This past week we had a winter storm roll through. We don’t get many here in NC but this was a big deal, and for once the meteorologists were spot on. There wasn’t much snow (3-4″) but there was a considerable amount of ice. I had never seen so much ice fall in a day. Maybe I am weird but I love the sound of ice falling. The “tink tink” noise against a window is very similar to rain. So on Friday evening I took a lawn chair out, put it under our covered patio in the back and enjoyed the ice falling as night time started to approach.
We live in a new development and the next building phase is behind our house. They started clearing trees (about 15 acres) in early December. It is one slippery mud pit back there. Just last week, they installed a culvert and piping for a small (very very small) creek, that runs through the area. Dotting the cleared area are piles of mulched trees. I love the smell the piles give off – just like freshly laid mulch in a garden. Also the steam pouring off of the piles is a neat sight to see in the mornings.
So, there I was relaxing to the sound of ice falling, when I saw through the tree line behind our house, a vehicle in the new developed area. Now understand, all they have done back there is clear trees and lay culvert piping. Otherwise it is all mud. Red, thick, NC clay mud. So I watched the vehicle through the trees figuring it was nothing more than a quick inspection by the builder.
I went inside and headed upstairs to take a shower before dinner and saw out the bathroom window that a large vehicle was stuck in the valley where the creek ran. I looked for a few seconds and told my wife I better go outside to make sure everything is OK. So I bundled up (it was in the 20s) and headed out. After a few minutes trekking through the thick mud I approached the vehicle and saw it was a teenage boy and his dad. The boy was running to the front of the vehicle, then to the back…repeatedly. The dad hopped out and I said a bit firmly (after all they shouldn’t be back there in the first place) – “So what brings you two back here?” The dad said his son wanted to take the H2 (a Hummer for the general public) out for a drive in the bad weather. Their drive took them to our neighborhood, and unfortunately for them they found the construction entrance to the new phase. When they were on top of the hill the dad asked the son to go out and see if the mud down by the creek was firm enough to drive on. The son said it was, the dad drove the beast of a vehicle down the hillside….THUD…it was stuck. And boy was it.
Though I didn’t share my initial thoughts, I could tell these guys weren’t going anywhere. The huge tires were spinning in place and had dug ruts so deep that the tires (about 30″ in diameter) were completely submerged in the mud). The H2 had a winch on the front. On the other side of the creek (with water flowing, not frozen – but thin enough to hop across) there was a stump. On the left was a few trees, and towards the right was the concrete wall to the culvert piping. Clearly the goal was to get the strap around the stump and pull forward. But that didn’t work because the strap kept coming off the stump. Then for the next 40+ minutes we’d tie onto the trees and winch, then over to the culvert and winch – but all that was accomplishing was dragging the vehicle left and right and unfortunately creating a deeper and deeper hole for the H2.
Finally the dad agreed it was time to call mom and have her meet them at the entrance of the neighborhood. They lived about 3 miles away in a neighborhood known for affluence. In fact this family lived on a golf course, has season tickets for football, they own the H2, an Infinity, Audi and Honda Odyssey. In other words (at least on the surface) money is not a problem. As I walked them back to the street, I told the son that he should be proud of his dad. The dad never threw his son under the bus, never lost his cool, never cussed, never yelled, never appeared impatient. If anything, the dad appeared to be having a great time. And I was impressed.
Early the next morning I saw the dad walking through our backyard with another adult. I got dressed and headed down there. The goopy pancake batter (mud) had semi-frozen overnight, but it was still a mess. As I walked down the hill, his buddy (also into offroading) gave me a look of “this isn’t good” He said that when Steve (the dad) called him that morning he simply said “Hey buddy, I got the H2 stuck last night, can you help” – but he wasn’t prepared for this. So together for 90 minutes we tried everything we could. Our last attempt was tying the winch to a tree located behind the vehicle to try and get the truck to pivot in the mud and face the other direction. We tied it, cleared the area and Steve began to tighten the winch. A few seconds later POW the line broke. That was it, there was nothing else we could do – Steve needed someone to come help him.
His buddy had to leave early to do something at the house. I hung out with Steve, who through some strange way, still laughed and made lite of the moment. And he was sincere. This wasn’t some fake artificial attempts to look relaxed…..HE REALLY WAS RELAXED!!! Before leaving, his buddy said “You need to get this out of here. If the construction guys return Monday to see you here, they could nail you for trespassing.” In private I asked his buddy “So how much do you think this is going to cost him to have a professional wrecker come pull him out?” His reply “At least two grand”
Steve finally called AAA and they sent out a guy in a flat bed dually to see if he could pull him out. After 15 minutes of thinking about it, he finally said he wasn’t comfortable bringing his truck back there. He felt the soil, even on the hilltop was too soft and he would probably get stuck. In my mind, Steve was out of cards. He was going to have to wait for the construction guys to show up during the week and pull him out with a Caterpillar. I said I was sorry to Steve that we couldn’t get him out. I offered a coffee or sandwich to him but he declined. He walked back to my house where he had parked his minivan. Me, I went back to my day doing some woodwork in the garage. After 30 minutes he came over to me and said “I called an offroad shop I go to south of the city. I told them my situation and they posted something on Facebook and Twitter. Within minutes I got several replies from other offroaders saying they would be by immediately to help.” I was stunned. And Steve…well he was laughing.
Then about 20 minutes later this jacked up Jeep came around the corner. Bright, shiny, gigantic winch on the front, HUGE mud tires (that looked absolutely brand new). He hopped out, a fireplug of a guy – he just looked like an offroader). Steve pointed to where the construction entrance was and the guy drove down. Then came another Jeep….well, I sure as heck wasn’t going to miss this, so we walked back down the scene of the crime. By the time we got down there three Jeeps were at the scene. After several minutes of discussion (and the arrival of a couple more Jeeps and a huge Hummer) it was decided that one Jeep would back down the hill, tie onto Steve’s stuck H2, then that Jeep would tie his front winch to the jacked up Jeep which would stay on top of the hill. The jacked up jeep was strapped to a tree in the back….so it went Jeep, tied to Jeep, tied to H2…then it began – with winches pulling, H2 going in reverse and everyone in 4-Wheel drive….the H2 started to move backwards in the mud. After a few minutes the action had to stop because the winches were overheating. Then they would go back….stop….resume…finally the H2 was out of the ruts, but it still had to go up the hill (about a 30 foot climb). I had nothing to offer other than talk to Steve as he was approaching victory. By now there were about 9 vehicles that came to rescue. And these guys knew what they were doing. Finally after about 30 minutes of slow grind – Steve was back on top of the hill. He got out and laughed. He offered to take everyone to a local restaurant for burgers and beer. I just slipped back home. In minutes, everyone was gone, including the 30+ spectators from our neighborhood.
Later I heard someone call Steve an idiot. He “supposedly got what he deserved.” But I got to thinking about it, and completely disagreed. This was a dad, out having a good time with his son. They weren’t drunk, they weren’t vandalizing, they weren’t causing trouble – they were being adventurous males. I am and adventurous male. Steve never got onto his son, never got impatient with the help he was offered, never lost his cool. Yeah, maybe he was a bit of a knucklehead to get into the situation in the first place – but this is a guy with a story. Anyone can stay home and throw rocks at those making mistakes in life. Anyone can sit on their throne and belittle those living life to the fullest – which always has embarrassing moments in it.
As my dear friend recently said “I like the idea of flying a plane into heaven when I die. But I want it to be a dustcropper plane, and I want it beat up, sputtering, flying erratically as it approaches the runway towards God. I want it to bounce along the runway, and when I get out of the plane I want to yell “MAN WHAT A RIDE!!”
Steve will be the type of guy that will be able to yell “MAN WHAT A RIDE!!!”