In about 1993 (ish) I was fresh(ish) out of the Army and trying to figure out a path for my life. I had connected with Jay, an old high school friend, and often our path would lead from SouthWest Houston to Freeport Texas for surf trips (yes you can surf in Texas, you just have to be patient….really……really….patient.) We would load up my Ford Bronco II (I swear this isn’t a car blog but…I’m a guy so…) with our surfboards and a cooler and be ready for a day. We would usually head to Surfside Beach near the Freeport Harbor Channel where the waves had a good chance (well as good as any ) of building up against the long jetty that defined the north side of the channel.
On one particular day though the waves were coming from the other direction and the jetty was actually blocking the swell. We looked in the channel because when conditions were right there could be amazing waves in there. Of course, in the channel, the conditions were always right for large bullsharks (bullsharks of any size are a nuisance but the large ones are more than pesky as they won’t be happy with less than a leg) so the waves had to be really good to take a chance at putting yourself on the menu. The waves in the channel on this day were just short of being worth risking life and limb for so we decided that the best course of action would be to pick up out of Freeport, go back across the intracoastal waterway (via the tall, skinny, waiting to fall over when I’m on top of it bridge), and take the ferry to Quintanna Beach where we thought the waves should be building up on the other side of the channel. It was about a 45 minute drive and we could have paddled across the channel in about 10 minutes provided we didn’t see any fins, or about 2.5 minutes if we did (or even thought we did.) But, once again, we were young and had more time than limbs so we drove around.
We got to Quintanna Beach only to find that the most perfect and beautifully formed 6 inch waves…. (that’s a really small wave for you non-surfers.) At this point we were sitting in a 4×4 with a cooler of beer on the beach with nothing to do, a dangerous situation for men under 25 (not as dangerous as the bullsharks but still I should have felt the dark clouds building up on my future.) We finished a beer (this was about 12 years before I quit drinking and about 5 years after I should have quit drinking) and decided that donuts on the sand on a deserted beach was only fun for so long and we left the beach in search of more challenging offroad… um… challenges.
Well, the only thing flatter than the surf that day was the landscape of Quintanna Beach Texas so the offroading was almost, but not quite as exciting as watching the mosquitos bash their heads against the glass of the Bronco II as they tried to get to us. We drove down the farm road that divided the beach from the grazeland for cattle (I always loved the juxtaposition of surfers and cowboys, and sometimes surfer/cowboys being just a blacktop apart) when we saw looming ahead was a 50 ft. high pile of earth that looked like it stretched about a mile back into the grazeland and about 5 miles down along the road. We saw a small dirt trail at the closest corner and after a small veer to the right we were happily climbing the bumpy trail to our adventure.
When we got to the top we saw that the mound of dirt was expansive, there was a ring that formed the perimeter that came up from the outside about 50 ft., had a road on top that was about 8 ft across, and then dipped back down about 8 ft. to a vast landscape of cracked and dried mud/sand. It was fun for a while just being up there, we had a great view of the beach and the new trail held our attention for a time.
*You may have noticed by now that there isn’t much dialogue between Jay and I, this isn’t because we weren’t talking but rather due to the fact that at this age our vocabulary was pretty much limited to “Dude!” or “Dude?” with a light spattering of comedic flatulence or belching. I felt it best to spare the reader of all that.
Boredom was once again setting in and we had only brought a six pack (I know I never should have been drinking and driving, that lesson was to come later) so it was time to turn around and head back. I probably could have stayed on the top of the path and done a 6 point turn (who remembers driving school? a six point turn is like a three point turn but with about twice the points, it’s used for very narrow roads) but when you have a 4×4 and some mud… well… bad decisions will be made. I decided to leave the path.
“Dude?” Jay interjected, but it was too late. I went down into the muddy side to turn around and instantly got stuck. “Dude?!” he exclaimed but I calmingly stated, “Duuuude…. 4 wheel drive.” I confidently shifted to 4 wheel drive and then got out to lock the front hubs… I was a little nervous at how deep we were but figured the Ford Bronco II could handle it. I got back in, put it back in gear, and lightly applied the gas to get the best traction and absolutely nothing happened. Dude.
We got out, and our first thought was the cooler, two beers left was exactly what we needed to assess our situation. We were not exactly in the middle of nowhere but we wouldn’t have had a far walk to get there. We walked up and down the path a bit looking for something to put under the tires to get more traction. Unfortunately since nobody (almost) was stupid enough to drive up there nothing ever got left up there. From our vantage point we could see the lights of a little township/neighborhood. We left the path and walked the 50 ft. down the berm and toward the lights.
For the entire walk Jay was shaking his head and whispering various incantations of “Dude..” As we got closer to the lights we heard the sound, I finally understood what the word raucous ment. A bar up on stilts (all the buildings are up on stilts near the Texas Coast) was the source of the light and the sound, and possible furey at two surfers barging in to ask for help. We walked up the wooden steps and we opened the screen door with a squeak and a slam when we let it go. The music and conversation ground to a halt and all eyes were on us, at least that’s what I imagined would happen. In stead, no one looked up or even gave any indication of noticing us. We looked at each other, shrugged, and silently agreed to order a beer before asking for help.
As we walked to the bar I heard someone shouting my name, I wasn’t expecting someone to be calling me and my name is common and also sounds like someone with a cold calling for their mom. But, this one really was calling my name, in dang near the middle of nowhere someone was calling my name. Through the haze of the day and cigarette smoke I saw a familiar face. “It’s me Jed!” Jed (not his real name) was a guy who graduated with us had taken a job in dow chemical and was living in Quintanna beach. He bought us beers and asked what we were doing. After the long explanation that was frequently interrupted by his laughter he decided he could help us out. “I can’t believe you’d be so stupid as to drive on the spill way for the dredge from the channel. That is 50 deep of mud! But don’t worry my girlfriends mom has a ’76 El Dorado with a 500 cu (a really big engine for you non car folks) it’s got front wheel drive, we can get you unstuck.’
We piled into the El Dorado while I was still protesting that the thing wouldn’t go up the hill. Since my credibility was shot by driving out onto the spillway in the first place no one wanted to listen to me. Of course the Cadillac couldn’t climb the hill and we were forced to turn around. We went back to the bar and obviously word had gotten out that something exciting was happening and there were twice as many people there. Shouts and laughter were going up along with shouts of, “I can get you unstuck, fifty bucks,” with several variations on that theme. We eventually piled into the back of a big dually Chevy (also owned by Jay’s girlfriend’s mom) and were up the hill with half the town training behind in their own vehicles. This was now an event.
At the top of the hill I got out and attached straps to my Bronco II and and looked back down to the road, there were lawn chairs and fog lights and almost as much hooting and hollaring as there was beer. With the straps hooked to both vehicles Jed gunned the Chevy and spun the wheels spraying dirt and rocks all over me Jay. The Bronco II didn’t budge. Jed looked out his window, “Wow, you are really stuck!”
Jed decided that pulling along the road was not going to work and decided to drive won the big side of the hill to get more leverage. I was worried about the angle but he was confident, the same kind of confident that I had to get stuck in the first place. Not only could he not get me out by this direction but he also couldn’t get back up. I unhooked the straps and I thought he would let his truck roll down to the road bue in true Jed form he floored it and plowed through the ditch and almost over some of the spectators as the crowd went wild. At this point I decided it was time to give up, enough spectacle and enough good intended but useless help, it was time to call on the one who could do the job. A tow truck driver. I used my AAA cared (thanks mom!) and got a wrecker out there. The first thing he said was, “Wow, you are really stuck!” he followed with commentary about how stupid it was to drive out there and how he couldn’t believe that anyone would ever even try… at any rate he got me unstuck (he also unstuck $80 from my checking account) and we were on our way home. It was nighttime, I was now more than sober, a little muddy, and really tired. I looked at Jay and he put his hands up and said the only thing that would fit the situation, “Dude.”
The moral? I didn’t even know it then but this wouldn’t be the last time I’d leave the path and get stuck. Everyone leaves the path and walk toward sin, most of us even look to several methods of getting unstuck. We try everything from our friend’s girlfriend’s mom’s El Dorado to our friend’s girlfriend’s mom’s Chevy Dually… all these things just get us more stuck and more desperate. It’s not until we call the one Man that we can always count on that we can be saved. I left the path and was really stuck, when I finally called Jesus for help he was there for me and he said, “I can get you unstuck” and he did.
When I have trouble finding the path I remember that I am not in charge and I pray…
Proverbs 16:9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”