An old folk adage cautions us that troubles come in threes. If an annoyance or mishap besets us, we can expect two more of the same type in short order.
I hope this Rule of Three is valid because I have had my trio of misfortunes this December and should be quit for the month as we enter the home stretch of this Christmas season. In quick order, my torments have been a pickup truck topper, three ground blinds, and a birdgun. Strangely (or maybe fittingly), all three have disrupted my hunting seasons and vexed me greatly.
First the topper. Having taken delivery of a new Ford Ranger the first week of December, I was eager to have a fiberglass topper installed to make this truck into the complete hunter’s package. Birddogs, bird guns, boots, jackets, vests, hats and other various gear of the trade should not be exposed to the weather in an open box, or piled haphazardly in the cab’s cargo storage space or on the backseat.
Many years ago I built a compartmented shelf unit that slides into a pickup truck’s box to assure “There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.” Some rude members of the Over the Hill Gang have remarked on my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I prefer to think of it as strict attention to detail that has often benefited us all. Having a spray can of WD40 and a 25-foot length of electrical extension cord in the truck’s tool box, for example.
Hence the need for a topper.
But the installation by Truckin’ America in Rochester, Minnesota did not go well. For starters, I do not think that attaching a fiberglass shell pre-fabricated to the Ford Ranger’s dimension and specifications should require three hours. But I could live with that; painstaking attention to workmanship can be a virtue. What I could not lived with was the finished product.
The topper’s lift-hatch door was warped and bent and failed to seal against the frame by a good half inch. The front window had a similar but smaller gap all around its frame. Drawing on 40 years of experience with toppers on pickups, I knew that dusty roads and driving rains can penetrate and foul all the gear the shell is intended to protect.
To his credit, the Truckin’ America manager realized his crew’s installation was shoddy and immediately said he would order a new hatch and window and have them both properly fitted. This work is scheduled for the last week in December. In the meantime, I am dealing with the incursion of dirt and rain. Failing to remember that the shell was leaky, I drove it through the automatic carwash last week. Big mistake.
Okay, that’s not the worst of miseries, definitely a First World problem of too much white middle class privilege. An annoyance that can be cured by a 150-mile drive to-and-from the shop and a wasted day. Assuming the repair is correctly done.
Do not be a petty OCD jerk, I told myself. And in a couple days I was my normal cheerful and optimistic self. (For the record, I am not a cheerful and optimistic person. I am a curmudgeon.) Seeking a peaceful state of mind, I repeated my personal mantra a couple hundred times (Stuff Happens – Get Used To It) and accepted my misfortune.
That grudging acceptance of fate was three days before the Winds of Doom swept across the upper Midwest. You probably read about it in the news. Heck, even the New York Times published an article about those wind storms, and the Times seldom gives a hoot about us out here in the Midwest.
All through the night the wind howled in a mad rage, a constant 40 miles-per-hour blast with intermittent 60 miles-per-hour gusts. The windows shook in their casings, the shingles on the roof flapped and clattered, and smoke from the woodstove was forced back down the chimney to cloud the kitchen.
The wind direction shifted through the points of the compass: roaring across our farm from the southeast, the west, swinging around to due north. We were certain these circling swirls of wind were the prelude to a tornado, but in the pitch dark of night we never spotted a funnel cloud. This storm could not properly be called a derechco, those storms with straight line winds that blow with hurricane force, because it seemed to whirl around us from everywhere.
The day’s high temperature, by the way, was 69 degrees, the warmest December day ever recorded in this county’s 129 years of weather data. To those who deny climate change and its potential to cause severe storms that devastate our lives and property, I can only say: FOOLS!
Come sunrise, the winds dropped to a “gentle” 20 to 25-miles-per-hour, and we ventured out to assess the damage. A few dozen trees had been blown down or were snapped off at mid-trunk, and thousands of branches were scattered everywhere, ranging from several as big around as my leg to others the circumference of my wrist. But Aeolus, that Greek god of the winds, must have taken pity on us: there was no major damage to the house or garage or outbuildings.
My ground blinds for deer hunting, however, were not spared.
Walking through my inspection tour across the hayfields on the west side of our place, I found the tarp-covered panels of one blind: lumps and tangles of wreckage strewn across the field, a piece here, a piece there, and none salvageable. A second blind had disappeared altogether, apparently hoisted airborne like Mary Poppins in flight beneath her parasol. I may find it someday in the treetops of my neighbors’ woods, but it is possible that it was blown a half mile into the valley where it plunged into the river and set sail for New Orleans.
The final blind was the furthest to the south, was the most sturdily constructed, and was well anchored between 15-foot-tall cedar trees in our shelter belt. It was beaten to a pulp. The gales had tipped it over, crushed it, smashed it to rubble. Its PVC framework was shattered and its wire braces were a tangle that looked like a crashed World War I biplane. I was unable to imagine the force of the winds that caused this carnage but I was thankful I was not in the blind when the storm hit.
Only one of my four blinds survived, and it suffered very little damage. Go figure. My guess is that it was the smallest and presented the lowest-profiled and least-resistant target for the wind. Note to self: construct all future blinds on the pattern of this one.
Well, the worst of this December’s disasters are over, I consoled myself. We have had our share of bad luck.
I was wrong.
Two days ago I escaped from more productive chores to enjoy an afternoon of pheasant hunting. I took my most beloved double gun, a Browning BSS Sporter in 20 gauge with English stock, the gun that has been my favorite for more than 40 years. Of course, that gun became misfortune number three.
Following my French spaniel Abbey at a pace that was too fast for an old man, I tripped over a gopher mound and made a full face-plant pratfall. Right on top of my shotgun.
I heard it crack, and discovered that two chips of wood had been broken out of the buttstock where it meets the face of the receiver. I was inconsolable. Broken hearted. Miserable. How could I be so clumsy? Such a lout!
Returning home, I sent a message to Midwest Gun Works asking them, pleading with them, to repair the damage. I am awaiting MGW’s reply. The firm completely reconditioned this BSS about 20 years ago, and I can only hope their stock makers can fix this.
Troubles come in threes, and I pray that this adage holds true for our December of catastrophes. Yes, I know that pickup topper can be fixed, new ground blinds built, and the BSS stock repaired. But for the moment I feel as though the fabled luck of the Irish (aye, bad luck at every turn of life) has landed upon me like a hod load of bricks.
And, dammit, I should not be plagued with the luck of the Irish. I’m Welsh. The gods of mayhem ought to know that!
I am not venturing out again until Christmas weekend. Bah! Humbug!
But I do wish my readers a happy holiday season and offer my sincere wishes that this first month of the winter has treated all of you better.