Infamous outlaw rock out on the ranch.
I’m always a little nervous when I travel, but I’ve been overly antsy about the trip to the ranch this time. I thought maybe it was the book signing, but honestly, that didn’t bother me much. On Thursday, we were scheduled to go out to the far ranch. My parents live in the middle of nowhere. The ranch is several miles from there, out where your nearest neighbor is a deer or a rabbit if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a coyote, a wolf or maybe a bear.
At any rate, Dad and I headed out Thursday morning just before six in the morning. It gets hot in the desert mountains so you don’t want to be fooling around outside after about eleven. Dad was taking a “four wheeler” up to the ranch to try out on the terrain so we had the big truck with a trailer pulling the four wheeler. We left the main road and were on the county graded dirt road when Dad mentioned that he’d had a flat on Monday.
“I forgot to put the other spare in the truck. No big deal. I have the emergency spare underneath the truck. I just don’t like to have to crawl under there so I always throw another spare in the back.”
He also shouldn’t be crawling under there at his age. He doesn’t move so great anymore, and it can be difficult for him to stand back up.
Five minutes later, before we even reached the gate to the first wilderness ranch, the back tire blew. We were on a hill, of course, because why would a tire go out when you were on a flat???
Dad eased the truck to the flattest spot on the hill before stopping. He thought the trailer tire blew. Sadly, I had to inform him that it was the back truck tire. These are ten ply tires, and the air was hissing out of there like a hot air balloon on the spiral of death. That’s about the way I felt too. It was barely light out. We might have still been within cell phone range, but it was doubtful. “Well,” I said, “we could always drive the four wheeler back.”
And don’t I wish we had. The bolt holding the tire under the truck was rusted shut because Dad had avoided crawling under there for so long. He hammered on that bolt, he chiseled on that bolt. His idea of taking a rest was to loosen the nuts on the flat tire so that I could get them all the way off while he went back to fighting with the tire under the truck. He was flat on his back and dust was flying all over. So were the curses. Oh, the joy. Well, at least it was getting light out.
Dad really needed a torch to cut through that bolt, but we were well shy of that type of equipment. At some point, the cursing changed to prayer and that was long before the platform holding the bolt gave way. Once he finally hammered through one of the steel pieces that the bolt went through he paused. “Should be easy now,” he said.
Easy? What the hell is that?
The long screw that held the tire in the center was corroded onto the rubber plate. From what I could tell, eons of dust had collected in there, the rubber had partially melted and that sucker was now glued on there by a century of God’s own cement mixing.
More chiseling. More hammering. More hand injuries. He didn’t even have the energy to curse anymore! The whole time this is going on I’m thinking that if I was out there by myself, I wouldn’t have gotten the first nut off the flat tire, never mind stood a chance with the welded together pieces UNDER the truck.
It must have been an hour later when we got that tire changed. My nerves were stretched somewhere from “I’m going to die out here” to “We can always take the four wheeler and find civilization. Probably.” With a Herculean effort I managed not to ask just how much gas was in the four wheeler because we always take water, and we can actually walk home. Sure, it’s a LOOOOOONG walk, but I’ve hiked that far before and these days the cell phone range would come into play after only a mile. Or two, maybe three. Plus, there’s big mountains. All I had to do was hike high enough to get into cell phone range, and Mom could bring the other truck. Probably.
At any rate, Dad was able to fix the tire, and we drove on. Personally, I thought we should just go home, but Dad’s a guy, and they are rather stubborn creatures.
We went through the first ranch area (not our ranch) and parked, and got the four wheeler off. I’m not fond of them. They are loud and obnoxious. This was supposed to be upgraded and stabilized and have all kinds of safety protections for the rough roads. My opinion? Damn thing was nothing more than a glorified 4 wheel drive golf cart. We got stuck in a stream on top of a rock! What the hell kind of clearance is that, I ask? AND, in case you are wondering, no, there is no 4 wheel drive in reverse. Plus if the front wheels aren’t ON the ground because you are hung on a rock, you have 2 wheel drive any way you add that up!
Why were we in a stream bed you ask? Well, because the dang thing doesn’t have power steering, which means when you run out of so-called road, turning it around requires the muscles of the incredible hulk and a lot of space. And if your Dad doesn’t see the rock because he decides to drive over a very large bush, well, then you end up perched on the top of a rock like a dork. Then when you go forward to get off the rock, you are in sand and the four wheel drive doesn’t work even with me pushing from the front. Luckily, Dad has been stuck before, although never in a golf cart, but he was able to drive up some rocks, get traction and get out.
As we drove back another way, Dad said, “There’s a road somewhere off to the left, but you can’t really see it. We’ll take that back up out of the canyon.”
Wait a minute. If you can’t SEE a road, does that mean it’s really a road??? I’ll tell you the answer. NO. That isn’t a road. That’s a rabbit track with an old mule deer path next to it. Possibly a cow used it. ONCE.
We made it to the cabin. We even got hay in the back of the golf cart. We found the cows and lured them towards the other pasture. The problem was that we were running well over an hour behind, and it was really too hot for the cows to be interested in hay. That time of day smart cows sit under a shade tree.
Dad had me drive while he threw hay, but his bad knee gave out (Gosh, I wonder if kneeling to do tire work had anything to do with that???). So then I threw hay while walking up a mountain and down the other side. That was fine until the soles of my boots came unglued. Now I was flapping along behind that damn golf cart like a duck. The breeze was blowing just enough to cover me in hay. I am telling you I had enough hay on my person to attract most of the cows in the county.
By the time we made it to the water tank, I was tired, starved and more than ready for a break. But the water pump hadn’t stopped like it should have. “Oh, for the love of…”
The float wasn’t working. It was time to play diving for pieces you can’t see in the water tank. I won’t go into the beautiful technical details of how a float works because IT WASN’T WORKING. I can tell you that it would be much easier to fix if you could see it working FIRST and not have to guess how a float actually functions. Sure, I get the IDEA. Cars have a float mechanism in the gas tank (probably digital these days. I don’t know. I’m not terribly interested in floats. In fact, I would rather not HAVE to be interested in floats. EVER.) Anyway, we worked on the float, trying to release it. The release, in case you wondered, is under a foot of water. There’s moss in the water so we are not talking crystal clear, squint a bit water. I’m still not sure we fixed that float, but the water did stop running over.
We pulled under a shade tree and ate the tiny little burritos I had prepared in case we didn’t make it back before lunch. I had occasion to remember why I never travel without food. BECAUSE WE ARE NEVER BACK IN TIME FOR LUNCH.
It was almost possible to enjoy the beauty and near silence of the mountains at that point. We rested. Dad had forgotten his eye drops, but I had some. Sure, we lost the lid to the drops, and we forgot to leave the branding irons at the water tank, but I’m thrilled to say we made it back to the truck on that golf cart. We loaded it and Thank God, we didn’t have another flat on the way out. I was slightly sunburned, but, as you know, Cowboys Covered in Hay do not sunburn very much.
Hiking boots ruined: 1 pair.
Jeans dirty beyond cleaning: 2 pair.
Hand hurt: Dad’s
Knee hurt: Dad’s
Times I was called a city slicker: 4
Times the gate chain got stuck and I could not open the gate: 1
Times we were stuck in golf cart: 2
Time we were stuck with flat: 1
Total score: Wilderness 13, Humans 0
Lessons to remember:
Always pee downhill, don’t spit into the wind, always wear hefty jeans out to the ranch, and load your spare tire where you can easily access it!
Flowers growing at the water tank because with the water flowing over, they got plenty of water!
Dang glorified golf cart.
Water tanks with non-working float. The float is under that panel that is just to the edge of the water.
One of the good roads.