Tag Archives: Buffalo River

The Stuck Pickup…and other legends II

Season with Emotion

Almost, but not quite.

Almost, but not quite.

For Part I check here.

We’d finished choking down the farina. With the crossing place chosen, we loaded our all too inadequate camping gear into the truck for a committed run at the Buffalo River. If we took it just slow enough not to throw loose rocks from under the tires, maybe….

The scouts had told us the water was slow and flowed no more than a foot deep for most of the crossing—no sweat. But, while rivers run anywhere in their course during the wet season, they like to carve themselves at least one deeper channel as insurance against going summer dry. That channel nested close to the opposite bank. It wasn’t more than a few feet wide and a foot deeper than the rest of the river, the rise from it quick. With a little speed, it should be no problem for the macho truck that had rappelled down to the riverbed.

That’s what we kept telling ourselves, anyway.

The Dodge powered across the sleeping river, bobbing up and down over the firm rock bed. When we came to the far side it lurched down into the deeper gully then pulled itself forward and up as the front tires found dry land. We started to congratulate ourselves.

But the right rear wheel lost contact with the riverbed. Our eyes grew wide as the river woke up, grabbing the flat panel of the rear fender. We feared the front tires would be torn from the bank. But instead, the river lifted and spun the back of the truck, pinning us against the bank with the one tire dangling.

Besides the details, there’s another thing that brings good stories to life—that gives them a shot at becoming a legend.

Stories with big emotions are stories we want to hear and tell.

I still remember the horror of the ride down the hill that day, and the sick “oh no” when the river grabbed the truck. I feel disgust at the thought of unsalted farina, though I’m pretty certain it couldn’t as bad as I remembered.

Garlic...or sand? You be the judge.

Garlic…or sand? You be the judge.

I bet you might have a story or legend about a time when you felt triumphant, like we did when we survived the descent to the river. Or maybe one that makes you laugh, like we do when we remember the time my Mom seasoned her Italian dressing with sand instead of garlic and we nearly rounded off our molars. (She forgot she’d refilled the empty bottle to make a music shaker for her preschool class.)

Telling the story of their vacation across several western states is a tradition in my husband’s family. The youngest, barely a toddler then, was in a hip brace consisting of a metal bar affixed between two industrial strength shoes. In the days before child restraints, my father-in-law built a raised platform in the middle of the back seat, extending across the foot space and butting against the front seatback, where little Julianne could stretch out for a nap or see out the windows with ease.

The only problem with the setup was that she used it for neither. She spent the entire trip climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back, flailing her weapon clad feet at the heads and arms of her older siblings, John and Margie, while they howled and whimpered.

 

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

When the story of this vacation needs telling, and it often does, no one relives the natural glories of Yellowstone. Nobody reminisces about Jackson Hole and the magnificent Tetons either. (In fact, I didn’t even know Jackson Hole was part of the itinerary until the first edit of this post.) But every time the story is told, I half expect my husband to cradle his arm and whine about the horror of his sister’s brace.

Though they might mellow a bit, they still have a kick.

Obviously, your feelings can be changed by time. You might laugh now at what once embarrassed you. And what scared you silly might only give you a shiver. But whether we exaggerate, or deny them, the drama of the past flavors your storytelling .

My dad wrestled the steering wheel while trying various combinations of gas, but it did no good. The engine sputtered and died. Like a half-submerged rock or a snag, the pickup had become a water feature in the Buffalo River, chevron waves rippling from its fender.

We got out of the truck on the dry side, of course. It was a shame; we’d come so close to making it. At least it was a relief to find the Dodge stable, resting on its belly like a Seaworld whale on the deck of a pool.

Only one question remained: How many canoeists does it take to pick up a truck?

The finale next week.
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