Have you ever had a trip where so many things went wrong…it got to be comical? I have been scanning some old slides to digital, and this batch brought back a flood of memories.
The statute of limitations has expired, and for the purposes of this article I will refer to my 3 friends as Larry, Moe & Curly. As for me?
In the above picture, that’s me in the foreground with Larry in the background. I look pretty much the same today minus the hair and with about an extra 15 lbs.
I was just along for the ride.
At least that’s my story, and I’m writing the article.
Larry has been a friend of mine since we were 12 years old. We used to take our .22s and go out into the country to “plink”. We’d never gotten into any real trouble, just memorable stuff that really didn’t get serious.
Larry’s mantra to me over the years was always “Shut up and let me do the talking”.
Larry has been an avid hunter and fisherman since about the time he could walk. I have told people over the years that you could take Larry out to a forest with nothing, pick him up in 30 days and he will have gained weight.
He eats everything he kills or catches.
And despite the impression I may be giving you he has always been an ethical hunter all of his life – never poached anything nor took more than the law allowed. There was the time a Fish & Game warden followed us for 2 hours, convinced that we had been poaching pheasants. We were just “plinking” on some ranchland along the river and after searching our boat and finding nothing, had to write us up for trespassing. We got a no-nonsense judge that made Judge Roy Bean look like a pansy & with our remorseful attitudes and respect to the court got away with a fine but no jail time.
That’s really the worst trouble we ever got….
There was a time when we were out in the fields and Larry convinced me that eating a park pigeon was the same as squab.
(As far as I know there is no season on park pigeons nor do you need tags).
Always ate what he killed.
Well, we cooked the pigeons we shot and even Larry had to admit they were somewhat less appealing than the squab you get at the store. To me they seemed pretty “foul” although I think it would depend on how hungry you were. After all, an alternative term for them is “rats with wings”.
We used to have a grand time years ago when we would take our .22s and just plink. Always practiced firearms safety and I learned from Larry that the knowledge and ability to use your firearm safely counts for a lot when others consider you as a hunting partner. I’d say it is really the only important thing to consider. Well, a decent personality helps but if you aren’t safe with firearms nobody cares about anything else.
This was before a time when a few people messed it up for everyone, and country land owners took a lot more aggressive view towards those who trespass on their land these days. All that was required were some yahoos with beer and firearms.
Or as a rule a young Marine Lieutenant taught us at the induction center (I was among the last to be drafted) – told us about the “10% rule”.
Haven’t heard of the 10% rule?
In any given population sample, it takes 10% to “eff” it up for the other 90%. And in my own non-scientific sampling in the subsequent years in any endeavor it seems to be a constant percentage.
So Larry is telling me for months how great antelope hunting is in Wyoming. And when the season opens in September, “it is shirtsleeve weather”. It is a paradise, according to Larry.
We apply for tags and are approved.
We plan for weeks, Larry’s father, Curly, was in his 60s at the time but when it came to hunting he was like a little kid in excitement. Curly just wants to drive the 1,200 miles through.
Myself I don’t mind a long drive but come sunset have always liked a decent motel, steak and a beer. But I was along for the ride.
Larry’s brother Moe in town would also join us.
On the appointed day, we are to leave at 18:00. Larry and his friend were to come down from their homes 100 miles away to meet us.
Only they didn’t show up.
They didn’t show up until about midnight.
So I’m thinking that we’ll have short drive and check in somewhere.
Nope – we are going all the way – some 1,200 miles.
I can remember on I80 pulling into Winnemucca, NV at some crazy hour in the morning 05:00?
Now Curly had (even at the time) an old Chevy pickup – engine had been overhauled at least once. Three on the tree, if any of you still remember what that was.
With a 327 for those curious.
Larry was particularly fond of his Toyota Land Cruiser. And the way it could climb hills at low RPMs was impressive. He liked to tease his father about his old Chevy Truck. The Toyota had just had a valve job before leaving on this trip.
Come daylight and we are going through the Bonneville Salt Flats. Larry, on his CB radio (did I tell you this was some time ago?), told us that his Land Cruiser had a serious problem. The Toyota wasn’t going to go anywhere. It had sucked a valve – or something similar.
So after some head scratching and planning, we decide that Curly’s old Chevy pickup would tow the Toyota where we would rent a U-Haul in Salt Lake City and leave the Land Cruiser. The old Chevy that Larry had razzed his father about was going to save the upstart Land Cruiser.
And we Press On Regardless. Mind you nobody has had any sleep now for 24 hours.
The rest of the Wyoming trip was uneventful until we departed I80 and headed on a rural Wyoming highway south. After it was about 02:00 when a deer darted in front of the Chevy and hit the pickup, bouncing off and hitting the U-Haul trailer.
There was really no way to safely avoid the deer with a laden truck and trailer without getting into an accident ourselves.
We stopped the truck and the deer had a severed leg and was of course in misery. So we shot it.
Now if a motorist has an accident with any game on the road, the game is supposed to be left on the road. The reason is if Fish and Game (in pretty much any state) sees it in the vehicle how do they know it wasn’t poached? So you leave it on the road.
Nevertheless, Larry couldn’t see wasting the meat so we put the deer into the back of the U-Haul and press on.
We go along a dirt road for a good 10-20 miles and finally reach the site where we are to camp.
Sleep? What’s that?
Finally, are we ready to finally set up camp and sleep for 20 hours?
No, Larry felt that the deer the truck hit should be cleaned and then set up the tent.
Next morning Larry, Curly and Moe are up bright and early out looking for antelope.
I awake to hear a Wyoming Fish & Game warden just stopping by to see how things were.
Why he didn’t look into the open doors of the U-Haul is beyond me (and try explaining to him that we really did hit this deer with the truck late at night).
Did I say that it was promised to me – promised I say – that Wyoming was shirtsleeve weather in September?
The first day that promise was fulfilled, but towards the evening it started to rain. It rained all through the 2nd day. That night, we are all sitting in the tent wondering what we are going to do the next day.
Around midnight the rain stops and we are relieved, until we exit the tent next morning and see about a foot of snow.
Now a sane group of people might think with all this snow and blizzard conditions, it might be a smart move to pack up and start the trek home.
However by the 4th day Curley did broach the subject and there wasn’t any disagreement. We had gotten our allotted antelope.
Getting out proved to be a challenge, to say the least.
That dirt road we used to get in for 10-20 miles was now a slick clay.
The old Chevy 2 wheel drive could do only so much, hauling a lot of weight and towing a loaded trailer on a slick dirt road.
We went up a hill, the truck, unable to get traction, slid back when we became stuck – for at least 12 hours.
I’ll say this – we learned a lot about the goodness of people in Wyoming. The 2 or 3 Ranchers who came by in 4WD trucks offered to help but they could do nothing.
Had to have been around 21:00-22:00 at night but it was decided that Larry and I would hike the 3-5 miles to the nearest town, Savery, to get a phone and call a towing company.
I can remember after all these years the cold crisp air with countless stars overhead during our walk.
And along the way, we stopped at a rancher’s house and asked if they had a tractor we could borrow. An elderly widow answered, invited us in and while she had no tractor to offer, had a history that I remember to this day, some 37 years later.
She had come out in 1910 with her husband and homesteaded this land. She showed us her living room, and in the middle of the room was a well, where she got her water.
Even then, I knew I was witnessing history. I am sure that Mrs. Nichols is long gone, but her kindness has stayed with me.
We got into Savery which was Tom Horn country. And other than the phone booth, it looked as it was in Tom Horn’s day.
The rest of the trip was “uneventful”. I can remember stopping at a Denny’s restaurant in Salt Lake City and by the end of breakfast the entire room around us was cleared. I’d like to think that people had to go to work, but we were pretty pungent. And filthy.
The remaining 600 miles were just a wild trek across the high desert with no sleep.
Curly was a driving fool.
Now you may think that I’d think this trip was a disaster – far from it.
It’s the unexpected things that come in life that can be the most memorable.
First off, I remember the people of Wyoming, and their basic goodness. All were willing to help, in that frontier spirit.
I remember the beauty of the landscape after the snow. The crisp cold air, the stillness, and seeing a herd of antelope miles away down a canyon – not another human in sight as far as you could see. I had gotten a glimpse for a brief time of their world.
I remember seeing the Rockies in the distance with the storm clouds around the peaks. Feeling the wind in the stillness.
While I am by no means an avid hunter I can remember the shooting of my antelope. They are extremely fast, and in the rain I must have led it 10 feet. It was a 100 yard shot.
I felt a responsibility to the animal that I had just killed and took a lesson in cleaning it from Larry. I could understand the custom with so many Native Americans in thanking the animal’s spirit for giving its life in the hunt.
When I got home first thing I did was take a long hot bath and then climbed into bed for 12 hours.
It was a trip fraught with problems but a lifetime memory.
Was I responsible for clearing out Denny’s?
You be the judge…