Sunday, June 30, 2013

Goin' to Ludden

So, yeah, it's summertime and the posts here tend to get a little scarce, especially when we take off on a ten day rodeo-cation. Stories from that trip later, other than to say nothing we experienced convinced me I could be forced to live anywhere near Missoula or the adjacent Bitterroot Valley. Ugh. The people. The traffic. Way to ruin a perfectly good part of our fair state. 

Today I'm sharing a tale I was told back in mid-May, when we journeyed out to Medora, ND to see my husband's best friends' daughter get married. Lots of potential blog fodder told 'round the tables at that reception, and this was one of my favorites. And no, I didn't bother to change names because there were no innocents.

It began, as so many ill-advised adventures do, at closing time. The tavern in question is the only commercial enterprise in a flyspeck of a town called Ludden, North Dakota. If the bar actually has a name, no one bothers to use it. When a person decides to pop in for a brew, locals merely say you're going to Ludden, given there is no other reason to stop there. Many an otherwise baffling occurrence is explained by, "Well, you know, he'd been in Ludden…"

It was late fall when our intrepid trio departed the bar, enroute to their various farms out in the countryside, with Hollis behind the wheel, Harry in the middle and a guy we'll call Jim riding shotgun, since we can't remember his real name. Yes, children, this was way back in the day of single cab pickups with bench seats, wherein people sat three abreast.

As they rumbled along a back road, they passed a spot where one of their neighbors had built a huge pile of corn on the ground, having run out of granary space. Word had spread among the wildlife in the area, and a sizeable number of deer had gathered for the feast.

"We should run them off," Harry said, always the helpful one.

Jim grunted, one beer shy of unconscious. Hollis couldn't imagine any reason why they shouldn't give chase, especially since the farmhouse was half a mile down the road behind a shelterbelt of cottonwoods, out of sight and earshot. He whipped into the field and commenced roaring in circles around the corn pile, scattering deer in every direction. Panicked, one attempted to run up the pile.

"After him!" Harry yelled, and yanked the steering wheel.

The pickup cut hard right, momentum carrying it halfway up the side of the corn pile, where it sank clear to the frame. Hollis threw it into reverse, but that only dug them in deeper.

"We're stuck," Harry said.

"No kidding," Hollis said, and climbed out, the corn threatening to swallow him up like quicksand.

Harry scrambled out after him, unable to rouse Jim from his stupor. They contemplated the situation for a few minutes, but could see no viable option for extracting the pickup without heavy equipment.

"We'll have to go down to the house and knock on the door," Hollis said. "Ask to borrow a tractor."

"No way," Harry said. "That old bastard hates me."

"He's your cousin," Hollis said.

"Exactly," Harry said, and set off to walk the five miles home.

Hollis went the opposite direction, leaving Jim snoring in the pickup. As luck would have it, no one was home at the farmhouse, but the keys were in the tractor. He fired it up, rumbled down the road and managed to tow the pickup onto solid ground. Then, unwilling to hike another half a mile in the cold, he shook Jim awake.

"I have to take this tractor back," he said. "You follow behind me in the pickup."

Jim blinked, yawned, and mumbled. Then he crawled behind the wheel and obediently followed Hollis onto the road…and straight off the other side, into a cattail choked swamp. No way could Hollis drag it out again without help, and Jim didn't exactly qualify. Hollis took the tractor back, went into the unoccupied, unlocked house and called a friend for a ride. 

Meanwhile, Harry's wife began to get concerned, as it was well past closing time and only a fifteen minute drive home from the bar. This being in the pre-cell-phone days, she got dressed and set out driving the back roads, looking for her husband. She found him trudging along, shivering. He climbed in the car and sheepishly confessed all, enduring the inevitable, "What were you thinking?" as she drove on to the scene of the crime to fetch Hollis and Jim. The corn pile was exactly as they had left it, including the deer that had returned the minute they were gone. But the pickup…

"It was stuck in the corn," Harry said, staring at the poor Ford, buried in the swamp. "I swear it was right over there when I left."

His wife patted his hand. "Sure it was, honey…but you know, I think it might be best if you stayed away from Ludden for a while." 



Darlene Underdahl said...

How these men manage to find wives…

John Ross Barnes said...

Actually, I think the wives find us - it's kind of a "see if we can feed em up, train em to (a) lead, an' maybe save em" thing.