A Really Bad Road

In the early, 1960’s, my Dad and I had found a great place to hunt ducks and squirrels and fish for some hungry bass. The place was in the Trinity River bottom, between Dayton and Liberty, Texas, but before we could “bring home the bacon”, we had to conquer a truly, terrible road.

We would enter “The Bottoms”, as we called it, at a remote place near Dayton, at the Kennefic Fire Tower, then proceed down five miles of this truly, terrible, probably the worst road, in the United States. The road was always flooded, mud was axel deep on a jeep, deceiving ruts covered bogs and it was also the home of the largest mosquitoes on the Gulf Coast!

The road was only part of the challenge. The leaseholder of the land, we never met formally, would come by several times during the week to check on his cattle and hogs and to scare poachers out. He chased us out one time mounted on a horse! When the river was up and out of its banks you couldn’t possibly get in. But when you could get in, the creeks and sloughs provided some of the best bass fishing and duck and squirrel hunting to be found.

After hearing my Dad and I talk about the fabulous hunting and fishing opportunities, my brother in law, Jim Buck, was desperate to get down in “The Bottoms”. Just a month before, in one of the many sloughs, my Dad and I had a very enjoyable afternoon fishing there, catching one to two pound bass. My dad had a friend with a jeep with mud grip tires and a “new” Warn winch that was mounted on its front bumper. If we got stuck, we hooked up to a tree and let the winch pull us out. That’s the way to conquer “The Bottoms”.

Well, Jim found, for $500.00, a 1947 Jeepster Station Wagon, four wheel drive, a rusted, green color, but mechanically sound, that he promptly purchased. “Jimmy, we need a winch. Did you get one for the front bumper?” I asked him. He replied, “No, I have something better, a hand winch which we can use front or back.” At that time, I had a very elementary knowledge of mechanics and uses of a hand winch so I thought we were fine. I quickly learned different!

The Jeepster easily made the trip to the Kennific Fire Tower and it turned out that it ran very well on a smooth road. Pulling up to the gate in the not light, early morning, it was locked, but we knew where the key was hidden, and since there was no sign of the leaseholder, in we went! Many times during the day to follow I had wished for the evil leaseholder to show us up and “help” us out of this infernal place.

We navigated the first six hundred yards and came to the first boggy spot. The Jeepster, and its skinny road tires, we never had thought about mud grips, plowed gamely through the muck and deposited us safely onto solid ground. “Piece of cake”, we thought.

Another low spot, spinning tires, mud flying everywhere, then stuck! No problem we had our hand winch. There was a tree close by in front of us, very convenient, and we hooked on and began cranking the winch and the vehicle moved, all of six inches. Twenty minutes of cranking and we were out of the mud and sailing down the “road”.

Winching through three more bogs we noticed the sun was up, it was hot and humid and the mosquitoes were out in force. We had missed the sunrise fishing we had planned on. No worry, so little fishing pressure where were going, the bass would hit all day.

More bogs, more winching. We were both wet and covered head to toe in mud and it was getting close to noon, we wouldn’t have much time to fish. We gamely “soldiered on”. We hit this one spot that I had worried about on the way in – a fifty foot run through bog, mud and water – and we splashed in, four wheels spinning, and made no progress. Stuck again.

No tree was close by, so I volunteered to push. Maybe that would help. It did for five feet. Still, no tree near, and we were really stuck! Finding small logs and branches to give our street tires some traction, we inched forward until we could reach a tree with our winch line. Crank, six inches. Crank, six inches. Crank, six inches. This ceased to be fun. Crank, six inches. Solid ground and we broke for a late lunch.

We assessed our situation. Over the past seven hours we estimated that we had made about three miles. We were almost out of water. We had been stuck twelve times. If the Jeepster didn’t break, at this rate, we would get to our fishing spot about dark.

It finally dawned on both of us that, maybe, we didn’t have the right equipment. We could always blame the Jeepster – no mud grip tires. We could blame the weather – that last big rain really made a mess of the always, bad road. We could blame the leaseholder – maybe he had come in with a Dodge Power Wagon and deliberately ruined the road. Admitting a tactical defeat, we turned around and headed out.

Even though we didn’t even wet a line or catch any fish, there were some good things to come out of this ill-fated trip. We only got stuck seven times coming out. We got out just before dark. I did not have to push. We “made” the leaseholder some new road. And, best of all, we dried out before we got home!