Life with Darrell - GI Joe'n

Darrell and I like to search some of the more remote locations for artifacts. I guess we thought the more isolated the area, the better our chances of a good find. Well, over time we have disproved that notion, but while trying to prove or disprove the theory, we have a lot of fun and adventure.

We would search hard for those fields, and we found them. A lot of them. It seemed that the majority of those fields were separated from other fields by woods, ditches, creeks and small rivers.

The traversing of woods did not faze us. They never grew a woods thick enough for me to get lost in, but the water traps, well now, those are a little but different. We would scheme and think on how to cross the bigger ones, and sometimes we had more trouble getting across the small ditches than we did with a small river. I don't know why it was, maybe our confidence was extra high on the larger waterways.

We sometimes resorted to climbing a tree along the side of a creek, reach over until we could grab a tree branch from the other side, swing over, and then climb down on the other side. We called it GI Joe'n because it was like we were on an obstacle course. The tree climbing trick only worked for some creeks. When a creek was too wide to jump, and if there were workable trees handy.

One time we found what looked like a perfect location. There must be something in a field that looked like that, we thought. A very deep drainage ditch separated us from our prizes. The ditch's bank was shaped like a big V, and at the bottom had what looked like a two foot deep, four foot wide creek that was flowing at a good rate. From the top of the bank to the water was about eight feet, and the length, bank to bank was eight to ten feet across.

We saw no way across, as there were no trees or saplings that stretched over the banks. Finally after walking the creek edge for a distance, we found where the only small trees in the area had fallen where the bank had given way, and fortunately stretched across.

Now Darrell, who is about fifty pounds lighter than me, wanted to go across right where the trees were at. I was not so sure. Those tree trunks were only about five inches in diameter, and I was kind of hesitant about those holding our weight. Well OK, my weight. I thought, lets move the trees down a little bit closer to the ground so we aren't so high. Darrell nixed that idea because we would not have anything to hold on to then, and at least there were some small branches there to hold if we left the trees in place.

Normally, when we tightrope across a creek, we will use a stick or two for balancing. Placing it in the creek bottom or on the tree itself. Along with this for a support we'd hold onto the branches of overhanging tree limbs, no matter how small they might be, and we usually had no problems.

So off Darrell went down the steep bank. He wiped away as much of the mud as he could off the bottom of his boots, and stepped lightly onto the wet log. Darrell made it over after to the other side after slow and careful placement of his feet. Now it was my turn. Darrell kept telling me that if the tree could hold him, it could hold me. Hmmm, I don't think he tool into account our weight difference, but I started across anyway, visions of unbroken hugh points dancing through my head. The bark was more slippery than I thought, and the excess mud that I could not get off of my boots certainly did not help. It was too far to the bottom of this creek for using a pole to help steady myself, even if I could of found one. And those branches where really twig like, and seemed awful far from each other once I got out onto the tree. I slowly slid my feet forward, not trusting to lift them up and move one in front of the other. Just as I was about three feet from the edge, and still too far to jump to safety, I heard a loud crack. In a fraction of a second everything before my eyes became blurred as I fell downward. Without realizing it, at the same second that the tree trunk broke and separated, I lunged for the edge, arms widespread. Suddenly the blurred brown and green of the creek bank stopped with a jolt as I hit the mud bank. Now I was sliding quickly down the gooey bank to the waters edge. I still had my arms out wide and was attempting to dig them into the mud to stop my slide, and my boots were pushing up a mound around the groove they were cutting. Almost to the water, I started clawing at the mud and running with my feet. Finally I got dug in enough and I stopped. Slowly then I clawed to the top and over, using some weed roots and small branches to hold on to. Darrell helped me up when I could reach his hand, and was laughing in fits. For a brief second while falling, I didn't even know what was happening. We both had a good laugh about it afterwards.

Once, during a winter hunt on my uncles farm, Darrell and I finished in a field and was wanting to go to another field that was separated from us by a good size creek. The creek was up pretty high as the snow that had covered the fields was all melted and had turned a gently meandering creek into a raging wild white water. What was only five to six feet across normally was now ten to twelve across and twice as deep as normal in the middle. We searched for an easy way across, but could not see an obvious route unless we walked all the way out of the field which was a mile or so. The cold weather made us apprehensive to attempt to cross for fear of falling in. In the cold air we could freeze by the time we reached the car. The only way across was to attempt to climb a fence that stretched across the creek. At the base of the fence, in the water, a lot of brush had accumulated that had been washed out of the fields and along the banks by the high water. We both figured that maybe the brush, if thick enough, was strong enough to support a small amount of weight.

Once we walked up to the fence we saw that it was not the average farm field fence, but one made of barbed wire with the barbed wire strands wired together with barbed wire. This made the fence look like your generic farm fence from a distance. Oh well, we thought; we can still make it across. We have crossed creeks using barbed wire before, so off Darrell went slowly inching across. Out a few feet he tested the piled up brush by putting his foot down upon it. Down it went right through the brush into the cold water. Once he got out further, the four strands of barbed wire started wobbling to and fro because they were not stretched tight, and mainly that the four strands were not connected in any way by the support wires which had came loose. It was like trying to walk a tightrope using a rope to hold onto. After a few minutes Darrell made it across and then I started across with just as much trouble that Darrell had. I wobbled all over the place. Barbed wire points came zooming at me when I over compensated for a weight movement. At times it was very scary.

One bright sunny early spring day, Darrell and I was out in the country when we spotted and excellent looking field while driving along a country road that ran parallel to a creek. We just barley saw it when we drove by the access lane for the farmer because all the rest of the field was surrounded by trees. The farmers lane crossed right across the creek, and I would think that it was normally passable by car, but with the water high, we could not drive across, nor could we wade across due to the water temperature being cold.

We looked up and down the bank for some area were the water was shallow enough to wade, where the water was below boot level, but we could not find a spot. We also searched for some rocks to toss in so we could jump from rock to rock. No such luck. After some hard searching we finally found where someone had been cutting some wood a few weeks earlier down the road. We carried sections of the logs that the cutter had left in a junk pile to the shallowest sections of the creek we could find. This creek was at least fifteen feet across and it took us a few loads apiece to male a bridge we could use to jump across. We were both very tired after we got it done, but wasted no time at starting across to the field. We were both so tired that we slipped off the wet and slick logs to get our feet wet. We didn't mind though because we knew there had to be something in a field that looked so good as this one.

Once we finally stepper into the field, we paused and looked around to figure our strategy and off we went. Within the first minute I found a small side notched point made out of a red chert. Not a bad beginning I thought. Not bad except in the rest of that large, perfect looking field, we didn't find so much as a flake. That was a real bummer after all that work, but we knew now how the field was. Even the best looking fields with the classic terrain, doesn't always produce.

That doesn't always mean that we have bad luck when we have to GI Joe it across a fence or a creek. It is roughly a fifty fifty bet that we will find something, as it turned out to be one hot spring day in Montgomery County.

Darrell and I had entered a field we had hunted many times, and we were finding a point here, a point there with some broken parts intermixed with them. We were not finding anything spectacular, but we found field grade points consistently. We completely searched the field which took us three hours, after which we ended up in the far corner and could see that across the creek the other field, that was not visible from the road, was also plowed. The last time we were in Montgomery County, we had searched that field also by being able to GI Joe in crossing the fence over the water. Now we saw that we could not do that as the fence had fallen, and the water was higher than it was last time also. Now the water covered the fallen fence in the middle of the creek. Since the water was higher than normal, we looked up and down the bank for a suitable crossing, but was unable to find one. After thinking about it for a while, we decided to take off our shoes, socks, and pants and wade across. We started in and found that the bottom was covered with large gravel that must of been put there to control erosion. That helped a lot in the crossing, but the water kept getting deeper and deeper, rising up to my waist on me; about three and a half feet or so. Since it was blazing hot, we didn't mind the cool water due to it was fairly clear and swift running. Getting to the other side we dried off in the heat and got dressed. Searching towards the rise, I found a few points and a real nice celt made out of dark granite and polished very well. There were many flakes around, so we checked the bottoms also. There was another smaller creek in front of the field we were in, that separated us from the road. As we checked out the area close to the creek we could tell by the soil that it had once been a swamp. Deciding to finish up our hunt in the field brought is to another problem and decision. How to get out to the car. Should we walk back to the large creek and wade again. No; then we would have to walk the long way back around to the car in the summer heat, in addition to getting very wet again. Or we could try to cross the creek in front of us which would shorten our walk to the car considerably. We opted for the second choice and started for the tree line along the creek.

We found a little bit bigger creek than we expected, a little to wide to jump, and no trees close to the creek, only high weeds and no fence either to use so we could GI Joe it across. So after some searching for the easiest and shortest crossing, we took off our shoes and rolled up our pants. This creek was a lot smaller and shallower then the previous, but the minute we stepped in we knew that we not the only difference. While the water looked clear and slow moving, the creek bottom was a soft mud, that oozed up between our toes as we stepped, releasing the swamp gases that had built up in this slow flowing creek. The smell and feel was bad enough, but when we stepped out we had the slick swamp goo covering our feet that we quickly started to wipe off on the grassy bank. We had to grab a few leaves off of the bushes to help wipe it away. It was a messy situation.

That's just a few of the experiences we've had out in the fields. We seem to be attracted to the hard fields, and it pays off sometimes. Even if it doesn't pay off, we always have fun and laughter when we have to GI Joe it across some water. You never know what is going to happen. It's always something.

Postscript: December 2010

Darrell and I were talking about the experiences here. Darrell's perspectives on many of our experiences were sometimes different than mine, and that would be expected. Darrell had crossed the ditch first, and had no problems crossing, even jumping slightly on the log when in the middle of the creek. When he had crossed, he stood on the bank and told me it would hold me too. As I crossed past the midpoint, I too made the jump on the log, only to have it break on the second jump. Darrell saw the look of sheer terror on my face as I fell, and having no idea why I jumped like he did when I weighed more than he did.

By Jeff Anderson
© 1996 Jeff Anderson