Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Humbling Day

I made a trip up to the Waxahachie area to check on my game cameras this past weekend. You may recall that this is the area where several large cats, of various colors, have been seen by the property owners. It is also the property where several horses have, seemingly, been accosted by some sort of predator. I was long overdue to check on the cameras. Severe winter weather, or what passes for it in Texas, has kept me off of the road for several weeks. This weekend, while cold, dawned clear and gave me an opportunity to make the trip.

It was to be a day of disappointment; however, as I discovered both cameras had been stolen. You may be thinking, “Why didn’t you secure them?” I had secured them with steel cables and padlocks. The Reconyx was actually in a “tamper-proof” steel box that was secured to a tree. As we all know, locks and such are really only a deterrent to honest people. Once found, the thieves had ample time to retrieve whatever tools they needed to remove the cameras. My guess is that with the onset of fall, and the subsequent loss of leaves on the foliage, the cameras became easier to spot. Once seen, it was only a matter of time before they were gone. The only thing that really keeps this from being painful for me is that both cameras appeared to be on their last legs. The Wildgame Innovations model had failed to trigger at all the last time I checked on it and acted really squirrely when I tried to reprogram it roughly two months ago. The Reconyx had also been acting up. Daytime photos were hazy and indistinct, though nighttime shots were still of high quality.

The property owners were far more disturbed about the theft than I was. It hit them on several levels, I suppose. First, they were upset that I had lost my cameras. This has happened to me before and the property owners always feel responsible for some reason though they should not. I think the aspect of the whole deal that upset them the most was the thought that trespassers have been skulking about on their property either in the dead of night or times when they are not home. Who knows what kind of people we’re talking about here? We know they are thieves and, likely, poachers. Who knows what else people like that might be capable of?

I assured the landowners that this sort of thing happens from time to time. It is the cost of doing business. My cameras would be safe at home in the garage but I’d never get a photo that way. It stinks but it is the chance you take when you leave expensive electronics bolted to a tree in a remote area.

I was a bit deflated after finding out the cameras were missing but decided to try and make the best of things and go hunting. I played the call of a distressed cottontail rabbit in an effort to call in any predator that might have been nearby. I had no luck whatsoever. I didn’t see a thing. I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see a cat but was a bit surprised that no coyotes showed up as they are thick in the area. About dusk I called it a day and headed in. I said goodbye to the landowners and started for home. Little did I know that a disappointing day was about to take a dangerous turn.

I was less than an hour from home when I received a text from my wife. I need to answer her but didn’t want to try and text while driving. Nature was also calling pretty loudly at that point so I decided to pull over and kill two birds with one stone. I was traveling a farm to market road (I loathe interstates) and pulled off of it onto an old country road to take care of the business at hand. I stopped the truck and answered my wife. I then decided, as I was in the middle of nowhere, to get rid of some of that large Diet Coke I had consumed while traveling the road home. This is the point where things took a very nasty turn.

I stepped out of the truck and my left foot immediately when out from under me and slid to my right underneath the open driver’s side door. I thought I had stepped on a patch of ice (it was very cold). My foot continued to slip up under the door and the next thing I knew, I was lying in the road. I landed hard on my hip and left side but still didn’t understand what was really going on. Though I didn’t realize it until later, I had not slipped on a patch of ice; rather, my truck was in reverse and moving backward.

I KNOW I put the truck in park when I first pulled over because I sat there for 3-4 minutes as I texted my wife. I did NOT sit there with my foot on the brake for that length of time. Whether the truck slipped out of gear or I bumped the gearshift while exiting I cannot say. What I do know is that I was very close at this point to getting seriously injured…or worse.

The truck continued to move backwards. As it did so, my right leg, suspended in the air from my fall out of the cab, was struck by the backward moving open door. Two things occurred as the door moved over me. First, I was folded over at the waste like a taco shell (except for my left leg which remained extended as it was underneath the door). The second thing that happened was that I was spun, my upper back and shoulders acting as the pivot point, as the truck moved over and past me. The spin caused my extended left leg to come underneath the truck and in the path of the now oncoming left front tire. The momentum of the spin, induced by the door pushing on my right leg, kept my ankle and foot ahead of the tire momentarily but it quickly caught up and ran over me. Very briefly, I felt a lot of pressure on my foot and ankle but it was over quickly as the truck didn’t even appear to slow down.

At no time did I have any idea what was going on. I was completely disoriented until I sat up and saw my truck backing away from me and back toward the farm to market road. Without thinking, I jumped up and sprinted after the truck. No doubt, adrenaline had kicked in and allowed me to run, pain free, and catch the runaway truck. I managed to jump into the cab and hit the brake. The truck stopped less than a foot away from a fence line and power pole. I put the truck back into gear and idled back to the general vicinity of my original stopping point. It was only then that I began to realize just how bad this could have gone. I easily could have fallen in a slightly different position and spun in the opposite direction which would have placed my head and upper body in the path of the oncoming tire. I shuddered and rested my head on the steering wheel to catch my breath.

After triple checking to make sure the truck was in park AND engaging the parking break, I tentatively stepped out on to the road to test my left foot/ankle. I was shocked to find that it really didn’t feel bad at all. There was little to no pain and there didn’t seem to be any swelling. I have absolutely no explanation for how this could even be possible. I then finished the business I had intended to take care of originally and stepped back into the truck and began the last leg of my drive home.

During the drive my body began to ache and my foot started to throb a bit. After arriving at the house, I gave myself a thorough going over. Other than a few scratches and just a bit of swelling on my foot, I was fine. My entire body began to get stiff and sore within the next hour or so but it was no worse than I might have felt after a hard workout. I was very, very lucky.

I debated whether or not to even write about this. It doesn’t paint me as a very intelligent person. I decided to go ahead and share it, however, as it is a reminder on just how quickly things can go south on any of us. Whether in the wild or in the suburbs, pay attention, not only to your surroundings but, to what you are doing as well. It doesn’t take long to get yourself hurt.

So, you can see it was a pretty humbling day. After thinking about it, though, I’m not going to call it a bad day. I got to visit with good people, spend some very peaceful time in the great outdoors and narrowly avoided getting myself severely injured. The more I ponder it, I realize the fact that I’m walking around with scarcely a limp means it was a pretty good day after all.

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