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Walter Scott: Four-wheel drive gets you into as much trouble as it gets you out of

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.

Columnist Walter Scott

It has been said, four-wheel drive enables a person to get stuck farther from the road. I have found this to be true on more than one occasion.

Much to the consternation of my wife, on more than one occasion, I have been known to push the limits of the Ranger. It is a 4X4 and will go places a person should not go. Even it has its limits.

Saturday afternoon was warm and sunny. There have not been enough nice days yet this spring to check out all the trails. We decided to remedy that situation with a leisurely drive around the farm.

Billie rides in the back as he is unable to contain his excitement while riding up front with us. He has a tendency to step on each of us while reaching out barking at squirrels or deer. A 75-pound dog bouncing off a person’s lap gets annoying very quickly. Jag rides up front for the first hundred yards or so and then wants out to run and explore.


The winter winds have taken a toll on the dead trees scattered around the woods. Sometimes a person can just move the branches off the trail, but other times, a chain saw is required.

A leisurely ride can turn into an ordeal, especially on the first trip of the year on a given path. We had not run into too many problems until we got to the farthest corner of the Paintball Woods.

Rounding a corner and starting up a steep hill, we found the path blocked by a huge old dead oak tree that had fallen directly across the path. It was one of those trees that should have been taken down a few years ago to prevent such problems.

A standing dead oak makes great firewood. The problem with this tree was the location. It is far enough back in the timber, nothing larger than the Ranger could get to it. For that reason, we ignored the old monster.

We pondered our options as the warm sun cast shadows from the surrounding trees. Jag ran through the undergrowth, hunting for rabbits and Billie scanned the trees for squirrels. Rather than back down the hill and around the corner, I decided to forge a new trail through the timber to get around our obstacle.

My wife put her seat belt on, and I turned off the trail. It was rough going through the downed branches and thick brush greening up from the forest floor. Slowly we made our way around the top of the big, downed oak, heading in the general direction of the trail.

A tree lay in our way, not far from where we expected to get back on the trail. It was only about a foot in diameter. My wife said we could not get over it. I assured her, with four-wheel drive, we can go anywhere.

The front wheels crawled over the log and down over the other side. We only stopped when we had no tires touching the ground. The Ranger was perfectly balanced on the log. No amount of rocking helped as it was high centered.


My wife gave me one of those “I told you so” looks but was polite enough to not say anything. Shifting as much weight forward as possible, I moved Billie to the front seat, while I went out and stood on the front bumper. The new weight distribution was enough to get the front wheels on the ground as my wife drove us off the log.

We switched back to our previous positions and stayed on the main trail. If not for four-wheel drive, we would not have gotten out of there. Also, without four-wheel drive, we would not have been there in the first place.

Read more from Walter Scott .

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.
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