I had a situation years ago, just out of college, that typified that era of my fishing life – a time when I was learning life lessons and doing whatever it took to go fishing. I had borrowed dad’s old V8 Scout to pull my battleshiplike 18-foot fiberglass “deep V” Fiberform boat up to fish Don Pedro Reservoir for bass. It was a very heavy boat but offered a great fishing platform (and it was my only option).
I ended up going by myself and when I finally reached the launch ramp a couple of hours later after dawn, I felt lucky I was getting to fish a great day. Pulling to the top of the long ramp, I turned around to get in line to back the boat down. When it was my turn, I was anxious to not hold up the boater behind me, so I began backing down the steep grade at a good clip. I’m pretty good at backing a trailer down – after years of doing it on the ranch – so when I got near the bottom I applied the brakes hard to slow the heavy boat. Once stopped, I realized I was out of position, so I gunned the engine to pull the whole thing a little farther up the ramp to straighten out. The rig wasn’t moving much so I lightly punched it for more force. That’s when I heard a loud crash and the whole Scout shook.
I had about a second to think before the whole unit started to roll back down the ramp toward the water – with me trying to apply the gas and bring it around. Engine revving, there was no response from the Scout as the engine screamed and a whirling noise began underneath the floorboard. Scared, I hit the brakes and the whole rig slid to a stop a couple of feet from the water. What was going on?
A couple of guys came running down to help after hearing the screaming noise of the engine. The drive shaft had broken in two. Looking more closely, the drive shaft was actually a hollow tubular steel shaft, and the force of gunning the rig had caused the tube to collapse just like a wrung-out towel before breaking in two. Guess it wasn’t built to actually handle a load that heavy, but it was hard to imagine designing an outdoor vehicle with a drive shaft that would collapse that way under pressure.
I was lucky my rear brakes still worked and had stopped me short of going into the water. But I was really stuck with nowhere to go, as one of the guys hooked up a towline to their much bigger truck and pulled me to the parking lot where I called for the cavalry.
It took dad almost three hours to get to the lake and find me. No way to get a replacement shaft or pull the rig home. It looked bad, but my farmer dad – even without any baling wire available – didn’t give up easily. Asking around, he found a local guy who knew a machinist who lived in the hills. Maybe he could build us one? A long shot.
Incredibly, we actually tracked him down and got him to come and look over the situation. Measuring and removing the twisted drive shaft, he went back to his shop 20 miles away, and two hours later we had a custom drive shaft that he installed. What were the odds? It was on the Scout until we sold it years later.
It was late afternoon , but what else can you do when it’s been a stressful day but go fishing. We fished until dark for bass and had a great time. I followed dad home that evening, thankful he had come to my rescue. I had felt very helpless, but his can-do attitude had saved the day.
I’ve learned from my father again and again that a little determination and focused thinking can turn the tide when you feel you don’t have a chance. It’s carried over into my fishing and life. Guess where “Never give up” came from? NGU!
PS: Thanks for all the get-well wishes. I’m doing well.