Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do It Yourself

When you spend a lot of time off the beaten path, it’s inevitable that you are going to get stuck. Bogs, washouts, snowdrifts, bogs and washouts hidden under snowdrifts—there are plenty of booby traps lying in wait. And given the scarcity of people, there’s a good chance you’re going to be on your own when it happens.

Which is where the art of self-extraction comes in handy.

My husband is a pro at getting himself unstuck, a result of ten years of operating a one man feedlot in South Dakota. I’ve seen him bury a tractor to the axles in mud and push himself out with the bucket. Looked simple enough. Until I tried it myself, and ended up with the front wheels dangling off the ground and the back axle buried even deeper.

Like I said, it’s an art.

Last week it snowed. (Yes, in October. No, we don’t get used to it. We just learn how to whine with more finesse.) The snow was deep enough to cover up a whole lot of those booby traps. Greg managed to locate a bog he’d never seen before—with the chore pickup. He hiked home, got the tractor, and towed the pickup most of the way back to the house. By himself. Without tying the steering wheel down to keep it from turning. And with a front end so loose the pickup can dive into the ditch while you’re still pointing the wheel straight ahead, anyway.

But as good as Greg is, he couldn’t hold a candle to my Grandpa Mel.

My dad grew up in southwestern Montana, mostly in the Madison Valley around Ennis, surrounded by mountain ranges. His dad was a ranch hand, a horse trainer and a farrier, amongst other things. And to make a little money on the side, he cut poles.
Corral and fence poles were—still are—a hot commodity in a ranching valley. Especially a valley that's so rocky in a lot of spots that driving a post in the ground is nearly impossible, and the ranchers resort to jackleg fences like the one on the right.

If he wasn’t working elsewhere, Grandpa would climb in his old pickup and rumble up into the mountains. The logging roads were narrow, winding, generally clinging to the side of a mountain or a ravine. And steep. One in particular, that led to an especially good area for cutting poles, was so steep his pickup couldn’t make the climb without spinning out.

Not a problem.

Grandpa developed a routine. When he hit the steep section, he’d stop, turn around, and back to the base of the hill. Then he’d drag out his extra long tow rope and hike to the top. One end of the rope was tied off to a sturdy tree. The other, he snugged down to the rear pickup axle, between the duel tires.

Then he jumped in the pickup, put it in reverse, and let the rope wind around the axle, dragging him up the steep incline. At the top, he detached the rope from the tree, turned the pickup around, and let the rope unwind as he drove down the other side.

Pretty slick, huh?


Anonymous said...

I always look forward to slices of your life. SO different than mine!

Love the story of your Grandpa. SO clever on his part.

So, I was wondering...if hubby didn't tie down the steering wheel before he towed the truck and not tying the wheel could let the truck nosedive into a ditch..Did it? The truck into a ditch?

Carol said...

Here's my favorite "unstuck" story... We weren't literally stuck... but had to leave the pickup running or it wouldn't start again... so sure, we're up on our mountain pasture in the flat bottom... when, of course, my DH shuts off the pickup. Couldn't even roll it downhill and pop the clutch, because we're IN the bottom. No problem. Jack up the rear end... spin the tires by hand... jump in and pop the clutch. Voila! Dangerous, but it worked! And it sure beat hiking the 20 miles home!

Stan Grace said...

Your Grandps Mel also was the best arena director and ran the smoothest operating rodeos in southwestern Montana. He had a talent for solving problems.

Gianetta said...

It's amazing how resourceful folks were back in the day...

SAC said...

That is absolutely and amazingly one of the slickest things I have ever heard of.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Cyndi: Nope. The pickup towed along behind all nice and polite. I have no idea how.

Carol;: Holy cow. That's a new one.

Stan: Grandpa Mel stories are harder to tell than you might think. If you have any you'd like to share, email them. Dad can help me fill in details as necessary