Saturday night was Corinne’s cousin Amy’s college graduation party. Nothing big, just family. It was at Amy’s parents house out in the country in Madera, on their rather large ranch where grapes and other such crops are grown for profit. You know, like a farm, except its called a “ranch.”
This is the tale of how I got covered with San Joaquin mud and got to experience what real country folk do for fun.
I was standing around drinking Coors Light (my kind of people) with the guys at the party. An explanation of myself and Corinne’s relationship to these guys is needed, as it will help create a better storyline.
First, there is Wyatt, who is Amy’s brother and by default Corinne’s cousin as well. He runs a few hundred acres of various crops, mostly grapes. He is my age, and married. More about his wife in a minute.
Second is Jarret, who is married to Cristen, who is the youngest sister of Wyatt and Amy, and, of course, also Corinne’s cousin by default. Jarret’s sister, Marlea, is Wyatt’s wife. So Jarret and Wyatt are brothers-in-law, twice over.
Third is David, who is Amy’s boyfriend. No weird family connection there, except that he was already Jarret and Wyatt’s good buddy before he started dating Amy.
So thats just the beginning of the strange relationships and marriages that dominate this circle of friends.
But thats not the story, just background worth mentioning.
Anyway, we were standing around drinking Coors Light, and Wyatt asks what time it is. I look at my phone and its 7pm. Wyatt announces that it is time to “change the water.” So Wyatt, Jarret, and David grab some beers and start to leave, and Jarret invites me along.
What the hell, I’m down to “change the water.” It is a party, after all.
So we jump into Jarret’s new (Newly purchased, at least) 1981 Jeep Wrangler and haul ass down the dirt road leading away from the house, heading out into the vineyards.
Me, not thinking, forgot to grab a beer. As we are going 60-70 MPH down a narrow dirt farm road, Jarret notices that I don’t have a beer, so pulls one out from somewhere and hands it to me. Pretty cool, that invisible beer cooler he had installed in the Jeep.
I figure we wouldn’t leave the ranch, so there would be no legal issue of driving without seat belts with open cans of beer (not to mention the invisible beer cooler).
Sure enough, we leave the ranch and are now driving about 65 MPH (I’m not sure if the speedometer was entirely accurate, as no old Jeep that I know of has working gauges of any kind), windshield down, beers in hand, on Avenue 5.
We pull over at some random alfalfa field, and Wyatt jumps out of the Jeep, turns some water valves on, and jumps back into the Jeep. We drive around the field to the other side, and repeat the process, this time turning off some water valves.
Okay, so that’s what “changing the water means.” I got it. Wyatt is a farmer, and the other two guys do farm related stuff, so this is probably something they usually have to do. Surely the irrigation must be constantly monitored on a large scale farm like this one. No big deal.
On the way back to the ranch, we stop by Wyatt’s house to pick up a case of Keystone Light. Good times.
We get back to the ranch, and take the road that follows the San Joaquin River, which is the southern border of the property.
The entire time, from when we left the house, I’m riding shotgun, Jarret is driving, Wyatt is behind him, and David is behind me. Most of the time, Jarret is talking to either me or Wyatt and David about whatever. While he is talking to the guys in the back seat, he is completely turned around, barely paying attention to the road. Several times we would veer to the right or left, nearly driving straight into hay bails, canals, road signs, etc. However, he apparently knows these roads better then anything, so he instinctively knows when to look forward and correct his course. After all, he does live on Avenue 5 right up the road from the ranch.
One of the things Jarret, Wyatt and David would talk about was their buddy Dominic, who would often drive out to the ranch and fish on the river for hours on end. More about him later.
While we are heading back to the house, Jarret takes a side road that leads down to the rivers edge. On the way to the river proper are several small inlets which are flooded over, as well as sand bars, mud holes, and other such riverside phenomena. Jarret wants to show us the place where he often spots Dominic fishing in his little boat.
The side road comes off the main road via a sandy hill about 20 yards long. At the bottom of the hill, it weaves between aforementioned ponds and sand bars until it reaches the rivers edge.
While going down the side road, Jarret is naturally turned around in his seat talking to Wyatt and David. On our left is a large puddle (Maybe 20 feet across) surrounded by reeds and other such aquatic plants, and the road splits right before the puddle, the left fork being the puddle (with a road coming out the other side of it), and the right fork continuing down the the rivers edge.
Clearly, this is a puddle that can be driven through, as the road comes out on the other side.
However, it was not Jarret’s intention to go through this puddle, but he happened to drive into the reeds on its edge while turned around.
We were stopped on the reeds, the left front tire in the water.
Jarret decides to see what his new Jeep can do, and takes on the puddle.
To be concluded…