When you live in a remote locale, getting hurt could be a life or death affair. We are at least 2 hours from our small-town health clinic, and the nearest trauma hospital is in Seattle, which would require a helicopter transport after the somewhat challenging 2-hour journey to town. Nate and I constantly talk about the scenarios of what would happen if one of us sustained a major injury. We are even prepared to perform triage on each other in the event of a serious accident. We have a stock of medical supplies that include things like a skin staple gun, needle and stitching thread for sutures, antiseptics, and other wound care materials.
Nate regularly jokes that if something happens to him that renders him unconscious or unable to move on his own, he would be out of luck since I’m not strong enough to carry him. We’ve had many discussions about how I would get him down the hill to our boat or snow machine. I assure him that in an emergency, I could roll him onto my shoulder and drag him down to the dock. Nate doesn’t believe me.
We have done a few test trials to see if I could carry Nate, but he gives up every time just as I try to heave him up because he’s afraid I’m going to drop him. I don’t think this proves anything. In an emergency, I think Nate will be either incapacitated or desperate, or both, and therefore, it will be easier for me to prop him up or drag him around. I also think Nate will have more faith in me when I’m all he’s got to save his life! In the worst case scenario, I think I can roll him up in our cow hide rug, and drag him down the hill, or put together some kind of make-shift stretcher to pull him around. One way or another, I’m sure I can get him to the boat dock. What I’m less sure of is being able to get serious medical care in any kind of a timely manner.
We have heard that in a life or death emergency, you can call the Coast Guard and they might send a helicopter straight to our property for about $50,000. There’s also some kind of accident insurance that you can buy for $60 a year that ensures a free helicopter ride to medical care. Thankfully, we have only had a few bumps and bruises since moving here two years ago. Our friend walked the entire length of the lake and back on one of our zero degree days, and one of his toes developed frost bite. As soon as Nate heard about it, he called him up to remind him that he has all of the medical tools necessary to amputate his toe.
Most of the time, Nate and I are both painstakingly vigilant about being careful and cautious so that we don’t get injured out here. We try to be careful every moment of every day, but, we had a serious “close call” the other day.
Last year, Nate rigged up a pulley system to haul heavy items up our front yard hill in the winter. Using the 4-wheeler, he pulls a snow sled up the hill with a rope that he has threaded through a chain, secured to the foundation of our cabin. The pulley sled works great and we use it mostly when we are hauling large bucked pieces of wood to our cabin to use for firewood. Each of these bucked rounds weighs between 70-100 pounds, so the pulley sled makes moving 50 or 100 of these huge pieces up the hill a project that takes only a few hours, instead of a few days.
Our system is pretty simple. Nate stands at the bottom of the hill and fills the snow sled with 3 or 4 of these bucked rounds of wood. Then he jumps on the 4-wheeler and backs it up, pulling the sled up the hill to where the rope runs through the chain ring. I stand at the top and when the sled comes up, I empty the bucked pieces, then signal for Nate to move the four-wheeler forward, releasing the tension on the rope, and I push the sled back down the hill, guiding its path straight by holding the rope in both of my hands. It’s been a pretty great system so far.
The other day, we were using this pulley system and I had some trouble keeping the sled straight on its path downhill. On this particular day, the ground on the hill was mostly smooth, slick ice, with very little snow, making the sled difficult to control. I lowered the sled down trying to direct its path, but it kept sliding down the wrong way. I was in the middle of pulling it up again for the third time to try and straighten it out, and I didn’t realize that Nate had decided to help me by pulling it up with the four-wheeler. I had wrapped the rope around my wrist several times to get a better grip on it, and I was tugging the sled uphill when I heard the four-wheeler engine start. Before I realized what was happening, Nate starting backing up, pulling the rope with the 4-wheeler.
The the rope immediately tightened around my wrist, pulled me to the ground and dragged me across the snow to where the rope is threaded through the chain. In my mind, I saw the scenario of what was about to happen. I saw my wrist getting mangled, or my hand getting cut off by the force of the 4-wheeler trying to pull the rope with my hand twisted around it through the small chain link . The only way I was going to avert a complete catastrophe was to somehow get Nate’s attention and make him stop the four-wheeler. I knew that it was going to be almost impossible for him to hear me. And, he could not see me because the trees were blocking his vision. But, screaming was my only hope. I screamed as loud and as horrific as I could. The sound of my scream even scared me, but I knew that this was a potential very bad outcome. This scream could save my hand.
Angels must have carried my voice down the hill to Nate’s ears because right when my wrist reached the ring on the post where my wrist would have met the resistance of the small metal ring, the 4-wheeler stopped. I laid there with my wrist still taut against the beam and the rope squeezing my wrist. I almost couldn’t believe that he had stopped the four-wheeler. I let out another scream to make sure that Nate understood that there was a problem. Luckily, he somehow figured out what was going on and he drove the four-wheeler forward to release the tension on the rope.
I quickly unwrapped my wrist, but I laid there stunned that my wrist and hand were still intact and unscathed. Nate climbed up the hill in about half a second and he was on top of me, assessing the situation. I’ve never seen his face look so scared. I told him that I was fine, that I only had a slight red mark on my wrist from the constriction of the rope. He said that he has never heard me scream like that before and it terrified him. Once he realized I was alright, he chastised me, saying, “Don’t EVER wrap a rope around your wrist again!”
We finished moving the load of bucked rounds up the hill using our pulley system, and afterwards, I was more tired than usual, probably because of all of the adrenaline running through my system. Later that evening, when we were inside sitting by the fire recalling our close call earlier that day, Nate joked, “I’ll bet that’s the way you would scream if you were being eaten alive by a bear.” It was an odd comment, but, honestly, that’s what I was thinking about, too. I always wondered if Nate would hear me scream if I was being attacked by a bear on our property. Now, I’m sure that in the event of an emergency, I will be able to muster the scream needed to get Nate’s attention.
I am convinced, however, that it was a miracle that Nate was able to hear me that day. It’s almost impossible to hear any voice calling out between our dock and our house. And, on top of that, Nate was sitting on a running 4-wheeler, which makes it even more difficult to hear anything.
I’m glad I didn’t have to board the coast guard helicopter bound for Seattle that day, although it would have been quite a spectacle to see that aircraft land on our little lake! I’m happy that all that I remember from that day is that a little miracle that took place.