Crawl for Survival

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It was the week before opening weekend, 1996. I was out in the swamp setting up a deer stand for my son. It consisted of a 12 foot ladder with a platform on top, leaned against a tree. I was out there alone (first mistake) and told nobody where I was going (second mistake).

I was in surgery around midnight that night to rebuild the shattered bones. To this day I have 5 pins in my ankle and I can feel the weather change about a day ahead of time.

I truly am lucky and I believe me, I NEVER go into the woods alone without telling someone where I’m going and when I’ll be back!!!!!
Anyway, I leaned the ladder/platform against a likely looking tree and tested it. There was a branch in the way which needed trimming, so I grabbed my machete and climbed the ladder. When my head was just above the platform (12′ off the ground) the whole thing shifted and began to fall. I tried to jump clear but my boot got caught in one of the ladder rungs. When I hit the ground I felt a dull sensation in my right ankle. I looked down to see my foot bent at a perfect 90 degree angle to the right. yep, a real bad break.

I was a mile from my truck, no cell phone, no one knew I was there and it was cold and a freezing rain was just beginning. I had no choice so I began to crawl out on my hands and knees keeping my right leg bent with the foot suspended. Every time I moved the leg forward, the boot bobbed up and down and the pain seared through me.

The crawl took 4 1/2 hours to get back to the truck, another 20 minutes drive out of the swamp on an old logging road and then about 30 minutes back to town (all driving with the left foot)

Needless to say by the time I got to the hospital I was hypothermic and shocky. I also had a foot-long cut on my back from the machete from when I fell.

By Fred Wahls