Friday, May 23, 2014

Survivin' ...

Some of the attendees were (left to right) NAWAC Investigator
Tod Pinkerton, Associate Member Terra LaRochelle, Investigator
Brad McAndrews, Chanell Okoro & Investigator Travis Lawrence.
     Howdy, y’all … I was in the Sam Houston National Forest last weekend where I had the pleasure and privilege to attend a wilderness first aid training camp-out with the North American Wood Ape Conservancy.  Even though I have been CPR Certified for several years and have completed many different classes such as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Hunter Education Course and a Coast Guard Auxiliary boater education class to mention a few, this was absolutely the best and most informative event that I’ve ever experienced.  Trust me when I say that I was truly humbled to be in the company of this awesome group of folks!  NAWAC members from the greater Houston area, Galveston County, and a couple of folks from as far away as Austin and Glen Rose were in attendance.
Guest Chanell Okoro awaiting to place a face shield
over the "victim" to give a couple of breaths while
Travis Lawrence finishes 30 chest compressions ...
which is the current standard for administering CPR.
     Our mornin’ began with CPR & AED trainin', and then moved-on to cover some basic precautions which one may encounter while off-trail hikin’ … which I like to call “doin’ my time in the grime”.  There’s so much that can happen to folks out there in them woods; simple mistakes can become life threatinin’ situations in a very short period of time.  And with the trainin’ that the NAWAC went through this weekend, I feel confident that we will have each other’s backs and would stand a much better chance of survivin’ some of these unforeseen circumstances.  I’ve personally done some pretty stupid things out there in them woods … and I now realize that the main danger that I’ve exposed myself to over the past few decades has been goin’ it alone!  Some of the scenarios discussed this weekend really opened my eyes; so in the future, I think I’ll be doin’ my sloughstalkin’ with a buddy or two from here on out.  Remember, there’s a reason people go missin’ out there, and I don’t wanna end-up bein’ a dang statistic!  If you happen to be in remote or rugged terrain and break somethin’ or have a traumatic injury, can you make it out?  Or, if you’re with someone else and things go south, can they depend on you for their survival?  Trainin’ such as this could increase the odds significantly!
     Some of the other topics that the group covered were basic patient assessment, basic wound care in the field, anything from bleedin’ wounds to shock and thoracic injuries … or sucking chest wounds.  Did y’all know that yer driver license and some duct tape can possibly help save someone with a collapsed lung?  This creates a one-way valve; any port in a storm, y’all … and these folks really know how to think outside the dang box!  The group covered everything from long-bone splinting, usin’ both natural and man-made materials, to abdominal injuries as severe as evisceration!  God forbid, someone trips and falls on a Cypress knee, or an arrow with a broad-head … or gets gut-shot; like I said, much can happen out there in them woods.  We learned not to try to push the exposed bowel back into the wound … ‘cause this could introduce further contaminants that could infect the wound.  We also learned to keep the bowel moist; lots of gauze and a bottled water mixed with a couple of drops of tincture of iodine for sterilization … that is, as long as the patient ain’t allergic to iodine!  Let’s see … our victim has a gaping wound with an exposed bowel, and now infection could be settin’-in due to improper treatment.  To compound matters, the patient is goin’ into anaphylactic reaction to boot … brilliant!  Kinda makes you wonder what that person’s odds of survivin’ are now?  We then discussed the bonuses of knowin’ such things about the folks you’re goin’ to be out in the field with … like personal health issues, any medications they may have taken and allergies.  If you always go prepared; or better yet, (and think about this) if you prepare for failure, you and/or the folks that you are with may stand a much-better chance of makin’ it out to tell about it …
     We trained in various ways to secure the patient as well as the immediate area of treatin’ that patient, and how to be aware of and the possibility of stoppin’ any potential threats while treatin’ that patient, movin’ that injured patient or gettin’ ‘em to another area for evacuation.  This phase covered different types of patient carries includin’ make-shift stretchers or usin’ litters.  I had no idea what the Hell a litter was, and to tell y’all the truth, this portion was almost an epic fail for me, as well as the volunteer patient and the five other NAWAC team members tryin’ to carry him!  An evacuation litter is basically a packable “go-stretcher” with six nylon-webbed loops used as handles to lift and carry someone on.  It looked simple enough until I lifted; and after carryin’ ‘em for several yards I soon realized that my weddin’ band on my left hand and the puzzle-ring on my right were cuttin’ into my friggin’ fingers!  After havin’ to stop twice, and takin’ an awkwardly embarrisin’ break, it took only four of us usin’ a poly-tarp and two 7’ to 8’ lengths of 3” to 4” in diameter pieces of tree-falls to transport that same patient with ease!  Hell, I only used one hand; needless to say, I had already removed my rings, which I will not be wearin’ anytime soon, or at least ‘til the swellin’ goes down.  I usually don’t wear ‘em out in the field, and should have had the sense enough to remove them.  But in two infamous quotes from Forrest Gump, sometimes … “I’m not a smart man …” and, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  In an emergency situation, everyone needs to not only stay calm, but think things through to avoid any further injuries to the victim, the team or themselves.
     We then discussed medication administration for various illnesses and injuries that could be encountered in a wilderness environment.  Part of this included allergic reactions and trainin’ with an EPI pen, which is an injectable dose of epinephrine in case you or one of your team members goes into anaphylactic shock.  Anaphylaxis could be caused by anything from an insect bite or sting to havin’ an allergic reaction to a plant, food or medicine.  Symptoms such as severe itchin’ or rash, swellin’, a drop in the patient’s blood pressure and respiratory failure could happen within’ a matter of minutes.  Been there, done that!  Even though I am deathly afraid of needles, I have religiously carried an EPI pen for several years now.  I’d much rather inject myself than shut-down & die any day!  In my opinion, no first aid kit is complete without one …
This is not the smartest way to secure
a copperhead; I've been guilty of such
stupidity over the years!  Mowin' in just
flip-flops ain't too dang smart, either! 
     The group also covered bites, stings and poisonous plants … and the identification of the culprits such as ticks, spiders, scorpions, bees & wasps and venomous snakes.  We learned that your driver license can also be used to remove an insect’s stinger, and usin’ suction for snake and spider bites is a big friggin’ no-no!  Back in the day, you were supposed to try and dispatch and bring the snake with you to the hospital; but, the times … they are a changin’!  We learned that antivenin is now pretty much-well the same “cocktail” for all North American snakes.  And, I learned not to use my trusty X-ACTO to cut into or drain spider bites.  Been there, done that as well!  Hours after the bite, I attempted to drain it.  I had then soaked the wound in a hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol mix, in which I had pre-heated.  I applied this “thunk-up, redneck liquid remedy” via a full shot-glass turned upside down directly onto my wound.  When I told this to the group … one member rolled their eyes and exclaimed, “Nooo!”  Well, at this point y’all can either go back to my Forrest Gump references, or maybe think of that Roger Alan Wade tune, “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough.
Travis Lawrence looks on as NAWAC Investigators
Gene Bass and Brad McAndrews attend to Chanell
Okoro's immediate needs in this field assessment.
     The last items we touched-on were bandaging; one member wrapped another’s ankle while discussin’ proper immobilization; his technique was precise … just like everything else that we learned throughout our weekend of training.  We covered several different types of wraps and splinting, and wrappin’ materials such as ACE bandages or even improvised materials such as duct tape (over-the-clothing).  I am still taken-back on what-all and how much we learned in such a short period of time, and I for one really, did not want this course to end.  All of these amazin’ folks made one Hell of a team, and it made you appreciate what all first responders can do for us when the chips are down.  And remember, some of the attendees served our country in one capacity or another, and helped to try and save our fallen heroes; that's right ... the ones who gave all.  Please keep these folks in mind this upcomin’ Memorial Day weekend ...
     There has been talk of another class possibly this fall, so if any of y’all are interested … I’ll be sure and give y'all the heads-up.  The best way to keep up with any future activities is by gettin’ involved with the North American Wood Ape Conservancy.  I cannot tell y’all enough what a fine and fun bunch of folks they are!  This is the most professional team of field researchers and serious outdoor enthusiasts that I’ve ever encountered.  Period.  And, they are a non-profit organization, just tryin’ to find out some answers on what this mystery animal actually is.  So, how do I know so much about the NAWAC, y’all may ask?  ‘Cause I finally stepped-up to the plate and joined ‘em!  You’d be amazed at who-all they are and what-all they are about.  These folks are the real deal, and bring serious field research up to the next level.  So if any of y’all would like to know more, hit their Web site at … or follow ‘em on Facebook.  So, until next time … y’all have fun and be safe runnin’ ‘round out there in them woods.  And remember … it’s all about survivin’!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Relaxin' ...

A week of kickin'-it on Caddo Lake; y'all
 remember ... home is where you make it.
     Howdy, y’all!  It’s been awhile, but I just got back from a week in the swamp with my beautiful bride and two other couples.  This was one of the most relaxin’ trips we’ve taken in quite some time; we had booked The Gallery at Spatterdock in Uncertain, Texas from Billy & Dottie Carter.  All I can say is that the property was absolutely gorgeous, and we were not disappointed with anything.  Billy & Dottie are wonderful hosts and longtime Uncertain residents; Billy is a fishin’ & swamp tour guide on Caddo Lake, and Dottie is a multi-talented artist who has done all of the decoratin’ for their properties, as well as the lanscapin’ & gardens.  If anyone is lookin’ for a quiet and remote escape, I would highly recommend checkin’ ‘em out at  We were so impressed with the facilities and amenities that we’ve already booked the same place for a week next year!
Ty & "Dad" discussin' whatever at the Wangdoodle ...
     We had met with one couple from Plano, TX and another couple from just outside of Conway, AR who were all college friends of my wife from her University of Central Arkansas days.  We had no agenda other than to enjoy each other’s company with beautiful Caddo Lake as our backdrop.  On our second day there, I had divided us into two groups and ferried everyone for a couple of “swamp tours” via our bass boat.  The lake was quite peaceful durin’ the week with little or no boat traffic.  Each trip lasted about 2½ to 3 hours, and even after a heavy coatin’ of BullFrog SPF 40 … I had pretty much-well fried the tops of my legs & knees.  The temps were in the mid to high 70’s durin’ the day, but got down to as low as 38° each night.  The water level was back up and there was no sign of any giant salvinia … other than its rottin’ remnants in the back of Carter Lake.  Due to the large amounts of these submerged mounds of dead invasive, my engine clogged a few times and I had to abandon my original plan of motoring all the way into Back Lake.  Maybe sometimes, things happen for a reason ...
     There was no moon on this trip, which made my third excursion into the swamp a bit more challengin’.  I took three of our guests on an extended night trip through the swamps beginnin’ about 9:30 P.M. and we did not return until well after 1:00 A.M.  I was both shocked and amazed by the void of wildlife; no bugs, no frogs, no snakes, no coons, no gators, beavers, minx or nutria.  The only wildlife we had witnessed was a couple of bats which swooped through the beam of my remote-controlled GoLight.  Come to think of it, we didn’t even see or hear any barred owls until we returned to Spatterdock.  This was the first time in my 4+ years of swampin’ at night on Caddo that this had happened.  The cold-front most probably had somethin’ to do with it, but it was just downright eerie not seein’ or hearin’ any of the local critters.  I’d love to tell y’all that this may have been due to the possible presence of wood apes, but the overly-dramatic will play no role in this-here blog.  Period.
Dawn patrol! Now, this is what I call mornin' glory ... ain't it cool?
     Even the fishin’ was off for this time of year; and I mean way off!  This could have been in-part due to the overly-stocked bar that we had maintained back at The Gallery, but I’d rather blame it on the cold-front.  The lily pads were just now comin’ up, which was well overdue for late April.  Billy Carter had even said that the unusually cold and extended winter had thrown-off the largemouth bass spawn.  Them Caddo Lake bass were still on their beds and as tight-lipped as a picker on a prime patch of May haw.  On one of the last evenin’s we were there, I had fished alone in Turtle Shell right at sundown, which was one of my regular haunts.  I actually started to hear bullfrogs croakin’ in the distance; so I had thought, why not … I’ll just throw me a large top-water frog.  Hell, I actually got a few blow-ups on that lure, but they were all hittin’ short and not actually takin’ the bait.  The water was both glass-smooth and crystal-clear; as I reared back to make an extended cast … the water directly behind me exploded!  It sounded like someone had rolled a friggin’ bowlin’ ball off of my transom, as I had evidently spooked a very large bass hidin’ just under the ledge of vegetation linin’ that boat road.  Hopefully, she’ll still be lurkin’ ‘round there and hungry on my next trip!
Southern pride in historic downtown Jefferson ...
     On Wednesday, we all loaded-up into our truck and headed for historic Jefferson, Texas … which was only a 30-minute drive from Uncertain.  Upon arrival, only half of the town seemed to be open, as it was not quite “tourist season” yet.  And believe me, with my sunburnt knees blarin’ below the legs of my shorts, flip-flop cladded and wearin’ a t-shirt with my camera hangin’ ‘round my neck, I was the walkin’ epitome of a tourist!   Antiquin’ was hit or miss as maybe every third shop seemed to be open, and most of the museums were closed as well.  I scored a signed copy of Mitchel Whittington’s No Hope! The Story of the Great Red River Raft.  Some of y’all may remember Mitchel from the film, Southern Fried Bigfoot.  About noon, we found one of the best barbecue joints in Texas, Joseph’s Riverport Barbeque.  We were just fixin’ to mow-down on some ribs when one of our friends got some very devastating news; his mother had just passed from complications due to a surgery.  We tried to comfort our friend and his wife as best as we could, and returned to Uncertain to help them pack-up for their departure back to Arkansas.  Even though the drive back to The Gallery was brisk, the mood was somber.  Though our friends and their family had dodged the tornadoes that had plowed through their community just a couple of evenin’s before, life … as well as death still happens.  Our friends and their family will remain in our thoughts and prayers …
"Dad's" lost brew.
     The rest of our trip was spent by the remainin’ two couples just relaxin’.  Our friend from Conway had lost his lucky red Coleman can-cooler, which had blown off the dock while huggin’ an empty Miller Lite can two days prior.  I spied it from the dock … floatin’ on a bed of hyacinth between some bald cypress.  My plan had been to kayak over and get it for him, but due to their early departure, our “group kayak adventure” had never transpired.  I finally retrieved it for him on Thursday mornin’ after fishin’ … via our bass boat and reachin’ it with my trusty push-pole.  My wife and our other two friends from Plano were kickin’-it on the dock when I had returned.  We set the empty can still in its cooler in the middle of our table in effigy, and drank the rest of the day and evenin’ away.  Our other buddy’s wife had retired to The Gallery for an afternoon nap, and I fell asleep on the carpeted stern of our boat beneath the shade of a bald cypress while listenin’ to some Pink Floyd.  My wife and her friend stayed perched on the end of the dock roastin’ in the sun, and I listened to them reminiscin’ their college days as I drifted off.  Just before sunset, I had taken-off one last time for that evenin’ fish back in Turtle Shell.  Damn, that truly was a big bass … I just wish our friend from Conway could have been there with me to witness it.

Listenin' to some Floyd on Turtle Shell; G-man, wish you were here ...
     Friday mornin’ came way too friggin’ soon; even though our check-out was at noon, we were all packed & tidied-up well before 10:00 A.M., so we spent the remainder of our time together visitin’ on the front porch.  We said our goodbyes and departed for home.  This was the first time I had made that entire drive back home from Uncertain with no music.  As my wife read from her Kindle, we conversed from time to time, but our minds seemed to be elsewhere.  Thoughts of our responsibilities at home, the week of work we’d both missed, pickin’ up our boarded beagle Shiner and the anticipation of a school function we’d be attendin’ for the next two evenin’s for our son were all overshadowed by the thoughts of our friends in Arkansas.  I’m sure it would have been a lot more relaxin’ just knowin’ that they were okay, and we hoped they would soon be together with their family durin’ their time of grievin’ and spiritual need.
     Now that we’re back, I won’t be relaxin’ much anytime over the next month or so.  Our son will graduate from high school, and there is much to be done within the next few weeks.  Our house is in need of a good spring cleanin’, the garage needs some carpentry and a good paintin’, the trees & shrubs need prunin’, the gardens & flower beds need weedin’ as well as mulchin’ and I’ll need to finish another section of flagstone for our back patio prior to our son’s graduation party.  I’ll have to wait ‘til mid-June before I can even think of returnin’ to Caddo Lake to fish.  Hopefully, I can time that trip for a full-moon with some night-fishin’ and return for that monster-sized bass that I’d spooked back in Turtle Shell.  And maybe I can finally make it via paddlin’ my kayak to Back Lake and see if I can find any possible sign of wood apes.  Or better still, maybe I’ll just hit The Big Thicket for some sloughstalkin’ with a friend or two from the NAWAC.  Until then, I hope all is well with you & yours and maybe everyone else can do some relaxin’ … y’all take care!