Chapter 25 - "Into the Wild"
It was a long night of sleep…or rather; it was another long night of no sleep. But at some point, sleep becomes superfluous. It felt like my body was refueling through other artificial supplementation. Just as I was starting to feel my body getting so tired that I couldn’t help but sleep, the dawn was upon us inviting us into a new day. My brain was telling my body to get out of bed and go to the bathroom, but after crossing a certain threshold of sleep deprivation, peeing yourself doesn’t seem all that out of the question if it means laying in bed for another 15 minutes. I just lay there wondering if my need for sleep could overcome the pain of suppressed urine. Sleep won.
On this morning, we were slated to take Doug’s truck over to a welder who was going to replace his factory bed with a flatbed. Something about it being more conducive for his excavation business back home. Our plan was to take his truck over there and leave it overnight. The owner of that shop was gracious enough to let Doug take his beat down Chevy until his truck was finished. That was our plan.
But life doesn’t always go according to plan. Ok, it rarely goes according to our meticulous plans. And this morning was no exception. As we started packing the things into the back of the truck for the 45-minute trip to the neighboring town, Doug hoped in to start the truck. He turned it over and for some unknown reason it just wouldn’t fire. He tried and tried to no avail.
We popped the hood and tried spraying everything from hairspray to lighter fluid into the carburetor to trick it into thinking it was ok. Futile. We let it sit for 15 minutes thinking it could be flooded. We waited in vain. With every attempt to start the truck, the battery was slowly dying. Doug was visibly disturbed. I was feeling my heart tightening with the onset of preliminary panic. Nothing was working.
Here we were 9 miles from the nearest cabin and 20 miles from town with no telephone, no alternate means of transportation, and insufficient clothing to walk across the prairie against 45 mile an hour wind (though my holey long johns served the best they could as valiant windbreakers). It was beginning to look like I was going to be taking Doug’s handgun and heading out across the plains looking for human life to help us in our time of dire need. I had just finished reading the book, Into the Wild, so a picture of Christopher McCandless frozen solid in the Alaskan wilderness was filling my suburban mind. I have to tell you that for the first time in my life, I felt a flight or fight instinct kick in, and it was all over hiking 9 miles across the prairie in search for rescue. It showed me how tame and spineless I really am, though I do own a scooter and daily brave the harrowing highways of Michigan with the pluck of William Wallace. Other than that, my life is quite domesticated; it requires little to no risk to survive. I didn’t know that until I sat there mentally preparing myself to head out into the unknown with a little stick and a survival sack hanging off the end of it.
Just when we thought we had exhausted all options, Doug wondered out loud whether we could push the truck over the hill hoping the jump-start it. This seemed unlikely because we would have to push the truck backwards out of the fenced-in area up a slight incline. I’m not God’s gift of muscle to the world, and Doug, though more build than I, is well beyond his prime at the ripe age of 62. But when your life depends on it, it’s amazing what the body can perform under pressure. Adrenaline was starting to course through my veins as I envisioned myself as one of those muscle bound professionals on the ESPN Strong Man's Competition pushing Greyhound buses or lifting large Redwood trees above their heads for no apparent reason. I could feel certain caverns of my masculinity coming to life for the first time. I was being born again as a man.
We opened the doors, turned the wheels so that we headed for the opening in the fence, and grabbed a hold of whatever provided the best grip leading to the best traction against the odds. On the count of three we pushed and pulled and yanked and yelled and twisted and turned. Every muscle in our bodies tightened and torqued with a violence that only the West calls out of a man. My body quivered and shook in a borderline shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening.