Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Memoirs of a Ranch Hand, Part II

In case you missed it, click HERE for a link to the beginning of the story.

As fate would have it, I would have one last encounter with the gal who tested my patience. In fact, it occurred the very next day.

It was an afternoon like any other. Blue skies, birds chirping, and mountains of ranch work to be done.  After heat-synchronizing cows up at the chute all morning, we had orders to haul salt out to the pastures.  Each of us was able to fit three 50# salt blocks on the front of our 4-wheeler, and three blocks on the back.  We headed out to various locations throughout the ranch to drop our salt off.

The ranch had a  man-made creek that flowed through all of the pastures on one side of the highway, and a river that flowed through the other side. No matter where you went on the ranch, several water crossings were inevitable. They were generally not a big deal, and with the exception of having to lift your feet to keep from getting your boots wet, we didn't think much about them.

We had already crossed the creek in three different places that afternoon, and I had delivered my entire load of salt blocks.  My roommate had delivered the three salt blocks off of the front of her 4-wheeler, and we were on the way to dump the rest off. We had just one more creek crossing to go.  I lead the way, and made it up the other side of the creek bank at an angle. But when it was her turn, things went downhill in a hurry.

The gal made it down into the creek, and drove across the water with her feet up.  When she reached the other bank, she made a straight shot up the creek wall!  In an instant, the weight of 150# of salt on the back of her 4-wheeler tipped her two front tires straight up in the air, and the four wheeler flipped back on top of her, pinning her entire body under the water!

I was already headed down the trail when I looked over my shoulder  and witnessed the catastrophe take place. Without a second to lose, I flew off of my 4 wheeler, and jumped in the creek.  With every ounce of strength I had, I lifted the 4-wheeler off of her chest, and threw it to the side.  Then, I swooped her up out of  the ice-cold creek water. After lots of gasping and choking, she finally caught her breath.

My adrenaline was still pounding through my veins, and I noticed immediately that she was bleeding heavily from the side of her head.  A jagged rock on the creek bed must have gashed open her ear, and a  huge chunk of it was dangling there.  I took off my sweatshirt and pressed it firmly over her bleeding ear.

I said, "Get on the back of my 4-wheeler, and I'll rush you back to the shop!"

But she refused.  She was totally dazed and just wanted to sit there for a minute to calm down.  Then, to my absolute horror, she pulled a package of soaking wet cigarettes out of her flannel shirt pocket, and attempted to light up a soggy, broken cigarette.

That's when I knew she had lost it.

I checked her bleeding ear, and then demanded that she get on my 4-wheeler. If she didn't bleed to death, she'd freeze to death in those wet clothes.  We rode over rough terrain as fast as my 4-wheeler would take us, and I got her back to the office so someone could drive her to the emergency room, 40 minutes away.   When my boss sped off with her in the truck, I went to go get the ranch foreman.  I told him what had happened and also informed him that there was an upside down 4- wheeler in the creek that I needed help getting out.

We drove back to the scene of the incident, and I tried to lift that 4 wheeler up.  It didn't budge.  I couldn't believe it! Not one hour earlier, I had shoved that 4- wheeler up and off of my roommate, and now I didn't have the strength to move it an inch. The foreman and I tried lifting it together, and we barely moved it.  With the help of a winch, we got it tipped right-side up, and out of the creek.

We just looked at each other in disbelief.  There was no doubt in both of our minds that what had happened that day was a miracle.  If my room mate had been alone, she would have drowned.  If God wouldn't have given me a brief moment of seemingly super-human strength, she would have drowned.

For as long as I live, I'll never forget that day.  God was watching over two college gals, miles from nowhere, without anyone else around.  He was our ever present help in that time of trouble.

Late that night, my roommate arrived back at the ranch with an ear full of stitches and a concussion.  She was still shaken up, and knew without a doubt that what had happened that day was a complete miracle.

After a  few days of recovery, she decided that she wasn't cut out for ranch work.  She packed up her things and moved back into town, never to be seen again. I won't ever forget that gal, or her brush with death. Our paths crossed for only a brief period of time, but there's not a doubt in my mind that God put her in my life for that short season.  Perhaps it was to teach me a little bit more about myself, or perhaps it was purely for that one life or death moment that we shared.  Whatever the reason, she's now part of the fabric of my life's journey, and our experience has become a legendary I will continue to share around the campfire for years to come.

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