I knew LR Teeken for two hunting seasons before I ever questioned the source of his name. I’d heard a few of his close friends refer to him as “Lightning.” and I’d mistakenly assumed it was a sarcastic expression as LR never responded to anybody very quickly.
Upon learning of my misunderstanding, and that his real first name was Stephen, I had to ask where the initials LR came from. He got a sheepish look on his face. I knew he’d tell me, but first I had to earn the right to hear the story. Eventually LR began to talk and this is what he told me.
LR liked to hunt from a tree stand, and one of his favorite stand locations was in a hell hole over the top of backbone ridge. Each season, LR would carry his tree stand several miles up hill to the highest point on the ridge, and then drop down for about a half mile to a small group of beaver ponds and elk wallows. I never figured out exactly where the stand was located, in fact I always stayed away from that side of the ridge because I knew if I heard an elk bugle down in the bottom, I might go down and kill an elk in a spot where I’d have to eat it rather than carry it out.
Anyway, LR kept on talking. It turns out that a few years back, he hunted in that stand on the next to last day of the season. Although there had been a bunch of elk in the area, previously, the end of the season had brought on a series of fruitless hunts, and LR decided to carry the tree stand out that evening rather than come back after the season. As LR unbolted the eight-foot chain that attached his stand to the tree, he took note that a storm was brewing. Rather than still-hunt through a patch of timber, as he had originally planned, LR decided to head straight over the mountain and to avoid the brunt of the storm.
LR was always in good condition, but with it being nearly the end of elk season he was in top shape. He hiked up the mountain with that ten-pound tree stand strapped to his back pack as though he were on a Sunday morning stroll. He wasn’t even breathing hard as he came to the clearing near the top of the ridge. Per LR, it was at this point that he heard the thunder that made him feel a bit uneasy. Now LR was no dummy, and he had enough experience in the woods to know that lightning was no laughing matter, especially with a ten-pound metal tree stand strapped to his back.
The thunder was a ways off though and he figured that the chances of making it over the ridge before the storm arrived were good. He had only a couple hundred feet to climb, and maybe a quarter mile to go before he’d be over the summit. The wind was picking up considerable and the rain started to fall in large drops. Before LR knew it, he was hit by driving rain that soon turned to hail. Now he had to choose – sit it out or push on into the brunt of the storm. The lightning was closing in. As the time intervals between thunder and the flashes of lightning grew shorter and shorter, LR made the decision to move on over the top of the ridge and get to his truck before total darkness hit.
As he cleared the top of the ridge, LR debated about whether to stay out on the open ridge top or travel in the cover of the timber. It was at this point he took a direct hit. The jolt of the lighting bolt knocked LR out cold. He awoke a few minutes after the lightning strike – laying face down in the muddy trail.
Now comes the part of the story that demonstrates just how clever LR was. He would probably not have survived the direct hit, but in preparation for such an electrifying event, LR had loosed the chain of his tree stand and had let it drag in the muddy trail. The lightning bolt actually melted the last two links of the chain together, an indication that the strike would surely have finished LR off if he hasn’t used some uncommon sense.