Monday, November 29, 2010

It sucks to be stuck in muck

I've never been stuck in quicksand.  I understand it is an unpleasant experience.  Like falling into a vat of Cream of Wheat.  I've never been stuck in a vat of hot breakfast cereal either, but I've eaten it so I feel like I'm an authority.

I have been stuck in muck, though.  Up to my butt.  It reminded me of a a great children's story called, "Ducks in Muck".  It is a fun read for kids and parents alike.  It was the first thing I thought of when I got stuck.  "One schmuck, stuck in muck.  Oh yuck." 

I was hunting geese in Idaho last week.  It was cold and the wind was blowing about 20 m.p.h.  My hunting partner and I set up 95 goose decoys and spent the morning waiting for the birds to fly.  We could see an ocean of waterfowl off in the distance after the sun came up.  After a couple of hours we decided to walk towards them.  My hunting partner went off through the brush on the right, and I headed left.   I wanted to hide by a little dead tree in the stream out on the marsh.  I took off with my dog and we made our way into the marsh.  I was doing fine, only sinking in a few inches with each step.  My dog floated over the mud with endless enthusiasm and agility. 

As I approached my spot, the patches of grass in the mud thinned and disappeared.  I figured it was just where more water was running from the connecting stream.  My next step absorbed my leg to the knee.  I wasn't surprised to sink into mud that thick.  Knee level isn't unusual.  So I made the mistake of taking two more steps which sunk me into the mud just above my inseam.  I started struggling to get out.  Panic and a touch of claustrophobia set in as my lets cemented deeper into the muck.  That was when the words of "Stuck in muck"  came into my mind.  Only my mental version was picking more profane rhymes as I fought for my freedom. 

The problem with marsh muck is that it is thick.  It's like tar.  It's hydrated clay.  I could have made a ceramic bowl for Mother's day out of this stuff. 

As I struggled to pull my leg out, the other leg sank in further and the leg I was trying to pull out was coming out of my wader boot.  As perspiration covered my body from inside the waders to top of my head, I took a break and leaned back, literally sitting where I was standing as if a stool was behind and underneath me.  My dog walked up and laughed at me, the webbing between his toes acting like snowshoes keeping him from sinking at all.  The sun glistened over his chocolate coat and he posed like a canine body builder, every muscle in his legs popping out.  He looked at me as if to say, "Hey buddy, you could be this fit too if you only ate dog kibble.  No more Hostess for you!" 

My mind raced back to a trip my family took as a kid to the La Brea tar pits.  In L.A. county there is a place where tar bubbled up to the surface making a small lake.  Scientists speculated that when it rained, water would pool over the tar and animals would come to drink and get stuck.  There, on display are mammoths, saber tooth tigers, and human remains.  One display lets you pull on a handle that is stuck in tar.  It doesn't move. 

"Cache, I'm stuck.  Go tell Pa to bring the rescue chopper!"  I yelled in my best southern accent.

He kept laughing at me.

I unloaded my shotgun and pocketed the shells.  I tried using the stock of my gun as a shovel to push some of the muck from my boots as they came out.  It wasn't working.  More muck flowed like thick lava into the holes I shoveled.  I considered tossing my gun onto the grass, but decided against it.  I said a little prayer.  I'd been stuck over 20 minutes and I was getting tired and frustrated.  Then I got angry.   I fired my legs like pistons and fought for the edge.  If I could get several feet over, I would be free.  It took a few more minutes of fighting but I managed to get up to my knees again and then to where I only sank in a few inches.  I stood up tall and took large gasping breaths of air, celebrating my new found freedom. 

I met up with my hunting partner again.  He didn't even know I was in trouble.  He laughed at me too.  I was feelin' the love.  We hiked back to our decoys.  The wind had picked up to 45 m.p.h.  Many of our decoys were blowing away.  Some were in the stream floating out to sea.  We spent the next two hours chasing plastic geese all over the countryside.  My dog did a couple of dozen water retrieves to bring our decoys back to dry land. 

We packed up and went to Denny's.  The Lumberjack slam never tasted so good.  I said another prayer, grateful to not be stuck in muck any more.