Well it finally happened, Superman alias Richard Kent Mogensen (get it Clark Kent) found his kryptonite in the form of a rugged, mindless creation that but most folks enjoy. Call it an All-Terrain Vehicle or an Off-Road Vehicle or 4-Wheeler or just a Gator these machines are dangerous if used in steep conditions. They are fine on farms and maintained public ATV trail systems such as the Hatfield and McCoy Trails in WV. But, in unimproved trails in steep conditions, often found in the Appalachian Mtns. and out west in the Rockies, these machines can be a hazard. I found out the hard way a few weeks ago when I was touring a large forested site in Nelson County, VA (Alcoholic Valley to the locals) and found myself stuck between a 4,000 lb. running ATV and a large beech tree. Yup I was pinned and my associate (who will remain nameless because I haven’t asked him if I could use his name) was instrumental in my survival. Thank you KW! Anyway on to the story, we were driving in the landowners ATV on a trail that I had been on several times before but was deteriorating due to steep slopes, wet conditions and above average rainfall this year. I was driving while KW was holding on for dear life. I thought I was doing OK but unfortunately the trail fell off abruptly and so did my 2 left tires. We stopped and got out to survey the situation. It didn’t look good to me, but being Superman as you recall, I said we can get this out by building a rock platform under those dang hanging tires! So that’s what we did. I got in and said “OK KW, get out of the way and I’ll pop this thing back up on the trail”. Famous last words. Before I knew it I was pinned to a tree by a large angry machine sputtering smoky fumes and glaring at me. Not good I thought. KW looked as dazed as me but said “What should I do?” I said “get in and put it in reverse and slowly back this thing off me” which he did with an expert touch and I rolled out of my Aaron Ralston-like predicament. You know the guy who got his arm stuck between two boulders in Utah, oh never mind! Anyway, back to the story, I looked down at my newly freed left leg and noted that I could see my femur. This, I knew, was not good. I grabbed my leg to hold it together while KW tried to use his sweater as a tourniquet. It didn’t seem to be bleeding very badly so I said you have to go get help. We were a mile into the wilderness mind you and KW stepped up like a trooper. He ran for help and I patiently waited while I held my leg together and tried not to hyperventilate or go into shock. About an hour later, which seemed like 4 hours, help arrived and I was taken out by ambulance to the University of VA Medical Center in Charlottesville. The fine medical staff worked diligently to patch me up and send me on my way. Well, it was a bit more than that but I was on my way that evening. Still groggy as the adrenaline wore off, I made it to a little hotel and crashed (figuratively!).
Epilog – Superman is healing at home but no more field work this year!