Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bad Day on the Prairie. Part 2

 There was no need to panic, not yet. After all, I had the basic necessities for survival on hand; food, water, shelter, and whiskey. The options were few. I needed a new mounted tire and someone able-bodied enough to put it on, or a tow truck. The chances of getting either one in the next 12 hours looked slim. Taking the cell phone, I started walking toward a rise in the road, watching for bars. About 40 yards from the pickup, I had signal. Whew! (Please note that walking through a herd of a couple thousand bison to get to a phone was NOT one of the options.)

I called the Missus and my son first, telling them of my approximate location so they could look for the body if I failed to show up in the next few days.  Putting a finger on that location seemed simple enough. After all, I did have a portable GPS with me, a Garmin, one that I knew would come in handy some day. According to Mr. Garmin, I was .2 miles from the intersection of CR 4650 and CR4070. I would soon come to learn that no one but Mr. Garmin had the slightest freakin’ idea that Oklahoma had roads by that name.

If there was ever a time for AAA assistance, this was it. In all my travels, I had yet to use them. Finally, those monthly payments were about to pay off. Unsurprisingly, I got the voice menu.  

“If this is an emergency, call 911.”

I thought about that but listened to the rest of the choices.. I pushed 1 for Holy Mother of God, please help me.

“Thank  you for calling AAA. First let me ask, are you in a safe location?”

I paused. “If being stranded, on foot, and in the middle of a herd of buffalo is safe, then yeah, I guess I am.”

“I’m sorry. Did you say buffalo?”

“Never mind. Yes, I’m safe enough at the moment.”

“All right then. Can you give me your location?”

I try. I give her the road numbers, explaining that I’m actually on some land called the Tallgrass Prairie, and the nearest town is Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

“Did you get all that?" I ask. I could hear the call cutting in and out. “Hello? Hello?”

She’s gone. And now the phone is flashing “low battery.” Ah Geez.

Back at the truck, I plug the phone in the charger and wait. By now, it is quite dark, not a single shining light bulb as far as the eye can see. I have heard that airline pilots, on their approach into Tulsa, refer to this area as the great black hole for that very reason. There is no moon as yet, and the feeling of standing alone in the middle of all that darkness is a little unsettling.

I remember the whiskey in the back of the truck and take a single pull off it, just to be sure it hasn’t gone bad. Additional shots were tempting, but thinking I needed all my survival wits about me, I opted for a sandwich instead. Suddenly, headlights appear. It’s too soon for a tow truck. More likely, a crazed man with a machete looking for people with flat tires. I did have a weapon in the pickup, a .40 caliber Glock, but OMG, I’m sure hoping it doesn’t come to that.

The car stops, a window comes down, and a young man with what appeared to be shaved head leans out and asks if I need help. He didn’t look like an axe murderer but there was that matter of the chrome dome. I tried to remember if Jeffery Dahmer had been bald. I thanked the lad, told him that help should be here any minute, and unless he has a mounted Chevy pickup tire and wheel in his trunk, there was nothing he could do.The car moved on.  I could have asked for a ride to town I suppose, but I was not about to abandon a truck full of photography equipment here in this godforsaken outback.

By now, I have enough charge on the cell for another call attempt and decide to let the Missus do the talking to AAA and not risk another drop in communications. She relays the information and calls me back a few minutes later to say that a tow truck will be at my location in approximately 45 minutes. Ah, light at the end of the tunnel…or prairie.

I wait in the pickup. The forty-five minutes pass. I study the night sky. Miles from manmade light pollution, the heavens above the prairie are a dazzling mass of twinkling orbs. Quite beautiful really, but wait…isn’t this exactly the scenario of alien encounters? Some poor soul in the middle of nowhere, when a saucer-like shape with revolving red and green lights comes swooping down to land in the pasture? A ramp unfolds and slowly lowers to the ground.  An odd shaped silhouette appears backlit in the doorway and...  I shake the thought from my head and again hike the necessary distance  to achieve a signal.

You have three missed calls.

Calls one and two are from the Missus and the son, asking for updates on my situation. But the third call is from Bubba, the tow truck driver (not his real name). “I can’t find you. Call me back.”

To be continued: Part 3 and conclusion tomorrow. The cops get involved.

(The same evening after writing this, I had an e-mail from a woman named Torre, a graduate research assistant from OSU, that is currently working out of the Tallgrass Prairie headquarters. I replied and made some comments about the roads only to find that it was not an axe murderer at all that had stopped and offered assistance, but Torre and one of her technicians.)


  1. A 3-parter?? Hanging on the edge here. Let us know. Love it.

  2. I'm a researcher at OSU...loved your TGP story. FYI, Torre likely WAS the shaved-headed guy that offered help. He's a PhD student studying Greater Prairie Chickens out there. I expect he's changed a tire or two himself since he started!

    1. That was so strange. The single car to come along in five hours was someone I had e-mailed in the past.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.