Monday, January 31, 2011


I am by nature an insecure person and that insecurity, coupled with an intensity to rival that of a nuclear blast, did not, shall we say, make it easy for me to laugh at things in my life.  Laughing at things in my life would mean that I was laughing at myself and that would be to admit that I was human and therefore imperfect.  I would have to stop berating myself for my mistakes and start laughing at them.  I was also secretly afraid that if I took things more lightly, then I wouldn't learn everything I needed to learn in order to make fewer mistakes.  My whole goal in life was to Avoid Mistakes.  It was a strategy that wasn't working.  So, I started yearning for a sense of humor and low and behold, laughing at my life began to feel good.  Also, truly comical material increased exponentially in my life.

Sometimes I felt like I was living a comedy routine.  Slapstick.  And I was the straight man.
 Take for example the first time I made hard candy.  This whole experience taught me more than simply better ways to make hard candy.  I learned that having the experience was more important than having perfect candy at the end.  Of course, this is not a new idea.   Many people live by aphorisms such as, “Take time to smell the roses” and  “Life is a journey, not a destination.”   It was new to me, though.

Slowly, slowly I formulated a new goal for myself.  Enjoy Your Life (Even the Mistakes).  An amazing thing happened.  I started to enjoy doing new things.  I wasn't as afraid to ignore others' expectations in order to pursue what I wanted out of my life.  My mistakes became material for comedy routines at the office instead of quasi-national crises that I would have to spend the next few months obsessing over and apologizing for.  I was having real fun for the first time in my life.

For example, one of the first things we did after we moved was try to create some sense of order on our new property.  There were ancient structures to knock down, piles and piles of junk to dispose of and a garden to put in.  Now, garden to me does not mean rows of vegetables.  It means earth moving and wall building and enough herbs and flowers to run the Rose Parade.  In those early days, if we had vegetables at all, it was to please my husband, and together we made a beautiful garden here.  Not long after we moved here, we found a pile of wood chips up on one of the hills behind the barn.  Since we went through tons, literally, of mulch every year in our gardens, we were very pleased with the discovery.  For a while I used a wheel barrow to haul small amounts down to the garden, but we changed our game plan when we discovered a track that led up past the pile.  We could take the truck up there and move a yard or so of chips at a time.  Much better.

Southern Indiana dries out slowly in the spring.  Perhaps this is because this part of the Midwest tries yearly to revert to its pre-cultivation woodland/wetland history.  Our land wants to be a wetland, and every spring, it only reluctantly relinquishes the wet.  We have gotten used to the spring mud, which later becomes the summer dust.   We waited patiently for the hill behind the barn to dry up enough for us to get our little Toyota truck up the old road.  Finally, one day we drove up there and loaded up. 

The chip pile was on the crest of the hill and when we tried to turn the truck around, we found ourselves facing downhill a little; downhill on the side of the hill with the creek at the bottom.  “Not to worry, we're pretty much on the top; we'll just back up a little and turn around.”  “Yep, no problem at all.”  Well, we backed up and under the thin layer of new growth we hit mud.  We didn't panic.  I said, "Maybe if we go down a little further it'll be drier."   My husband, bless his heart, believed me. 

It wasn't drier there and when we had spun down to the mud we were faced with a decision.  How long do we continue to play this little game?  I guess that either we weren't quite tired enough of the game or we were in denial that two intelligent adults could possibly get themselves in so deep that we couldn't get ourselves out;  after all, we had both mastered the art of plumbing, surely we could get the truck back up the hill. 

We tried stuffing branches under the tires for traction (“An excellent idea,” we had said), and had succeeded in muddying all of the branches within dragging distance of the truck.  Every time we tried to back up the hill we would succeed by about six inches and then when we clutched, we'd slide down a foot and a half.  By now, we were no longer anywhere near the top of the hill and gravity was undermining our every attempt to extricate ourselves and the truck from our predicament.  I was having visions of tow-trucks having to drive all the way in from town to pull us out, and of trying to explain to them how in heaven's name this had happened.  I rehearsed the conversation in my head:  "We're stuck on the back of our hill.  No, we're not IN the mud, it's just too slick to get the truck back up the hill...Yes, we tried pushing...No sir, we didn't want to drive to the creek.  Yes, I know it would have been easier just to walk down there and leave the truck in the driveway, but we needed the truck to load the chips into...No, not potato chips, wood chips.  Yes, now we know that it would have been easier to use the wheel barrow...Fit us in next week?  Special truck?  Three hundred dollars???..."

We were desperate to find a way to get out.   I thought about calling the neighbors and the sheer humiliation almost put me off until I had a vision of the truck staying on the back of the hill for two months until the soil dried out.   Oh, the dilemma.  Preserve our pride and lose my husband's only transportation for the next several weeks or suffer public humiliation and get the truck back.  Hmmm…Pride: Truck.  Pride: Truck.  I walked back to the house to call the neighbors. 

Now, all I had to do was look them up in the phone book.  How hard could it be?  Au contraire, Pierre.  We live in a zone run by a very small phone company.  We don't have a phone book of our own.  Instead we have a phone book for Bloomington, which is the nearest large town, and a book for Ellettsville, where our phone company is located, and a book for our county.  I immediately rejected the Bloomington book, which is compiled by a different phone company, and went for the County book.  Our neighbors weren't there.  Neither were we or even the people who owned the place before us.  Neither was anyone we knew who was in our zone.  A mystery!  And such timing!   Where on earth were the local numbers?   I looked in the Ellettsville book, no numbers.   

By now I could hear my sweet husband and his increasingly colorful vocabulary assaulting the truck tires with his feet.  I went back up the hill and reported my lack of findings and we decided that as far down the hill as we now were (we had progressed almost to the water while I was gone) that we would probably need two tractors to get us out so we took our bicycles and went for the closest neighbors.  (Close, by the way, is about a mile away.)  I went to find Kevin, who doesn't have a phone, but who has a big tractor and my husband went for Dan who does have a phone and whose number I was trying to find, and who also has a big tractor.  Kevin was very cooperative and only went off the road one time because he was laughing so hard he couldn't see.

When we got to our house and he had stopped laughing long enough to ask where my husband was, Kevin explained that the Solsberry numbers were indeed listed in the Bloomington phone book.  “See, here they are and go ahead and call Dan quick so he doesn't have to make a trip over because one tractor is all we'll need.”  Alas, it was too late.  We could hear the tractor coming down Dan's lane.  I was relieved because I was certain that one tractor was not enough and that we'd be lucky not to have to call in more neighbors.  "Oh, no," Dan said. "One tractor is plenty.  We'll take mine"  Kevin hopped on the back and my husband and I trudged ahead. 

After assessing the situation and confirming that yes we were indeed pretty stuck, we hooked the tow chain up to a small fallen tree to clear an easier path for the removal of the truck.  It was only a matter of a couple of minutes and the truck was back in the driveway.  My relief overcame my embarrassment.  Dan assured us that he, too, had had his share of embarrassing predicaments.  It was a normal part of living out here and trying to establish limits on what (and when) we could and couldn't do.  Funny, we never have been tempted to go up and take more chips from that pile.   Not even with the wheel barrow.

The whole experience was good for me.  Before, I would have said, It was a stupid mistake, what were we thinking, and I'll never do anything like that again.  Now, I found myself laughing and saying,  “It wasn't so awful, it certainly isn't the dumbest thing we have ever done or will ever do and don't we have nice neighbors.”


  1. Great story. Excellent observations. And I certainly don't think you were stupid. Mud is mud is a pain, no matter who is driving in it or where it is located.

  2. I love it. We had a similar experience when coming home from camping with the pop-up on the van. We got the van stuck in the font yard with the camper on the back; we were trying to brilliantly back the camper in. Not much choice but to call a friend with a truck to tow us out. Embarrasing - but very funny :)

  3. Oh, I like the wording "nuclear blast" You're a great writer.

  4. Remember when dear Don got my Jeep stuck trying to show me up-close-and-personal the blooming daffodils down by the creek? We couldn't get close enough to it with tractors to pull it out (they, too, would have been stuck) so he had to call Bloomfield to get a tow truck. The best part was all the daffodils the guys at work kept bringing him at NAPA for years afterward...whenever the daffodils bloomed! It took a while, but he finally just had to laugh at it all! :)

  5. JE- I do remember that! It was funny - after the fact. Those NAPA guys knew how to rub it in.


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