By: Tonya Stevenson
(This is my husband’s story.)
In the spring of 1979, on a Saturday night my cousin Rick and I, hit town to go dancing with some friends. Through no fault of my own, the girl Rick is sweet on kept asking me to dance. Rather than be rude I obliged, as unbeknownst to me Rick boiled. Rick and I were best of friends, yet now he’s stubbornly giving me the silent treatment.
Sunday brother Randy and Cousin Jason showed up from the other end of the ranch in a 1946 Willy’s Jeep, they had pulled out of the junk and restored. This Jeep wasn’t all original equipment, the seat barely fit under the steering wheel, the battery wasn’t very good, and the brakes would bleed out. Nevertheless, they were pleased as punch with their handwork.
Cousin Rick and I had been over some fence the previous day near Freemont Canyon and had discovered a broken corner post that needed replaced. We were contemplating how we were going to get this corner post to this steep remote location, when the boys arrived in their Jeep.
It didn’t take us long to talk them out of the Jeep, just for one day.
Early next morning I drove the Jeep seven miles through the pasture since it wasn’t highway worthy (legal.) Rick drove the pickup down the Highway. We met at the precipice of the hill where the trail led down to the remote location where the crosstie was broken off. We transferred our fencing supplies to the old Jeep in stony silence.
After working our way down this steep hill to the corner post, I decided to drive on past a little to a steeper slope that I could roll the Jeep down to start it. After squirming out from under the steering wheel, upon considering the size of that heavy post and the distance to carry it, I told Rick.
“Give me a push to start this thing and I will back up close, so we don’t have to carry it.”
I dropped the Jeep in gear, he gave me a shove, and I let out on the clutch, the engine turns, but don’t want to start.
Rick hollers, “Turn on the key.”
I turned the key and the Jeep lurches forward to life. I reach down to step on the brake; it went clear to the floor, kind of like stepping on a plum. I decided I better gear down or this hill is going to kill me, so I grabbed hold of the gear shift and the knob pulls off in my hand, in neutral! I didn’t waste time trying to thread it back on; I grabbed the stub of gearshift, only to hear the grinding of gears while the Jeep is freewheeling faster and faster down the gulch, and my fencing supplies are jumping ship behind me.
While still trying to find a gear, I began prying myself out from under the steering wheel. I broke free and bailed into a pile of rocks, just before the Jeep mowed down a four foot cedar tree.
Watching the Jeep stampeding down the hill, plunging over sagebrush and rocks, I notice at the bottom a washout approximately 2 foot deep and 4 foot wide. Thinking to myself, “Oh, no. Randy and Jason are going to kill me.” Just then the sagebrush airborne the Jeep and it cleared the washout continuing diagonally up the other side. Even as I thought I was home free, (as far as wrecking the Jeep), it turns on its side, the hood pops up, as it crashes down landing on the steering wheel with all four wheels spinning in the air.
Rick comes running down the hill yelling, “Are you alright?” His eyes were on the Jeep and I wondered who he was addressing. After pulling myself up out of the pile of rocks, I noticed that huge corner post had exited the Jeep just prior to me. We walked on down to where the Jeep was and with considerable labor got it up righted on its wheels. At this point we faced a dead battery and nowhere to go but up. We were forced to carry the battery half a mile straight up hill to the pickup, to charge it. After returning it to the Jeep and gathering pliers, stretchers, posts and every staple we could find, we drove it out of the draw. By now it was time to go home. Not willing to drive it across seven miles of pasture, I decided to try to sneak down the highway for the return trip. The skies began pounding me with a vengeful hail, and I am driving down the road peaking through my fingers meeting semis. It was a bad day and I still had to face Randy and Jason.
We hid the Jeep in the shop. I was hoping at least to straighten the hood that was crumpled like a Kleenex. I asked Rick, “Don’t tell them.”
He responds exuberantly, “It is too good not to tell.” At least the issue of the girl was long gone from Rick’s thoughts.
At that point, Randy and Jason drive in, and my five year old niece runs out to greet them hollering, “Otie rolled the Jeep.”
To this day, I can’t recollect if we ever did fix that corner.