Wednesday, December 09, 2009

About 29 Years Ago...

It is an overcast snowy day in southern Idaho. I working at the top shack of a chairlift; bored, cold and homesick. I want to go back to New Mexico.

At the end of the day, I go to my boss and tell her I am quitting; I was tired of being cold…snow and ice wasn’t for me.

It was dark and lightly snowing when I walked out of the lodge. I got into the unheated rag-top half-cab of my 1964 CJ-5 and buckled the frozen lap-belt.

I head out of the parking lot and onto the snow cover mountain road…6 inches of fresh snow. A few miles down from the lodge I enter an S-curve too fast. The jeep’s rear end whips out. I steer into the slide, but there is little or no response. The second part of the S is coming and I am helpless…the CJ is still perpendicular to the road and heading straight. I brace myself.

The jeep hits the soft shoulder, left wheels dig in and immediately starts rolling! I watch the headlights do a slow motion counter clockwise roll. The driver’s side hits the dirt/snow hard with a loud crash!

Momentum carries me around; upside down…passenger’s side…on the wheels...driver’s side…upside down… passenger side…on the wheels…driver’s side…upside down…finally coming to rest on the passenger’s side.

I dangle from the driver’s seat. Assessment time; I’m okay, I’m not bleeding and everything works.

Electric fuel pump buzzing; turn off ignition. Lights on; turn off lights.

Hanging for a moment, I unlatch the seatbelt, fall into the passenger seat, pick myself up, and open the canvas driver’s door like the hatch on a tank.

Once outside, I look things over. There is about 12 inches of snow on the ground and it is still coming down. The jeep looks drivable if I can get it back on its wheels. I want to solve this problem myself and I certainly don’t want any law enforcement involvement.

I find my HiLift jack in the snow a few feet from the wreck. Jack under the roll bar, I lift until it tops out. Now at the tipping point, I use the roll bar and I rock the CJ-5 back and forth. The HiLift slips and the jeep crashes back on its side. DARN!

I start over and get the wheels on the ground on the second try. Now working as fast as I possible, I checked the battery and the fluid levels (oil and water). I find most of my stuff in the snow and pile it into the jeep. The ragtop supports are bent so I put the top in the back as well. Back in the driver’s seat, I push the accelerator pedal and it goes unresponsively to the floor; the throttle linkage has come apart because of a broken cotter pin. I fix it by making a new pin from some tie wire from the nearby barbed wire fence.

Ready: engine start, engage low range 4-wheel drive, reverse, and power onto the snowy pavement.


I am without a top or heater, but I am safe and alive and head back to my studio apartment in Twin Falls.

I am not sure if I almost died that night...

• My seatbelt kept me from being ejected and probably crushed and or decapitated (you hear horror stories with Jeeps).

• On the drive to Twin Falls, I discovered I could touch the roll bar with my head if I tilted my head back a little. It did its job and kept me from being crushed.

• I probably would not have frozen since other people were still up at the ski lodge.

Of the 5 years of being with that jeep, this was the most serious mis-adventure we had together. I suppose we both could have died.

Two days later, the day John Lennon died, I left Idaho in my wounded Jeep and headed to New Mexico.

Link to Red Ravine (earlier draft)


mark scotch said...

12 degrees and 18" of snow in Madison today, wish I wasn't in Atlanta....different strokes for different strokes, I guess.

Glad it all turned out OK, MM.

SS:Mtn Biker said...

Wow,Mims...I'm glad you had that Hilift with you (I've used em over the years to get unstuck 4-wheeling,but never for safety like this). Really kool read,Bro. :)

Mimbres Man said...

I am glad I made it out alone. It was a great feeling of accomplishment.

Mark, Still not a huge fan of snow, but I wouldn't mind seeing some now. I enjoyed the cold weather and snow when living/working on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Steve, I also used the HiLift to raise the roll bar back in place the next morning. I put some cinder blocks in the back of the jeep, HiLift on the blocks, and jacked the roll bar back where it needed to be.

Anonymous said...

Good storytelling. I'm glad you made it too. Keep making it OK?

Bruce said...

John Lennon didn't simply die...he was murdered by a psychopath.

I had a similar (though less spectacular) roll happen with my wife in the cab of a small pick up. I was able to manually roll it back onto the wheels but it was a diesel and the oil had formed an hydraulic block of a cylinder. She wouldn't fire.

Mimbres Man said...

Assassinated...he still died.