Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm back

Sorry about the lack of posting, but I've been out in West Texas.

Mom's grandfather bought a square mile of desert out south of Monahans way back when, and while we no longer own the mineral rights, the surface still belongs to us.

It's caliche clay soil with scattered mesquite thickets blending into prairie grass on the north side. The folks that bought the mineral rights have some wells going, and the stink of hydrogen sulphide can get pretty robust in some parts, but it's still pretty country.

Went down there with Reno and another officer -- we'll call him Corky -- with the stated intention of doing Bad Things to the local javalina and quail populations.

I forgot how quickly it gets bloody cold in the desert.

The first night everything was all nice and ducky until between two and four o'clock in the A.M. when the temperature promptly fell off the edge of the table.

I do not think that the Gentle Reader quite understands the gravity of that statement. When I say the temperature dropped, a one gallon jug of Red Diamond Sweet Tea outside of the tent froze completely and totally solid.

That four A.M. call of nature? After staggering outside, I unzipped and rooted through an insulated set of coveralls, past the hunting pants, into my jeans and my Fruit-of-the-Looms -- only to find a tiny little note reading: "Sod this. Sod you. Gone home."

I have never been so cold in my life.

Vibrated my way back into the tent, to find Reno attempting to light the tent heater, but shivering so hard he couldn't get the electric match to fire.

As a side-note, it may have been a side effect of the hypothermia, but on the side of the tent heater -- a device made, marketed and sold for the stated purpose of, well, heating tents -- there was a warning sticker stating:

TENT HEATER

DANGER!
MAY PRODUCE CARBON MONOXIDE
DO NOT USE INSIDE TENT!

And that just flat kicked over the old giggle box. Blame it on the polar core temperature.

Any-the-hoo, Reno got the tent heater (not for use in tents) fired up, and the rest of the night, while not perzackly comfortable, was survivable.

Did some scouting and hunting the next day. Found coyote, bobcat and fox spoor galore, flushed some quail, tracked some javalina, molested some rabbits, tried to figure out what was scraping a ring of bark off the mesquite branches, romped through the brush, and Corky and Reno spotted a cougar.

The next night we made some alterations to the tent and it was considerably less cold. (Do note that I did not say, "Warmer" just "Less cold".)

Generally a good time. Reno took some pictures and once he e-mails them to me, I'll post select ones here.

Good to be back home. More posting tomorrow.

LawDog

20 comments:

Gerry N. said...

And that is why I like, no, love my wall tent with its loverly little wood burning stove. I found a stove that with a little inexpensive welding and grinding will hold fire for six to eight hours, long enough to keep the tent fairly warm well into the wee hours. Long enough that upon returning from my morning pee, I can reload it and have enough fire later to make coffee and cook breakfast.

Anonymous said...

What kind of tent heater did you have? Zodi makes units that place the combustion unit outside, 10K and 20K models, fan-forced hot air.

LL said...

Wow, I was shocked to see the name Monahans. My grandparents got married there. And my ex-husband flew out to AZ to get them from my aunt's house and on the drive back, they stopped in Monahans at the courthouse, where they tied the knot so long ago. My ex took a lot of pics for them and they all showed 'em to me when they got back.

*sigh*

I haven't thought about that time in YEARS. Talk about a flashback.

IceFire said...

LawDog, you make me homesick for West Texas. We used to live in San Angelo, and I ran a Census crew in the area back in '90, so am well acquainted with the area. Sigh. As to the tent heater (not for use inside tents)...where the heck to they expect one to put the blasted thing where it will actually, well, heat the tent, pray tell?

Glad you had a good (albeit chilly) time. Welcome back.

Old NFO said...

LOL- Ah yes... West Texas in the winter!!! My uncle had a ranch outside Van Horn, he used to say the main reason it didn't snow was it was too damn cold.

Glad y'all had fun!

Randolph said...

I have noticed the rings in the mesquite bark down here in Southern Arizona too. Near as I can figger it out, it is due to a freezing/thawing action.

I'd be happy to be told what does it if I am wrong.

Randy in Arizona

mustanger98 on thr said...

I'm reminded of something Elmer Keith told about tents... this happened in either Idaho or Canada and I disremember which. They were camped with the wall tent and it came up a bad wind and blew it down on 'em. Some Indians were camped there too and they still used tepees. So Elmer Keith and his party wound up passing the night in the tepee... one of the Indians said, IIRC, "white man's tent no damn good". The Mr. Keith explained the deal about a tepee... inside the cone, there's a curtain all the way around. The fire in the middle will keep you warm and the up-draft while drawing the smoke up, also pulls the cold air up and out the top instead of in on you.

Rustmeister said...

Oh good lord yes, it gets cold there.

I spent most all my stateside assignments at Ft. Bliss, meaning I spent much of my stateside field time out in that desert.

That four o'clock drop is something you have to experience to understand.

Weetabix said...

You recall to my mind the time I went camping in Alaska. We expected -10F, but we got -35F. I found out that you really can't freeze to death in your sleep because the shivering wakes you up and that you have to sleep with the white gas or it won't be warm enough to light.

I don't plan to repeat that experience.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from San Angelo, Texas. It is noon here and only 33 degrees with drizzle. But it is also beautiful. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Matt G said...

Dad and I did that back in '97, up near Pagosa Springs, CO. I put up the tent with my shirt off in the warm October sun.

Then the snow came, and the temp dropped brutally.

We made the drive into town and bought a case of Sterno, and lit two or three cans a night.

But the CO must not have been too bad-- after all, we woke up with such a healthy pink glow to our faces... :)

CrankyProf said...

Too cold for brass LawDogs...

Glad you had a good (if a mite frosty) trip!

Did you shoot any pink gorillas?

Deepwater said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all despite the cold - good to have you back LawDog!

Will said...

Had a sudden temp drop during the night, first week of Dec '76, at my father's hunting camp upstate PA. The heater's fuel line froze up several times that night after most of us went to bed. Got up in the morning to discover it was -16degF in the kitchen! (Two story log cabin)Dad and I were fairly snug in our Air Force survival Mummy Bags upstairs. Rubber seal on the tailgate window shattered when we rolled it down. Got home at the South Jersey shore to discover it was -8degF at the beach! Seeing waves breaking on snowdrifts was very strange.Stayed cold for a while. The inland bays (fresh+salt water mix) froze a foot thick.

MSgt B said...

Amen, Brother.
I took your advice and camped in Palo Duro Canyon last SUMMER (July IIRC) No freezing toes, but the chill caught us by surprise. We went to bed with no blankets whatsoever, and woke up in the night with the choice of running to the truck for blankets, or throwing layers on out of our packs.
We looked like 14th St bums by the morning.

niteshift said...

Went out with my oldest and his scout troop a couple of weekends ago and went through the same thing, but it wasn't bad enough to freeze a gallon jug solid.

I ended up rolling over on top of my boy just to keep his shivering body from bumping into me all night. That kid's got sharper elbows and knees than his momma.

Glad you had a good time.

ben said...

Probably porcupines as to the bark. As to the cold least yours left a note, always hard uh difficult for me to find anything under those circumstances when I was hunting.

Anonymous said...

Porcupines.
I got caught in a sudden freeze on the flanks of Capulin Mountain once upon a time. Since it was nigh on summer, I had only a bedroll and one of those weather-proof army ponchos. Fortunately, though, I remembered from when I was a kid, where there was a hot air vent. Not exactly recommended for breathing, but if you crouch over the vent, fasten the poncho tightly around your neck and wrap the bedroll over your head, your body stays poisonously warm and keeps you from freezing.
Not one of my nicer recollections of Capulin, but there's always the ladybug migration in the fall. That's worth the climb.
LawMom

Chas S. Clifton said...

I love hearing Texans complain about the cold. ;-)

Let me tell you about the time that my Boy Scout troop went winter-camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And I was in cowboy boots. (Insulated boots for kids were rare back then.)

It's not that we were men. The question was whether we would survive to be men.

Jim said...

Alright, look: I'm from a place where the difference between -40C and -40F is academic, ok? So when I say that Carswell AFB... Err, NAS Forth Worth JRB gets cold in February, I am not making sh*t up.