PARMA— What started as a two-person trek across the country turned into three when a Utah couple made a stop in Parma.
Kolton Rackham and Amanda Autrey set out from Georgia on May 1, 2017, to walk to the Oregon coast. Each step was not only an adventure for themselves but in support of two foundations: Make A Wish Oregon and Suicide Prevention based out of Atlanta.
It wasn’t until the couple reached Iowa in September that they learned Autrey was pregnant. When they found out, she said, it was like the instant fear of starting the trip all over again.
“No, there’s no way,” she said. “We’re walking across the country, there’s no way.”
Parma resident John Knickerbocker entered the story when he got a message from his sister about a young couple taking a hike across the country, encouraging him to offer his house to them on their way through Parma.
Knickerbocker doesn’t usually interact with people over social media, but he figured this was a chance to help someone out. He reached out to Rackham, who took him up on the offer.
Knickerbocker heard nothing from the pair for months, until spring 2018, when Rackham contacted him again, letting him know they were leaving Twin Falls and asking if his offer for housing still stood.
Through social media updates, Knickerbocker knew Autrey was pregnant, but had no idea how far along she was. What the young couple didn’t know, was that their host was a retired midwife.
When Knickerbocker picked them up, he started asking questions about the pregnancy. The two were both slightly taken aback at his knowledge.
“Then he said, ‘Oh, I should have told you guys, I’m a retired midwife,” Autrey recalled. “The time couldn’t have been more amazing — I went into labor with a midwife downstairs.”
April 18 happened to be a night Knickerbocker had off from his current job. He was watching a movie when Rackham casually walked downstairs and offered some news: Autrey’s water broke.
Knickerbocker, unfazed, gave some advice for dealing with the labor. In the early hours of the next morning, he sat upstairs with Autrey and coached her along.
At his best estimate, Knickerbocker had delivered one baby a year for 30 years. Autrey was in the “best shape of her life for it” from walking throughout the entire pregnancy, he said. He was confident the pregnancy would go smoothly, with or without his help.
Autrey’s labor lasted 6.5 hours — so quick, she speculated, because of all the walking she had been doing. The couple chose the baby’s name, Onyx, after the healing stone, which represents overcoming fear.
“Who knew they would show up on my door?” Knickerbocker said. “And Onyx would be born in my house? It’s amazing. All this because my sister said, ‘Hey John!’”
Rackham and Autrey set out from Parma with their 5-day-old son strapped to Autrey’s chest. The day they hit the Idaho-Oregon border marked one year since the start of their journey, Rackham said.
“We walked into Oregon,” he said. “with our little man.”