So you think we've had a lot of rain here in south Mississippi. Well, we have. But believe me, we've had only a drop in the bucket compared to southeast Oklahoma.
I found that out the hard way when a young friend, BJ Bailey, and I made the 10-hour drive to Antlers. We were gonna finish up a few odds and ends around my tiny camp there that BJ and my son, Daniel, framed up a couple of years ago. After that, and some serious fishing, I would finally be able to hook to my pop-up camper and drag it home. It's been there as a temporary turkey camp for about three years, so it's time to tow it home and give it a good bath.
The trip went well until we got to the camp in the Kiamichi Mountains. BJ unloaded his 4-wheeler and started to pull his pickup out of the way when things went downhill, with emphasis on “DOWN!” The rocky terrain was deceivingly boggy, and the truck immediately sank down to the frame. Four-wheel drive only made it sink deeper.
When all else had failed – throwing boulders and even cut firewood in the ruts - I thought of a local friend who visits Scott Haigler and me quite often during turkey season. I knew if I gave him a call he'd help us solve the problem. Trouble is, we had no cell service. So, to say we were in a pickle is an understatement.
Fortunately, we did have the 4-wheeler, so we drove the muddy mountain roads about five miles and finally got a phone signal. As I had figured, Hal Nored, who is in his 70s and one of the nicest gentlemen I know, said he'd be right on up with a chain and his come-along.
Relief at last, but not for long. The come-along and chain would not budge BJ's truck, so Hal drove us to talk to Frank Hayes, who has access to a backhoe. Frank said he could come, but wouldn't make it until the next day. When he did get there, our hopes were high, but lo and behold, the darn backhoe sank, too. Eventually, using the bucket and outriggers, Frank unstuck the backhoe, then the truck.
By then, however, the driveway was too wet and rutted to even think about pulling the camper out, so that would have to wait until things dry up, which forecasts indicate won't be any time soon. It's been raining nearly every day there since April when I was there to hunt, and Hal says it hasn't let up.
Yep, the monsoons sure put a damper on our plans. I didn't get to grease the bearings on the pop-up for one thing, and we didn't even get to sit around a small camp fire and tell tall tales. But the most disappointing thing was that BJ and I didn't get to wet a hook in any of the mountain lakes or many small streams. (By the way, they are not small anymore). Hal, who is a fishing fanatic, told us there wasn't much use anyway, because there was just too much fresh water, and the fish weren't biting.
Even after all that, we were fairly content with what we had accomplished on the cabin as we packed up and headed back to Mississippi. When we reached I-30, west of Texarkana, and were cruising along at the legal limit of 75, suddenly a loud banging sound under the truck just about gave us both a heart attack. It sounded like the drive shaft had come loose, or maybe we'd run over a motel and were dragging it along.
“What the (heck) was that?” BJ asked. “Did we have a blow-out?”
There was no flat tire, but there was still that loud banging under the truck, so as we limped on down the shoulder of the Interstate to the next exit, I couldn't help but sing that old Hee Haw tune, “If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, gloom, despair and agony on me.”
We reached an exit, pulled over and discovered a dust cover gasket had splintered and was slamming the underside of the truck. That was a big relief, and BJ simply trimmed off the loose rubber, stopped the banging and off we went, none the worse for wear. The dust cover will have to be replaced eventually, of course.
We're home now, and I'm sure glad we are. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to bore both my readers to tears this week. Actually, that's not totally true. You see, were it not for good folks like Hal, Frank and an old friend, Alfred, who lives in the mountains, BJ and I still be stuck there, literally, forced to become vegetarians (YUCK!). That is, at least until the streams subsided enough for the fish to start biting.
Is there a moral to this story? If there is, I certainly don't know what it is. It could be any number of things, like when you think things can't get any worse, they do! Then again, as with the dust cover, it could be that things aren't always as bad as they seem.
The main thing is to get out and enjoy the outdoors, whether here in Mississippi, Oklahoma or anywhere else. Be careful. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Enjoy the summer outdoors as much as you can. And when you go, take a kid with you … every time you can.
Oh, and if you happen upon others in distress, lend 'em a helping hand like those guys did for BJ and me. After all, you never know when the shoe will be on the other foot.
PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos and story ideas, with contact info, can also be sent by text to 601-596-4475.