It was only 11 in the morning and already the sun was hot.
I didn’t want to leave the cool canopy of the oaks on the wash.
But I had already pushed my luck to the limit.
It was time to get back to the task at hand–glassing the hills for those all-too-elusive deer.
After all, we were here to hunt deer, and I had already claimed the coolest hours of the day–wasting his [my husband’s] precious hunt time.
It seemed strange to me that here we were–in the high desert of Arizona, hunting in 75-degree (and climbing) weather. The sun wasn’t even close to done warming things up–and worse, with each degree came legions of those demon gnats from hell.
Isn’t there some law against hunting game when it’s so confounded hot? I asked my husband, as I grudgingly stepped away from the shade trees and scuffed my way back to the Jimmy.
He didn’t answer.
Why would he?
It was one of those rhetorical (and yes, stupid) questions. Okay, so it wasn’t a question at all and my husband knew it. I was murmuring and griping in the form of a question. I’m a master at this.
So back into the Jimmy we hopped and we were off again.
Where are we headed now? I asked.
You’ll see, my husband quipped.
How about some air?
Can’t turn it on–we’re going too slow, the engine will get too hot, my husband responded.
Then came the whole technical explanation on why this particular engine (a modified 454) runs hot which was, of course, completely lost on me. All I cared about was getting a little cool air before we got to our next hunt location where we would surely battle the heat and the ever-increasing swarms of gnats.
Windows rolled down and dust billowing, we trucked along on the seemingly endless labyrinth of dirt roads, occasionally passing other hunters with their rifles mounted on the front of their quads–seemingly all too eager to shoot from right where they sat. These guys didn’t seem the type to make any real effort to actually hunt. My husband called them, road hunters, which was far from a compliment.
Once again, I cursed the long-sleeved thermal shirt I had on and actually gave serious thought to stripping the blasted thing off.
And wouldn’t you know it? With every single turn of the Jimmy, the sun’s rays baked my side of the Jimmy–all…day…long.
I must have eaten a shovel full of dust.
We finally stopped at the top of a steep hill–the road winding straight down into what looked like another wash and straight up another mountain as far as the eye could see.
See that road leading to the top of that mountain over there? My husband pointed.
That’s where we’re going, he said. We’ll end up over on the other side.
That must be where the deer are, I thought. It looked remote to me, but intriguing. From where we sat, the road leading to the top of that mountain way over yonder looked to be in good shape. My how looks can be deceiving.
My husband eased the Jimmy into drive and we were quickly on our way down, down, down toward the wash at the base of the mountain.
A couple of years ago, I chased some deer up over that ridge there. There was once an old rusted-out, abandoned bulldozer right there. Looks like someone moved it, my husband narrated as we passed all his familiar haunts.
Moved it? How in the world…? I said. I couldn’t figure out how anyone could have gotten a 1950s bulldozer in or out of there. The terrain was wicked rough.
And I was about to find out how rough.
We slowed to almost a crawl as we approached the bottom of the mountain where another huge wash came through–clearly the summer rains had claimed some serious real estate and the path we were to take was (at least in my mind) barely passable. As we rocked and rolled our way through the wash, my body was thrown hard against the passenger door and I cracked my head on the jam of the Jimmy’s door.
Ow! I yelled, and rubbed my head.
Hang on, my husband warned.
Yeah, I thought. Thanks for the warning.
I was starting to realize what game hunting was really all about. It wasn’t just the thrill of the kill as they say, but rather, the experience as a whole–the rugged 4-wheelin’, the bugs, the heat or the freezing cold (don’t know which would be worse), the unexpected, the unanticipated, the unknown–the challenge of it all.
Little did I know that there would be much more to my realization as the day wore on.
Once successfully across the wash, we stopped briefly. The Jimmy’s engine was getting warm from the slow going and it needed to cool a bit before we started our ascent on the next mountain to our final expected (emphasis on expected) destination.
My husband grabbed a couple of bottles of water out of the ice-chest in the back of the Jimmy and we sat for a few minutes. The water was ice-cold and it was refreshing.
Ready? My husband asked.
Yup, I said.
And up the mountain, we started.
As we crawled along, the road was becoming worse, much worse. On my side of the Jimmy, the ruts were as deep as three feet and in my estimation, not a good thing to fall into. On the driver’s side of the Jimmy was a cliff–one wrong turn of the wheel and we would barrel straight down into the belly of the wash we just left.
Time to kick it into 4-wheel, my husband grunted. And with that, he shifted it into 4-low and we continued to crawl.
We were headed straight up and it was impossible to see over the Jimmy’s hood to what lay ahead on the road.
My husband’s upper body darted in and out of the Jimmy’s door window–his neck careening to see in front of the Jimmy as much as he could as we bumped and bucked our way along.
It was an intense ride and I have to admit at this point, I was starting to get uncomfortable with where we were headed. The road narrowed to nearly nothing.
Then the Jimmy’s wheels spun and spun some more.
I’m not sure I want to go further, my husband said, assessing the situation.
I sat in silence…white knuckling the door handle.
More spinning…and more spinning of the wheels.
She’s getting hot. There was frustration in my husband’s voice.
I finally braved a question. Are we stuck? I asked.
No, but I think I’m going to have to back down outta here. I’m not going to risk it. The engine is getting way too hot.
Back down? What? And before I could object, into reverse we went…my husband fighting the steering wheel to avoid the deep gullies on my side of the Jimmy, the bone dry earth giving way under our spinning tires and forcing the Jimmy into the deep ruts we wanted to avoid. At the same time, my husband was trying to prevent the Jimmy from sliding over too far on his side which would have thrown us straight off the edge and down the cliff we would tumble.
It wasn’t long before the Jimmy’s back tire on my side went into a 4-foot rut and that was that. We were big time stuck.
I looked at my husband for a gauge on how serious things really were.
We’re in trouble. My husband said, as he threw the Jimmy into park and got out to take a look.
If my husband says we’re in trouble, it means one of two things: he really believes we are in trouble or, he just hasn’t come up with a fix yet.
I looked at my cell phone. No service. Really? Thanks Verizon for that awesome coverage you brag so much about. Surely, we should have service out here. But we didn’t.
I thought about climbing the rest of the way to the top of the mountain in hope for a signal–strangely, at that moment I thought of the tin foil we used to put on our television’s rabbit ears for reception.
It didn’t take long for my mind to start to imagine all sorts of scenarios. What were we going to do? How would anyone know we were here? And even if someone did find us, how on earth would anyone be able to get up this road and get us unstuck?
We were going starve!
Then suddenly dirt and rocks were being tossed out in front of the Jimmy.
I slipped out my door and looked at the back rear passenger tire. The deep rut had swallowed it. It looked bad, really, really bad.
My stomach growled. I looked at my phone again, and it read 11:20 a.m. We hadn’t eaten anything all day. What a time to think about food, right? But I did. I was hungry. The beef jerky in the console of the Jimmy was calling my name.
Is there anything I can do to help? I knew what the answer would be.
My husband was sweating his rear off as he continued to toss rocks and throw dirt with his hands.
Just stay out-of-the-way. He said breathlessly with just a tinge of annoyance in his voice, sweat pouring off his face.
So I did exactly that. I grabbed my camera out of the passenger’s side floor board and thought I would make the best of a really horrible situation and see if I could find something to photograph. We were in a pretty poor location–nothing caught my eye, so I headed downhill and started snapping photos of the stuck Jimmy. What better way to document the hunt, right? It would be something to remember if we ever got out of there.
My husband is like a MacGyver…on steroids. He can do anything and fix anything. Yes, I truly believe he could have whittled up an airplane out of a Mesquite tree and flew us out of there, if needed. He’s just an exceptional man–a problem solver, that can accomplish what most men only dream about. And let me add, they just aren’t makin’ men like this anymore. They’re a dying breed.
For the next half-hour I watched him work–sweat soaking his shirt–he built up the area under the back tire with rocks and leveled the area he needed leveled in front of the tires. He calculated and recalculated and it appeared he was finally ready to try to pull the Jimmy out of the ditch.
So I asked.
How’s it going?
He grabbed a bottle of water from the ice chest and downed it in a matter of seconds, rivulets of water trickling down his cheeks and throat.
Breathless from working and sweat pouring down his neck and into his eyes, he said. I’m going to lock the hubs and I’m going to pull this baby outta here.
The trick, he told me, is not to go over the cliff.
Yes, that would be good, I thought.
He told me to stand up hill from the Jimmy and signal to him if it seemed to be headed in the wrong direction–like off the edge. Yet another assignment that I was not too keen on. How would I know? When it’s off the edge, of course. I really hate it when he gives me jobs like this.
I climbed up the hill in front of the Jimmy as he slipped into the driver’s seat.
It was then that I prayed, asking God to safely deliver us from this situation.
To my astonishment, in a matter of seconds, the Jimmy was up and out of the rut and my husband finished backing her down the hill to the wash where he could safely turn the Jimmy around.
We weren’t going to starve to death after all.
Beyond impressed and thanking God for answered prayer, I walked down the hill to meet my husband and just like that I was in the Jimmy and we were off again.
Wanna give it another try? my husband asked. I know for a fact we can make it.
No way! Are you insane? I answered. I said, Let’s get out of here and look for deer somewhere else.
And so we moved on.
The sun was now high in the sky on day one of the hunt, and we still hadn’t seen a single deer.
Part 6, coming soon…