Bad Fix
A Bad Fix

I suppose that most back-woods folks would understand what a small word like “fix” could have to
do with what kind of a day you are about to have. Most folks use the word to reference “repairing
something”. I guess that would go for most “town people” too.
There is a time when that little three letter word means a whole lot more than that. It can mean the
difference between life and death, but usually it means that your day just took a terrible turn for the
I broke an axle on my 4x4 many miles back in the mountains a few years ago, and my hunting
partner looked at me and had the gall to tell me that I had managed to get us into one heck of a “fix”.
No, I didn’t have to try to go through that place where the road had washed out. Yeah, it would have
saved us a lot of miles and got us home hours sooner, so I figured that it justified trying to get
through, after all I did have a nice winch. He was still unrelenting in his attempt to blame me for such
a stupid stunt.
I will say that I was tired and not in much of a mood to tolerate a bunch of unnecessary abuse from
his mouth. He wasn’t one of my favorite hunting partners anyway. I let him know that it would be
in his best interest not to push the issue.
It seems like there is always one jerk that doesn’t have the sense to stop when he is better off. By
the time he “came- to” (regained consciousness); I had walked across country and hitch-hiked back to
town. I returned in a couple of hours with a new axel and repaired the truck. He didn’t even offer to
help fix the thing.
I learned very early in life that if one ventures into the bush regularly, they would find themselves
stuck in mud, high-centered on rocks or stumps, tires flat, wheels broken and a hundred other things
in the engine broken. Not to forget broken U-joints, thrashed clutches, bent tie-rods and springs that
Usually we carried a wide selection of parts for the inevitable “fix” that was sure to come. Actually,
we planned for the moment when we would hear the snap of metal.
One of my best friends, who was a very intelligent and immensely talented man, broke down coming
out of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Slana
River with a large bull on his trailer. His tractor popped the big back wheel off of the rim. The only
thing that actually happened was the split-rim had been bent by a rock, which caused it to pop-off.
In spite of being handy at most things, he was not much of a mechanic.
I got a call from him from Tok Junction, Alaska. He had walked out through 15 miles of mud and
rain at night. I took off work early and went down to help him out. We borrowed a 4x4 and went in
to the crash site. I took his jack, his hammer and pounded out the rim and had it back on the road in
30 minutes.
I can tell you that wasn’t the only time that old tractor broke. I had the tie-rod break on the
MankomenTrail 25 miles from civilization. It was in a mix of snow and rain, which I call “snain”.
Darkness was falling and we were several miles from camp with a wide, deep river to cross. We
weren’t set up to spend the night, so “fixing” the tractor was something we had to do or spend a wet
night out in bad weather with a squadron of ornery grizzly bears in the neighborhood.
Luckily, I had a few tools on board. We took the tie-rod off which still had about four threads left
on the end. We removed the broken part and screwed the tie-rod end back on.
The old tractor didn’t steer very well but it got us through 2-weeks of moose hunting and we
brought out a couple of nice bulls.
The last day when we broke camp, I got the tractor stuck in the middle of the river. I was trying to
cross the river in a big bend. I didn’t know the water was as deep as it was and I didn’t know that
the river had a bunch of big boulders under the water. I do know that it was very cold, snow was
falling, night was falling and I was in a very bad fix.
Getting stuck in the river was more than just “getting stuck”. The swift water would wash the sand
out from under the tires and cause the tractor to sink down under the water in about 20 minutes.
I jumped off of the tractor into the freezing water which was about 4 feet deep. I knew if I removed
the trailer from the tractor that I could get the tractor unstuck. That was a tough job because the
tongue-weight was several hundred pounds. I had to use a “handyman” jack to do it. The jack would
sink into the sand as fast as I would jack on it. I had to put a piece of plywood, 2-feet square under
the jack to keep it from sinking. With water 4-feet deep it meant that I would find my head under the
swift water putting the plywood on the bottom, so I could put the jack on it. I did get the trailer
disconnected and the tractor up on the sand bar. I then had to wade back out into the river to tie a
chain onto the trailer tongue, so I could pull it out. It only took a few minutes for the end of the
trailer tongue to sink 2-feet deep into the quicksand. It was all I could do with the tractor to finally
pull it free.
Having gotten unstuck I was still faced with 6 more river crossings. The wind was blowing, snow
was falling, and I was wet, cold, hypothermic, and angry. It was a nasty dangerous fix, and I had at
least 12 more hours of swamp running to get to a place where I could warm back up.
It took me a month to recuperate from the pneumonia that I managed to constrict.
That was only one of the times we broke down on that river. Another time we were coming out
with three big bulls along with all of our camp gear. The tractors clutch burned out from pulling such
a heavy load. My partner unhooked the heavy trailer and headed on out the trail to get another rig to
come back in and pull the trailer out. On his trip out he managed to run over a sharp stump, puncture
a tire, and had to walk another ten miles out to the village. I camped out for three days on the back of
the trailer with all of the moose meat. When He got back, I had two black bears stacked up and
almost had to shoot a grizzly off of the back of the trailer where I was sleeping. It was a nerve
wracking two nights with those bears trying to steal the meat. I only slept during the day.
I could go on for days talking about the adventures on that river, but it isn’t the only time I had
gotten myself into one of those real nasty fixes.
Just last spring I took three of my friends into the bogs of north Kenai. We should never have tried
to go in there because it was right after “break-up”. We also had too many hunters on board which
really over-loaded my track rig. I knew it was a perfect set-up for a really nice fix. I wasn’t to be
The swamps were floating in brackish water and peat-bogs. Walking was almost impossible. The
streams were deep, wide and running at flood stage. I did manage to float across them with only
taking on water once. The logs that were hidden in the mud got into my tracks causing me to break a
track twice.
During one of the breaks I was coming up out of a mud hole when a track broke and wound around
one of my back wheels. I was also high-centered on a log. In a short time I lost my engine and it
would not start again. This was a bad fix to be in. One of my hunting buddies had just had a
quadruple by-pass and he was in no shape to walk anywhere. We were 10 miles from the trucks.
I began to remove the dash, and seats to get to the engine compartment. I was about to give up
when my partner found the problem. The factory had run the rubber gas line under one of the frame
braces. When I high-centered on the log it had pushed up on the fiber-glass bottom squeezing the gas
line flat. I winched my machine up out of the mud hole and re-run the gas line. We didn’t bother to
fix the broken track. Luckily I was able to make it out with only one track and a lot of winch line.
It is never a good policy to go into the bush alone or with only one vehicle. This moose season I
found myself having to hunt alone because my partner got really sick. I took a lot of chances that I
normally would not have taken, but I had no choice if I was going to get the winter’s meat.
Every day I found myself miles from camp in darkness. I knew if my machine broke down, I would
be in deep trouble. I also knew that if I was to see a bull, I had to be out there all the way down to
total darkness. That’s when the big boys come out into the open.
My wife came in and hunted with me the last days and I was lucky enough to kill a nice bull.
My very worse fix happened in 1986 on the Tok River. I broke one of my most serious rules,
which I never do. I had a friend drop me off on the Tok River Bridge. He then drove down river
about three miles to a tree stand he had built for grizzly hunting.
I never hunt alone in the bush and I shouldn’t have done it this time, especially when I planned to
spend the night up in a tree stand. It’s not easy to find anyone to spend a night up in a tree stand.
Just at dark a big grizzly came in to my predator call. I tried to kill the bear with an arrow. The only
problem was that I did not have my big bow that I used for bear hunting. Try to imagine yourself up
in a tree stand that was not very high up in the tree. While you are thinking about that, it is almost
dark. There is no possible way you can get down and go to the truck because there is “no truck” to
go get into. The worse thing is you don’t have anything but a small pen-light. Ugly huh?
The arrow only enraged the bear which caused it to charge me. I was lucky to have my shotgun and
blasted the bear just as it hit me, slamming me back into the tree.
It was a long dangerous night. I couldn’t see into the darkness and I thought the bear would come
back to finish the job. I was lucky to make it and that was the worse fix I have ever been caught up
I don’t consider myself to be one of those “accident proned” people who are always getting into
trouble. I just put myself out there in harms way many times more than most folks. The law of
averages will catch up with you sooner or later. With that grim thought in mind, keep your powder
dry, the wind in your face, and always plan on the worse possible thing going wrong at the very
worse time. Maybe, just maybe you will be able to pull it off and live to tell about it.

George “Bubba” Hunt