Thursday, July 7, 2011

Will to Survive

Mike Clime, with whom I've been acquainted online for several years, does most of his talking through the art of his photography. What little I know about him I've discerned through his collection of images. So imagine my surprise and delight when he offered to share a story on my blog!

From the title, you know that the theme revolves around man's relentless will to survive.  I think you'll find Mike's harrowing story to be riveting and an eye-opener!

Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below for the author or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. Also, click the green SU icon at the bottom of this post to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Also, consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!
Michelle Alton


Will to Survive (Click on a photo to enlarge it)

Since the age of 18, I have been a deer hunter.  In fact, in the past 41 years, I’ve only missed one Season!  If readers are offended by hunting, I offer this:  Hunting actually strengthens the deer population by weeding out the weaker and less intelligent animals, allowing the strong and smart deer to reproduce and enhance the gene pool.

Aware of Me

There were three of us when we first started hunting-- my Dad, his friend Virgil, and me.  In those days, we considered ourselves lucky if we even saw a deer, let alone shot one.  Today, deer are so ubiquitous that the Conservation Department requires hunters to purchase a doe tag too even if the intention is to hunt for a buck.  Since the goal of the hunting season is to thin the deer population, leaving a doe alive allows her to breed and produce one or two fawns each year.  So, you pay double for the privilege. 

As an aside,  by the time I buy my license, drive up and back, stay in a hotel for two nights and take my deer to the locker for processing, I have spent over $1,000 for two days of hunting!

Anyway, over that 41-year period our deer party swelled to 12 people or more though it has now shrunk back to six, with the ages ranging from the mid 50’s to the mid 70’s.  We hunt in Southeast Iowa.  Most people think of Iowa as being flat, but that is far from the truth.  The area where we hunt is very hilly with deep ravines.  This is a story from one of our hunts back in 1977.

Doe in Pachysandra          (photo by M. Alton)

We always go first to Virgil’s property to hunt.  On this day, it was four degrees (F) below zero.  I drove my pickup down to his place.  Later that day we decided to go to Tom’s farm to hunt.  His farm has 500 acres of timber.  None of us had ever hunted there before.  I left my truck at Virgil’s and rode over with my Dad to Tom’s place.
When we all got there, we proceeded to the timber area which is about a half mile from the buildings on the farm.

Backyard Herd    (Photo by M. Alton)

I hadn’t gone half a mile before I encountered a pond.  For some reason, I decided that I should be on the other side of it.  The pond is in a deep ravine-- naturally!  I made the decision to cross the ice.  It was only about three steps to the other side.  On my second step, I broke through the ice and fell all the way in.  Without panicking, I threw my gun up onto the bank and grabbed a small tree to pull myself out.  I yelled for help.  My Dad came over.

Dad was an old-fashioned sort of guy who was never openly loving or demonstrative.  And yet, he was a wonderful man—a much loved school teacher.  After his death, the school district honored him by naming an award for him.

For some reason, on this day, Dad wasn’t especially helpful.  (I still love him—God rest his soul).  He died in 1994, while doing chores on his farm.  But that is a tale for another day.

Soaking wet, shivering,  and frozen, I told him I was going back to the truck.  He must have forgotten to give me the keys, and I didn’t realize that they weren’t in the truck.  In the zub-zero temperature, my wet clothes instantly froze.

My next decision was to head East to the road, which I thought was closer, rather than trying to trek back South to the farmstead.  I ended up walking more than a mile, through the timber, shivering hard, until I finally came to the road.  My gloves were frozen on my hands and my arm was frozen in the position of carrying my gun over my shoulder.  I could have been one of those “mannequin mimes” you see busking for dollars in city squares.

Luckily, there happened to be a truck coming down the road so I stood in the middle of the road and motioned wildly for him to stop.  He and his passengers were deer hunters too, and I explained what had happened.  They offered me a pint of brandy and a ride.  I think I drank the whole thing quickly which turned out NOT to be a very good idea.  Again, I will spare you the details of that story.

When I got back to the truck, I could not find the keys since Dad had taken them with him. I could not start the truck or run its heater.  The guys hunted very slowly as we have to use shotguns and you have to be very patient and stealthy. You see, a shotgun shoots a slug that is only accurate for 100 yards, and that is a very long shot through the trees in the woods.  So you have to walk very slowly and as quietly as possible to be able to sneak up close enough to get a clear shot.

No clear shot!  (Photo by M. Alton)

I think it was about two hours later when they finally returned.  All that time, I was sitting with my teeth chattering and body shaking mightily.  My Dad took me back to get my truck, and I was somehow able to drive myself back to Dad’s farm.

When I got there, my wife had to help me get my clothes and gloves off as they were still frozen to my body.  She ran some warm water in the tub, and I slowly eased myself in to soak.

I recovered fully and did not even get a cold from it—although, I do have a spot on one shin that doesn’t grow hair on it anymore.  Actually, I believe that the extreme cold probably saved my life!  If it had been warmer, my clothes would have stayed wet instead of instantly freezing, and I probably would have become hypothermic.  Even to this day I would prefer to avoid cold weather, but if I’m going hunting, I’ll brave it happily.

Three in One

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I can attest to that after living through the frozen pond ordeal.  I’m sure I would now have the mental fortitude to handle almost anything that Nature imposes on me.  But nevertheless, I’m hoping that I passed my last major test in that winter of 1977.

  Unless otherwise noted, all photography by Mike Clime

Mike's Bio Sketch:

Mike was born in Iowa and grew up in Ottumwa, IA. His wife was born and raised in Ottumwa too. The couple moved to St. Louis after college where Mike taught Junior High school for one year. They then moved to Mt. Pleasant Iowa where he taught High School for several years. He then went back to being a student and ended up  in St. Louis again, working for Ameren and training people how to operate the electrical grid.

Both kids live in Kansas City where the Climes hope to move when they retire. Only one baby left at home and that is Cody, my his German Shorthaired Pointer.

You can view more of Mike's photographs here.

A small eclectic sampling of his work follows:

Mike's Bonus Shots:

Penny Lane (Nova Scotia)

Aglow (Chicago)

Iowa Sunset



Solitude (Nova Scotia)

Clipper Deluxe


Stiff Neck (Philadelphia)

Cove Explorer


*** I Need Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!}If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please! We haven't a single story on tap. I'm working on one, but it won't be ready in time for next week. Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit! And I'd be appreciative if you also take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!--
Michelle Alton


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Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! I still like "Shooting" With a camera best :) Tammy

Joe DiGilio said...

Fine story Mike. I bet you walk around frozen ponds whenever possible now. You sure are a lucky man. I like your photography too. I have to check your gallery out.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story Mike!!! Always love your images!! Jeana :)

Sandy Powers said...

I really love your photography Mike, and as I read your story, I could actually feel the pain of being that cold! I have to admit, I'm like Tammy. Strengthening the herd or not, those animals are so beautiful and its painful for me to read about people killing them -- but your story was in fact riveting, and I'm so happy you were okay. It could have had a muuuuuch different ending! Thanks for sharing!

Bob Cammarata said...

Terrific story Mike!
Getting wet in sub-zero temperatures is certainly not among my life-long aspirations.
I agree that deer hunters indeed serve a that we've removed all of their natural predators so the survival of the species depends upon hunters thinning the herd.

Alice said...

Alice said: What a wonderful story bringing back memories. Perhaps you should write books with your photos when you retire!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, a very interesting story must be terrible to be so cold...All your photos are outstanding...

Dave Phalen said...

Hi Mike,

Great story! Glad you survived so we could enjoy your wonderful photos!!

Monnie Ryan said...

Wow, that's quite a harrowing tale, Mike! And having grown up on a small farm in southwestern Ohio, I sure can relate to hunting. On opening day of whatever season it was - deer, raccoon, pheasant, you name it -- there was hardly a boy in school (they'd all gone hunting)! Love your photos, but please don't go walking across frozen ponds anymore!