Big Step for a Little Man by Dave Horvath

Editors Note: I can relate to this story. Last summer I was trying to get into a small lake in northern MN. I had a tube on my back and fishing stuff in both hands. Two hours later I came out of that woods, 50 feet from where I started, sweating up a storm and shaking a empty can of bug spray. Next time I’m bringing a compass.

Being raised in the big city of Calgary, Canada until I was five, then moving to northern Alberta to farm was a bit of a culture shock, but I looked forward to exploring my new playground. It was just like the television show “Green Acres”! After a couple of years of tagging along after my Dad and uncles, I was convinced that I had the wilderness savvy to tackle just about anything. The lake that was about seven miles from my home fascinated me. I had heard of the sky being black with waterfowl and had seen the hunters come back from the lake area with moose as big as elephants. One day I was going to go into the deepest darkest bush known to man, and what an adventure it would be! I spent the whole winter dreaming of the pile of game I would come back with.

One Easter, my parents announced that we were all going to Calgary for a visit. I somehow convinced them to let me stay behind to “‘take care of” the farm. The day they left, I started to make preparations for the trip of a lifetime. A sack of grub, matches and my pocketknife, what else would I possibly need? I fired up the old tractor and headed out, only to find that even a tractor can only go so far in the mud. By the time I reached the area I believed the lake to be in, the sun was coming up and my legs were sore–the tractor wheels had plugged up a few miles back. Hearing the geese honking, I stumbled on heading straight east. I figured that if I followed the sun, I couldn’t go wrong. Suddenly, there was the lake dead ahead! The sky was black with geese and a pair of moose was munching on willows at the far end of the lake.

I quickly scared off the geese and the moose with a couple of wild shots, then, disappointed, ate my lunch and settled in for a nap. When I woke up the weather had turned bad. The sun was gone and it was getting late, so I thought I better head back to the tractor and home. After walking for an hour I again heard geese and was amazed that I was back at the lake again. How did that happen?

Fun in the woods
I kept trying to get my bearings, but, after ripping my rubber boots on ice and getting a branch in my eye, I was horrified to hear the geese again! NO WAY, NOT THE LAKE AGAIN! I climbed a large spruce and, sure enough, there was the lake about a half-mile in front of me. That was it! I thought I was finished. I thought about my parents finding my frozen body out here and began to panic.

Sitting there, I started to think about the hunter training course that my Father had me take a year before. I remembered the instructor saying, “Sit and wait for help,” if I were ever lost in the woods. I decided that that advice was no good in my situation because it would be days before I was found missing. I pondered some more, then remembered a speech on wilderness travel where the trainer had said, “Your strongest leg takes a bigger step than your less used leg.” That was it! That’s why I was walking in circles! Again I left the lake.

Taking a hard left every ten minutes or so to make up for my more powerful right leg, I ventured toward what I hoped was home. It worked. I was out, though not exactly where I wanted to be, but I knew the way home! After sleeping the entire next day, I felt okay, and only told of my adventure years later. My parents were mad, but realized that I knew how lucky I was to get out okay.

My son is now eight years old, and I plan to enroll him in a survival course. I want him to walk a mile in my boots, straight ahead and a little to the right.

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