You couldn’t do this if you tried

Here’s how it looked, up on the lift at the muffler place.

Or at least, I couldn’t. I certainly wasn’t trying to when I did.

Last week, when we were hurrying about to go to the beach for a few days, I noticed that my old truck’s bed had a lot of water standing in it. I generally park it off to the side of our driveway under some trees, and the way the pine-needle-covered surface slopes, the water couldn’t escape.

So I backed it out to let it drain onto the driveway, which slopes the other way.

Then I had a bright idea (watch out for these, by the way). I decided to back the truck into its usual position, so if it rained, the water would drain out.

The idea was simple enough, but delicate to execute, because it involves slightly tricky maneuvering to avoid backing into a couple of trees and not running over some azalea bushes. But I was careful, very careful, with most of my attention focused on the trees.

Suddenly, I heard this grinding, wrenching sound that I didn’t understand — I was still a foot and a half from the nearest tree. Whatever it was, I couldn’t back up any further. I decided I would pull forward away from it before changing my angle and backing up again.

But I couldn’t pull forward, either. It was like some giant, supernatural hand had a grip on the truck. And each careful attempt to move either way produced slight noises that suggested I would hear huge noises again soon if I gave it more gas.

So I turned off the truck, got out, and peered under the bed from the rear. I saw the tailpipe you see in the photo above, bent almost double. I had backed over a stump of a pine we had removed sometime back.

This stump had not figured into my calculations, because it rose only about four inches above the ground immediately surrounding it. I should have cleared it easily, and would have on a level surface. But back here in the trees, there was sort of a dip in the ground, and my rear tires were in that dip. So the stump had easily bent the pipe into the shape you see.

But that’s not the really genius, amazing part of what I did. With its new shape — which I would describe as a sort of fishhook, or maybe grappling hook — my tailpipe had dug into the stump to a surprisingly firm degree, which was why the truck was going nowhere.

Nothing I could do right then. So I drove away to the beach — in a different vehicle, of course — with a troubled mind. I had a plan, but I couldn’t execute it right then.

Several days later, when we were back and both my sons were at the house, I got them to lift up on the bed slightly — a millimeter or two would do — and I drove off the stump easily.

The next day I drove off to buy a tailpipe and a new muffler, since the old one had suffered damage in the incident. Cost me a little over two hundred bucks. Happy New Year.

Anyway, I’m still sort of marveling at what I did.

Today, I was going to work on that stump with chainsaw and ax and see how close I can get it down to ground level. But it’s raining today. And I suppose the truck bed is filling back up…

See how low that stump is? You can hardly see it for the pine straw. I was worried about the TREE behind it…

4 thoughts on “You couldn’t do this if you tried

  1. Dave Crockett

    Not nearly as creative, but I did manage to back my nearly brand new 72 Super Beetle into a ditch and folded BOTH of the tailpipes AND the rear apron above them up about 45 degrees. I eventually replaced the entire muffler/tailpipe assembly myself (swearing I’d never try THAT again) and pounded the rear apron back into place…more or less…and touched it up with some paint fairly unprofessionally. Guess that’s why I ended up majoring in journalism instead of auto repair…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    That ended up being longer than I thought it would. Sorry about that. I know you don’t care about my tailpipe. I was just still filled with wonder at the stupid thing I did, and felt compelled to confess, or brag, or something.

    People do this. For instance, Dana Milbank had a column along similar lines in The Washington Post a day or two back. The headline was “I killed a deer in my bathroom” — which is kind of misleading. Really, he killed a deer from his bathroom, shooting out the window. It would have been much more interesting if he had actually killed it in the bathroom, maybe in the tub — with a toothbrush.

    Oh, he dressed it up by using it to illustrate a larger point — about there being too many deer running around. He was “restoring the health of the forest,” you see. But cut through that, and you’ve still got a guy reflecting on a weird thing he did.

    I just didn’t try to represent it as something of larger significance. Also…

    I’m apologizing for writing slightly more than 500 words about this thing. Milbank’s piece stretched to 1,823. Which probably doesn’t mean anything unless you know that most newspaper columns run less than 1,000 words, and generally little more than 700. For instance, George Will’s latest column is 740…

  3. Ralph Hightower

    When we moved into our current house in 1987, there was a tree stump about six inches above ground in the back yard. That stump was the favorite place for our male dogs to mark their territory. When I cut the grass with the lawn tractor, I cut as close as I could without hitting it. A few years later, I accidentally hit the stump and it crumbled.

    Sorry, but I’m not going into the stump removal business by loaning our dogs out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *