Wil Primos’ trip to hell
Bob McNally 09.09.13
In a perfect outdoor world all outdoor trips are a rousing success. The sun is bright, fish are hungry, game is plentiful, and outdoor gear works well. Everything goes as planned. All participants enjoy a great time outdoors, and return to the work-a-day world refreshed and invigorated from a pristine respite with nature.
But as every die-hard fisherman, hunter, camper and canoeist knows all too well, even the best laid outdoor plans at times can go far off course.
While most outdoorsmen can cite various “bummer” trips, few tales can compare with the one that well-known hunter, television outdoor show host, and call manufacturer Wil Primos tells. He calls it the “Togo Island disaster,” and it happened one January when Primos was a college student in Mississippi.
Togo Island is a popular deer hunting spot in the middle of the Big Black River, which feeds the sprawling Mississippi River not far from Vicksburg. Primos had hunted the place for years, and he left school one night for the island to begin a hunt the next morning. He arrived at a small ferry landing at 2 a.m. to get to the island, but the man who ran the ferry refused to take him across on a barge because it was so late, the man was tired, and perhaps had imbibed bit too much the previous evening.
Undaunted, and knowing well how the ferry worked, Primos thought he alone could ferry his truck. He had a 16-foot johnboat in his vehicle, which he unloaded and hooked up the outboard motor. Next he drove his truck onto the ferry barge, which was attached to the island and the landing with large cables. He positioned the outboard-powered johnboat behind the ferry, and began pushing the barge with truck on board across the Big Black River – just as he’d seen the ferry operator do many times previously.
Everything worked well, until the barge reached mid-river, then the cable detached at the barge bow. There had been much rain and flooding, and the Big Black River was high and swift. The barge with Primos new truck on board, turned downstream in the current, putting so much strain on the lone cable still attached to the barge, that it released, too. Even in the pitch darkness Primos could see trouble ahead as the barge and showroom-clean truck headed swiftly down-river, free-floating in the Big Black River current.
The river made a big turn, and there were huge trees half-flooded, where the barge was headed. Thinking fast, Primos found a heavy rope, secured it to the barge, and somehow tied it around the trees to halt the barge from floating farther down-river.
He ran his johnboat back upriver to the ferry landing, where several other island hunters had arrived, wondering where the barge was. Primos told them, then woke the ferry operator. The other hunters had a boat, as did the ferry operator, so with three boats, they managed to push the barge upriver, attach the ferry cables properly to it, and transport the vehicles onto the island, just in time to head out for hunting that dawn.
High water and rain made for difficult island hunting conditions. But Primos drove along a road until a low, muddy slough stopped him. He detoured around the place through thick woods, knocking over small saplings as he went. Two small trees, however, held high a large, fallen oak limb he couldn’t see. It fell when he pushed over the small trees with his vehicle, breaking Primos’ new truck windshield .
Persevering, Wil hunted that morning (he never saw a deer), and returned to camp just in time to learn from a state wildlife officer that the island was ordered to evacuate due to record high water.
Over 50 hunters and their trucks took turns using the ferry back to the mainland. When it was Primos’ turn to drive onto the ferry, the road leading to the ramp onto the barge was a muddy mess. His rear truck wheels slung mud for yards, and as he hit the ramp with his front tires, the truck pushed the barge away from the bank. The truck dropped several feet off the bank, hanging half-on, half-off, the barge. Primos knew the underside of his truck was damaged, but using the front bumper winch he pulled the truck onto the barge, and was ferried across the swollen Big Black River to the Mississippi mainland.
With a broken undercarriage truck leaf spring, Primos began slowly driving home. About mid-way back, the full furry of a winter storm hit, complete with high winds. A strong gust buffeted the truck, causing the johnboat that was secured over the truck cab and into the truck bed to break loose of its ropes. The boat sailed off the truck, landing in the road, where it was hit by a car headed in the opposite direction.
Primos stopped and traded insurance information with the car’s driver, then dragged the boat into roadside bushes, afraid to take it home in the storm. He returned the next day with his uncle who owned the boat to retrieve it, only to learn it had been stolen.
“My mother told me not to make that hunting trip,” Primos remembers. “I always listened to mom after that.”