This steering stabilizer (first picture), was bent badly by a stump. It was the bottom stabilizer, part of a dual steering stabilizer set up. It was smashed when making a K turn. It caught the very top edge of the stump. If the truck only had a single cartridge mounted on the factory stabilizer mounts (second picture), it would have cleared. Like the truck in the third picture. When he hit the stump, we got out and looked at the front end. The stump bent the centerlink too. We were going back into some soupy black goo, to rescue a stuck Ramcharger. The steering was whacked out now. It had to be rigged up there to move the truck. A strap around a tree, with a snatch block on it, the winch cable through it, back to the centerlink (with the steering stabilizers removed). The rear bumper anchored to another tree, with a second tow strap. A few turns of the winch got it straight enough to drive. We were half way back to where the Dodge was stuck, further than two different 4 wheel drive tow trucks got earlier that day, attempting to pull out the Dodge. They left him there, and charged him a fee, since they both got stuck numerous times. One was a 4wd flat bed. He was using the bed hydraulics to pull himself out. After the fourth time, I guess the pressure was too much, and the lines were weak, because the main hydraulic line blew. They had to send another one of their wreckers out to rescue the flatbed. The wrecker operators were foolish. They surely didn't know these trails at all. They ran parallel to a river. Ruts everywhere from 40" tires. Two places where you had to cross a trench. Each trench had a few trails going across it. Some would swallow a truck with 35's easily, others 35's would get you across. No stock vehicles went where the Ramcharger was stuck. He got across the trench at high speed, with 6 passengers. NOT smart. He was lucky to make it across once. Getting back across again was very against the odds. No tow truck could make it back to where he was without winching most of the way. By the time my brother called me, and asked me to call Greg, it was midnight. They were out in the trails, though more of a swamp, wheeling and barbecuing all day. Even after Eric got stuck. They eventually all walked out and got a ride to Eric's house. They piled into my mom's car, and I rode with Greg. My brother followed us driving mom's car. At the entrance to the trails, he left mom's car in the parking lot. They climbed into the back of Greg's truck and held onto the roll bar. We tried crossing a trench in the wrong place. Greg's truck nose-dived into the soupy black water. All I saw was water lapping over the front edge of the hood and the ground. Greg cursed, put the truck in reverse, and eased the clutch out. The truck lurched right back out of the trench. He barely nudged the gas. That made Eric, to this day, say that (Greg) Wheat's truck was the best 4x4 he ever saw. I admit it left a deep impression in my mind. I did the same thing once with my buddy Frank, who at the time had a 74? International pick up. It had a V8 and was a long bed. He had a lolly column up front welded to the frame rails as a bumper. Same trench, backed right out. Back to the story,,, We got to where Eric was stuck. He hadn't realized it, but he was heading for worse trouble if he didn't get stuck where he was. He came to a ravine crossing, about 20 ft across. He drove into it and turned right. It was dark, he was not familiar with the trails. He never got out to see where he was heading. I knew perfectly well the river was on our right the whole way. He was headed for the river, following a canal that emptied into it. The banks were 8 feet tall on both sides. Black stinking gooey mud. Swamp. I shined a flashlight ahead of his Ramcharger. He was 20 yards from the river at the most. I could see the water. We hooked the winch cable to his rear bumper, and Greg began dragging him back, and sideways. Eric had the truck in neutral. All of a sudden, Greg stopped. His alternator wasn't charging. He told me to quickly disconnect the winch cable, and we're leaving before the battery dies. Then the gauge popped back up again as we were about to leave. We hooked the cable on. Greg told Eric to get in. Eric said he never steered while being pulled out before. (Sounds dumb, huh?) He asked me to steer it out. I never pass up a chance to drive in mud. He said he had to sit in the passenger seat, and hold the shifter in 4wd with his foot, or it would pop out! So he sat next to me and held the shifter. My brother was standing up on the bank. Greg was standing behind his open driver's door, operating the winch. When we started moving, I had just started cranking the engine. I pumped it a few times, and cranked. Nothing. I put my foot to the floor, and cranked it. A loud POP came from the rear. It was a wad of mud from the tailpipe, which was being dragged into the muddy bank, scooping mud along the way. The flying glob of muck, hit my brother in the forehead! I only wished I'd had seen it. It was a baseball sized glob, almost knocked him over Greg said. Greg winched me to the edge, where I could back up on my own. He wrapped the winch cable around the bumper so we could get going. Now it was 4 am. I was 18 at the time, and my 79 Chevy LUV 4wd was in the shop getting a head gasket. I had my mother's car in the parking lot, that the trails were next to. Right by the entrance. Eric followed Greg out. This was to be sure Eric didn't get stuck, and block the narrow rutted trail sections. It was easier to tie a strap to his front bumper, and drag him along. Luckily, he made it to the dirt road leading out, that just had a few puddles on it, but a car could travel on. That was when the smoke came pouring out from under Greg's hood. I smelled that nasty electrical fire/wires/plastic/melting smell. That always means trouble, as evidenced by the white smoke. He shut it off. Flung open the hood, Extinguisher ready. It was out already. The wires were still glowing though. It turned out, on his 70 Chevy, the battery feed wire to the terminal block mounted under the hood, on the top of the firewall was getting pinched. It was run under the metal radiator support, not in a loom. It worked itself between the radiator and the radiator support. I guess we hit the right combination of bumps. It also melted wires that were running parallel with it. The instrument cluster was fried. Eric was able to drive around Greg on this stretch. He did, and took me out to the parking lot. I came home, and got a 50 ft spool of 16Ga wire. It was all I had that was long enough. Nowhere to get wire at 4 am. I drove back up there with the wire. I stripped wires, and held the flashlight until we finished at 5:30 am. We went to a diner and ate breakfast. We both went home and showered, then went to work. Great way to start a week. Oh, did I forget to mention that Eric started wheeling at 12 noon on Sunday? Eric gave Greg $50 for pulling him out. Greg had to rewire his truck, and wasted a steering stabilizer, and a centerlink. Much more than $50 will cover. Greg was a mechanic then, and still is. He got the parts cheaper than most people would, but still way more than $50. I just bought a centerlink last year. Greg got it for me at cost. It was over $100. He is my mechanic, my family's mechanic, and more of our friends are going to him every year, tired of getting ripped off elsewhere. His shop charges a steep $60 an hour labor, but $50 is average here, and a lot of poor quality work. Greg still owns a piece of his 70 Chevy 4wd shortbed, with 35" Gumbo Mudders. Now, a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo body sits atop the 70 chassis. It rides on 38.5 Super Swamper TSL's. That was a fun swap. Greg learned how to MIG weld on that job. I showed him, and he quickly started welding where strength wasn't a factor. He began on the inner wheel wells. I welded the quarters on, and all the body mounts on the chassis.
That's another story, for another day.

1998 Charles D Smith All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any format, without express written permission from the author to do so.

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