| 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
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 didnt 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 wasnt 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 doesnt 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 didnt 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"
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
I can tell you that wasnt 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
werent 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 didnt 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 didnt know the water was
as deep as it was and I didnt 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
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 isnt 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 wasnt 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
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 didnt 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 winters 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. Thats when the big boys come out into the
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 shouldnt have done
it this time, especially when I planned to
spend the night up in a tree stand. Its 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 dont 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
It was a long dangerous night. I couldnt 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 dont 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