I am old…I am a little chunky (fat)…and I am a couch potato. Actually, I am a computer-aholic, which is the same thing as a couch potato except for the fact that my fingers do get exercise. Needless to say, the arteries in my legs don’t work very well. They work very well as long as they’re not actually having to work, but…well….you know.The radiologist who diagnosed me with Peripheral Arterial Disease said, “The best thing you can do for your PAD is walk. Walk a lot. Walk … a … lot.
I put on my boots, jeans, and my nursing scrub top. Scrub tops are great for hiking because you can put everything you need in those huge pockets. I put in my digger (to dig up flowers), my snipper (to snip my way through the briars to get to the flowers), a pack of cigarettes and lighter (helps keep the mosquitoes and horseflys from eating me alive), and a can of pepper spray (which should deter just about everything else). With my pockets full, I grab my walking stick, holler at my dogs, and off we go!
I have a huge black Pyrenees named Pepper, who is my walking buddy. I also have a little dog who looks sort of like a Beagle/Basset hound. Her name is Jazzie. She is a spoiled rotten, pain in the rear!
With Pepper in the lead, we head out. Through the briars and the brambles and the ticks and chiggers and mud-holes and rocks we go! I found lots of unique and beautiful flowers, but I decided I’d dig them up on my way back home. I had to stop a few times because every time we’d go by a body of water, no matter how big or small, Pepper and Jazzie had to take a swim. That was okay with me, because my level of fitness is about the same as a slugs, and I needed all the rest I could get. It was a nice day to walk, so, we just kept walking, and walking, much farther than I had anticipated. I had forgotten my watch, so I had no idea how long we’d been gone or what time it was. At that point, we weren’t far from the railroad track, so I erroneously decided it would be quicker to walk home via that route!
I had on a long sleeved shirt over my scrub top, so I took that off and made a leash for Pepper. I didn’t want him to make the mistake of running in front of a train. Most living creatures do not make that mistake but once. Jazzie goes wherever Pepper goes, so I didn’t worry about her running off anywhere. First, we had to cross the creek. Crossing the creek wasn’t too bad; the cold water felt pretty good when I fell in. It cooled me off a lot.
We all made it to the railroad tracks in one piece. We proceeded to walk, stepping on the ties, with Pepper in the lead as usual. A couple hundred yards down the track, I heard a train coming. The ditch along side the track wasn’t very steep, and we easily made it down into the ditch and sat down in the chat and had a nice rest while the train went by. We proceeded on at a leisurely pace, enjoying the evening breeze as we strolled along.
At that time, we were about three hundred yards in to the middle of the portion of the railroad tracks that had steep banks…steep banks about 20 feet deep…with nothing on the surface but loose chat. Of course, at this most inopportune time, another train just had to be coming down the tracks! It could have waited half an hour or so, but it didn’t. So I did the only logical and life-saving thing I could do; I took a step off the tie onto the chat. It took Pepper and me about 2 seconds to get to the bottom. I’d probably have beat him down had he not been attached to me. It was a miracle that after sliding to the bottom of the ditch on my derriere, I had only four holes in my jeans and just a few abrasions on my butt and legs. Jazzie walked daintily down the steep chat, looking at Pepper and me and thinking, “Wow!!! Good job!”
The only thing that kept Pepper and me from sliding into a briar and cottonmouth infested creek was the fact that the briar patch that stopped our slide was so thick that nothing much bigger than a mouse could have slid though it. Jazzie crawled into my lap, and we sat in the briar covered chat with not a worry in the world, waiting for the train to pass by. There are some really talented graffiti artists who decorate the trains. Trying to decipher the graffiti makes the time pass faster while sitting in a ditch watching a train go by!
The train, which I swear must have been two miles long, finally passed by. I smiled at Pepper and Jazzie, and said, “Okay, guys, lets go!” Famous last words. For some reason, I thought about General Custer. I got up on my knees and took a step. That step ended about three feet prior to where it started. Same thing happened the next step. I was slowly progressing backwards. Every step I took put me and Pepper closer to the cottonmouth infested creek. My feet were getting nervous, because they were the first thing that a cottonmouth would see invading it’s territory. Pepper was getting nervous. He was still attached to me, and I truly believe, at that point, he lost all confidence in my ability to take care of him. He was not one bit thankful that I never let go of his leash…not one bit.
I did the only thing I knew to do. I sat in the ditch. Nobody could see me from the highway. I knew if I turned Pepper loose he would not leave me. Thinking back though, had I removed the leash he probably would have run as fast and far as he could to get away from me! Suddenly, I had an idea! The snipper in my pocket! I could cut my way through the briars and brush, cross the creek with a clear path, and make it to the highway, where my dog friends and I would be safe! It didn’t take me long to figure out that it would be morning before I managed to cut through all that wonderful flora with a snipper sporting two inch blades. Therefore, I sat in the ditch…some more.
Another idea formed inside my very tired brain. I had a digger in my other pocket! I could dig my way out! I turned over and lay on my belly and dug my first foothold in the loose chat. It took a while to dig through a foot or so of chat, but the foothold held! I dug my second foothold, and it held. About half-way up, I looked back to where I had been. I rested my head on my arms and thought, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me slide back to the bottom! Please have mercy on this crazy old woman!” I kept digging, one step at a time. I’m sure I looked like a beached walrus in unfamiliar territory, lying on her belly, waddling her way upward through the sea of chat! After an hour or more, and a couple blisters, we were all sitting on a tie at the top! Pepper had a puzzled look on his face and started licking my arm. I had blood dripping off my elbow. I take Plavix, so I bleed really well. I put pressure on the cuts and finally got the bleeding to stop. We were ready to go home!
My legs were so tired, I could barely put one foot in front of the other. About the time we’d get going, Pepper would stop. It is not easy to drag a 125-pound dog down the railroad track. I finally looked back to see what was going on, and Jazzie had picked that time to grab his tail and hold on. Not only was I dragging Pepper, I was dragging a dog train behind me! I yelled at her and she gave me that innocent, “What did I do?” look. We started again. A trio of one tired, filthy. cut-up, fat old woman; a huge hacked off dog, and a little pain in the tail!
About the time I was ready to submit to death by stupidity, I saw our driveway. I turned Pepper loose, and he and Jazzie took off like a streak toward our house. Little did I know that I had been gone for 4 1/2 hours and my entire family was gathered in our yard, working on starting a search party. When the dogs showed up without me, that really scared them! I eventually stumbled into our yard, sat down at the picnic table, looked at my daughter and said, “Water!!!!” My husband was foaming at the mouth, muttering something I couldn’t understand, but I knew by the expression on his face that it was not repeatable. My daughter-in-law grounded me. My daughter asked me if I had never heard of carrying a cell phone when I went out of state. My son enjoyed everything immensely because it was me in trouble and not him. (He’s a basketball coach). The only thing I could say was, “But the radiologist told me to walk!”
All ended well. A flood washed my walking trail away. I have promised my family that I will not go on anymore extended hikes. However, my husband just got the starter on our 4-wheeler fixed! YeeeHaww!!!!