Everyone has had “one of those days” I am no different. My “one of those days” was a Tuesday, my day off, it was Fall and I was on my way to cut some fire wood for “Gwendolyn” the name I had given our fireplace. Actually, it was my (now X) wife who first used that name to describe our fireplace, she did so because she felt I was spending too much time building and tending to the fire in the fireplace. She was that kind of woman, jealous of everybody and apparently, everything. She was even jealous that I played golf once a week (during the warmer months) with her DAD. She eventually referred to him as “your golfing buddy” instead of dad. Speaking of her dad, it was on his property that I usually went to cut firewood, which is where I was headed this cool Tuesday morning.
The property itself was not where her dad lived, it was 35 acres of forest land about five miles from our house. There was a house adjacent to the property and for whatever reason, “my golfing buddy” had right-of-way through their driveway, to the forest land beyond, which seemed kind of odd. I’d let the occupants of the house whose driveway I was about to invade know that my battered Chevy S-10 pick-up was headed their way. It was not the last time I would be communicating with Kovacks, who were renting the house from whoever owned it. While I know who owns the house, I’m not allowed to mention them because of the sort of out of court, sort of settlement, sort of.
I arrived at the property and made my way up the gravel drive to the two rut “road” beyond. It was colder than usual the night before and there was still some frost on the ground, which made the two rut road just slippery enough to be more than annoying. The 4 cylinder, 4 speed, one wheel drive truck made it’s way to a clearing where I parked, got out and retrieved my chain saw from the bed. There were plenty of standing dead trees for me to play Paul Bunyan with so I began the process, which to me seems quite a bit like doing laundry.
Laundry vs Firewood gathering:
Laundry: Determine which clothes are suitable for washing. This means, did I wear this more than once? Does it reek? Can I get away with wearing it one more time? Firewood: is it seasoned enough to cut up and bring home? Has it been on the ground too long? Is it already rotting? Once it is determined what pieces of laundry or pieces of wood are to be washed or cut up, we move to step two, placing the dirty laundry in the baskets, light colours in one basket, dark colours in another. With wood, it’s a bit less complicated but much heavier. Cut the tree up in manageable pieces, haul to the pick-up and place in the bed. Laundry, take the baskets to the A) laundry room B) launder-mat or C) your mothers house. Load laundry into washing machine (two or more if you are at the launder-mat) pour in detergent, choose the setting you want, start the machine. When the clothes are clean, place into the dryer, set the time and start. When all is washed and dried, return to the place you began and put away the laundry. Firewood, drive back home with the manageable pieces of wood, unload, place wood on saw-horsey thing and cut into fireplace size logs, spit logs with a maul, stack logs. I’ve done my share of laundry as well as cut firewood and on a normal day, this is how it works, unfortunately, this wasn’t a “normal” day, it was “one of those days” and cutting the wood and placing it into the truck should’ve been the beginning of my journey home, this was not to be the case and I would not be getting home for quite some time.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I parked on frozen ground, that was no longer frozen when I loaded the wood and, you guessed it…the truck’s tires sunk into the muddy surface. Of course I should’ve taken the wood out of the truck and driven out of the mud, but I figured (wrongly) that I could just drive out of the mud, which (of course) didn’t happen. No matter how many times I shifted back and forth from first to reverse, no forward progress, only downward, deeper into the mud. Now it was time to take the wood out of the truck, too late, too deep, too stupid, so stupid that I actually attempted to push the truck out while in first gear, hoping that if this did work, I could get to the cab quick enough to stop the truck from crashing into the trees twenty feet in front of me. Since the truck didn’t budge, no matter how much I attempted to give my self a hernia, no matter how much I became covered in mud (a lot) no matter how many pieces of non firewood and rocks I jammed in the ever increasing hole the tires were making, the truck would not budge. Not only that but the next time I got behind the wheel and gave it one last college try…you guessed it (or did you?) I blew the clutch. Not only did I blow the clutch, I blew the clutch that was just installed a month ago when the original clutch blew!!
To sum up: I…A) was covered in mud. B) had a stuck truck in the middle of the woods, with no clutch. C) had to find a tow truck driver who would be brave (stupid) enough to attempt getting my stuck truck to the dealership where I could pay for clutch number three. Surprisingly I accomplished C and that’s where the fun really began, sort of.
First order of post-blown-clutch business was to secure my chainsaw, gas tank and other items in the cab of the truck. Next was to find a phone, this being the mid ’90’s, cellphones were nearly nonexistent and bigger than the walkie-talkies we had as kids, it seemed prudent to ask the occupants of the house with the driveway that I used to begin today’s adventure for the use of theirs. I also pocketed a few quarters from the pick-ups stash in the ashtray, just in case they weren’t home. They weren’t. Luckily, “my golfing buddy’s” forest land was not that far off the beaten path, only a mile or so to a main road, where there was a small motel and other business’s and hopefully a pay phone.
Hitch-hiking seemed out of the question for a couple of reasons, one, this was not a well traveled road and two, I was still covered in mud, although it was becoming dried mud, I wouldn’t pick up me, so why would anyone else? Consequently, after knocking on the door of the empty house, with no cars in the drive, I schlepped down the drive to the narrow country road, where I turned right with the hope that this would all be done before dark. It wasn’t.
There was a pay phone, where I first called the Dealership where I’ve purchased most of my vehicles for the past ten years, mostly because a good friend of mine ran the service department. He answered on the first ring, I gave him a quick summation of my day so far, hoping he wouldn’t laugh too much, surprisingly, he didn’t. My good buddy said he’d send a tow truck and I gave him my location, said “thank you” several times hung up and called my partner-in-this-thing-called-life wife, hoping she wouldn’t laugh too much, she did. Much too much. I hung up after saying I didn’t know when I’d be home and the obligatory “I love you”. She nearly responded in kind without more laughter, nearly.
I trudged to the nearby convenience store, bought a soda and a Slim Jim and waited on a bench outside for the tow truck. During the twenty minutes it took for the tow truck to arrive, I garnered several concerned looks from the patrons of the store, along with a couple people leaving the sidewalk where my bench was located, stepping into the parking lot then back to the sidewalk, successfully avoiding any closeness to mud-man. I hadn’t had the opportunity to look in a mirror since my logging mishap and wondered how bad I actually looked? I contemplated getting a room at the small motel and taking a shower, but dismissed that idea, mostly because I had no clean clothes to change into and the tow truck was pulling into the parking lot of said motel.
The look on the drivers face as I approached his truck was much the same reaction that I (mud-man) was getting from the other recent onlookers. The driver was about my age (mid thirties at the time) had dark hair and a beard, and began looking around his cab for something to protect the upholstery from yours truly, AKA mud-man. We introduced ourselves, his name was Tom and he didn’t seem interested in shaking hands, which was fine with mud-man. I got in the truck, gave Tom directions and we drove the mile or so to the house whose driveway we would be using. When we arrived at the destination and I directed him to proceed up the driveway, through the back yard and into the woods he gave me a look that clearly said “you’re kidding?”. Then to leave no doubt, he vocalized my reading of his face and said “you’re kidding?” I put on my best “have sympathy for mud-man face and replied “it’s not that bad, really.” As it turned out, “not that bad” would’ve been a major improvement.
Mud-man and his sidekick Tow-Truck-Tom made it up the drive, through the back yard, into the woods and found my truck easily enough. Tom hooked it up to the tow truck and off we went, then for some unknown reason, Tom thought it would be a good idea to bypass the driveway and head down the other side of the house with the idea of going through the front yard. When I attempted to dissuade T.T.T. from this option, he responded with “No sweat” and headed into the abyss, almost literally.
The abyss of which Mud-man speaks was the edge of a somewhat sloping lawn bordering a field with a smattering of saplings. Unfortunately, the sloping part of the lawn didn’t take kindly to T.T.T.’s plan and the tow truck along with my attached my pick-up slid sideways onto the edge of the field and more mud. Stuck again. Attempt after attempt of T.T.T. didn’t budge his truck, even after detaching my pick-up all the progress was down further into the mud. It was Deja Vu all over again.
T.T.T.’s next plan was to take the tow cable, wrap it around a nearby tree and the winch would pull the truck free. It sounded reasonable to me, then again, almost anything would’ve as Mud-man began to get cold. The tree looked stout enough, the cable attached, the winch began to pull, the tow truck started to budge and, and….the tree was pulled out by the roots and loudly toppled to the ground. By this time the occupants of the house had returned and were watching through their windows. I was surprised they didn’t invite friends and neighbors, serve drinks, maybe sell popcorn.
Undeterred by this minor set-back, T.T.T. disconnected the cable from the fallen tree, got more slack, walked to a much bigger tree, wrapped the cable around the tree about five feet from the ground, trudged back to his truck and started the winch. The winch pulled, the cable tightened, the tow truck began to budge and, and…the tree snapped in half, the upper part,of which, with many branches, crashed very loudly to the ground. The people in the house didn’t know if they were witnessing a sit-com episode or Candid Camera. Neither did I. Luckily, the end was nearer than I had any right to expect.
T.T.T. radioed to headquarters for a bigger tow truck, which arrived about half an hour later. It was the biggest tow truck I had ever seen up close, it was the kind that towed tractor trailers, maybe even pulled rockets to the launch pad, it was that big !! After a good laugh at our expense, the new driver and his Monster truck easily pulled both of the stuck trucks out of the mud. T.T.T. and his truck towed me to the dealership, where, even though it was after 9pm by the time we arrived, my good buddy was waiting for me with a loaner car. I’d never loved anyone more, that is until I got home and my partner-in-this-thing-called-life-wife handed me a gin and tonic and I knew I was truly in love 🙂
The End…of this story anyway. Stay tuned.