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Mo. Tot Found Safe; Searcher Tells All

He saw a bare bottom and thought the worst had happened.

And then he got a smile.

Donnie Halpin, the searcher who was looking for a 3-year-old toddler in the rugged hills of Missouri talked exclusively with The Early Show Thursday about his unlikely find.

"I could just see the little part of his little butt sticking up there, and I took a couple more steps, and I could see his legs. I thought the worst at first," Halpin told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

Halpin had wandered away from his search party because he said he was tired, and saw some dogs in the woods, wondered why they were there, and followed them.

That's when he saw the boy lying still in the woods.

"I said, 'Hey, buddy,'" Halpin said. "And that little feller just sit right up, gets a little smile on his face and I asked him, 'Do you want to go home?'"

And Joshua Childers did want to go home.

Childers, who was found three miles away from home with minor scrapes, survived nearly three days outside after slipping out of his family's mobile home in just a pull-up diaper, a t-shirt and sneakers.

And, as CBS News affiliate KMOV reporter, Lisa Manzo reported, Childers wasn't wandering in the suburbs.

"This is some of the most rugged terrain you could come up against. It's the Mark Twain National Forest," said David Lewis, Madison County Sheriff. "I mean it's rocks, and real steep hills, and creeks."

Halpin, a construction worker who had the day off due to rain, was just one of the hundreds of volunteers from as far away as St. Louis -- 100 miles to the Northeast -- who came to help in the search. Professional search and rescue crews from dozens of agencies joined in. The Missouri State Highway Patrol brought in planes.

"(Joshua) told me he saw the helicopters, he hid from the helicopters," said the boy's father, Adam Childers, "And other than that, he told us he went on a hike."

The state Water Patrol brought in divers and sonar, too. Dozens of dogs, horses, ATVs, even donkeys, combed the miles of rocky terrain.

"(We're) thrilled to death that we found him," one searcher said. "Had a lot of prayers out for him and thank God he is all right."

The area is home to bears, mountain lions, snakes. Three ponds sit within a couple of miles of the boy's home, as do many creeks swollen by recent rains.

"I'm going to nominate him for the Grizzly Adams award and take him bear hunting with a stick," said Adam. "I don't know too many grown men that could do what he did."

The ordeal began innocently enough. Adam works an overnight shift and was home sleeping Monday. The boy's mother was watching the child, and was briefly on the phone when the boy slipped out the back door.

The couple immediately realized the boy got out and searched the dense woods around their home for about 45 minutes before calling authorities, leading to the frantic search with the happy ending.

Joshua is in fair condition and resting at a hospital in Crystal City, Mo.

"Right now, I'm afraid to squeeze him because I might pop him," Adam said.