Funny how things change. When I first started hunting, we all wanted four-wheel-drive vehicles to get us out of big mud holes; now people want four-wheel-drive vehicles to get them into big mud holes. Getting stuck has gone from a problem to a challenge.
Hunting vehicles used to be clunkers that ran but you wouldn’t park near a junkyard for fear it would be crushed by accident. In a pinch, a vehicle could be totaled and your bus fare home might exceed the value of the car. I once hunted with a buddy who haggled over and finally bought an old Dodge to take hunting. The sticking point in the deal was the radio. The negotiation went something like this.
“I don’t mind selling the car,” said the owner, “but I always liked that radio.”
“Well, I don’t want a car without a radio,” said my buddy. “How much will you knock off the price if I let you keep the radio?”
The owner pondered the question for a minute, and then replied, “How about if I cut the price in half?”
When you buy a vehicle that is worth about what the radio is, you have yourself the makings of a hunting car.
My vehicle at the time was a 1967 Mustang that thought it was a mule, not a mustang. The trick was to weight the trunk, which sat right over the rear axle. I kept emergency chains in the back to snap on for extra teeth and hunted some rough places in it, even if it was worth more than my radio.
Now my son has a Jeep that he not only uses for rough weather, but he also uses for mud hunting. He will ask around about roads, trails, and tracks with mud, then check them out. Driving into places to see if you can get back out strikes a lot of people as odd, especially me.
On one such occasion, he found a mud hole deeper than it looked and slicker, too. When the front end fell in and water came rushing over the floor board, he was stuck. Another Jeep with a winch couldn’t get him out, so he called a wrecker.
When the wrecker started to pull him out, the front of the truck rose off the ground from the strain before his Jeep budged. Once it was out, my son paid the driver and thanked him.
“Quite all right,” said the driver. “You have no idea how much money I’ve made on that mud hole. Whoever is sending you boys out here deserves a commission.”
But just as our ability to get stuck has improved, so have the methods to get out. With our old vehicles, we used sand bags for weighting the trunk and then poured out the sand for traction if we got stuck. Every vehicle had a hand shovel stashed somewhere, and with a little sweat, OK a lot of sweat, you could usually get out.
Even considering all this progress, some things remain the same. An older hunting buddy told me a story that dated back to the days of outdoor plumbing. A teenager at the time, my buddy had drawn the short straw in the family and had to move the outhouse. This involved digging a new pit, then sliding the building about twenty yards to the new hole.
Once he got the hole dug, he walked to the neighbor’s farm and borrowed one of his mules to pull the building. He strapped the mule to the outhouse and tugged and cajoled and finally got the mule maneuvered so the house was over the new pit. Then he unhooked the mule.
With no tension on him, the mule backed up. And then backed up some more. Before he could stop the mule, it had backed into the old outhouse pit and mired to its neck. The mule was stuck.
No matter how the fellow encouraged the mule, it couldn’t get out. So he walked back to the neighbor’s farm to borrow another mule to pull the first one out.
So maybe things haven’t changed so much. We might be getting stuck farther from home. We might have more ways to get stuck and more ways to get out. But all we’ve really done is gone from using one mule to pull another one out to using one vehicle to pull another one out. I guess that’s progress.
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