Nov 10, 2017

Getting there is Half the Fun 

By: Bob Gryzb

Back in what would be considered pre-historic times by the latest generation of Americans, roughly the 1930’s through the 1980’s, pickup truck cargo boxes were commonly used to transport humans. In a recently published article in Badger Sportsman magazine, I describe some of these adventures. A little follow-up on the subject may prove useful. 

Most of my own childhood back-of-the-truck riding experiences took place in my Dad’s GMC. It had a nice topper and thin carpet with a bean bag chair to sit on. Being unable to find a DOT approved bean bag chairs, equipped with seat belts, we just had a regular one. It helped to cushion the bumps and reduce some of the rolling around associated with this mode of transportation. Since there were three kids in our family and only one bean bag, we got to take turns enjoying the bumping and rolling around. 

This form of transportation is now illegal, probably most everywhere, and never was safe. I saw a guy fall out of a truck once on a rough blacktop road near the Colorado River in Arizona. He was not a pretty sight. The rest of his weekend fun and games would be spent in the ER.   

There were some benefits to be had though, getting around in this manner, for outdoor kids who aspired to become outdoor grown-ups. Fortunately, we now have safe and legal alternatives whereby these benefits may still be gained. 

A couple of skills we used to perfect, especially riding in the back of a topperless pickup in the winter, are essential for enjoying being lost in the woods overnight when the temperature is below freezing, shivering and tooth chattering. While you can practice shivering and tooth chattering almost anywhere, one of the best opportunities for kids to practice these skills today can take place on a boat. When your Dad says “better bring a jacket, it might get cold on the way back after the sun sets”… a really insightful child can insist that he or she won’t need a jacket, or simply forget to bring one. This kind of forward thinking will often ensure a great opportunity for practicing shivering as well as teeth chattering. Really considerate fathers, like me, will have a boat with only a driver’s side windshield to make sure his kids get the maximum benefit from chilly, post sunset boat rides.  

A single windshield boat will also provide an opportunity to realize one of the nutritional benefits we got from topperless pickup truck rides in summer, provided your mouth is open at least some of the time. I don’t know how much protein a few dozen bugs contain, but I’m sure there is quite a bit. You could get even more protein by scraping bugs from your eyeballs and eating them too, but this is rarely done. Perhaps they aren’t as tasty, or as nutritionally beneficial due to all the added tear salt. 

Riding in the back of trucks with toppers following a successful deer hunting trip had some benefits too. You got to ride right in there with your trophy. This benefit was dramatically enhanced if the shot wasn’t perfect or if the deer was recovered a day or two after it was shot. Valuable outdoor skills like retching and gagging during the field dressing process can be practiced all the way home while riding in a confined space with any big game animal harvested under less than perfect circumstances. 

These days we can legally and safely develop our retching and gagging skills while belted firmly in the seats of an SUV. Unless you are unfortunate enough to have an ATV trailer or one of those nifty cargo racks that attach to your hitch receiver to haul your deer with, your trophy will wind up in a nice enclosed space right with you. As long as you plan on doing some breathing on the way home, and you’re lucky enough to have  an animal that wasn’t dispatched with a perfect broadside shot, this should work out just fine. Opening all the windows will also help with the shivering and teeth chattering skills, but will not completely eliminate the chance to practice retching and gagging too.  

My best example of how this works came in the early nineties. My buddy Bill and I were in the middle of our annual first week of November peak-of-the-rut vacation. We couldn’t really afford this luxury. It was not a paid vacation mind you. It was the peak-of-the-rut, so…. 

Bill watched a couple of dominant bucks in what would turn out in the end, to be a fight to the death. A day or two later he came across the loser of the battle. It was badly wounded and had a hard time running away from him. He didn’t think it would or even could go very far.  

That evening we formulated a plan to end his suffering and put a tag on him. It almost worked too. Bill went around down wind and stood near likely escape routes, while I was to still hunt into the area the buck was last seen. I discovered how much easier it is to really take it slow and quiet when you’re pretty certain a big buck is close by. I found him. He was bedded down, but still alive. Taking steps only when the rustling breeze would mask any sounds I made, I got to within about 30 yards. I literally needed one more step to try a shot. Having my doubts whether the buck would even be able to run away at this point, I took that last step without waiting for a breeze. My boot went crunch. In the next split second, my doubts went away, and so did the buck I had been inching closer to for what seemed like about half of my life at this point. He sprung to his feet and ran right past Bill and disappeared.  

A couple days later, feeling a bit guilty for leaving his black lab, Jade home all week while we were hunting deer, Bill decided to bring her along for a bit of grouse hunting. They came across the wounded ten pointer again. By now the unfortunate animal was unable to run away. So, he put the dog in the Suburban, and came and got me and his bow, and we finished the job we’d started earlier in the week. 

In order to fully appreciate the rest of the day’s events you needed the time frame provided previously as well as the following information: Upon skinning this buck it was discovered that the fight with the other buck from several days earlier resulted in over two dozen puncture wounds. By the time it was loaded in the back of Bill’s SUV, many of these wounds had been badly infected, and the aroma was considerably different from other deer we had shared the confined space with on previous rides home. 

Being in our early twenties, and already tough seasoned outdoorsmen, the intense concoction of odors emanating from the back of the vehicle of course did not bother either of us a bit. To prove this, we gobbled down some greasy drive through burgers on the way home. This, as it turned out, was not the best idea we had that day. We were both later absolutely amazed by just how far into the heating and air conditioning ducts well aimed projectile vomit can end up.  

Bill, not being present as I write this was, of course, the one who lost his lunch. Not me. To this day I don’t know how he managed to completely avoid the driver’s side and deposit the entire mess in such a manner that would make it appear as though the event took place from the passenger seat right smack in front of where I had been riding.  He’s much more considerate now. 

The good old days of riding in the areas of pickup trucks which are only intended to haul inanimate cargo may be long gone. But, with a little effort and imagination, the benefits of and wonderfully pleasant experiences we had back in those pre historic days, can still take place with the safe, legal transportation options available today.