Water was scarce in the camp, pumped from a well that ran dry after a few tens of minutes pumping each day, so we all had to be careful. The best washing took place on weekends when we would drive down a gravel road to Lake Mead. It was on just such a drive that I had my opportunity to take flight and soar with the eagles. We were returning from the lake and were all in good spirits. The beer was flowing freely as we drove back up the road, recently graded. The surveyor and I were sitting in the back of the pickup and having fun watching the antics. Two of the laborers were in the cab, and two in the bed of the pickup. Those in the cab were spraying us with beer as we drove along and the others were trying to return the fire. In the fun the driver veered off the road and over a ridge of gravel. He regained control quickly but not after some very violent bounces which sent me and the surveyor, at about 40 miles per hour, on our flight!
I still clearly remember that historic moment, the jolt and suddenly seeing myself above the bed of the truck, the gravel road a blur below me. My flight was not a long or elegant one, and the birds would not have been proud I'm sure. My landing was hard. That too I remember well. I hit on my side, badly scraping my leg, hip, arm, shoulder, and face. I bounced once or twice before stopping, dusty, bleeding and torn. The ground was my enemy, in my pain and anger I immediately got up, cursing the drivers. They were white faced as they got out of the truck and saw me standing there, scraped, dirty, and bloody, giving them the what-for.
For the surveyor it was another matter. He had landed on his back and could not get up. We got him back to the camp where he was taken to a hospital that evening. He will remember his flight in another light, with a brace for the rest of his life. I still reflect on that moment, the fun turned to tragedy in an instant. For me it is a lesson that I still have not fully learned. I was fortunate that day in an odd sense, I was back in the hills a day later where the stiffness of my joints and the pain of my cuts were eased by the movement of climbing. I survived intact. What then is the lesson?