The Christmas Tree Farm
editor's note: My dear husband Steve told me this story on our second date, and I'm pretty sure I fell in love with him right then and there on my couch. Let the record show, he fell in love with me on date number one. I just needed a little more convincing.
By the age of 25, Steve had his tile business off to a solid start. He found jobs all over the Midwest, working until he absolutely had to stop for food and sleep. Sleep was often done in fits and starts on the actual job site. Contractors would call and Steve would load up his truck at a moment's notice. It's important to describe the truck at this early point in our tale. The front half of the truck was a Chevy half ton, with a six cylinder engine. The rear end was retrofitted with a three quarter ton axle by a mechanic friend of Steve's.
Steve landed a job in Detroit, and loaded up his makeshift vehicle with the tile needed for the job. He purchased all the tile in Minneapolis because he had no credit with suppliers in other cities. The load was substantial, and left the rear of the truck with no spring, the bed riding extremely low. Steve and his helper, Mike, loaded his jerry rigged pickup with the materials for the job and started off for Detroit. About 175 miles into their journey, Mike turned to Steve and asked, "What's that sound?"
"What sound?" Steve shot back with arrogant skepticism and turned up the boombox that was sitting in the back window.
The truck was climbing a hill and laboring under the weight of the load. As they crested the hill, the truck began to pick up speed when suddenly "CRASH!"the back end of the truck hit the ground and the left rear wheel quickly rolled past the truck, the rim red hot from the friction. The weight of the load had actually melted the axle and it snapped in half. Steve managed to pull the truck over to the side of the road, and he and Mike both leapt out, looking for the tire that had rolled away. It didn't take them long to find it, a telltale plume of smoke gave away the wheel's location. This took place in late November, and that autumn had been unseasonably dry. No early snow had fallen yet, so the roadside weeds and grasses were ripe for combustion. By the time they reached the wheel, a full fledged brush fire had broken out.
There was a farmhouse nearby, and Steve ran toward it, hoping to find a phone and a water source. As he streaked across the front yard, a large, fierce German Shepherd shot out from under the front porch of the house. It barked with obvious malice, and took off for Steve, who had reversed direction when the dog made it's presence known and was now running back toward the safety of the truck. Mike, meanwhile, was literally rolling on the ground laughing at Steve's plight. Steve cleared the fence just in time to avoid the maw of the Shepherd.
By this time, the brush fire had spread and was rapidly overtaking a Christmas tree farm. Even though they hadn't personally alerted any of the nearby homeowners, people came running at the sight of flames growing tall in the rural area.
The fire department was called and Steve watched as the spruce trees meant for yuletide decor went up in smoke. A police officer pulled Steve aside and asked for his driver's license. He asked Steve what company carried his auto insurance. "Well, ahem, it's Fireman's."
The policeman looked up from his report and observed, "Really. That is ironic."
Seven thousand Christmas trees were lost that day, denied their shot at yuletide decor. Steve's insurance company was sued for $26,000 in damages to the evergreen farm. Steve ultimately purchased a used logging truck to finish his trek to Detroit. In spite of his mishap, he got the job done.