CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 JAMES J. MCDEVITT
A Company, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion
Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Although it’s been many years since I nearly killed myself and my best friend, I remember it like it was yesterday. I often reflect on that day, wondering how we ever made it across that flooded low water crossing while on our way to one of our favorite turkey hunting spots.
We worked for a concrete construction company that usually gave us the day off during inclement weather. On this particular spring day, it was pouring rain and had been since the previous night. We were anticipating the boss letting us off for the day and were eager to be released because it was the height of Missouri’s turkey season and we wanted to go hunting. Eventually, the boss gave the words we all wanted to hear —“No work today.”
My buddy and I always prepared for these moments, especially during any hunting season, and had all necessary equipment ready for an expeditious move out. We jumped into my Toyota Tacoma pickup and took off like a shot.
It was getting close to daylight, so we were in a hurry to beat the turkeys off the roost. We wanted to be set up in position before the turkeys flew down out of the trees where they’d slept during the night. This was a crucial time because it set the pace and gave either the hunter or the hunted the upper hand. Once the male, or “Tom” turkey, gets together with a hen, it’s tough to call him to you because he already has what he wants.
On our way to the hunting spot, we crossed a bridge over a very swollen creek. We were surprised how high the water was compared to normal. We traversed this road often, so we knew the water was sure to be amazing at the low water crossing. We knew crossing it was sure to be just as amazing. Little did we know!
When we arrived at the crossing, it was unbelievable — like something out of the movie “Deliverance.” I hesitated as I eased the front tires into the water. As I did, I thought about how the hunting spot was only 100 meters on the other side and how long it would take to go around. “Screw it,” I thought, as I drove a little farther, testing the depth as we went. My friend, who often taunted others to “go for it” — especially when it wasn’t his vehicle — wasn’t saying a word.
By the time we made it halfway across, the rushing water was three-quarters the way up my door. We were now committed — there was no turning back. We’d almost made it to the other side when the truck began shifting and sliding. My friend yelled, “Hit the gas!” I yelled back, “I’ve got it floored!” However, the truck couldn’t move any faster because the rear tires were floating.
At the last possible moment, the tires grabbed and we made it to the other side. After we both let out a sigh of relief, my friend said, “We made it … but don’t ever do that again!” Relieved that we’d just dodge disaster, we decided we’d take the long way home and never chance crossing that water again.
I share this story because I don’t want others to make the same mistakes we did that day. Life is too short and too many people care about you. Always do at least a mental risk assessment on everything you do — even the routine things you do daily. And beware any time you hear someone say, “Screw it!” Someone is about to get hurt or killed. Try not to be either one!
Did You Know?
According to the National Weather Service, nearly half of all flash-flood fatalities are vehicle-related.