It was the second morning of big game season. A fresh snow had fallen in the early hours of the day, and deer tracks were easy to spot in the headlights of the half-ton. Deer, like all big game, take advantage of snowfall to hide their tracks. By 8:30 I had covered a few miles, looking for places where there might be some movement. I did rouse a doe, but she was too near her escape route for me to get a shot.
I kept on travelling areas that were scouted before the season. By 10:30 I was about 20 miles from home. I came across three sets of fresh deer tracks going into a 30-acre farmsite with which I was familiar. I circled a bluff to see if the animals had passed through.
That was the beginning of my ordeal. At the first low draw, my truck broke through the crust of ice. I was stuck but good. I shut the motor off, went to the back and got the tow rope hooked onto the back bumper, ready for a pull when someone came along the road. I left my rifle and ammo, and the keys in the ignition. Nobody is going to steal it, I thought, and if I’m not there, they will have access to operating it.
I left all my equipment in the cab and headed toward the farmyard.
At first I stood on the road in hopes of flagging down a vehicle for help. There were two vehicles in sight that were heading away from me, whose drivers’ attention I could not attract. I paced the road for a while and was getting pretty cold. The nearest occupied farm was two miles away. I knew that with my knee replacement, I would not make it.
I looked in the barn for a means of conveyance, but to no avail.
My next thought was how I would gain entrance to that warm house. The owners had retired to Humboldt, but left a low heat on for the winter. Checking the lock system on the doors, I found the one off the veranda was accessible. Breaking and entering was the least of my worries.
The house was toasty, the thermostat set at 16C; good enough. I went back out to the road to hail anyone coming by. When I got really cold I went back to the house. I had no food or water with me, so I investigated the residence. There was water in a pail but no utensil to boil it in.
Downstairs I found an electric water bottle. I took it upstairs and cleaned it as best I could, and added water to boil up. There was nothing to add to it, so that was my menu.
By evening I knew I had to spend the night. My thoughts went to my family and what their strategy would be when I didn’t show up at home. My wife later told me she had informed the rest of the family and their search was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
I turned the thermostat to 20C and reboiled the water several times throughout the night. I kept the lights on and flashed the upstairs light on and off every 15 minutes. Then I flashed it in Morse code: three long, three short. Nothing I did attracted any attention.
By morning I had consumed six cups of hot water and didn’t feel too hungry but was worried about the family. I was warm and cosy, but they didn’t know that.
Before daybreak I knew I had to get serious about my next move.
I had used a three-tine fork for a cane, so I began to make a sign to put up at the road. It read, in big letters: Need Help. Come to the House.
Mike Daviduk of Wadena brought his sign into the News office.
By 10:30 there was still no traffic.
Mike, I told myself, you’ve got to go to the nearest neighbours’, two miles away. I went back to the road and cut two willow canes for balance. Upon checking the sign, I saw the three deer had come up to it for a sniff and gone on their merry way. Some hunter!
I whittled the willow sticks into a comfortable hold and started walking, carrying a five-gallon pail for the times I needed to rest my knees and catch my wind. I may be 85 years old but come hell or high water, I was going for help.
I happened to look to my right and there was a silver half-ton coming to my aid. It was two of my friends from Quill Lake. They had a cellphone — hallelujah! — so all turned out well. The first thing I asked them to do (one of the men was already talking to my son-in-law) was call my wife. “I just did,” he said. I asked him to take me to the nearest farm for help. No! I’m taking you to Wadena, “no ifs or buts.”
What a godsend, and such a relief that my family knew I was OK.
I’ve heard stories about survival: Don’t panic, turn your mind to your next step, and believe in your decision. That’s why you were born with a brain.
It all turned out well. Have faith in God and he will bless you.
Submitted by Mike Daviduk