Truth is stranger than fiction
Did you ever have a family member whose antics were guaranteed to liven up any holiday gathering? Someone whose particularly-skewed ideas of fun and amusement were the subject of dinner-table conversations for years to come?
I wouldn't be posting if I didn't have one. Truthfully, I had several, but the one that comes to mind is Clint.
In my family, "mudding" is a verb. As in, "Clint's gone mudding. Who's gonna pull him out this time?"
He wasn't the first member of my family to get addicted to this particularly-rural pastime. My uncle, Keith, was the one whose antics that most of us remember most vividly. My sister, when asked to describe, said it this way: "On every holiday, Keith would take the biggest vehicle he could find and go out to the bluff and sink that sucker up to the axles in mud, and then we'd all have to go pull him out."
Clint was the same way.
When asked to remember something about him, I remember the holiday (was it Thanksgiving or Christmas? Rachel, do you remember?) that Clint took his vehicle down to my grandfather's land, down to the freshly-rained-upon river bottoms. We all knew what he was going to do, and we knew that there were only two possible results.
One: he would have a great time down there, slinging himself around in muddy donuts, coating everything in a good, strong, protective coating of river mud.
Two: He would push things a little too far, go a little too fast, venture a little too far out into the muck, and manage to thrash his vehicle around until it was stuck in the mud.
In this case, it was the latter option.
In this particular case, Clint did exactly what was described: drove down to the river bottoms, did donuts, and a bit of blatant engine revving. Then he started sinking a little deeper, thereby slinging some more mud around. Then he was stuck. Up to the axles in mud. No point in revving the engine; if the wheels spun, then he'd just dig himself in deeper. If they didn't spin, he'd burn the engine out.
Did I mention that this was a Chevy Suburban?
Oops. Small important point there, I suppose.
So, according to family legend, Clint got out of the Suburban and walked to the nearest road, where he waited for someone to drive by. (Seeing as how this was a holiday, and this was a very rural area, this took a while.) He flagged the car down, gave them my grandfather's phone number, and asked them to call my grandparents.
In the meantime, we'd all been sitting in my grandparents' house, speculating (not quite making bets, but close enough) on how long it was going to be before we got the phone call. We didn't know if it would be Clint or if it would be from someone else, but we knew it would come eventually. We joked about whether Papaw should pull out his tractor ahead of time.
A few hours, a couple of tractors, and a good bit of swearing later, the Suburban was unceremoniously yanked from the mud and brought back to the house. Even now, I can't remember if it came home under its own power or if it had to be towed. I'm surprised my grandfather let Clint live. We certainly never let him live it down…
* * * *
I got reminded of all this by a story that Dad told me last Christmas—about some guy, unfamiliar with the area, who decided to try to cross the east end of the Saline River bridge while it was flooded out. Apparently this guy had an enormous truck, and thought that he could make it through.
The truck died when water came halfway up the side of the door. (It brought new meaning to the phrase "flooding the engine.") The guy was lucky enough to have a cell phone on him. Since the pressure of the water was enough that he couldn't open the door, he had to crawl through the window to get to the roof of the truck.
Which, I might add, is where he was when he called 911.
How I would've loved to have heard that phone call.
Operator: "Where are you, sir?"
Stranded Boy: "Sitting on top of my truck, stuck in several feet of floodwater."
Operator: "Several feet?"
Stranded Boy: "Yeah."
Operator: "What are you doing there?"
Stranded Boy: "I thought I could make it…"
Operator (if they had a sense of humor): "At what point did you realize that you might not? Was it when you couldn't see the road any more because of the water? Or when the tires were covered over with water? Or was it when water started leaking into the cabin of your truck?"
* * * *
I mean, really. People never cease to amaze me. Never.