October 2, 2022
Grace and Skye took a pre-dawn drive while the horses ate their breakfast. They went through some of the hotter parts of the controlled burn.
The now-dry washouts were easiest to navigate. They approached a gully that didn't look terribly treacherous. But as Grace maneuvered the Jeep down into it, things rather quickly did not go to plan. And the modifications that had been done to the floorboard caused them to high side just as the rear wheels were not getting good traction already.
They came to rest in the gulley gently enough, but not where Grace had intended. They needed to be on the left side of the boulder they were currently lodged against. They were stuck.
Cool morning air and silence. The occasional sounds of birds. The girls circled the Jeep, looked at it from every angle, circled it again. Yup. They were stuck.
Dozens of band-tailed pigeons watched Skye's every move from the power lines as the sun crested Yucca Peak.
The girls began their walk home. The rocky parts were slippery in boots, with loose ravel appearing stable and then giving suddenly.
Skye was having a lovely Sunday morning walk, exploring everything.
Grace had this strange sensation. Like this was an epic journey of some sort. It was going to be if she couldn't figure out how to un-stick the Jeep.
Something blue caught Grace's eye in the shadows. Half-buried in the sand, a blue hat, black ears, and big eyes.
Skye looked up to see Grace examining something on the ground. That got her moving.
"It's Mickey Mouse all right!"
Skye made short work of digging the hard plastic mouse - and his sedan - out of the sand wash.
"He crashed a little worse than we did" Skye laughed. "There's not much left of this car."
"Go ahead and leave it there" Grace said. "We'll get it on our way back."
It took an hour to get the horses saddled up. At first Grace thought to take two heavy horses, but the only other saddle that would fit them was all taken apart. It had no cinches and no breastcollar. As it was, Ananda was so big that Grace could not attach the breast collar to the cinch.
As their earlier analysis suggested, there was no way to go forward. They would have to pull the Jeep from the rear and hope it came out of the little gulley as easily as it went in.
Grace put the Jeep in neutral, key in the on position. As she attached a rope to the hitch receiver, she slipped repeatedly in the loose soil. In that area of more intense burn, the fire had gotten into the organic matter in the soil, changing its composition, removing what plant material might have held it firm before. No wonder they lost traction. The soil was like powder.
There was room for error here. This could possibly be more problem than she had horsepower for. Or if Skye put the Jeep in drive instead of reverse, or the soil caved in more...
The moment of truth came. Grace nudged Ananda forward. The rope tightened on the saddle horn, the saddle snugged against Ananda's body, the big horse took one step forward, felt the weight, took another step, and then leaned into the work on the third step. The Jeep tipped back down onto the rear wheels and started to roll out of the gulley.
"Good! Good! Keep going!" There was nothing for Skye to do at this point but observe. Watch the rope, the wheels, the soil. So far so good.
The Jeep was on all fours, and the steepest part of the pull was coming.
"Are you ready Skye?"
"I'm ready! A little farther!"
Ananda was powerful and steady. The Jeep was coming up.
"Almost there!" Skye called.
"A little farther..."
Skye bailed out of the saddle and into the Jeep.
"Put your foot on the brake with gentle pressure and start it" Grace called to her.
The Jeep started. Skye pulled herself fully into the driver's seat.
"Put it in reverse, ease off the brake and give it a little gas."
Skye was nervous. She had to get this right. A little gas. She didn't feel anything happening. She gave it just a little more gas.
"Keep going, keep going, little more gas, good, good, turn the wheel...no the other way...perfect...keep going, keep going..."
It was a little exciting, and bumpy, but the Jeep kept backing up while Grace kept some tension on the tow rope. And then it was over.
"Put your foot on the brake firmly and put it in park. The top gear."
"How'd I do?" Skye said, smiling confidently. And just then there was a terrible cracking sound. The windshield fell forward, onto the hood.
"You did fantastic" Grace said.
"Do you want to drive it home?"
Skye thought about it for a moment.
"No. That was enough really. My heart is kind of pounding still."
The girls had forgotten all about their earlier discovery, but his blue beret caught their attention once again on the way home. Grace stopped and picked up the tattered remains of the long-forgotten Mickey Mouse toy. He was a fitting find for the morning.
"We don't need no stinking windshield, right Mickey?"