updated 10/5/2007 2:22:13 PM ET 2007-10-05T18:22:13

Add another victim to North Carolina's prolonged drought. Donald Meeks set out with bow and arrow in hand to hunt for carp on Falls Lake. He almost didn't return. The retired landscaper from Durham went one foot out on the lake because the drought had left the water level so low.

High school friend David Minshew came along for the ride and waited for Meeks at the car, expecting him to return in a few hours.

Those few hours passed. The afternoon faded. Darkness began to fall and still no sign of the 68-year-old Meeks.

A motorist stopped around 7 p.m. Monday and asked if they were stranded. Minshew used the driver's cell phone to report his friend was missing and to call Meek's wife.

Durham County sheriff's deputies responded, using boats to search the grassy area to no avail.

It was now midnight. Maj. Mike Andrews asked for a Highway Patrol helicopter.

Using thermal-imaging equipment, the helicopter crew found Meeks at 2:11 a.m. Tuesday, about 300 yards north of Interstate 85.

He was surrounded by tall grass and "buried up to his chest in some mud, quicksand-type matter," Andrews said.

Deputies were unable to pull Meeks out using a rope. They created a walkway with plywood and used some "elbow grease" and finally freed Meeks about two hours later, Andrews said.

Meeks says he was simply walking when he fell in a hole, and that he began hallucinating while he was cold and wet and stuck in the mud.

"I thought about being in my warm bed and not out here shivering," he said. "I asked Jesus what in the world I had done to deserve this."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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