After the Fleisingheimer Fiasco I went back to my office and sat working quietly and diligently trying to catch up on all the stuff I have to do now that it's just the two of us in the office. I frequently work with the lights off. I don't know why, it's just what I do. So I'm sitting in the dim light at my computer when the door bursts open and a large man with rolled up pants and rubber boots emerges into the foyer and turns to look at me.
I glance over the top of my monitor and raise my eyebrows at him and am about to greet him when he bellows, "Wanna go 4-wheelin???"
My first thought was, "Oh hell no." A 6'5" man wearing rubber boots who is at least halfway to 500 pounds and fills up my entire doorway blocking what little light is left coming into the room is not who I'm going to jump on the back of at ATV with, especially without a hello first. Well, maybe if it were Brad Pitt.
My alarmed look said more than I really needed to say and he started laughing and said, "I'm Doyle."
Doyle turns out to be a fella I've been talking to on the phone for about three months. He has a whole heap of land to sell up on a nearby mountain. He's been promising to meet me up there for a look-see and we've just not been able to hook up. And there, suddenly he is, rubber boots and all.
He explains that he and the family are on the way up to the land and while he realizes it's short notice he thinks it would be awesome if we could meet up there today. We made the arrangements, I got directions and as he started to walk out the door he turned and said, "Oh, I almost forgot. There's a big mud hole up there in the road. It looks really bad, but it looks worse than it is. I got stuck up there about a week ago but I made the mistake of slowing down. If you just keep driving and hit it steady and push on through you'll be okay." And with that he was out the door.
I called my husband to do a little marital negotiating. I explained to him how I didn't want to drive through a big mud hole based on what had happened the last time I drove through a mud hole on River Road. That time I eased into a giant puddle that was in a built-up railroad bed that had been converted to a road. What looked like a shallow puddle ended up turning into a bottomless pit of tire-sucking mud and only by the grace of God am I here to tell about it. Muddy water ended up over the top of my side mirrors, and this is no exaggeration. I was certain I would die there and that one day, thousands of years from now, students of archaeology would be theorizing about me and the subsequent extinction of mankind. They'd call me Lucy of the Arkansas Mud Pits and forensic artists would do a rendering of me for the Smithsonian.
We agreed to go up as a family after Julius got out of school. It would be a fun and fabulous time and give the boys a chance to get out into the woods and explore nature. Best of all I wouldn't have to drive.
About 15 minutes later I remembered I had a city council meeting that night and had to leave right away or I'd never make it back. I had to go solo.
One of the reasons I drive the behemoth vehicle that I drive is that I'm frequently called to negotiate some rough Ozark territory. After a $2200 repair on the last car we had due to hitting a rock because our clearance was too low on the Trailblazer, we decided our next vehicle would have the highest clearance possible and settled on a baby Hummer (H3). While I occasionally dabble in political correctness and green-living, I don't fool around when it comes to what I drive. Where I go is not where you want to get stranded with no cell service.
I send Doyle a text message telling him I was coming up early and to watch for me. I found all the little turn offs, many unmarked. I drove and drove and drove and finally the road narrowed down to a single-lane grassy track through the woods. I drove and drove some more and finally I made it to the mud hole.
This is when I realize the term "mud hole" is relative. A mud hole can be a little wet spot in the yard big enough for one kid to stomp his feet in. Or it can look like a giant tarpit that stretches the entire width of the road and extend for about four car lengths. If I was looking at the first one there wouldn't be a story to write here.
I idled in the road for a while looking at the pit before me. I heard Doyle's words echo in my mind, "If you just drive through and don't slow down you'll be okay." I step out of the car and walk to the pit to get a closer look. I can tell where the last vehicle made its path and since Doyle seems like he knows what he's talking about that seemed the most sensible way to go. The ruts were at least two feet deep.
I tried to call Rob to describe what I was looking at and to get some last minute advice. I have always considered driving in the mud to be a manly pursuit and an art form that one can perfect over time with the help of testosterone and some hard-coding in the male DNA. I have no interest in getting better at it and would prefer to let my husband do this bit of dirty work.
And yet there I was with no cell service. With the prospect of a juicy listing ahead of me, and against my better judgement and screaming intuition, I drove on. About a car length in I bogged down a bit and my tail end boogied back and forth and the car complained vehemently but finally I got to the other side. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath, sacrifice a goat to God and then kept on going. Doyle said there were three of these to maneuver through.
The second one was more manageable. I decided I was born for this and asked myself, "Who needs a guy when you're this much of a stud?"
The answer came moments later when I tried to traverse the third pit and got stuck. I spent a few minutes trying to get unstuck. There are two magic buttons on the dashboard that are supposed to be some kind of help when you're in a bad spot. However, I couldn't remember what the buttons do. They either slow the wheels down or speed them up or maybe they turn the wheels sideways and the vehicle turns into a hovercar. I'm not sure. Despite not knowing what they do I pressed them and tried again. The first one seemed to do nothing. The second one made a big grinding noise.
I took off my sandals and pulled on my massive steel-toed work boots with the neon pink bootlaces. Out the door I went with the car still running. Mosquitoes buzzed around my head. The car was into the mud about 1/2 of the way up the tire. The treads were completely filled with mud. I looked around for stuff to put under the tires. The place was remarkably free of stuff I could carry. I tossed one small log into the pit and it disappeared ineffectually. I went back to the car, which was still running, and pulled on the door handle which was locked. Because being stuck in 2 feet of mud, alone, with no cell signal is not nearly challenging enough. Fortunately, the back door was open, so my panic and bitterness was short-lived.
I got my useless phone, turned off the car and started walking toward where I knew Doyle would be. It wasn't far. Fifteen seconds later I heard what sounded like a lawnmower coming toward me and around the corner zipped what looked like a redneck golf cart filled with Doyle, his wife and five children. They raced into the mud, fishtailed through and shot out the other side coming right at me.
Doyle slamed on the brakes right in front of me. He grinned, "I'm a little disappointed in your car. I thought surely you could make it in that." I explained that perhaps a better driver could. I relayed the whole story to him including the part about the two mysterious buttons and he laughed heartily about that. He said, "I guess you better learn what those buttons do after this." He told me to get in and he'd give me the tour and then he'd help me get the car out of the mud. He said if nothing else the Polaris could pull me out. I doubted it sincerely as he slammed on the gas and we dove into the pit.
The Polaris has no windshield or sides. It has a rollbar which I clung to for dear life as we tipped at a 45 degree angle in the mud puddle. I was certain Doyle would dump me out the side. Over the screaming engine he yells, "I'm sorry if I spray you with mud. I'll try hard not to." I wanted to say, "Just try not to kill me and that will be just fine." (I didn't.)
I have to pause for a moment to tell you about the wonders of the Polaris. We drove through mud holes that came up to the bottom of the vehicle. We drove across creek beds, fallen trees, up near-vertical embankments, down gravity-defying mountain slopes. Not once did the Polaris fail to measure up. The only complaint I have at all was the lack of windshield. I had to wipe spiders, inchworms and a few other unidentifiable creepy-crawlies off me about every 6 feet. That part was maddening, but beyond that I was impressed and have now moved the unaffordable Polaris to the top of my wish list where it will sit until the day I die because I'm too busy paying for my children's college educations.
Doyle drove me all over the gazillion acres. Three adults and five children in one little all-terrain vehicle. I didn't think it was possible. We had a grand time, except for the snake I nearly stepped on and the one time Doyle drove all the way up to the edge of the creek embankment and I was certain he'd send us tumbling ass-over-teakettle into the canyon below.
Over hill and dale we made our way back to the awaiting, entrenched, bundle of disappointment I call my ride. I surmised to Doyle that he could probably get the vehicle out of the pit since I'm not a very good driver when it comes to mud. He managed to agree with me without making me feel too bad about it. It's good to know your strengths and weaknesses so that when you're faced with one and someone else agrees with you that it really is a weakness, you don't feel too bad about it. It saves wasting a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself.
I lurked in the woods out of way in case Doyle came sliding out of the mud pit toward me. I strategically placed a few trees in the way to avoid mishap. He slipped, he slid, he revved, he rocked, he rolled and in reverse he finally extracted my car from the pit. I applauded. My vehicle had redeemed itself. I had blamed it for my shortcomings and would have to make amends.
Doyle and family promised to follow me in the Polaris until I'd gotten through the other two mud pits. Again, number 2 was no match for even my pathetic skills. Back to the first one I made it through only halfway again and got stuck. I sat for a moment, stressed and angry. I growled at the steering wheel in frustration as if that would help. I glanced in the rear view mirror to see Doyle round the corner in the Polaris. He slowed down and stopped, waiting to see what I would do.
"I'll be damned if I'm gonna ask him to help me again when I know this car can get out of here." I recalled what I'd seen him do and put aside my fear that I'd break Rob's car if I pushed it too hard. I would not be defeated by 864 cubic feet of mud.
I drove forward, I rocked backward. Back and forth, forth and back. I could feel progress being made and then suddenly I shot forward straight for a tree. At the last moment I swerved and the car bunny-hopped out of the mud onto the grass. Diagonal, but out. I jumped out of the car and looked back at Doyle and his family sitting in the Polaris. I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled, "Sorry, but I have to do a victory dance now!" and proceeded to an embarrassing rendition of something that looks similar to the Bruins mascot victory dance.
I hopped back into the car and sped off for my meeting which I would barely make. The windows were down and as my heartbeat calmed to its normal pace I glanced around the car realizing it was full of splattered mud. As soon as I got into signal range I called home.
"I owe you five dollars, honey."
Suspicious, he asked what for.
"To wash the car. It's... a little muddy."
"I don't think so. You better just go wash it yourself. What did you do to my car??"
"Well, I got a little bit stuck, but it's okay, Doyle got me out."
Big pause. "Who's Doyle?"
I laughed. "That's a long story. I'll tell you when you get home."
I drove on, scratched my itchy ear and realized there was even mud there. Mud in my ear. Imagine!