By Dennis Adams
It seems that all outdoorsmen take a fall sooner or later if they stay in the great outdoors long enough. If they are lucky, no one else gets the pleasure to witness the fall. However, in most cases they are not that lucky. If you are the one falling and the fall is witnessed, the best you can hope for is that the witness is sympathetic.
What I find interesting is all the different body motions an individual goes through to prevent a fall. I have seen them flapping their arms so fast that it appeared they were attempting to take flight. If the fall is on ice or some other slick surface some individuals attempt to out run the fall by what appears to be running both backwards and forward at the same time.
However, the best fall to witness is when both running and flying is attempted by the individual in distress. I have observed a few that that I have felt if the individual would have had a little wind for lift that he could have actually got airborne.
What I find most interesting is the ability of the individual to endure the pain of a really serious fall and to jump up as if nothing happened when you know the fall had to hurt. I also enjoy hearing the various excuses one gives for the fall in the first place. One excuse a friend of mine once gave when he was grouse hunting and fell on what appeared to be open ground was that he was down on the ground checking for sign. That same individual was using a cast net on a dock one late night down at Santee Cooper Lake. He attempted to throw the cast net and the weights caught in his shirt and needless to say; he fell in the water. His excuse was that he just wanted to see what type of baitfish was present.
Another friend of mine by the name of Jim has mastered the art of falling. In fact, if they had an Olympic event for it, Jim would stand a good chance to win the gold medal. I have seen Jim fall out of both trees and boats, off logs and just walking on level ground. I tell you that when it comes to falling, Jim makes the rest look like they are walking backwards.
On one occasion we were going to make a late afternoon deer hunt. It should be noted here that when hunting with Jim I always try to hunt as far from him as I can because of all the noise he makes with his gadgets. However, I always stay close enough to cover any escape avenues with the knowledge that if any game does wander into his area that he will run it to me. Since we would be hunting a very small area that afternoon and any noise would ruin the hunt, I refused to let Jim bring anything with him other then his rifle and ammunition. I even drove my truck to prevent him from sneaking some gadgets along.
We arrived at the farm we were going to hunt and I gave Jim some very specific instructions on where to go and set. I told him to go into the woods until he came to a small creek and then look to his right and he would see an old abandoned permanent tree stand. I cautioned him in detail that he was not to attempt to climb up into the stand because it was rotten and unsafe. He was to remain seated there until dark at which time I would come get him.
I had not been on my stand long until it started to rain and the wind began to blow. It was during a gust of wind that I heard what sounded like an old dead tree falling. I thought little about it until a short time afterwards when I heard a distinct moaning noise. At first I was not sure what it was but after about thirty minutes I thought that it sounded like a human in pain. At last my curiosity got the best of me and I moved in the direction of the sound to locate its source.
Since the sound was coming from the area that Jim was hunting I wanted to make certain he did not mistake me for game. As I got close to his stand I made a low whistle but I received no response. I continued on to the location where he should have been setting but he was nowhere in sight. I checked the area around the tree with the old abandoned tree stand in it and story was as plain as day. It was evident that Jim had attempted to climb up into the old tree stand and fallen out. There outlined in the mud and leaves was the perfect impression of a human body that was as clear as a police drawn “chalk person” at a murder scene.
What bothered me were the drag marks leaving the crime scene. There is a lot of black bear in the area we were hunting and I thought maybe that one had come along and found Jim dead or unconscious and was making off with an easy meal. My concern was not for Jim but for the rifle he was carrying. Also, bear season was in and I thought I might get a shot. However, I did not notice any bear tracks with the drag marks and quickly realized that I was not going to be able to lay claim to his rifle. I followed the drag marks and located Jim at the edge of the field where we had began the hunt. He was lying up against a tree and it was evident that he was in some degree of pain.
I asked Jim what had happened and sure enough he said he had fallen attempting to get into the old tree stand. He said he had gotten to the top of the stand and was pulling his self in when a rotten board gave way and he fell backwards out of the stand. I asked him how bad he was hurt and he said that he was sure he had broken his right leg. I pointed out to him that if he would have followed my instructions that he would not be in this predicament. I then started to move back off in the direction of my stand. Jim looked up at me with his hurt puppy dog eyes and asked why I was going in the wrong direction of the truck? I turned around and explained to him that there was still an hour of daylight left and I intended to continue the hunt.
I walked back to my stand but not being one without any compassion decided I should go and take him to a hospital. Besides, he had made so much noise moaning, groaning and dragging him self out of the woods that I had little chance of seeing any deer.
When I went back, his first question was if I would go get the truck and drive it down to where he was? I pointed out to him that I had hunted on this farm for many years and had no intention of driving my truck down through the farmers wet field and tearing it up. He pleaded with me that his leg was broken and that he could not walk. I pointed out to him that it was his own fault that he broke his leg and that he alone would have to suffer the consequences. Jim lost his temper and yelled back at me that if I had let him bring his own tree stand that he would not have attempted to use the old tree stand. Being a man of great compassion, I told him that I would carry his rifle and he could lean on me on the walk out. The walk or I should say hobble in Jim’s case was only about a half mile, which I thought would be a vivid reminder to him in the future to follow instructions. The names he called me and the threats he made on the trip out to the truck have left me fearing for my life to this day. I should also say that I was quite disappointed that a [former] Marine displayed such a lack of ability to handle pain.
As you may guess, we made it to the truck and I took him to the Emergency Room. He complained the entire hour drive and accused me of hitting every bump in the road. The doctor examined him and after x-rays informed Jim that he had broken his leg not in one but two places. The doctor put him in a full leg cast and his hunting season was over. I felt this was just punishment for his failure to follow instructions.
I have taken a few falls myself which required more then one trip to the hospital emergency room. Not that I am clumsy or anything, but if I fail to return from an outdoor adventure at the designated time my wife often calls the emergency room to look for me.
We should all strive to attain the ability to make our falls graceful. The key to any successful fall is ones ability to make it look as if you intended to do it and that no matter what, it didn’t hurt. Of course, if that does not work you can always yell out in pain and ask for help and only hope that whomever is with you is sympathetic!