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Dumb and Dumberest! Share your stupidest garden endeavor.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

If confession is good for the soul, here is an opportunity to share your secret (or not so secret) dumb or dangerous mistakes in gardening. Sharing may help heal the hidden wounds to your pride and ego (and may even alleviate the pain of physical injuries), while also helping other gardeners avoid dangerous pitfalls in the "do-it-myself" urge to personally handle all garden chores.

Here are some of my dumberest adventures in gardening:

During the spate of hurricanes in 2004 in Florida, I became concerned about a massive oak tree with dead limbs directly above the roof of my house. Thinking I could save money by not hiring a professional tree surgeon and doing the job myself, I bought a monster 32" chain saw on eBay and rented 25 ft of scaffolding from a nearby rental center so that I could trim the tree.

It was rough going from the start, much harder work being a lumberjack than I had anticipated. The worst came when a large tree limb I had roped in the middle and cut off at the trunk swung directly down toward me and hit the scaffolding. My instinct was to step back away from the falling limb. In doing so, I stepped off the edge of the scaffold and descended 25 ft to the ground, elevator style, only without the elevator. Fortunately, I sustained only a sprained ankle, which remains more swollen than the other ankle even after a year. I could have easily been killed. One of the real dangers is that the chain saw continued to run at the top of the scaffolding, but fortunately it didn't fall on top of me. Though barely able to stand up, I had to climb back to the top of the scaffold to shut down the chain saw. Of course, I was home alone during all this debacle, so if I had required emergency treatment I would have been up the proverbial crick.

But I wasn't yet ready to concede defeat. After a day or two of rest, I cautiously climbed back up the scaffold and tried taking out some more limbs. This time a very large limb came down suddenly and wedged between the rungs of the scaffolding. I had to take the scaffold apart with great effort and saw the limb in short segments to release it from the scaffolding. I threw in the towel at this point and hired a professional for $600.

My own "do-it-myself" tree trimming attempt to save money ended up costing me late fees on the return of the scaffold, plus damage costs to replace the scaffold sections bent by the falling tree limb, plus basically wasting the $400 I spent on the massive chain saw becuase it has been in and out of the repair shop constantly and currently isn't running due to a broken cog in the chain drive, plus the $600 I ended up spending for the tree surgeon to come and finish the job. It turned out to be more expensive than if I had just hired someone to come in the first place and I could have been spared the pain and the "near-death" experience.

Another time, I was standing on the ground pulling jungle growth size smilax vines out of the top of a tree. I pulled so hard that an end of a tree limb snapped off and came down like a pointed javelin directly toward my face. It hit my forehead and missed my right eye by only about 1/2 inch. I did seek medical attention for that incident because the pointed tree limb made a deep puncture wound above my eyebrow and I didn't think I had done a good enough job of washing out all the debris that was caught in the wound. Fortunately again, there was no resulting infection nor other permanent damage, but it made me aware of the need for safety goggles, hard hats, and lots of other safety equipment I tend to never wear for jobs like that.

What are some of your "errors in judgement" where passion to get the job done fast, save money, or a larger-than-life ego caused you to pursue some less than safe activity in the garden? Your stories need not be either of the extremes of hilarious or tragic. We can all learn from each other's simple mistakes.

Be careful!


West Central, WI(Zone 4a)

I am going to print this and hand it to my neighbor who is considering doing some tree work on his own after our huge storm....he wants to save money. Maybe this will be enough to get him to think the way his wife and I think he should. Just hire someone and be done with it. Luckily, if he doesn't listen, his wife is a nurse.

Starkville, MS

I once had a neighbor who was a "do it yourselfer" He is now missing a hand from a chainsaw accident ( and he was experienced!!!! just a freak set of circumstances that cost him plenty!)

Moral - think twice, or better yet - think ten times- before you try too hard to save money. Its better to pay a pro than to pay the hospital!

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

I certainly agree with the above advice, though it took me lots of personal pain and I ended up losing money rather than saving it on my lumberjacking attempt. When I saw what the professional had to do to bring the tree down safely, by walking on metal spikes attached to his boots onto the branch ends and cutting off small sections at a time, I knew that if I had proceeded with my plan (after removing a few branches) to just notch the giant oak and let it fall, I almost certainly would have killed myself and it likely would not have fallen in the trajectory I thought it would, so it probably would have crushed my house or my neighbor's house (depending on its whim in falling).

I've learned my lesson. Anyone in the market for a 32" Stihl chainsaw (not currently in working order)??? LOL


Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Jeremy, methinks you might be related to Tim "The Toolman" Taylor. LOL

I can't offhand think of my gardening mistakes. I know I've made some. Just can't remember them at the moment. So can I tell a completely different story. You'll get a big laugh out of it I'm sure.

I have a 90 lb Samoyed, a big white hairy beast of a dog. I called around to have him groomed. His hair is about 4 inches long most of the time. He HATES any form of grooming--haircuts, bathing, toothbrushing, etc. Most of the groomers I talked to wouldn't handle dogs over 50 lbs. And others wanted an ungodly amount of money. I'm just a commoner; I don't have a lot of spare change, ya know.

So I tackled the job myself. It wasn't pleasant. Sam wouldn't sit still and everytime he moved, a chunk of hair disappeared. It didn't help my confidence much that he growled and snapped at me either. But at last, the job was done. Lemme just show you before and after pictures.

Here's Sam in his glory.

Thumbnail by ButterflyChaser
Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

And now, ummmm, well, here's Sam after his very unprofessional haircut. I think now you know why he hates haircuts. LOL

Thumbnail by ButterflyChaser
Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Well, that was about a year ago, and the big guy is back in his glory now. And no longer I am embarrassed to be seen with him. He travels everywhere with me--to the store, the bank, etc. For a while, I wouldn't take him with me and he felt like I was punishing him. But I sure didn't want anyone to see him like that--especially since I'd have to admit that I did it! LOL

Thumbnail by ButterflyChaser
Stockton, CA(Zone 9a)

Oh my goodness Nancy, I still laugh everytime I see that picture. HARHAR Poor Sam, has his dignity EVER been restored?
And Jeremy, I thought I surely must have something to tell on myself, but after reading your "horror" story, everything paled. I am ashamed to say I giggled through the whole thing, not because it was funny, but that it was so bizarre & went from bad to worse, you know? Sometimes its only by the grace of God that we walk (or limp) away from some of the things we do.

edited to say:
Nancy, I was composing while you posted that last pic of Sam. He looks like he has recovered nicely. Well, physically anyway. LOL

This message was edited Jul 31, 2005 12:23 PM

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

Hey, Nancy. Yes, I think I do have the "more power" gorilla urge of Tim the Toolman. Another of my misadventures last December was having a public announcement carried by the local newspapers that I was constructing a light sculpture with 7,500 lights in the shape of an AIDS awareness ribbon to represent our local HIV/AIDS statistics of about 5,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and about 2.500 that had died of the disease. I found a wholesale company on-line that was happy to sell me 8,000 5-watt red & white bulbs (needed some spares in case some burned out) along with three 1,000 ft spools of wired sockets (at much more expense than I could afford except that some of the costs were being reimbursed by local groups). I came up with a design for the behemoth light display (by trial and error as usual, I'm not capable of planning in advance and drawing out schematics). The final materials used 4 sections of 4 x 8 pegboard with some of the holes drilled out larger to accomodate the light sockets in the ribbon design. These were then reinforced with PVC pipe and attached with a cantilever pivoting base so that the whole thing (supposedly) could stand at its full 16 ft x 8 ft size. I had seen all sorts of HUGE residential light displays over the years and thought it would be no problem to provide electricity.

WRONG! What I needed was 40,000 watts of power, about 10 times the amount of most home electric service. I talked to an electrical engineer friend and tried to find some way to make the thing light. The time came for the big unveiling at my house (fortunately minus the TV reporters that some of the groups had encouraged to attend). In order to light even a portion of the monstrosity, I had to chase out everyone from my house, turn off all the lights and appliances, and run about 200 ft of extension cords from the 3 or 4 sockets on separate breakers. The big moment came and I had friends stationed throughout the house to plug the cords in at more or less the same instant. I was able to fire up (and those were words I avoided using at the time) about 2,000 5 watt lights for about 30 seconds before all the breakers in the house blew. I told Christina to have the car packed ready to head for Mexico in case the groups that had helped pay for this debacle showed up at our house with tar and feathers.

I'm surprised Sam still claims you as his owner after that haircut! The before and after photos are priceless!! Was he willing to go outside and be seen by other dogs before the hair grew back. There is another thread in this forum about "Did you ever just take a pair of scissors to your hair?" But few people were willing to post before & after pix. My first attempt at cutting my own hair had results similar to Sam's Mexican Hairless coif. I just kept cutting and cutting my hair, trying to get it even on all sides, until it was about 1/2 inch long and still not even. The only solution was to shave my head! Fortunately, it was in the era of "skinheads" and I was living in NYC, so it hardly mattered, though I didn't particulary enjoy being mistaken as having taken up "skinhead" ideology by my neighbors and employer.

And PudgyM, I'm very glad you were able to find the humor in my predicament with the tree. I learned in drama lit classes that tragedy is only a hair's width away from being farce. It is our human nature that leads us to rediculous extremes. The results are either comic or dramatic, depending on the outcome and point of view. But I do hope you will feel free to share some of your own "tempting of fate" stories. I don't expect anyone to be quite as out-of-control as I can be at times, and we can all learn from each other's extreme behavior, whether it be comic, tragic, or just plain silly!


This message was edited Jul 31, 2005 9:24 PM

This message was edited Aug 5, 2005 10:20 AM

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Jeremy, I must say, you got gumption! Apparently you are not afraid to tackle a super-huge task. The results may not be quite what you wanted, but no one else was attempting a huge light display, were they? However, the lighting experience does remind me of the Griswald's Christmas Vacation and Chevy Chase's christmas light fiasco. LOL

It would appear that you and I attended the same barber school! Somebody puh-leeeeease take the clippers away from us!

As you can tell from the picture, Sam was too embarrassed to look at the camera. He actually turned away from me when I got the camera out. I was laughing so hard, and the look of complete humiliation on his little face made me only laugh harder. It was a couple weeks before he began to strut again.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Does this count as dumb? I thought it was dumb! One year I grew these beautiful ornamental peppers. As they began to dry on the bush, I went out to gather them to get the seeds. So I pluck and pluck. Then I sat down and ripped the peppers open and dumped the seeds out.

It wasn't long before my hands started burning. And soon my face, where I'd wiped off sweat, was burning too. I didn't become too concerned, knowing that I'm dealing with hot peppers. But then it really began to sting! I went in the bathroom to wash my hands and looked in the mirror. My forehead, upper lip and chin were all bright red, like a bad sunburn, just like my hands. I felt like I was on fire!

I washed and washed and got the most painful burning to stop, but it took a day or two for it all to stop. After that, I bought a box of latex gloves and I use those when dealing with hot peppers and toxic seeds.

By the way, in case I get stupid again, does anyone know what I could have used to make the burning stop immediately? Surely there's something? I've read (since the incident) that milk would neutralize the "fire". Does anyone know?

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

Jeremy, I am so glad you are okay because I am just laughing my *** off here. I don't think people know it doesn't cost a fortune to get a tree taken down. I was suprised myself of the cost when I had a green ash cut down because it died. I haven't done too many dumb things except the step on the rack hit my self in the head thing. But if I do I'll let you know.

Butterfly chaser, you should have your clippers taken away, poor Sam!

Mableton, GA(Zone 7b)


oh, and Jeremy, all I gotta say is stay away from trees man!

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

Thanks, Butterfly, for confessing the pepper experience! That is exactly the sort of info I think we can all share and learn from. I'm glad there was no permanent injury to eyes or facial complexion!!

Here's another of my recent dumberer tactics. I promised Legit, for postage only and one of her clematis, a huge box full of my empty plastic garden pots (a large unsightly mound of several hundred pots, evidence of the thousands of dollars of credit card debt I've racked up on plants in the past 3 years since I bought my house). I checked around the local appliance rental stores for a washing machine box or other large carton. Most of the stores immediately cut their empty boxes down or compact them, so I was not having much luck. When I finally did locate a box and the guy at the store said he would set it out back for me that minute, I realized I was in our Mustang and not my old utility van. The box clearly wouldn't fit into the trunk and definitely not into the back seat. I didn't want to leave the box behind, so I finally decided I would place it on top of the Mustang, roll down the driver's side window, stick my arm out the window and hold the box down as tightly as I could with my hand inside the open end of the box. Fortunately, I was only about 2 miles from home and the route didn't involve any interstate traffic. I turned on the emergency flashers in the Mustang and went about 1.5 miles per hour all the way home. Any faster, the box wanted to become air borne. I finally did get the box home, much to the guffaws of my neighbors that happened to be out in their front yard (but they are accustomed to seeing bizarre events now that I'm in the area).

When I eventually got around to checking on-line what maximum size box the post office would allow for parcel post, I found that the required dimensions were FAR less than those of a washing machine crate. I ended up having to cut the washing machine box down to the size of a normal box that would have been much easier to find. But then I wouldn't have had the experience of parasailing through my neighborhood in the Mustang!


East Bethel, MN(Zone 4a)

Oh my word! Jeremy, tell me you don't live alone! Someone has to be there to take care of you, you are clearly incapable of doing it yourself!

Let's see, there was the time I asked hubby to walk the dog and he said he couldn't because dinner would burn. So I walked the dog. And got back to find the apartment filled with smoke, all the doors and windows open, the neighbors standing around pointing, and the fire alarm going full blast. Sigh.

The time I knew my tree was going to fall in the road behind my house, so I decided to cut it down early in the morning on Sunday when no one would be around to get squashed. I went out and started cutting away, only to realize that the city bus routes all left from the garage across that street about ten minutes after I started. So there I am with a half-severed tree, praying the dang thing wouldn't fall on a city bus! Missed all the buses, thank heavens!

I have done the dog haircuts too. Two Newfoundlands and a Pomeranian-not a cheap grooming bill!

Got locked out of the garage once and had to climb through the window to get the tool I wanted. Dumb me, went out through the door, which closed and locked behind me-again. Climbed back in through the window but got caught on the sill this time and needed several bandaids.

Got food poisoning once, told the neighbor how horrible I felt. The next day I felt better and was putting up pictures with a hammer and nails. Neighbor came over and broke into the house because they heard the hammering and thought I was signaling for help.

It's a great life if you don't weaken!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

LOL, sylvi. I locked myself out of the house, and there was a small paned window in the basement that just had a plywood panel in it. I couldn't fit through it, had to get a skinnier neighbor to get in and unlock my house. Embarrassing.

Then there was the time I was roasting a huge whole fish, for company. I took it out of the oven, inserted the mercury thermometer and it wasn't quite done. Put it back in the oven without taking out the thermometer. Naturally it exploded and tainted the fish. We had a lovely salad for dinner!

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

Woo Hoo! I am not alone in my lapses of conscious thinking! Thanks for sharing all. I got a great laugh from your misadventures. It's interesting how they seem humorous in hindsight, but fairly miserable at the time of occurrence.


waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

Locked myself out of my second floor apartment long time ago, daughter was staying with me at the time. No spare key anywhere. So, I decided I could squeeze into the front entryway through the milk chute. Well most of me could. I got my head arms and shoulders through but got hung up at the hip line. (I weighed in at about 120 lbs in those days). The chute was just high enough off the floor that I couldn't get any leverage to pull myself through, and I couldn't back up.

Meanwhile, my daughter is laughing herself into urinary incontinence in the hallway watching my legs flailing around trying to reach the floor to push myself further ahead. When she finally stopped hooting and rolling around on the floor, she could hear me yelling at her to push on my feet. At last, freedom!! I had several spare keys made later that day, because I was never going to repeat that experience.

Kernersville, NC(Zone 7a)

This is a fun topic! You guys are so funny and great story tellers. Since I'm new out in the garden, my dumbest gardening error so far was painting a piece of lattice for my clematis. I leaned it up against my brand new fence to paint it and, of course, I now have aqua splatters all over the new fence. Oops.

My sister and I went to DC for our uncle's funeral several years ago. Afterwards, we decided to drive downtown to see the sights. Yes, we planned on driving right up to the white house, lol. People kept trying to hit our car, "These people just don't know how to drive!" No...those cute little pedestrian crossing lights we kept remarking on that looked like real traffic signals on the corners, were real traffic signals . Lord knows how many red lights I ran, all the while yelling 'Learn how to drive!'
Same trip, we were almost arrested for attempted kidnapping. It was very cold and we saw a little boy walking without a coat on the side of a 6 lane road. Paula (sis) said we better make sure he is alright. As soon as we stopped, she started to open the passenger door and he was so cold, he tried to climb in the car. She got out to stand with him while I was going to go to a payphone and call for help. Suddenly, we were surrounded by 5 police cars 'Please step away from the child'. The little stinker was crying and kept telling them we were going to take him to his mommy. I just knew we were going to jail, but eventually they let us go...after calling our aunt who lives there to verify who we were and why we were in town. My aunts still tell people that we left the funeral early and tried to pick up a little boy on the side of the road.


Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Oh, Rachel, that's too funny!! Who did the child belong to to have police already on the scene? A senator's son maybe? Very funny!

Kernersville, NC(Zone 7a)

Hi, apparently, his mother had been called in to work and asked the neighbor to watch him. Well the neighbor wasn't watching, so when he got off the school bus and saw the apartment was locked, he didn't know what to do and started walking. I don't know where he was going. One policeman had seen us stop and open the door and, I am just assuming, since we had out of state tags and were of different ethnicity, he figured we weren't related to the little fellow. He pulled up first and then we were instantly surrounded. I am still ashamed that we did not realize the seriousness of the situation at first and my sister was waving from the back of the police car while I took a few snapshots. I never saw it, but I suspect 'naive hillbillies' was written somewhere on the incident report.

Side note: My BIL had a business trip to DC in July of 2000 and I invited myself along to see the huge millenium fireworks display for the 4th. Sis and I were finally going to see the White House, but there was some sort of bomb threat and they evacuated. She was telling her dh later that we went to see the WH but all of a sudden there were sirens everywhere and they asked us to leave. He rolled his eyes and said 'What did you guys do now???' Ha, I guess we have a reputation.


Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

HAHAHA! Rachel!!! Oh MY!!

Jeremy, can you tell a story! Very entertaining stuff. Makes me want to live near you to watch your antics! LOL!!

OK, mine are not so dramatic or funny.

I planted Periwinkle and English Ivy in my ex's yard unknowlingly.

I also bought a pack of 'mixed' peppers years ago. When one of the peppers started looking edible I picked it and took a big bite. It looked just like a tiny bell pepper. Well that little pepper was an immature Habanero! Imagine my surprise!

The really really dumb part is I did almost the exact same thing a few weeks ago! Mixed pepper pack again - it looked like an innocent banana pepper. A big bite and OM - it was worse than the Habanero! I drank so much milk and water I couldn't eat my dinner! Found out later I think it's a Chili pepper. Duh!! I finally learned my lesson though! No more packs of mixed peppers!!!


Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

Hilarious stories, Rachel and NCGarden!! Rachel, I think your kidnapping story falls into the category of "no good deed goes unpunished." LOL

Here's another of my exploits. It is long and written as usual in my overly verbose style. Please don't let my lenghthy sagas intimidate you from making more posts in this thread. I've gotten good, hearty laughs each morning from your stories and hope you will keep them coming!


I was headed to the grocery store one day when I spotted a small cluster of people standing on a street corner looking down at the ground. I thought maybe an animal or a person had been hit by a car, so I slowed down. As I got closer, I realized the group was eyeing a dead piano.

I had to stop and find what story was behind this event. The group reported they had watched a small pick-up truck, loaded with an old 1800's antique piano in the open truck bed, turn the corner. The driver had apparently not tied the piano down in any manner (maybe he/she is watching this thread and can tell their own dumb story - LOL). When the truck had turned the street corner at too high a speed, the piano flipped out of the back of the truck and smashed into splinters on the street curb. Just a few moments prior to my arrival, the driver had stormed away from the scene in disgust at having destroyed the piano.

Already, the street scavenger vultures were descending upon the piano, removing anything that looked like it might have some ornamental or utilitarian purpose. The two old finials of the keyboard support went quickly as did the authentic ivory keys. A friend of mine has the inner hammer works of an old upright piano as an object d' arte/sculpture in his house. He uses it at holiday time to display greeting cards by sticking the cards between the piano hammers. I much envied his piano hammer card rack and had wanted one for myself. Here was an opportunity for me made available by someone else's misfortune.

I went on with my shopping, but returned a while later, armed with screwdrivers and other implements. I was able to get the piano hammer mechanism out without much problem (and I still have it, moving it around from one place to another in the garage about once a month or so -- it still hasn't found a display place in my house). After removing the felt hammers intact, I noticed the beautiful, ornate steel harp that held all the strings in place. "What a wonderful garden sculpture that would make!" I thought, and began my attempt to remove the huge screws. Some of the screws had a head on them about 1 inch in diameter and were about 4 inches long, so it took a lot of wrist action with the screwdriver to loosen them. Also, most of them had rusted to the steel frame due to ever present sub-tropical humidity over the course of a couple of hundred years. I couldn't get some of the screws to even slightly budge and some where underneath the strings and very difficult to get at with a screwdriver. I resolved to return the next day and continue my efforts.

I returned not only the next day, but every spare minute for about the next 10 days!

After about the 3rd day, removing the steel harp from the wooden frame became an obsession rather than just a whim. I felt like I had to have the steel harp or my life would never be complete again. I tried all sorts of ways to get the screws to come loose. I invented a "torque screwdriver" by combining an arrangement of a long pvc pipe with a pvc elbow on the end and the handle of a broken off segment of a flat-headed screwdriver crazy-glued into the open end of the pvc elbow with a short section of rebar steel inside the long pvc section for added strength. The additional leverage was not enough to make some of the screws pop loose from their centuries old corrosion, even after they were given a thorough soaking with WD-40.

I decided what I needed was an axe to chop away the wood so I could release the metal from the piano frame, but I didn't have an axe and was living in a rental home at that time and didn't see the need to invest in an axe. My Mom was in the hospital for a temporary illness. I left my work with the dead piano long enough to go visit her. As I was leaving the hospital that night, upon arrival at my parking place on the street, I was amazed to find an object lying directly alongside the passenger side of my car. IT WAS AN AXE! A very large axe with a long fiberglass handle. This is the most poignant experience of "ask and you shall receive" that I have ever manifested. The axe had some red and yellow tape around the handle and it looked as though it might have fallen off a fire truck, but there was no identifying marks that might allow me to return it to the fire station or other owner. I was certain that the next person that would park in that spot would surely be a wanna-be axe murder whom had been heretofore prevented from a killing spree only from the lack of a suitable sharp implement, so, in the best interest of public safety, I took the axe home with me.

My request for an axe being answered so promptly and eloquently, it now seemed like "God's Will" that I have the steel harp from the piano. I returned to the street corner the next day and began to hack away at the piano with religious zeal. By this time, the neighbors had begun to watch the madman, often cursing and yelling and waving the axe in frustration, as I returned every few hours to the scene of the piano's demise. Each whack of the axe on the wood sent a reverberating discordant loud crashing piano noise throughout the surrounding quiet neighborhood, much like what you might hear from untutored toddlers banging on a piano. A few people, mostly the retirees who had long ago realized that life was not worth living without some risk, were brave enough to venture out and talk to me to try to find out what in the world I was doing.

One of them was particularly memorable. A 70+ year old, white haired man that had dropped his wife off at the beauty parlor and found time to escape for some adventure. My shenanigans with the dead piano was the closest thing he could find for a little excitement. We talked at some length. With the dismembered, but not yet disemboweled, piano at our feet, the subject of music naturally arose. In his youth, the man had been a guitar player in a band. He had traveled all around the Southeastern states to various honky-tonks and other venues. He had encountered a minor brush with fame when his group got to play for a famous country singer of the day. He wistfully recounted his wild adventures as I continued to attempt to crank out the stubborn screws in the piano. I could imagine him in his younger day, probably in oiled back jet black hair, cowboy hat rakishly tilted, carousing and singing and romancing the ladies. Now he stood above me, swaying with a bit of instability on his cane. I could see myself in him in a few more decades, the wild times long behind me, settled into the slow decline to death. I commented on a screw that I was trying without success to loosen, "No matter the job, there's always one screw that won't budge," I said. "Yes," he agreed, "there's always one screw." We observed a profound moment of silence in awe of this inescapable truism of Murphy's Law. Other people that dropped by also felt compelled to share some segment of their life story as they gathered up bits and pieces of the piano and told me their own imaginative intentions for the scrap they were taking. I began to feel a sense of territorial possessiveness about the piano, like a lion protecting its kill from the jackals, but I managed to keep my greed in check, and did not roar obscenities nor chase away anyone that wanted some plank of wood or other tidbit from what remained of the dead piano.

As I neared the end of the 10 days of nearly constant work at trying to salvage the metal harp from the piano, I became concerned that the city garbage service might finally be motivated to come remove the piano. By this time, all other parts of the piano had been picked clean by curious or insane persons like myself. Government officials had visited the site at least once but, probably finding the approx. 800 lbs of the piano carcass too heavy for even a team of workers to lift without risk of back injury, and likely making a bureaucratic determination that "piano moving" was not listed in their job description, they had just placed some orange traffic cones around the one edge of the piano that jutted out past the curb. I didn't want all my hours and hours of effort to go to waste by letting the garbage truck haul away this priceless find. If I had returned at some point and found the last remains of the dead piano missing, I would have been totally distraught.

Aha! An idea came to me! There was no need to leave the piano on the street corner. I could put it in my truck and haul it home and finish removing the harp at leisure (if you can call slaving away at a seemingly impossible goal "leisure"). Having been provided with an axe upon request, I figured divine powers might once again smile upon me and provide me the super-human strength needed to lift the piano. I confidently backed my pick-up truck to the curb where the piano lay and I dropped the tail gate.

My first thought for moving the massive steel frame, still encased defiantly in heavy wood, was levitation, but no amount of chanting "Om!" would make the piano rise and float into my truck bed. Beginning to doubt that divine intervention would assist, I then decided I could move the frame in a zig-zag manner one corner at a time, inching it with great difficulty across the grass where it lay near the curb. I finally succeeded in pushing the entire frame off the curb. It hit the street with a loud resonant chord greatly resembling the one heard at the end of one of the Beatle's favorite hits, after the "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" era but prior to their Ravi Shankar sitar period.

After hacking away at the wood over the course of several days, I thought the frame would now be light enough to lift. I carefully bent my knees, following all the guidelines for lifting heavy objects, took hold of the piano frame at a couple of points where I could manage to get my fingers underneath it, and gave it a good UMPH! Using all my strength gained by years of gym workouts, minus the atrophy of muscles brought on by advancing years, and summoning up all my adrenalin, I did manage to lift one corner of the piano frame and drop it precariously onto the edge of my truck tailgate. The tailgate audibly strained under the weight and I thought it might snap off as the rear end of the truck sank down such that the back tires were just about resting on the wheel wells. I could find no angle of attack nor method of leverage that would push the piano any further up into the truck bed.

Since it was unlikely that Paul Bunyun would saunter by and help with the lifting, I had to come up with yet another plan, especially now that the piano frame and my truck were totally out into the street and blocking the corner.

In desperation, Lo!, another idea came to me. I could just drag the piano home behind my truck without having to lift it! I pulled the truck forward and allowed the piano to drop off the much relieved tailgate. The piano slammed to the ground with an accompanying thunderous vibrato. I placed the orange cones around the piano frame and rushed off to a nearby Home Depot, where I purchased a long nylon towing strap. Arriving back at the scene of the piano's demise, I knotted the towing strap to the rear frame of my Tacoma truck body and securely tied the other end to the piano frame. "Piece of cake," I congratulated myself.

I pulled away from the curb very slowly, the piano in tow. I had already mapped out in my head (yes, I am sometimes cabable of rational thought!) a route through the back streets that I could take to get the piano the one mile to my house with the least traffic or other annoyances. As I reached sufficient speed to drag the piano comfortably, it began to play its farewell symphony as it bounced and scraped along the pavement, a John Cage-like cacophonus, unmelodic strumming of dischords, loud enough for all around to hear. The piano did not obey my wishes and follow in a straight path directly behind my truck. Instead, it chose to swing from side to side, crashing from curb to curb with tympanic accents to its dynamic performance. I wished that I had a recording device fastened to the back of my truck to document this once in a lifetime musical treat, which I named appropriately, "Sonata with Dragged Piano." But I was not alone in my enjoyment of the improvisational score. As I moved through the community, I noticed people were called to their front doors by the sound of the piano. They stuck their heads out briefly to determine what might be the source of this odd commotion. Some stood gaped mouth, staring in disbelief at the sight of the dilapidated piano being dragged down their street in seeming punishment like a loathsome horse thief in an old Western movie. It is my supposition that, for some of them, it may have been one of the most interesting events in their lives. I imagine that they went back into their living rooms and, over the sound of the blaring re-runs of the Jerry Springer Show, got into heated arguments as to what they had just witnessed and opined their far-reaching best guesses as to why anyone would pull a piano behind a pick-up truck. I see them still today, at holiday time and family reunions, savoring the memory, "Remember that time that guy was pulling a piano on a tow rope....," and recounting the tale of the dragged piano to their children and grandchildren as folklore woven into the essential fabric of their lives.

Arriving at my house, luckily without citation nor other mishap, I pulled the piano up onto my paved driveway, unfastened it, and then drove my truck across the lawn to the curb, the driveway now being inaccessible for ingress or egress while the piano lay in state. I was ecstatic! I had conquered the dead piano!!

Within a few days, my landlord began to receive complaints from the people in surrounding houses, annoyed by what they perceived to be the eyesore of a piano skeleton in clear view near the street in the driveway. Skeptical disdain is a problem I often encounter with the unimaginative commonperson, those that can't look past temporary destruction and disorder to see potential beauty. At my landlord's continued insistence, and again with all my available strength, I managed to stand the piano upright and get a dolly underneath its edge. I wheeled it to a more inconspicuous place and left it standing in the carport.

I never got around to finishing the job of removing the wood from the metal piano harp. In the time the piano lay on the street corner and in my driveway, the frequent Florida rains had caused the wood to begin to swell and the glue to lose its effectiveness. Chunks of the wood began to fall away without any effort on my part. I was content to let Nature take its inevitable course and eventually rot away all the wood. And besides, now that the piano was no longer a challenge, I became quickly bored with it.

I bought my current house within a few months after I acquired the piano. With the help of a couple of hefty Lesbian friends and their 30 foot long flatbed trailer (something every Lesbian should have for their frequent decisions for cohabitation after the second date), I was able to move the remains of the piano to its new home along with all my other most valuable possessions. I have made the decision that this was my final move - I'm in this house until death do us part. With 1/2 acre to subject to my overly enthusiastic gardening efforts and plenty of other projects for home remodeling and enhancements, I have all that I need in this location to be completely content.

And now, the dead piano stands as "garden art," but to me seems to be more of trophy, my own version of a taxidermed rhinocerous head, reminding me that I can achieve most anything so long as I'm willing to devote the time, energy, and mental and physical resources needed to get the job done, and if I am willing to take a chance on being committed to an asylum for my methods of achieving my goals.

Little did I know (until the fact was pointed out by a musician friend) that it is the wood in a piano that creates the sound and not the strings, so the piano is now almost completely mute. Now that most of the remainder of the wood has rotted away from the effects of the sub-tropical elements of heat, humidity, and a host of wood eating insects, molds, and bacteria, there is no sounding board for reverberation. I thus had to let go of my scheme of turning the piano infrastructure into a giant hanging wind chime.

I have since found another piano frame on another street corner! It would seem that I'm karmically destined to give due respect to piano corpses in need of a final resting place. The second piano was small enough to lift more easily, could fit inside the truck bed, and didn't involve the debacle of getting it home as was needed for its larger cousin. They both stand together in a corner of my yard. Someday I plan to take them one step further and erect them on their apex, imbedded firmly in a concrete stand, and possibly paint their strings with vibrant colors so that they more closely resemble the "iron butterflies" that I can see in their shapes. For the time being, they are very tentatively upright, standing only by counterbalancing each other's weight, with some Passiflores vines beginning to weave between them and grasp hold of the broken strings. When visitors to my garden ask (and they always do!) what the strange metal shapes are, I comment offhandedly, without detail, "Oh, just some old piano harps I found on the street," unwilling to share the full depth of my intense insanity except with a few trusted fellow gardeners, like yourselves.

(Attached is Dogzilla's photo of my "piano garden art" (taken when she was at the DG Roundup at my place back in May)

(Edits for spelling and grammar and some additional paragraphs added)
This message was edited Aug 2, 2005 3:59 PM
This message was edited Aug 2, 2005 8:00 PM

This message was edited Aug 3, 2005 9:45 AM

This message was edited Aug 5, 2005 11:06 AM

Thumbnail by JaxFlaGardener
Oostburg, WI(Zone 5b)

Laughter tears running out of my eyes!!!! Oh my, what a story! And I thought I was stubborn!!!!!!!!!!!!! But we need a bigger pic of the garden art - that one won't expand....

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Great story, Jeremy!

Mableton, GA(Zone 7b)

snortin' and cryin' here! ROFLMAO! :) You are a character.

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

Jeremy, I am going to hazard a guess and say you are still single, or at least do not have a woman living with you. Am I right?

Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

Jeremy that's a classic!!! Thanks for taking the time to type that! Good grief I hope there's another round up down there! I will have to come to it just to meet you! Oh and sit around and listen to your stories of course!

:) Hilarous read!!!!


Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

Thanks all for your kind remarks.

Yes, Mobi, after decades of living a happy single life, I'm now in a committed (and that word "committed" may again refer back to my mention of the asylum) relationship with Christina. I took her in as a stray just about 2 years ago and she didn't leave after a sufficient recuperative time from her previous dead-beat boyfriend. She surprisingly doesn't drive me crazy (as most previous cohabitants have done), we seem to blend together well, and she is willing to tolerate my many eccentricities, so it looks like I'm stuck with her and have therefore decided that I might as well love her, which I now do.

She keeps giving me gentle reminders that our anniversary is coming up next week or something, but, OOPS!, I've been too distracted lately to remember what she considers the exact date of our comingling. She also has been prodding me this morning, as I've asked her to do, to get off DG and get back to my easel and crank out more paintings for the upcoming art show this coming Sunday. Apparently, she thinks it is important that I earn enough money to help keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, but I would much rather be conversing with gardeners or out in my yard encouraging my plants and often lack the discipline to give up all my other interests and distractions and settle down to paint. The opening receptions for my art shows are always scented with the aroma of fresh turpentine and have warning signs posted at the entrance, "Caution - Wet Paint."


Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

You are a riot. Most women, including myself, would think twice about having a dead piano as garden art. But all the best for both of you.

Santa Barbara County, CA(Zone 9a)

Jeremy, What a hilarious story! I do believe that's one of the funniest things I've ever read online. (wiping my eyes)

If it didn't interfere with you earning a living, I'd be tempted to suggest that you write a weekly comedy column for us.... But No, us women gotta stick together, so I'll reluctantly give up that suggestion to support Christina in her efforts to get you painting.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Oh, geez, Jeremy! LOL

Howie's sitting next to me with his laptop, trying to write a blog entry. I, on the other hand, am reading through the latests posts on this thread. Poor Howie...Every so often, a loud "Hah!" burst from me, and Howie's fingers paused as he recovered from the shock. The chuckles he's used to, but the outbursts...Notsomuch.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

As requested, Here's a photo of my garden art of piano harps.


Thumbnail by JaxFlaGardener
Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

How cool!! I love eclectic things like that!

I remembered a not necessarily garden story that's only mildly humorous.

While living in a small one bedroom apartment years ago with my 2 large dogs and 2 parrots I got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. I hadn't been in the apartment very long. It was pitch black and as I walked back into my bedroom, BAM! I walked right into the edge of my bedroom door. I hit it square on my right eye. That's the first and only black eye I've ever had in my life! People looked at me funny when I said, "Oh this? I did it to myself!"

A funny black eye story I heard over the weekend. My close friend's sister gave herself a black eye. Can't remember how. Anyway, she's a nurse and there was a new 'law' requiring her to ask all people checking in if they were the victim of domestic violence! Imagine the looks SHE got! The way my friend told the story I was crying I was laughing so hard! If only I could tell it her way..


Kernersville, NC(Zone 7a)

ouch Nicole!

saugatuck, MI(Zone 6a)

jeremy. i've had a 'urinary incontinance event'.

"sonata with dragged piano"


i am humbled.

am also nominating dear christina for sainthood.

thanks, *whew* all that laughing cleared my sinuses!

Bloomingdale, OH(Zone 6a)

"sight of the dilapidated piano being dragged down their street in seeming punishment like a loathsome horse thief in an old Western movie."

Oh my what a hoot.

Jeremy, I hate to say it, but you sure prove there's a need for a cure for testosterone. Wow. Just out of curiosity, how much life insurance does Christina have out on you?

At least now I know to swallow my coffee BEFORE reading anything posted by you.

*finding the windex and paper towels*


Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

Ha ha! You know I tell the piano story to my 3 year old! He made me tell it to him 3 times in a row this week. I should get on DG so I can read it word for word. It's SO much funnier in Jeremy's words! Told it to my dad too and he just loved it!


Weedville, PA(Zone 6a)

I didn't tell my DH for FEAR! Fear that he'd go find a piano (or some other contraption) and insist on bringing it home, piece by piece, dragging it behind him, in the same fashion...justifing the entire escapade by saying, "Oh, sure, it was cool when JEREMEY did it!" No, no, no, not going there. DH has enough ideas of his own.

Mansfield, TX(Zone 8a)

Just read this whole thread and couldn't help laughing out loud - and there were tears rolling down my face!!

The dumbest thing we've done so far in the gardening area was a walkway in the back yard. I decided that a rock walkway to the vegetable garden would be attractive. Because we were somewhat financially challenged, the decision was made to drive DHs pickup to the lake where my parents live, about 90miles away, and gather rocks from around there. Well, my son was going up there anyway for a scouting event, so he drove the pickup, and my dear old dad helped him load up rocks. Son was fairly new driver, but dad knew better - they had WAY too much weight in that truck.
When son pulled up it looked like the truck had four flat tires. We unloaded and unloaded ..... It took about three weeks to lug those rocks around and "plant" them. Looks nice too. Only problem is that we like to go barefoot, and can't walk because the rocks are too rough, so we walk around our path! I mentioned to DH not long ago that maybe we should replace that path, and from the look I got, I believe we will just leave it till next year :-) Might have to do with his pet project - the side yard he tilled up completely.

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