Working pretty much alone for more than 30 years in an area that covered more than 5,000 square miles of 3 counties in Wyoming and 2 in Montana, I was the lone service man for a rural telephone company which led to some very interesting situations. Here’s number 2, a sequel to number 1.
The isolated ranch on Lower Powder River still had phone service, but on a very shaky and temporary basis. It is interesting to note that quite a few places the cooperative phone company extended service to still did not have commercial power. Hunters from the East thought that was rather unique that places which relied on gas or kerosene for lighting could boast a telephone.
High water conditions and washouts meant that I wouldn’t be able to return to the ranch by conventional means. Who could tell how long the rodents that had caused the outage would “undo” the temporary fix. I considered horseback which meant unloading near the old town site of Passaic and following the Little Remington drainage to the ranch, but another idea presented itself. One of the guys who worked for the REA was a dealer for an early version of a class later to known as an ATV. It was basically a plastic bathtub with six wheels and a motor. He claimed it could swim. I said, “Well see.”
The company agreed to rent the machine but Powder River was really rolling and REALLY dangerous! However, if I could “swim” Clear Creek above the confluence with the Powder, I could drive overland three or four miles, packing all the essential tools and material needed.
At the Rowley ranch I unloaded the six wheel “Gator” and tried it out in Clear Creek which was in flood stage too. Pointing the nose upstream and giving it the gun, the nose tried to duck under and water poured over the front. Back on the bank I emptied the water and tried again, but this time I stood in the back seat to tilt the nose up. It worked!
I loaded the tools and wire and tied my longest rope to a handle on the back. Pointing the nose upstream and angling toward the opposite bank I gave the Gator full throttle. We were backing downstream at an alarming rate and several hundred yards on down I could see the whitecaps where Clear Creek flowed into Powder River. If it didn’t look like I’d make it, I had planned to jump out with the rope and tie it to a tree on the nearest bank so at least the Gator wouldn’t end up in the Powder River. Halfway across I increased the angle and made it with several hundred feet to spare.
From there on it was a piece of cake. Up and down across each east-west drainage on my way north, I got to the ranch with enough time to replace the chewed up wiring under the house, have a cup of coffee while the cowboy admired the Gator stating, “Looks pretty good, but what about cactus?”
I told him I’d have been there even sooner but I spent a lot of time avoiding cactus and I dang sure hoped I didn’t get a flat on this side of Clear Creek. He allowed as how he’d stick with his horse.
I did get back to the creek crossing before dark, traveled upstream further than my first entry point, crossed with no problems and chalked this little adventure as just another day in the life of “doing whatever it takes”.
Thinking back about this sort of thing it seems that my boss had a rather cavalier attitude about how I did my job, but on the other hand he was usually devoid of much detail. When he asked me, “How’d it go?” I said, “Pretty good.”