In the last two weeks, I have recounted the nightmare experience that Mike McGill and I had on Little River. Today, I will conclude the story. Let’s look back at a timeline of the details so far:
1 p.m. Launched canoe into Little River at Bridge on Highway 164
1-6 p.m. Fished and canoed down Little River.
6 p.m. Canoed Under Hardy Road Bridge.
7:30 p.m. Made one and only cell phone call to Dorris McGill.
**Phones subsequently went dead for the rest of the trip.
8:30 p.m. Darkness arrived
10:30 p.m. Capsized canoe
11:30 p.m. Reached spot where river was impassable due to fallen trees.
11:45 p.m. Climbed rock bluff to get out of river.
By the time we got over the bluff and out of the thicket surrounding the river, it was straight up midnight. We were trapped between the river and 450 acres of continuous corn (I know this from talking to Stan Baker the next morning). Mike and I walked the perimeter of the corn for around 35 minutes. As we walked, we brushed up against the outside row to try and ensure good footing. At around 12:35, we stopped in our tracks. The corn left the river, veered toward the middle of the field, then veered back down to the river. It seemed like sort of a V formation. We knew there was a reason that the tractor did not continue to plant straight across the field. We decided to not cross straight on and follow the V instead. We were walking in single file formation with Mike McGill in front. It was so dark that we could not clearly see where we were placing our footsteps. After walking the 40 yards up the V, we started back down toward where the corn met the river. After about three steps back down along the V of the corn, I disappeared from the face of the earth. I had stepped a few inches too far to the right and had fallen straight down a 15-foot ravine. We had been walking on the edge of a ravine and didn’t even know it. Mike could barely see me lying in a heap at the bottom. I had ridden the right side of my body all the way down. He immediately asked me if I could move and if I had broken anything. I knew I was hurt, but I didn’t know how badly. I was bleeding from various parts of the right side of my body, and my arm and leg were swelling quickly. I didn’t think anything was broken, so I began to get to my feet. The ravine was too steep for Mike to come after me. Therefore, I began my second climb of the night in total darkness. Mike reached down to give me a hand up and over the top edge of the ravine.
As I got to my feet at 12:45, the situation was as follows. Mike was bleeding from his chin and mouth and I from my right elbow, arm, hip and knee. We were quite a sight. We were also wet and tired as we had been on this journey for 12 hours now. Still, we had to keep walking. Meanwhile, Mike’s wife Dorris was still waiting for us on Hardy Road Bridge. She had been joined by Cadiz Police Chief Hollis Alexander and his wife Denise. Her son-in-law and daughter Stacy and Janay Futrell as well as son-in-law Kevin Terrell had also joined the crew at the bridge. Lonnie Stewart had also stopped on his way home, offered help and remained with the growing crowd.
Mike and I walked the perimeter of the corn for another 30 minutes after I had fallen in the ravine. It was 1:15 a.m. Finally, we saw the glow of a security light and reasoned that it had to be near a house or structure. The corn was so tall we could not see the light itself. By the way, the only route to the light was straight across one half mile of nine-foot tall no-till corn. We knew we would lose any sight of the light’s glow once we entered the tall corn. Therefore we picked out a constellation of stars right above the light before we entered the corn. Then we began the last and maybe toughest test of our journey. We walked, wandered and fought the corn. It was so suffocating that we had to put our hands in front of us and part them as if replicating the breast stroke of a swimmer in order to get through the corn. Halfway through the journey, I lost my left tennis shoe. With every step from that point on I stubbed my toe on a corn stalk as I finished the walk barefooted.
Finally, at 1:45 a.m, we walked out of the corn and saw a house and our beloved security light. The house sat upon a one lane chip-and-seal road. At first, we decided to walk toward the main road, choosing not to have to knock on someone’s door in the middle of the night. After about a hundred yards, we decided to go back and knock on the door. Upon arriving back at the house, I approached the door, hoping we could not get shot. I knocked loudly and started explaining who we were and what had happened. I said that I was a teacher and coach and that I wrote a column for The Cadiz Record. With that, an elderly woman replied, “I know who you are. I read your column.” I had never appreciated my job as a columnist for The Cadiz Record as much as I did at that particular moment. The lady allowed us to use her phone, and I called 911 and asked them to call off the search that I just intuitively knew had begun. As a matter of fact, 28 of Trigg County’s fine members of the Rescue Squad had already gone out as well as some concerned individuals. I also called my wife, Penny, who spread the word of our safety. By 2:15 a.m., Stacy and Janay came in one truck and Jesse Frye in another and picked us up.
By 2:30 a.m., Mike McGill was getting his chin sewn up at Trigg County Hospital. His cut required eight stitches. I decided incorrectly that I did not need to see the doctor. I would just clean my wounds and put some ice on them. By 3 a.m., both Mike and I had made it to the safety of our respective homes.
The next day, Saturday, Stacy and Jesse launched a canoe close to where we had left ours. They managed to find our canoe and bring it back to us. Stacy’s son Graham even found the one item we lost – my tackle box. Guess what? My truck keys were still in it. Thank you, Graham.
Oh by the way, one last update. Mike McGill is doing well. He has even grown a cool salt-and-pepper goatee to cover the scar from the stitches. As for me, I went for two weeks and my right arm, elbow and wrist were not doing so well. Therefore, I finally went to the doctor and he sent me for x-rays. The x-rays showed I have a fractured wrist and elbow. By the time you read this, I will be at the orthopedic surgeon. Maybe I will get him to look at my knee also.
Even after all this, I can’t wait to get back on the river ... as soon as our wives Dorris and Penny decide to lift our status to ungrounded, that is.
OT: A big thanks to Jonathan King and my son Zeke for staking out another bridge or two looking for us.
OTT: How spooky is this? The road we were picked up on used to be called Slaughterhouse Road!
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.