Thursday, October 13, 2005


In Which We Get to the Root of It...

Thomas yelled, "Awl wight!" His battle cry whenever we were doing something he determined was either fun or forbidden or both. "Daddy diving on the gwass!"

I backed the Subaru up to within very close range of the root cluster that represented the last remnants of the enormous bush that had bracketed our side yard. I shut the car off and hopped out. While Thomas hooted in the car, I lashed the loose end of the stout Manila rope to the back bumper of the car. As I stood up, I noticed one my neighbors had slowed in his daily walk by our house. I just waved and headed to the car. I climbed in.

"We go now, Daddy?" Thomas asked.

"Bet yer butt," I said grimly, starting the car and putting it in gear.

I was still mindful of our lawn--at that point, anyway--so I slowly let the clutch out and the car rolled forward. In a second, the rope pulled taut and I could feel resistance. That damn root was still holding on! Very slowly, I pushed down on the accelerator. The car engine revved and Thomas yelled and clapped. "We goin' fast!" he cried.

Except we weren't. We weren't going anywhere. The engine revved. I let off on the clutch completely and now were just sitting on the lawn. I pressed down more on the accelerator and became aware of a kind of hot, engine-y smell of precisely the kind you don’t want to smell. I let up on the gas, the engine died down. It must have been awfully loud, though, because my walking neighbor had now been joined by my next-door neighbor. And a couple of kids on bicycles.

Well, I couldn't just sit here. But I couldn't admit defeat either. I stared straight ahead, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and listening to the engine idle. Finally, I put the car in reverse and backed up until the rear was touching the stump.

"Hold on," I said to Thomas, who very seriously gripped the straps of his car seat. Then, I put the car in first and floored it.

What happened next was a bit of a blur. I was very much aware of the roar of the engine. But even above that noise I could hear the spattering sound of dirt flying every which way. The rope pulled taut again, and then a moment after that was a sound like a football being punted and suddenly we lurched forward. The car swerved and even with the benefit of all-wheel drive, we were now careening slightly to the right, heading straight for a flower bed.

And, incidentally, the large beech tree that the flower bed encircled.

I jammed on the brakes and we skidded the rest of the way, into the flower bed, stopping short of the tree by a distance of (I measured it later) seven inches.

Before I could even breathe a sigh of relief at our near-miss with the tree, a god-awful WHUMP! shook the car. It sounded like a fat man had jumped off the top of the house and landed on us. But that was just me being silly. Of course, it wasn't a man.

It was 100 pounds of dirt and roots.

As soon as the final unseen root had snapped, the force of the car pulling it shot that clump out of the ground like a catapult, bringing it to rest squarely on the roof of my car.

Dirt rattling off on either side of us, I slowly, gingerly backed us out of the flower bed and turned the wheel to point us back to the driveway. As we rolled back I could clearly see two long skidmarks of fresh black dirt, a whole mound of fresh turf rucked up at the end of one of the tracks. On the other tire track, there was no turf whatsoever (my next-door neighbor later discovered most of it up on the roof of his garage). Bits of dead flowers from the bed by the beech tree were everywhere. My neighbors--there were more of them now--stood in the road, two of them applauding, most of them shaking their heads. It must have been quite a show for them.

I waved jauntily and put the car in first to get us back on the driveway. But now the driveway was blocked by a car, I saw. Her Lovely Enormously Pregnant Self and her girlfriend had returned. Naturally.

Thomas was squealing and clapping his hands as HLEPS stormed across the yard--and believe me, when you're eight months pregnant, storming is no easy task. "Did you see us, Mama?" he asked.

"Oh, I saw," she said, each of the words red and flaming as they fell from her mouth. She busily freed Thomas from his car seat, trying to shield him from the shower of dirt that was coming off the top of the car.

"What are you doing?" I asked, still in the driver's seat, wondering if now was the time to just throw in the towel and make a getaway.

"I'm getting our son out of the car before this--THING!--" she waved wildly at the top of the car, where the root/dirt cluster sat, "--crushes him."

True, there was a visible doink in the ceiling of the car, but she needn't have worried. That clump of bush and dirt wasn't going anywhere.

Neither, it turned out, was I.

For as I finally got the Subaru back into the driveway (which I was able to do only after HLEPS' girlfriend stopped laughing and moved her car), I was surprised to discover I couldn't move from my seat. Not without setting off the most breathtakingly spectacular jolt of white-hot pain down my right leg.

"Oh now what?" HLEPS barked at me, when she returned from the flower bed to yell at me some more.

"I think I hurt my leg," I said.

"Oh please!" she cried, in an unsympathetic way that to my knowledge she has never publicly regretted. "How hard did you mash down on the gas pedal, anyway?"

After a few moments, though, it became clear that I wasn't faking injury to avoid a well-deserved scolding (which I hadn't avoided anyway). I ended up crawling from the car and lay gasping in pain on the driveway. Eventually, HLEPS and Thomas had to help me into the house, which was almost more of a show than the one I had put on earlier.

And, as I would soon learn, after a series of MRIs, it wasn't my leg that was the problem. Apparently when I squatted down and yanked on the root, that pop I felt was a chunk of my L5-S1 disk squirting out from its usual spot and pushing squarely on another root--in this case, the nerve root controlling all feeling down my right leg. The pain was enormous, made worse by the fact that the disk itself was leaking a fluid that was causing the surrounding tissue to swell painfully. My doctor thought surgery was probably in the future (he turned out to be right) but he recommended I try physical therapy and epidural steroids first.

"Well, look on the bright side," he said, after I had told him how I injured myself. "At least you won't have to do any more yard work for a while."

Which would have been a comfort under any other circumstance, except that when I got home from the doctor (I had driven the Subaru, its roof still notably sporting dirty scratch marks and the doink, although a neighbor had finally disposed of the mass of dirt and roots for us), I beheld HLEPS shlepping a wheelbarrow full of turf across the driveway to repair the 10 yards of tire marks I had left in our front lawn.

Despite the impediment of pregnancy, she'd obviously been busy while I was gone. Nearby were some rakes and a shovel. And my God, was that our 20-pound gas-powered leaf blower over by the flower bed?

"What are you doing?" I squawked as I hobbled out of the car.

"Someone has to get this done," she growled, still furious at me for--well, for obvious reasons. "And clearly YOU can't handle it," she added, as if I hadn't been injured enough.

Man, did it suck to be me just then.

All I can say is, it's a lucky thing HLEPS went into labor a few hours later and the yard work--er, yard repair--suddenly took a back seat.

Of course, looking back now, it occurs to me that luck may have had nothing to do with it.

From Somewhere on the Masthead


Sounds painful. All better now I presume? I guess living in an apartment has it's upside. I haven't cut grass or done any form of yard work in years.
Well, I think the injury part happened innocently, the idea to pull out the stump with your car was...shall we say...original? But at least it got the job done. Hope your back is doing better after your trip and some rest. My back can give me some twinges after a long day driving but it doesn't usually cause limping.
Never, ever, under any circumstances, mess with a very pregnant woman. That back injury very well may have saved your life! This should somehow be added to the lists the Docs have of how to encourage/induce labor.

At least it was just dirt & a doink. Be thankful you didn't rip the bumper off and slingshot it into the gathering crowd.
Didn't you learn anything from the Rusty Truck and chain incident back when you were Magazine Teen.
I can honestly say I don't know who I sympathize with on this's a fabulous story, though. Thomas had a very exciting day!

got spock thanks


Okey done now....

I can remember Dad having a similar battle with a stump and our old Ford Bronco.

In contests between nature and motorvehicles: everybody loses.
Oh, my. But at least the bush came out. What if you had torn up the yard spinning your wheels and left the stump.

Uh, yeah, after that, the Brownie officially counts as "induced labor"

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or join in with HLS in a good scold or two. You are such a doll. I'll just sit here and shake my head.
Oh god! hahahahahaha! I can't stop laughing at the "jaunty wave", hahaha!
You sound about as handy as my darling metrosexual husband. Except he would have tried to gauge the stump out with a screwdriver, and probably would have ended up in Emergency with the screwdriver embedded somewhere equally uncomfortable.
Good effort though. :)
Your wife is (was) in labor??? How fantastic! The funny thing is, you'll have a great story to tell your new addition about the day he/she was born. Congrats to you both and bonus points to HLS for being such a tough cookie. She has my respect. And for, I have never seen anyone make yardwork so complicated. Must be a gift.
Hope your back is doing better!
Your detailed description of your back injury made me cringe vicariously while the rest made me laugh.
I have a long list of "things that seemed like a good idea at the time". Several involve eventual injury. It scares me just a little though that a big part of me still is thinking car + stump = great plan. In fact, upon further introspection, I would not put it past me. LOL
This made me laugh pretty hard- right up to the utterly gruesome imagery describing your back injury. Nothing but sympathy after that. Uck. Uck uck uck.
My dad (who, by the way, is a pea in a pod with your father) has ripped an assortment of bushes, trees and other rooted things from the ground in the same fashion. Of course, he used the Suburban when I was a kid, which could have probably uprooted our house without too much difficulty. Now he uses his Steiner tractor, which could probably move the garage.

I do hope your back feels better. Have you tried a chiropractor?
I was guffawing, right up until the ouchie part... And I thought my hubby had a good story about his back surgery being due to beavers.
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