EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the heavy rains this week, the How They're Bitin' fishing report is not available. It will return next week.
Fuel prices notwithstanding, our beloved good old boys (and girls) are loath to part with their gargantuan, growling, gas-guzzling 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks. I recently drove around the countryside counting them from the wimpy confines of my little Chevy Colorado. I stopped at 36 about halfway through my outing, cutting it short when it dawned on me how prudent it was to pay closer attention to traffic signals and impulsive lane-changers. Still, the number is quite impressive, especially for what seemed a below-average traffic day.
As I recall, the Great Southeastern 4WD Phenomenon first started gathering steam in the late 1970s and early ’80s, shortly after savvy automobile marketing executives reached the momentous decision that big, petrol-quaffing, claw-traction vehicles might have widespread appeal in the rural South. The targeted purchasers were farmers, outdoorsmen, and average Joes and Josephines who simply enjoyed driving motorized conveyances through deep mud at breakneck speeds (remember “bog-ins?”).
The 4WD bug bit my buddy Cletus Monroe early on. When the trucks became available in our neck of the woods, he hocked everything but his eye teeth and purchased a great big Dodge Power Wagon, which was rated about 8 gallons per mile and emitted barely legal tailpipe noises that would put a rutting bull elephant to shame. That pickup was Clete’s unmitigated pride and joy.
“Beauty, ain’t she?” Clete asked me. “Man said there ain’t no place I can‘t get into in this truck.”
“Uh huh,” I answered with ignored skepticism.
“Yeah, boy,” he continued. “I’ll soon be drivin’ in the deepest swamp, way farther back than you or anybody else around here can go.”
Need I say next time I saw Clete he was trudging forlornly afoot up my driveway, covered head-to-toe with fast-drying mud? The Power Wagon, he confessed, was stranded five miles away, up to its door panels in smelly, mushy swamp ooze.
“Got stuck, did you?” I cheerily queried.
“Shut up,” Clete replied. “Go borrow a tractor and a chain.”
“Okay,” I grinned, “but don’t you first need to call the Dodge guy and tell him he was right? You know, about how there’s no place on earth you can’t get into? Of course, you might want to remind him he neglected to mention getting out.”
A dried-mud projectile whizzed past my temple and I prudently refrained from further commentary.
Long story short, we procured the tractor and chain and drove to the pickup’s “rescue.” My muddy pal, closely resembling an African termite mound with legs, waded out to connect the tow-hook while I sat aboard the idling Massey Ferguson, praying the tractor wouldn’t suffer the same fate as the truck once the pulling began.
No worry. The extraction went off without a glitch. Clete stood by, thigh-deep and forlorn, as I accelerated and slowly dragged his muddy-but-otherwise-unscathed 4WD “toy” from the ooze and slime. There was a live salamander and a four-pound carp in the Power Wagon’s bed, attesting to the depth of submersion. Dismounting, I climbed into the truck’s cab. The big engine roared to life on the first attempt.
“Mission accomplished,” I said. “Let’s go.”
Clete just stood there.
“Come on,” I repeated. “Let’s get back to the house.”
“Can’t,” he replied. “I’m stuck, dadgummit!”
Oh, how entertaining if I could truthfully say I had to use the tractor. But, alas, I was able to chain him out with mere manpower. Halfway in, Clete thrashing on the chain like a big flathead catfish, I could stand it no longer. I had to say it.
“Hey, buddy, why don’t you shift her down into 4-low and give her a little gas?”
The tow-chain bruises disappeared in a few days. The remarks concerning my parentage and the circumstances of my birth took a mite longer to heal.
Email outdoors columnist Bob Kornegay at firstname.lastname@example.org.