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Cousin Ollie and the Deep Brown Sea

If you've been following my blog for very long, you’ve met Cousin Ollie by now, and for those of you who haven’t, well, you don’t know what you’ve missed! Ollie is a great guy, beloved by all (and laughed at by many), but a couple watts short of a night light.

In Ollie’s last adventure, you found out what an avid Jeeper he is, but it’s not just during hunting season. A couple weeks ago he sucked a bunch of us in to making a run up to the La Sal’s to check out Buckeye Reservoir. It had been a long winter and the weather was fine, so we said “what the hey” and loaded up. We enjoyed the blue skies, light breeze, the sounds of kids having a good time (although that was hard to hear over the roaring of the ATVs they were riding!). There were four vehicles of us as we set out for a leisurely jaunt over La Sal pass, headed down to Moab for a much-anticipated ice cream at the Moab Diner. The road up from La Sal was dry and recently groomed, making for an easy trip. We hit a fast moving sleet storm near the top and quickly broke out the polar fleece, which didn’t do much for Ollie who had been so excited about nice weather he'd dressed in shorts and a tee shirt and hadn't brought anything else.

Ollie was in the lead, intent on showing us the ropes. Thinking we were in for a nice tooly around the hill, we crested the pass and discovered all bets were off. It was clear we might have a problem when we hit a three foot deep snow drift about fifty feet down the other side of the pass, but had to keep moving forward since we were going down a steep incline.

Ollie was in hog heaven, because it meant he got the chance to try out his new winch. Problem was, the only tree in sight was about thirty feet further than his winch cable. After a lot of digging through the nooks and crannies of everyone’s vehicles, we came up with enough tow straps and rope to hook up and he managed to bull his way through. It was hard to subdue the smiles as the rest of us powered right up and over the drift without benefit of a winch, and barely a tire spin. Ollie puckered up a bit, but kept quiet.

Those of us who were “newbies” to the Jeeping game heaved a sigh of relief... until we rounded the next curve and saw an even bigger drift ahead. Ollie didn’t hesitate. Oh no, he just hit the gas and blasted his way right into the middle until he was completely high-centered. When he stepped out of the Jeep onto the snow one leg sunk to his behind, and when he finally managed to lever himself up, that leg came out a nice hairy pink tinged with blue. But did he grumble? No way, if anything his grin grew until we thought his face might crack. Out came the winch again, and with the help of a nearby tree this time, he was out in a jiffy, directing everyone else to the best “line” and giving plenty of unsolicited advice.

Now some of us were beginning to fret just a bit. After all, we didn’t know how many more drifts there would be, or how big, or if the trees would be properly positioned. None of the rest of us were having any trouble with the drifts, but it would have been a shame to eat ice cream without Ollie – and we knew we’d probably have to come fetch him out eventually, anyway.

Our fearless leader decided it might be prudent to check out the road ahead (he might have heard the mutinous grumblings) and motored on around the next bend while we all enjoyed a well-deserved libation. When he didn't reappear, we puttered down the road after him. We came around a corner, expecting to see him, but saw his empty Jeep sitting on a big hump in the road that we couldn't see over. Fearing another snow drift, we got out and went up to check out the situation (hoping we wouldn’t find Ollie in the jaws of a nearsighted bear or something).

What we saw was unusual to say the least, and it stopped us all in our tracks. As a matter of fact, none of us could move for several minutes (but that was probably because we were prostrate on the ground laughing so hard it hurt).

Ollie had come upon that bump in the road and drove right up on top of it. On the other side was an eighteen inch drop into a mud hole. Being the generous guy he is (or so he tried to convince us later), he decided to check out the mud hole to make sure it was safe for us. I think he was trying to decide if he could jump the hole with his Jeep, or if he could perhaps spin his wheels hard enough to coat at least one or two of our vehicles with the goo. What he found was that wearing shorts was not a good idea when one decides to step out onto logs that someone else has placed in a mud hole. The logs did not come there naturally. They were put there by some schmuck who has already learned that driving into the mud was a bad idea. Next thing he knew he was crotch deep in mud, holding on to floating logs for dear life to prevent himself from sinking further into the bottomless mire. I know it wasn’t Christian to roll on the ground laughing as he tried to pull his feet free - especially when the ambient temperature of the mud had to be barely above freezing – but hey, we can’t all be saints!

After several minutes, Ollie did manage to extricate himself, with absolutely no help from us, I might add. In our defense, we DID empty all our personal water bottles over his thickly coated legs to wash off a little of the really stinky black mud. The rest of us steered around the mud hole via a simple detour, and a couple hundred yards down the road found a nice clear steam for him to finish washing in. Of course he had to stand in it as we gave him lots of advice on the proper methods of extracting semi-frozen mud with semi-frozen stream water. Somebody found a pair of old jeans in their jeep so he wasn’t cold AND naked, but no one had a pair of shoes to spare.

Ollie scrubbed up with as much dignity as he could muster, then magnanimously offered to allow one of the other drivers to break trail while he critiqued their technique from behind. No one had the heart to say anything mean as we watched Ollie limp barefooted and shivering back to his jeep and climb in. There was, however, a lot of coughing and snorting going on, probably NOT due to hay fever.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and though surprised to hear Ollie order a cup of coffee instead of ice cream in Moab, we wisely kept our comments to ourselves. Oh, but the picture of him standing there, coated with about two inches of mud from toenail to thigh…excuse me, I need a drink of water…

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