By Dave Lewis
Muzzloader deer season had just opened in Oklahoma. Short sleeve shirts were comfortable during the day and a lightweight sleeping bag worked just fine at night. A couple of friends and I cut out of work early one Friday and headed down to southeastern Oklahoma for an early season hunt.
After a three-hour drive we settled into a camp site on land that was owned by one of the major paper companies. This land was open to the public for hunting and we believed – as all hunters do – that we had a reasonable chance of finding a white tail buck who wanted to commit suicide by hunter.
On Saturday morning we rolled out of our tents and headed out into the woods after a quick breakfast. One friend – let’s just call him Ray – knew of a “good spot” a couple of miles from our camp site. Ray was driving a mid 70’s vintage Chevy pickup. It had a three speed shift on the steering column (remember those?) and the old foot pedal parking brake. Ray had one of those white metal tool boxes in the bed behind the cab.
The morning was cool and it had rained during the night. That morning Ray and I planned to slowly walk along a ridge and then sit looking into a small valley. Ray pulled his pickup off a dirt road, shut the engine down and just left the truck in gear. I was about a hundred yards behind him in my van and watched what happened next.
Ray got out of his truck and opened the tool box. He reached in to get his rifle and day pack. As he did the truck popped out of gear and started to roll backwards. Since the driver’s side door was still open, Ray tried to jump into the truck and set the parking brake with his foot.
Unfortunately the truck was on wet grass and Ray was wearing smooth sole cowboy boots. He slipped and fell under the front wheel. The truck rolled over him and continued backwards down into a steep-sided ditch, rolling over onto the passenger side and the windshield popped out.
When I watched my friend disappear under the truck I figured that he’d been killed. But I drove up next to him and heard him cursing – so I knew that he was alive. I spent four years in the Navy but I’ll say that I learned some new words that morning. Ray was in considerable pain but he wasn’t bleeding and seemed to be able to breathe okay. He was able to get up into a sitting position so I rather foolishly decided to drive him to the local emergency room.
We stopped by our campsite to leave a note for the two other guys (father and son) who were hunting with us. No cell phones or walkie talkies in those far-off days. We drove to the closest hospital – about a 45 minute trip – and watched the ER people trying to keep from laughing as we described the accident. Ray had a broken collar bone and some pretty bad bruises. They took a bunch of x-rays, put Ray in a sling, loaded him up with pain killers and sent us on our way about eight hours later.
The next morning we got Ray’s pickup back on its wheels with the help of a local guy’s four wheel drive Ford, a couple of snatch straps, and a bunch of helpful and only slightly drunk people. I took the pickup into town and had the guy at the local hardware store cut a piece of plexiglass that I duct-taped over the windshield opening.
Ray drove my automatic transmission van for the 150 mile trip back home. I drove his wounded pickup and the plexiglass managed to keep most of the wind out of my face. I got some very strange looks but the drive was pretty uneventful.
When we got to Ray’s house I pulled into his driveway, jumped into my van, and got away as fast as I could. He later said that his couch really wasn’t all that uncomfortable and that his wife started to talk to him again after about a week.
Ray died from cancer about ten years ago. I visited him in the hospital a few weeks before he passed. He was pretty well doped up against what must have been incredible pain. We talked for a few munutes as my friend drifted in and out of reality. When I got ready to leave, Ray smiled at me and said, “Do me a favor before you go. Would you check the wheels on this bed and make sure that the brakes are set.”