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13 Missed Calls…

13 Missed Calls…13 missed calls. Hmmm? 1 new number. Uh oh.

13 missed calls on your cell phone with only one number calling can only be a few things and I could think of none that were good. I’m not married, that eliminates one. Maybe my house was burning down? My lab Harley was with me, so that wasn’t it. That left only one other thing, my Cruisers! 13 missed calls, 4 new messages, oh God; this was definitely not looking good.

The messages I heard digressed more or less as follows. “Nolen, hey man I got my FJ-40 stuck, do you think you can come pull me out?” “Nolen, where the hell are you?” “Nolen, I’m desperate man, it’s cold and we’ve tried everything, call me.” Finally I heard the harrowing words, “Nolen, I borrowed Khaki (my FJ-60) to go pull out my cruiser, hope you don’t mind.”

The caller was my best Cruiser buddy, Steve Carty. Steve is a Cruiserhead as I, yet he is very new to four wheeling so this last message scared me to death! I quickly began working my way through his phone numbers trying to locate him. On the third try I finally reached him on his mobile.

“Khaki’s still out there too.”
Trying to sound cool and collected, I asked, “Did you get your FJ-40 out?” Silence. “Steve, you there?” I asked. “Well, uh, we didn’t get my ’40 out,” he answered. I said, “That’s cool, I’ll grab Kate (my FJ-40) and come get you out.” “Well,” Steve said, “Khaki’s still out there too.” “In the mud?” “Yep.” “Meet me at my house.”

So the adventure began. I have to admit I really love all things Cruiser and off road related, but if there is one thing I hate worse than a broken Birfield, it is mud. I hate mud. I hate mud and all the things mud has done to my Toyotas for the past 16 years. Here it was 7:00 a.m. and I was driving from my parent’s home in Mississippi to recover my stuck cruiser in Louisiana. And I didn’t even have the pleasure of sticking it myself!

A very weary looking Steve met me at my house. As he told it, he and his buddy Max were deer hunting and as he was driving out on a logging road where he subsequently buried his cruiser. Nice. I inquired into the status of Khaki and was told that she was “a little stuck” but “she was almost out.” Well, our initial meeting was over yet strangely I wasn’t feeling any better. So with nothing further to discuss, we climbed into Kate, my FJ-40, and struck out.
Did I tell you that I hate mud?
Armed with dual lockers, 35 inch Super Swampers, and an 8274 Warn winch, I planned to make quick work of this dual recovery. Besides, I had a 5 hour drive to my 4x4 club Christmas party and my tow rig was mired somewhere in a Louisiana swamp!

As we pulled into the cut over forest, I quickly located Steve’s blue and white 1979 FJ-40 buried up to the top of his 33” Goodyear M/T’s. I figured the recovery as a quick “snatch strap” job and then I would move on to recover Khaki (whom I had yet to get a visual on). What I had figured and what the Louisiana swamp had figured were, of course, polar opposites. After I backed into position to snatch Steve’s 40, I hopped out to supervise where he was hooking the strap. I just happened to glance back at my cruiser in time to see my tires sinking into the swamp. This new development forced an immediate change of plans, lest we were going to have 3 stuck cruisers on our hands.

Did I tell you that I hate mud? It took me three long 2F straining lunges just to “extract the extractor.” I needed a new plan. Enter the Warn 8274. I ended up finding what little high ground I could and hooking up to Steve’s ’40. Luckily, it wasn’t stuck too badly since there was no way I was getting close enough to double the line. OK, one down, one to go. Hmmm, I thought my FJ-60 was “almost out.” I couldn’t even see it!
“You said Khaki was almost out?”
A picture is worth a million words, right? Well, I’ll have that picture in my head for the rest of my life. When I walked over to Khaki, she sat on her axles in water filled ruts with the winch played out on the ground in front of her and logs and sticks jammed at every angle under each tire.

I glared at Steve and asked, “You said Khaki was almost out?” “Almost out of where?” “I winched 5 times just to get her where she is,” he said. My eyes followed the water filled ruts that snaked through the woods from where Steve’s FJ-40 was stuck to where Khaki sat. I countered, “I see that, yet where were you going, there is no road here!” “It was dark and…….”

As she sat, Khaki was 200 yards through the roadless, cutover woods. I correctly assessed that the puny Mx8000 Warn winch on the FJ-60 was not going to do this job alone, so off I went to bring the heavy artillery to bear. As I smashed and crashed Kate through the cutover toward Khaki, I couldn’t help but feel despair creeping up on me. Here I was, barely making the trek in my “locked” FJ-40, and I was going to have to get this huge station wagon with 32” M/T’s out the same way. Not good.

When I finally made my way over to Khaki, I found that the only ground hard enough to winch from did not allow me to double the line on the 8274. I tried a single line recovery with no luck at all. The big FJ-60 just squatted and held her ground. Next, I tried using my 8274 single line and the Mx8000 on Khaki together. No dice. Finally, we doubled the line on the 8274 and barely had enough cable by using my 25’ snatch strap to get the line back to the FJ-40. I already had to use a 20’ tow strap to get the measly 90’ cable on the Mx8000 to reach the FJ-40. The moment of truth arrived and we had the right combination. Khaki was free, but the celebration was short-lived. We still had to get her back to the hard ground and that meant she had to go back into the swamp. It was now 11:30 and I had a Christmas party to make. Giddy up!

This is the first time I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Khaki. I was going to try to drive her out. Suddenly, I was side tracked by the colossal amount of mud that was caked on the inside of my truck. I had no idea one person could trash the inside of a vehicle as bad a Steve had managed to the previous night!

I hate to say this, but those of you that have driven a Cruiser in the mud know it already. Long redline mud runs are not exactly what the 2F was made for, and frankly, it’s just not very good at it. Not only was I trying to forget how much mud was inside my Cruiser, but I was also dodging trees while executing a high RPM, 2nd gear, 4 low, mad dash for high ground. Needless to say, I still sank ˝ way to China.
“Steve, have you EVER seen mud on any of my cruisers?” Silence.
At this point there wasn’t much left to do but laugh. I couldn’t kill Steve, his friend Max was there and I wasn’t willing to kill him too, since he was just an innocent by-stander. As I crawled out of Khaki to hook up the winch, Steve misread my smile and said something along the line of “you love this stuff don’t you.” Luckily I had already buried my homicidal thoughts and I answered him in the only civil way I could muster. I said, “Steve, have you EVER seen mud on any of my cruisers?” Silence.

Back to the recovery. Of course the Mx8000 on Khaki would not pull her out single line, therefore it was back to the slow snatch block work. The final two “winchings” covered the final 100 yards to hard ground. Believe me, if you own a war wagon like Khaki and you plan on taking it into the mud, do yourself a favor and invest in a 10 or 12000 lb. winch. You put an FJ-60 on the axles and it takes a lot of guts to get it out.

You may ask if Steve and I are still friends. Of course we are. Cruiserheads stick together as you well know. Steve made it up to me by spending $20 at the pressure washer immediately following the recovery getting the mud out from under Khaki and Kate. The following week he made numerous trips over to clean out the drum brakes and the interior. I called us even, yet next time I left town, I took my keys with me!

Why aren’t there any rocks in Louisiana?

Copyright ©2000 Nolen Grogan