While I claim a light brunette as my natural hair color, I do — from time to time — have some “blonde moments.” I’ve come to claim these moments as “stupid Hannah moments,” and there are many to choose from. This column series will tell some of my favorites.
Earlier this summer, I visited extended family at the farm up north. I took the four-wheeler ATV out for a quick spin before I was supposed to leave, joking with Grandma as I walked out the door, “I promise not to get it stuck.” I just wish I would’ve remembered to knock on wood as I left the house.
The early summer had been fairly dry, and the swampy marsh that’s typically impassable had turned to caked mud with tall reeds.
Being the adventurer that I am, I passed the grove of trees — typically where the earth turns to swamp — and pushed my way forward about 75 yards to the next grove of trees at higher ground. Feeling good about the traction on the trail, I passed that grove of trees and continued on, squatting over the seat and using my legs as shock absorbers as my arms pivoted back and forth as I maneuvered around the bumps.
I came across a puddle, and at this point feeling a bit invincible, gently pressed the throttle forward, certain I could gently get through if I took it easy. Next thing I knew, the nose of the ATV was pivoted downward and water was flooding up. Turns out, that puddle was a creek, and I had taken a nose-dive straight into it. I knew it was bad when, within seconds, water rose to just above where my ankles would be had I not pulled my feet up.
Being the stubborn girl I am, I didn’t want to call for help. I hiked up my shorts and, with my old running shoes on, jumped into the swamp water, grateful we live in Minnesota and not the south where the alligators roam — while simultaneously not trying to freak out about the spider that I just saw scramble around the four-wheeler. For about 15 minutes, I did everything I could think of to try to get the nose out of the water and back onto someplace with traction. I tried moving the four-wheeler over onto another track, centimeter by centimeter, with no luck. I got in front of the ATV, waist-deep in the creek, found a perch for my feet, and heaved while I gently pushed the throttle in reverse. Nothing worked.
I had brought my cellphone with me, as I usually do on these treks for emergency purposes. So I did what I had avoided thus far: I called the house.
“Don’t tell me you got stuck,” was Grandma’s opening sentence.
“Well, stuck could be one way to put it,” I said. She just laughed, which was a relief on my part.
She sent help in the form of my aunt and uncle, who tried bringing the tractor down the path. They quickly aborted that mission, realizing the trail was still too wet for the tractor. So my uncle brought the tractor back, and my aunt walked the 100 yards or so to help me with the four-wheeler.
We pushed, we shoved, and as we were barely able to nudge the nose out of the creek, I lost a shoe. But my love of shoes — particularly, those running shoes — was trumped by my need to get the four-wheeler out of the creek, so I just kept pushing and let my shoe get lost to the muck in the creek Though we had succeeded in getting the nose out of the creek, we still couldn’t get traction enough to move the four-wheeler anywhere, so we walked back to the house — me, with one less shoe, making a strange “squish, step, squish, step” sound as we walked. I also learned that once you get wet — like, really wet — bug spray no longer works, so the sound was more like “squish, step, slap, squish, step, slap.”
Once we got back to the house, we called in neighborly reinforcements.
First came the neighbor kid with his side-by-side ATV. We got out to the scene of the crime just fine, backed up to my ATV, and hooked it up to the side-by-side with a tow rope. I hit reverse as he hit forward. Despite my voiced concerns prior to the attempt, neither of us moved and he buried his side-by-side to the floor in mud, leaving us both stranded.
Then came another neighbor and family friend with his ATV with a winch. He took one look and laughed for a solid 60 seconds before turning to help. He first hooked up the neighbor kid’s side-by-side and pulled him out of the mud, then moved onto my ATV. He pulled me out with no problems, and we made it back to the house — three hours later than I intended to leave.
One thing to note about my family: We tease each other. I was told my punishment would be to tell the rest of my family, including all of my cousins, that I now hold the golden trophy in our family for “most stuck ATV ride.” It’s a good thing I’m among the youngest of all of us, as that taught me how to take the teasing (and dish it right back too).
I recently saw that family friend who helped pull me out, and he thanked me for the entertainment that day. I looked at him and said, “You’re welcome. But I don’t dare do it again.” We both laughed.