As most of you know, I live in the Badlands. Now the Badlands got their name from the early travelers who determined they were “bad lands to cross.” And they are!
Even if you’re not crossing them, just going to feed cows can be bad. Especially when it is wet. Those pretty hills you see as you drive along are made of gumbo. Now this isn’t like gumbo soup. When they are dry, they have a texture kind of like concrete. With a light amount of rain they have a texture like ice with a film of water on it. Slippery! And when gumbo gets saturated, it becomes the most awful stuff you can imagine!
Wet gumbo can turn a nice, petite size 12 into a footprint that Bigfoot would shy away from. And if you are foolish enough to get caught on the river with a pickup, you would swear you were driving one of those big monster trucks you see on ESPN.
Now I am the self-proclaimed Four-Wheel-Drive Champion Badlands Driver in the world. I can drive in places where bighorn sheep fear to tread. If Shirley chains up all four wheels, I know I can go straight up and then some. The problem is you never put chains on until it is absolutely necessary. It’s a sign of weakness to put your chains on when you are sitting in a nice, dry, level spot. You should only put chains on when you are sitting in at least 18 inches of water, or on a side hill after you have slid into a tree and you have dropped at least one wheel into a 4-foot-deep washout, are in a snow drift that extends above the hood and is a quarter mile long, either direction, or you are unable to make a steep hill because of the wet gumbo. I know that is a long sentence, but who’s writing this?
This spring as the frost was going out, Shirley and I had to go to the river. Now Shirley always takes the easy way out. “Let’s go right away, before it thaws,” she suggested.
Like she thinks I can’t drive. Well, we couldn’t go right away because they were having male strippers on Leeza. And I had been waiting all week for this. And being bigger than Shirley, I won the argument. I don’t care what they say, bigger is better.
So when Leeza was over, Shirley threw on a ton of cake and we headed south. It was starting to get a little greasy as we dropped into the Badlands, but not to worry, I was driving. And as you know, I am the Four-wheel-Drive Badlands Driving Champion.
I guess I should have known better. By the time we hit the river bottom, the windows were covered with gumbo. The mirrors had big chunks of mud hanging from them. We had torn a rut in the road that was going to be a hazard for years to come. And we had only gone downhill. We still had to climb out.
I told Shirley we had better chain up. She got three on and helped me hook the fourth. She’s handy at that kind of stuff. But she does get a little testy at times.
We started up from the river camp and I took a run at the first hill. It was still a mile away but you have to really get your momentum up when it is muddy. I must have been going 80 when we started up that hill. Mud was flying, Shirley was screaming, the dogs were barking (they were in back), and I was pretending it was for the world title. No holding back. Do you know what a chain does to a fender when the crosspieces start breaking at 80 miles an hour? It was lucky we had our momentum up, or we wouldn’t have made that first hill.
As we got to the top, I stopped. Had to. Couldn’t see where we were going and we were stuck. Had lost two of the chains in the gumbo. Had to shovel the mud off of the windshield. I was surveying the situation and the dogs got out and started walking home. Chicken, I guess. Shirley had gone a ways down the hill and returned with some little pieces of chain. And I mean little.
She didn’t say a word. Just stared at me. I took that to mean I should walk home and get the tractor because she was refusing to. And I had better bring her some coffee. And I had better hurry. And the next time she says, “let’s go while it’s still frozen,” we will. It’s funny how, after you’ve been married for years, you can read a lot into a look!
By the time I had walked five miles home, I must have been packing a hundred pounds of beautiful Badlands on each foot. My glasses were smeared with gray mud and I was as exhausted as I have ever been. Sometimes bigger isn’t better!
But one thing about it, absence does make the heart grow fonder, so I’m just hoping that Shirley will forgive me for writing this before I go back after her.
Later, if there is a later,