Getting Stuck

March 23, 2009 by  

By Perry Thorvig

The little town of Middle River, Minnesota has an annual goose hunting opening day celebration. They sell beer in plastic mugs that say, “If you ain’t a goose hunter, you ain’t sh*t.” That phrase reminds me of the one that my hunting partner Ken Ziegler says about being stuck. He say’s, “I ain’t stuck until I’m out of gas.”

All of my hunting in North Dakota has resulted in only two episodes of being stuck. Heck, for the first 10 years of hunting there, it never rained a drop.

One time, Ken and I were “temporarily slowed down”, not stuck, according to his definition.

It was a late season hunt in 1984. We were hunting near Mylo, North Dakota. Ken still had the old VW bus. We were hauling my 14’ aluminum boat full of heavy rubber Quack field decoys. We pulled into our chosen field about 5:30 a.m. It was really cold and the field was frozen.

The morning looked promising. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing moderately. We deployed the decoys. Just about the time we were ready to load up, it started to spit a little snow. Ken and I decided to sit right next to each and cover up with our tarp if the snow got too bad.

Our first visitors that morning were streams of pintails. They would come knifing through the snowflakes into our faces. The gun barrels blew orange strings of fire as the first pintails suddenly came flying out of the snow. However, the geese did not follow the path blazed by the Sprig.

It would snow for a while and then it would stop. Eventually, the snow began to turn more to rain. Ken and I pulled the tarp up to our waists as we huddled in our damp trenches. Enough ducks came into the decoys to keep us from quitting. But, the longer we stayed, the farther under the tarp we crawled. My gloves were completely soaked. This was in the days before Gore-Tex.

Ken, who does not have an ounce of fat on him began to shake. It was now hypothermia time. But, the stubborn SOB would not say anything. Finally, I said, “Kenny, I’ve had enough of this crap. We gotta get out of here.” Ken was all agreeable then.

I started picking up decoys as Ken went to get the VW. While picking up decoys, I heard the VW engine rev above normal. Whoa. It looked like KZ was stuck about 50 yards into the field. The temperature had warmed a bit since we drove onto the field in the morning. That, combined with considerable moisture had turned the field into gumbo.

I  walked down to the bus and asked Ken if he was stuck. His walk to the VW had warmed him up and he spouted, “I ain’t stuck until I’m out of gas.” I said, “You wanna bet?” KZ looked at the gas guage and said, “I’ve got a lot of gas.” Unfortunately, he did not have much tread on those old VW tires. What tread there was covered with mud.

We assessed the situation and decided to try to back out of the field to the field road. I would have to push while Ken drove. He tried to go forward. No progress. He tried to go backward. No progress. Finally, I got out front and began to push him backward. We moved about five feet backward. Then we were stuck again. So, I went around to the back of the bus. I began to push him forward. We made about five feet of progress forward before bogging down again. I went around to the front and repeated the pushing procedure. We made up the initial five feet plus got another five feet of progress toward solid ground. So it went for about 20 cycles until the rear wheel drive bus made it to the field road. “See, I told ya we weren’t stuck,” Kenny, mockingly yelled at me as he reached the field road.

I just fell over in the mud, exhausted. I thought my hunting days were over. Could it be a heart attack? No, I was just limp.

Even though our vehicle was now on safe, high ground, we still had a field full of heavy rubber decoys. I felt like leaving them there. But, we decided to hike back out into the field and load the decoys onto the tarp and drag them out. I guess it took about five 200-yard trips to drag the 220 decoys out of the field. It was at that time that we thought seriously about trading those heavy suckers for some of those new Northwinds that were coming out at that time.

We had done it. We had extracted the bus and the decoys. If we weren’t wet from the outside from the snow and rain, we were soaked from the inside from perspiration. We dragged our sorry souls back into Cando and made way for our host’s mobile home. Fortunately, for us, he had a dryer. We stripped to our skivvies and everything went in the dryer without being washed first. It took four wet towels to wipe all the dirt off the inside surface of the dryer when we were done.

I never wanted to get myself in that predicament again.

But, if you are a hunter, sooner or later you are going to face mud. It happened again 16 years later while spring goose hunting south of Jamestown. Mike Ferber and I had been scouting all day and driven in the field where we got stuck about an hour before. When returning to the field, I decided to take a short-cut across the side of the high ground rather than staying on the crest of the hill.

The sensation of getting stuck in that goo was similar to when I blew a hose on my transmission line. We just gradually ran out of power and came to a hault. We had run head long into an area where a spring discharged water down the side of the hill in the middle of a field. I unhooked the trailer from the Explorer and by some miracle was able to shift to four-wheel drive and get out of the quagmire.

We only had about a half hour of light to find some way to extract the trailer. We went to the farmer, Dale Amenrud, who had given us permission to hunt. We asked if we could borrow some long chains. He told us that he would drive out with his pickup and help pull out the trailer. Soon, the Good Samaritan was also stuck. My vehicle was free, so I then tried to pull out Dale’s pickup. Then I got my vehicle stuck again. Now, we had one trailer and two trucks stuck in the field.

Dale walked a quarter-mile back to the farm and got his tractor. When it arrived in the field, I knew that there was no way. Very soon, those skinny tractor tires were also stuck.

Dale walked back to the farm again. This time, he was able to call his nephews. Shortly, they arrived with a huge front-end loader with a front bucket. Even the big boy started to get stuck. But, he was able to leverage himself out with the bucket. With a little more chain he was able to extract the tractor, the two trucks, and finally the trailer.

By the time the work was done, Ferb and I were several dollars lighter in our billfolds and had inconvenienced two or three rural families. I felt like an absolute fool for getting stuck and causing such a circus. Ferb and I limped back into Jamestown and found the local off-sale establishment. It was Miller Time.

We went back out to the scene of the crime the next morning. We found one of Dale’s chains still out in the field and returned it to him.

There have been a couple of times when we were close to needing a push or getting stuck. But, I don’t ever want to test KZ’s macho boast that, “I ain’t stuck until I’m out of gas.” Whatever, you call it, it ain’t fun!!


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