, and totaled his 2006 GMC Sierra 2500 three-quarter ton. 
Although he was injured, Jim pulled the driver out of her car after she hit the 1914 Freightliner and then his truck.
“She was wedged between her steering wheel and her door,” he recalled. 
Her car caught fire as he pulled her to safety. Reilly then called the ITD district office to request traffic control and assisted at the scene of the wreck.  
The crew of the responding ambulance knew Jim and made him go to the hospital to get checked out – Reilly was just going to get a ride back to his trailer house and call it a day. 
Now, about that name…
Jim is nicknamed “Cougar” because of a big female cat he shot and killed on the South Fork of the Clearwater River Christmas morning 2015.
“Well, I thought the cougar was dead after I shot her, so I grabbed her tail to keep her from sliding down the hill,” explained Reilly. 
“It was about a mile back to the truck, so I didn’t want the big cat going any farther down.
“Turns out she wasn’t dead and she wasn’t happy. I kept hanging on, but it seemed like it took forever for her to die. My shoulders were sore for a couple days after that.” 
The big cat weighed in at about 110 lbs.  
“But when you have ahold of one, they seem a lot bigger,” Jim said. 
“Cougars are really strong.” 

Jim Reilly was in the pickup in this crash and although injured himself was able to get the driver of the Nissan Vogue out of the car and to safety before the car caught fire.

Jim Reilly grabbed the tail of a cougar he thought he had shot and killed to keep it from sliding down a hill only to find out it wasn’t quite dead yet.

Cottonwood, Idaho 83522


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