Apr 21, 2024
Sometimes It Takes A Redneck To Get Out Of The Gnarliest Places In Wyoming
ALPINE — When Nick Cummings started a new side hustle rescuing vehicles from Wyoming mud, snow, water and ice, he didn't foresee a marriage counseling component to the business. After about two years
ALPINE — When Nick Cummings started a new side hustle rescuing vehicles from Wyoming mud, snow, water and ice, he didn't foresee a marriage counseling component to the business.
After about two years of rescuing snowmobiles in the backcountry and pulling pickups out of mud holes, the affable owner of Redneck Rescue in Alpine, has earned an education in human dynamics and become an all-around problem solver.
"I've been told I've saved several marriages," Cummings told Cowboy State Daily. "Nothing replaces the feeling of helping others."
It's important to show up with a positive attitude, he said, when a Wyoming mud hole is trying to reclaim a client's 28,000-pound diesel pusher motorhome and it sits high-centered, resting on its frame, with tires freely spinning.
Situations like this can be tense. Husbands and wives in desperation exchange unpleasantries related to how they got where they were and what to do about it. And the bystanders who can't resist the opportunity to pluck some low-hanging fruit are ever-present.
Cummings has learned how to balance these situations with levity. His company motto is "We'll take the suck out of your stuck."
Being positive, confident and getting straight to the business at hand are important, he said.
"There's no other service like us here in this area," he said. "I try to keep it light-hearted and never shame anyone. It's all about moving forward."
Last summer Cummings rescued 52 vehicles from the sticky mud at the upstream end of Palisades Reservoir. Every summer when the irrigation demand in Idaho draws the reservoir down, it's a certain sign of job security for Cummings.
He said the reservoir bottom is deceiving. In many places it’s covered with vegetation and in others it has a gravel surface that people trust too much. Only a few inches below the gravel and grass is a layer of muck that swallows vehicles regularly.
Cummings has rescued numerous stuck vehicles, but people also get into trouble towing house trailers and driving other heavy vehicles into the flats when the reservoir recedes.
Miranda is a flat black three-quarter ton Ford pickup equipped with a winch and an attachment that raises the winch's pulling point. It's a custom-built tool that provides some lift to help separate heavy vehicles from the gooey reservoir bottom.
For the heavier jobs, Cummings has a M-35 Series Deuce and a Half. These trucks were manufactured for the U.S. military. Thousands of them were used during World War II and have since been put to work in numerous applications including as brush trucks in the fire service.
They are 6X6 wheel drive with power take-off winches. That means the winch is powered directly off the engine's crankshaft. Cummings' truck is bobbed, meaning the second set of axles on the rear were removed making it a four-wheel drive. It's equipped with oversized tires and a beefed up suspension.
He uses synthetic cables on his winches, and he has kinetic straps that stretch up to 30 percent when given a powerful yank. Once he gets a stuck vehicle moving with a winch he will sometimes employ a few yanks to finish the job. Using the modern synthetic materials doesn't bang and jar the stuck vehicle like a chain or steel cable would, he said.
For winter rescues Cummings has several special tools. One is a lightweight gas-powered capstan winch that he carries on his snowmobile. The winch can be anchored to a tree or another snowmobile and used to pull stuck snowmobiles and side-by-sides from several hundred feet away.
Another common tool of the trade is a snatch block that routes the pulling cable through a series of pulleys to double the pulling power of the winch.
Over the last two winters, Redneck Rescue has performed close to 100 vehicle rescues. Cummings' wife Jess is a professional snowmobile hill-climber who helps him rescue vehicles. In fact, it was her idea to start the company as a winter rescue operation. It later grew into a summer rescue business.
Some snowmobile rescues are as simple as a little digging and then driving the sled out of a ditch. Others that take place deep in the backcountry, often when high-performance sleds break down, can take 10 hours or more, he said.
Cummings has developed relationships with search and rescue volunteers in both Teton and Lincoln Counties. He has also developed a relationship with the sheriff's department in neighboring Bonneville County, Idaho, which has jurisdiction of Palisades Reservoir.
"They rescue people and we rescue vehicles," he said. "It's been great for our business to network and develop relationships with them."
Cummings grew up in the Denver area where his father ran an excavation business. He's always enjoyed spending time in the shop where he learned to weld, fabricate and work on vehicles. Riding dirt bikes is a big part of his past and when he met Jess his interest in backcountry snowmobiling increased.
"I grew up in the garage and have always been a guy who didn't want to hire jobs out," he said. "I learned to weld when I was about nine years old."
Every rescue Cummings performs winds up on his YouTube channel.
He always clears it with the client and drops some time from his hourly rate to account for moving cameras around. He said so far the clients have been happy to participate in his social media productions.
Cummings has about 800 subscribers on his YouTube Channel. It contains videos of him performing both summer and winter rescues. He provides plenty of nuts and bolts information about how to extricate vehicles from all types of peril. One video shows a Chevy pickup sitting nearly vertical on its front bumper after going over the edge of a road down into a creek bottom. He used a drone to film part of this rescue.
Prior to creating the Alpine Redneck Rescue channel, Cummings had no experience with shooting or producing videos. He uses a Go-Pro Camera to shoot most of his episodes and does all the editing on his iPhone.
One thing that's noticeable about his videos is they're tight. He knows how to edit the boring stuff out and keep the viewer's attention. He films the nuts and bolts of each rescue with plenty of detail about the tools and techniques.
Sometimes Cummings teams up with another local towing company, Palisades Towing, on the heavier jobs. Regarding the 28,000-pound diesel pusher motorhome, they hooked one wrecker to the front to give it some lift and then connected the back end to his military deuce and a half. They put ramps under the tires of the motor home to provide lift as they pulled on it.
He made 30 to 40 slack runs with the military truck and the kinetic strap, moving it only a few inches at a time until the motorhome was free from the muck.
"It's better to work smarter than harder," he said. "I've never had to leave one behind yet," he said. "But I know it will happen someday."
John Thompson can be reached at: [email protected]
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