Three elk hunters driving on an isolated logging road in western Oregon likely saved an elderly man’s life. He’d been stranded there for five days, with no food and only creek water to drink, when the hunters found him on September 12.

A story from the Albany Democrat-Herald says Ernie Kropf was driving near Green Peter Reservoir to scout elk with his son and nephew, when they happened on several pieces of white paper in the road held down by rocks.

“I said, ‘What in the world is that?’ It took us a while to realize that it said SOS,” Kropf said. A few hundred yards away, a pickup truck blocked the entire road. Kropf didn’t see anyone in the vicinity of the vehicle, and thought about turning around, until an elderly man stumbled out of the truck’s cab.

The stranded motorist, who introduced himself as Ed, said he was new to the area, made a wrong turn, and then got a flat tire five days earlier. He was able to change the tire, but ran out of gas before getting back out to the main road. He didn’t have the energy to walk out so he used pieces of paper to spell out SOS.

The Kropfs provided Ed with chips and a candy bar they had in their vehicle and drove him to a nearby town to buy him some gas and more food. They returned him to his pickup in the woods before heading home. Ed offered to repay his rescuers, but they declined. Kropf said they were simply happy they came along. Earlier in the day, he’d considered going to a different hunting spot altogether.

“I told him not to worry about it. I told him to pay it forward,” he said.