Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Never Leave Home Without It

You may have heard of the
6666 Ranch (pronounced “four sixes”). It’s a bit famous as one of the largest ranches of contiguous land in the United States, boasting over 350,000 acres over 5 Texas counties. It’s famous for several other reasons as well, including as a filming location for a number of movies and the streaming series, Yellowstone, airing on Peacock. For my family, it has been a source of pride as well as income, with countless uncles and cousins that have worked there at some time or another. But for me, at least for the last 15 years or so, it brings up an entirely different set of memories and taught me a critical lesson in being prepared.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I was raised in the Texas Panhandle, specifically the Lubbock area. We moved to Dallas in the late ‘90s, but we still had lots of family in that region, so we went “home” several times a year to see them. If you’ve never driven across Texas, you have no idea about the vastness of this state, which is roughly the size of France, Zambia, or Myanmar. Going home usually means a 5+ hour drive across what I call the “north route”, a stretch of 2-lane highway across some of the most desolate territory you’ve ever seen. And that’s if you don’t stop. I only take this route during the day due to the dangers of hitting deer and other wildlife as well as the complete and utter absence of gas stations or anywhere else to stop after it gets dark. Little hamlets become ghost towns, and you can forget about getting a tow or emergency services. I’m not even sure the cell phones work out there.

One year, not long after my niece, Ashley had graduated high school, she came to stay with me for the summer. We were hoping to turn her into a city girl so we could break the apron strings that kept her tied to her mom (that’s a story for another day). When it was time to take her home, we decided to take the north route so my friend, Stephanie could get some pictures of the old courthouses along the way (a hobby of hers). We were in my Saturn sedan, just moseying from town to town in no particular hurry, enjoying the scenery. It was a pleasant drive and we were having fun. Until we weren’t.

The 6666 Ranch straddles a stretch of U.S. Highway 82/State Highway 114, surrounding the town of Guthrie in King county. There’s not much to see there, other than the ranch, as the town boasts a population of only 120 people or so, and is situated about halfway down a 63-mile, deserted span of road between the towns of Benjamin and Dickens. Just 5 minutes after passing Guthrie, my car began to overheat. It was a hot summer day. Temps in Texas in the summer can be brutal, and it was probably approaching 100° F. We hadn’t seen another vehicle for miles, and the nearest town (other than Guthrie) was Dickens, another 20+ miles away. Worst of all, our cell phones weren’t working, so we couldn’t even call for help.

Luckily for us, we had purchased some water to drink a few towns back when we stopped to stretch our legs. We dumped all of it we had left into the reservoir, including Stephanie’s giant bottle of Fiji water, the only kind she liked. I’m sure that must have been the most expensive bottle of water anyone could have put in a radiator, and I still laugh about it to this day, but even that wasn’t enough to get us to the next town. We trudged a few more miles before the car overheated again and we were just stuck. Fate was on our side once again when a work truck popped over the hill from behind us. He stopped and was fortunate to have a one-gallon jug of water in the bed of his truck. He had opened it to take a sip at a job site that afternoon, but he gladly handed it off to us with the comment that he always carries a bottle of water with him in his vehicle in case he ever gets stuck at a job site without anything to drink.

We made it to Dickens without any further trouble (other than the rude farmers who derided me for asking about “anti-freeze” instead of calling it “coolant” – jerks), but our water angel’s words stuck with me. From that point forward, I always carried multiple bottles of water in my car in case of emergencies, either in the extra cup holders or in the trunk/cargo area. We were very lucky that day, as we might have been stuck out there for hours, with no shade, no water, in the blazing heat, suffering heat exhaustion or worse. I don’t know who that guy was, but he just might have saved our lives, and for that, I am eternally grateful. At the very least, he taught me a lesson about being prepared that I will never forget.

As you head out for the 4th of July, we at Modern Musings would like to remind you to be prepared and stay hydrated! And whenever you pack up your car for a road trip, think about packing some emergency supplies in case you are stranded – it happens more often than you might think!

What are your go-to necessities for being prepared? Do you pack any special items in the car just in case? Share your stories over on the MMC Chat Group!

For more information about the 6666 Ranch and the size of Texas:


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