By Barin Beard
It was a snowy, dreary day in southern Idaho. I was cold and homesick, and I was ready to go back to New Mexico. I questioned my sanity for being a thousand miles north, in sub-zero temperatures on the slope of a ski mountain. I didn’t even know how to ski! (When I told that to Idahoans, they couldn’t believe it.)
After a day working the chairlift, I went to my boss Gretchen and told her I was going to quit because I wanted to head back south. I was tired of being cold; snow and ice weren’t for me.
When I walked out of the lodge it was dark and the snow was falling. I got into my Jeep, a 1964 CJ-5, the short wheel-base wonder car, but it hated ice just like I did. I got into the unheated rag-top half cab and buckled my lap-belt. To get the belt to snap took some real effort—it was frozen, but I figured it’d be best to wear my seat belt.
I headed down the mountain in the dark. The road had about six inches of fresh snow. All was fine; I was tooling down the road at about 20 mph in 4-wheel drive high range.
About five miles down from the lodge I came to an S in the road and as soon as I entered the right-hand curve, I knew I was in trouble. Because of the jeep’s short stance, the rear axle slid out to the left, and I was heading down the road sideways. I turned the front wheels to the left into the slide, but there was no response. I may have tapped the brakes which probably worsened the problem, but now the road was curving to the left and I was still sliding perpendicular to the road, but heading straight.
I pretty much knew what was going to happen next. The jeep slid off the road onto the soft shoulder, left wheels digging in first and I immediately rolled! The headlights did a slow motion counter clockwise roll, then the driver’s side of the jeep hit hard with a crash! I continued rolling over… upside down, onto the passenger’s side, back up on the wheels, back onto the driver’s side, upside down, passenger side, upright, driver’s side, upside down, and finally coming to rest on the passenger’s side.
I dangled from the driver’s seat, the world on its side. The electric fuel pump was buzzing, so I turn off the ignition, then turned off the headlights, and assessed my situation while hanging from my seat belt (which I was glad I was wearing). I unbuckled the seat belt and fell into the passenger seat. I stood up inside the cab, reached up to the canvas driver’s door and popped it open. The door opened like the hatch on a tank. I crawled out by using the seats as steps.
Once outside the jeep, I looked things over. Still snowing, still cold, still dark. I figured I might be out there for a long while before someone came along, so I’d better do something. I walked around the jeep. It looked drivable IF I could get it back on its wheels.
There was a trail of debris from the road to the jeep. I needed to find my flashlight first, then my HiLift jack, then my other stuff, like my tool box. After a few minutes stomping around in foot-deep snow I found my things and decided how I could get the jeep back on its wheels. Meanwhile it was cold, probably below zero Fahrenheit. I put the HiLift onto the roll bar on the passenger side of the jeep and started lifting. The jack topped out when the CJ-5 was at its tipping point so I started rocking the jeep. The HiLift slipped out from the roll bar and the jeep crashed back to the ground.
Now more determined, I repeated the procedure and this time was successful getting the jeep past the tipping point, wheels back on the ground. Working as fast as I could, I opened the hood and checked the battery and fluid levels. I piled everything into the back of the jeep, including the ragtop. I got into the driver’s seat, put my foot on the accelerator but it went right to the floor. I knew exactly what happened. I lifted the hood again and saw the throttle linkage had come apart due to a broken cotter pin. I walked over to a nearby barbed wire fence and found some tie wire, broke off a piece, and fashioned the wire into a new cotter pin. I was back in business.
I started the jeep, put it in 4-wheel drive low, reverse gear, and ease out the clutch. The jeep clawed its way back onto the snowy highway. I was back on the road, without a top or heater, headed back to my studio apartment in Twin Falls.
I am not sure if I almost died that night. Obviously my seat belt kept me from being ejected and possibly crushed and killed. I probably would not have frozen to death since other people were still up at the ski lodge. Even so, in five years of owning that jeep, that was the most serious adventure we had together.
A few days later, I left Idaho and headed south to New Mexico, without a top or heater. The first few hours were extremely cold.
-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each. red Ravine reader and fellow blogger Barin Beard—aka Mimbres Man—also sent us a piece, based on a 15-minute Writing Practice on the first question, Have you ever come close to death?]
-Also related to posts PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman).