My weak will to live combined with a poorly calibrated fear instinct are huge assets in my line of work. Most of the time.
One of my weaknesses is rally driving of all sorts. I love the Dakar. I love World Rally
Championship. I drive a semi-retired rally car as my daily driver, which costs me piles of money. In fact it’s in the shop today for cracks in the lower brackets of the K-Sport off road suspension. I talked to the manufacturer yesterday and took a grim pride in his comment, “I’ve never heard of that happening before.” I don’t know why I’m like this. It must be the same mental disorder that puts me in whitewater kayaks and chasing dangerous game, sheep and goats.
Anyhow, I like rental cars. I’m not going to incriminate myself here by sharing dates, locations and details of incidents. I will tell you a quick tale that will make one thing clear; Mike Schoby’s nerves and bowels are iron.
Schoby and Alice Poluchova, the big boss at CZ USA along with still photographer, Ron Hill and I gathered near Rifle, CO for a cougar hunt the winter before last. You can watch a bit here to get a taste:
In case you want to hunt cougars like this, we hunted with old school cat legend, Andy Julius (He’s so old-school he doesn’t have a web page, Google him) along with the crew from Silver Spur Outfitters. These guys are aces all around and have a lot of history in the cougar hunting world.
That’s Andy on the radio at the beginning of the clip. The man lives lions. He’ll blow your mind.
Back to our rally tale, Alice gets her cat and we drive her into Grand Junction so she can head home. It’s snowing like mad. We’re driving a rental Nissan Armada, which in my opinion is a great snow rig when THE MAN is paying for gas. Now for some reason, way back when Philo T. Farnsworth invented television, he decided camera monkeys should drive always and forever. “Talent” (the people yapping on your TV), need road-time to sleep, eat hamburgers, write things in little notebooks and talk on the phone. Therefore, I’m driving.
Admittedly, I’m accustomed to lighter, quicker all-wheel-drive sleds, so maybe my skills weren’t just right for navigating this high tech school bus. As we rally back to the ranch, the snow is falling so hard fence posts are my most reliable navigational tool. The road looks like the field and the field looks like the road. About five miles from the ranch house, Schoby mentions he really needs to move his bowels. SOON. Meanwhile Ron Hill is leaning forward from the back seat with no seatbelt on telling me I need to slow down.
It seems unreasonable to me that a man can be both scared in a truck and simultaneously not wear his seatbelt. I very diplomatically point out this incongruity as we slide around a 90 degree left turn guided by barbed wire on both sides. Ron disagrees. As we bomb down the snowy, deserted road, I explain to him that we are about to do a research project.
I explain, I’ll give him a notepad and a pencil and then we will torpedo the Nissan into
a telephone pole at the bottom of the snowy road once without his seatbelt on. Ron will then write down how he feels and make note of his injuries and his general sense of well-being. We will then repeat the charge on the telephone pole approximating the same speed and angle of impact, but this time he wear his safety belt. Then he’ll jot down his fresh injuries and sense of well-being. Of course this second sense of well-being will need to be handicapped somewhat due to the first crash.
As I’m explaining this plan, I’m being very polite and looking over my shoulder to make eye contact to communicate my sincerity to Ron. As I turn back to check the road, I see the fenceposts continue on into the white yonder as Mike hollers, “Turn, turn, turn!!!”
The truck tries to fight gravity by summoning the spirits of both Bo and Luke Duke, but quickly succumbs to physics. Ron’s torso is lodged between the front seats, his cameras scatter and shatter like a kid’s marbles and snow is up to just below the windows. Ron is not happy. I’m pretty sure once Schoby finished laughing he reminded me that he really needed to hit the can before having adrenaline surge through his body. The truck is going nowhere on its own and now we walk the next two miles back to the ranch house.
I was sure glad I wore my safety belt and didn’t need to take a crap. Those two looked uncomfortable.
If you stuck it out this far in this blog,here’s your REWARD.