Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jailbirds

Last night, we decided to go out to the Bear River Waterfowl Refuge to view the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Waterfowl refuge is about 15 miles to the West of Brigham City, and is far enough away from the major metropolitan area to be relatively free of light pollution. We arrived there at about 9:45 pm, and passed through the gate into the Waterfowl refuge. From the gate, there was a 12 mile loop road to view wildlife, that would have been nice in the daytime, but we decided to stay near the entrance, where there was a large turn-around place for trucks with boats and trailers.

When we arrived, it was still dusk outside, so we stayed in the truck for a little while to finish listening to a book on tape. Finally, a few minutes after 10:00, we got out of the truck. The first thing we noticed was the mosquitoes! Everyone (except me) slathered up in insect repellent. While they were doing that, I was setting up my new camera and tripod to take some pictures of the night sky, and perhaps get lucky, and capture a meteorite in a photograph.

Mosquito

You can read some Interesting
Mosquito facts here.

As I was working on the camera, the kids came running back to me: "DADDY, DADDY, THE GATE HAS CLOSED! WE ARE LOCKED IN!!! (I take a deep breath – don’t panic now!) I knew the gate was there, we were parked only about 50 feet away from it. I had figured that if the gate was to be locked, that some park ranger would come along and lock it. SILLY ME! The gate was automated, and probably was on a timer. My guess is that it clanked shut at 10:00 pm. while our attention was focused on the cute story we were listening to. After I got the tripod set up, I went over to investigate. The gate was on rollers, not unlike a chain link gate someone might have at the end of their driveway. It was connected to a motor drive, like a garage door opener. I walked up to the gate, hoping there was some kind of motion sensor that would open it from the back side. Nothing happened. I climbed over the rail fence next to the gate, and found a keypad, that if you know the combination, you could open the gate! I actually dialed a few random numbers and pressed enter to see if it would open. No luck there, either.

I walked back along the rail fence, maybe we could do and end run around the end of the fence! No luck there either. The fence was solid, and went right down into the water on both sides of the gate. Even our mighty 4x4 truck would not make a good amphibian.

As the kids and I walked back to the truck, we found that mama had already gotten back into the truck, and was furiously smashing mosquitoes. It was clear that she wasn’t game to be out with those mini vampires tonight! We all climbed back inside the truck (while brining in a bunch more mosquitoes with us). Mama and the kids had discovered that the mosquitoes were attracted to the interior lights, so they turned them on, to attract the mosquitoes to the lights, and away from us! Poor critters. Attracted to the light, only to be dashed or smeared into to pieces. Finally after the mosquito massacre was complete, the kids asked: “DADDY, ARE WE GOING TO BE HERE ALL NIGHT!” What do you answer at a time like this? The truth was, maybe we would be here all night. If the gate closes automatically, it surly must open again automatically in the morning as well. That is, except, what if its closed on Sundays? – It could happen, especially in Utah!

The next alternative would be to call for help. We did think to bring our cell phone. But who would you call. There were signs attached to the gate, but none of them included a phone number to contact incase of an emergency. I check my cell phone to make sure we had service, and sure enough we did! The only place I could think of to call was 911.

You have no idea how foolish I felt. I used to be a 911 dispatcher. I have heard all kinds of calls, from the sublime, to the ridiculous, to the horrific. Our call would be in the ridiculous category. (I can hear the dispatchers now getting a good laugh, or being annoyed at us, depending how busy they were.) Nonetheless, I had a family to think of, and not to mention my 7:00 am church leadership meeting to attend in the morning. If we didn’t get out of here tonight, I would never make the meeting. I could just see myself now calling the Stake President in the morning.

Me: “Hi President. Uh, I’m not going to make our council meeting this morning.
Pres: “Oh, why not?”
Me: “Well, I’m sort of stuck here just outside of Brigham City.”
Pres: “Can we send someone to give you some help?”
Me: “Well, no . . . I’m locked inside the Waterfowl Refuge. We’ve been here all night!”
Pres: “(Stifling a chuckle) “I see, well be safe, and get back as soon as you can.”

Later on at the Stake Welfare Meeting . . .

Pres: “And we’d like to excuse David B., he’s rather indisposed at the moment”

No, I couldn’t imagine having that conversation. It was a matter of embarrassing yourself before someone you don’t know, and will never see – or to embarrass yourself before someone who will razz you about it for the rest of your born days! I chose anonymous embarrassment, thank you very much! So I made the 911 call.

I explained to the patient 911 operator our situation. He didn’t laugh, and he wasn’t sounding annoyed either. What a professional. Anyhow, He told us that either someone would call us to tell us how to get ourselves out, or they would send someone over to let us out. The time was about 10:30 pm.

Meanwhile, it had gotten pretty dark out by now. I decided, well, if I’m going to be here, I may as well try taking a few photos while we wait. So I went outside and pointed the camera at the big dipper, and set the camera to take a time-released photo. The mosquitoes were all over me. I had to keep swatting at my arms and face. I got the camera going on a 10 minute exposure, and hopped back in the truck for shelter. Of course I brought more mosquitoes back into the truck with me. They turned on the interior lights, and started smashing, thumping and smearing mosquitoes.

Suddenly Dawn Ann hauls off and whacks me right in the middle of my forehead! Then she pulls her hand away, showing the bloody mosquito smear that was left over. Gee, thanks honey, I guess….

The mosquitoes were so thick, that no one wanted to sit outside in the lawn chairs we brought with us. (Note to me: next year when we want to observe the meteor shower – how about we go somewhere OTHER than a MARSH!) We all stayed in the truck and listened to some more books on tape. It got to be past 11:30 pm, and we had not received any word by phone, nor had anyone shown up to let us out.

Pearly Gates

We began to feel like we were in a prison camp, or like being locked out of the Pearly Gates! I decided to make another call to the 911 operator, to see any progress was being made on getting us out of here. I explained to him that no one had contacted us, and that we were still here waiting for help. He said he would check up on the status, and let us know.

I went out to retrieve my camera and tripod, and while I was out the 911 operator called back. He had finally made contact with the caretaker of the Waterfowl refuge. The key to getting past the gate, was to simply drive up to it! It had a sensor that could detect a vehicle present, and would then open. AUTOMATCIALLY! We had been sitting there feeling like jailbirds for a hour and a half, and all we had to do was drive up to the silly gate!

We had stayed in the truck, at our viewpoint just 50 feet away. We hadn’t bothered to drive over to the gate, but just stayed there so close to the goal, but not making it through. (I had walked over to the gate and tried to set off a sensor, but that was not the correct way. The sensor was smart enough to only open if vehicles approached it from the back side. I suppose that is to keep people from having someone walk around to the back side of the gate, trip the sensor, and drive on through, even when they were not supposed to.)

How many times to do we sell ourselves short of our goals. How often would we succeed if we would just keep trying that last little bit of distance. We could have left our confinement at anytime, if we would have just driven up to the gate!

I am reminded of the scripture, “Straight is the gate, and narrow the way” (Matt 7:14), which I think fits pretty well in this instance. We have to do more than just want things to happen. We can’t expect others to do things for us, which only we can do for ourselves. We have to take the initiative ourselves, and make things happen. But they must be done in the right way – the way the Lord has prescribed. Then we will find the way to freedom. Then the gate will be opened before us. And we will be able to pass on through, and make our way to our final destination.

In the end, we got home just before 3:00 am. I would have to function on about 3 hours of sleep. Oh well, at least it beats having that conversation with the President! As it turned the only birds we saw at the waterfowl refuge were us. Just us Jailbirds, that is!


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2 comments:

Jim said...

Great story, David. You are a patient man. I'd been tempted to hook up to the gate with a tow strap and give it a BIG yank!

Jim
aka W9JIM

Anonymous said...

Ha ha David. That really is quite an adventure. Glad you made it back okay. I'm very impressed with your dedication to your church callings. What would the world be like if we were all more like that?...

I watched the shower from far in the Uintas. I saw many a meteor and not a single misquito (it was well below freezing). I woke up bright and early to find a thick and sturdy ice sheet covering my bag from which I had to fight my way out!

Trevor
aka T Rekrap