The road crew had spent most of the afternoon going back and forth on our dirt road with the grader, several dump trucks and some huge, very impressive looking “road machines” that we have never seen being used on our roads before. Apparently the town has made some new purchases.
Basically what they were doing was scraping the road and loading dirt and stones into the trucks to be taken away. We could see they were having some difficulty filling the trucks because the blade that scraped up the dirt was wider than the body of the truck which meant the truck could only be filled if it was positioned lengthwise in front of the blade. On most roads this wouldn’t be a problem, but the road past our house is narrow and it is lined with big maple trees on both sides. Behind those trees… in front of our house and yard and running several hundred feet in both directions, there is a four foot high stone wall that has been there for at least two hundred years. Positioning the dump trucks lengthwise across the road without damaging the trees or the stone wall was going to be a tricky operation.
The stone wall to the left is the one that got knocked down
It became even trickier when the truck driving away was replaced by a different and even bigger dump truck. The driver was quite young… and friendly… he waved to us and smiled as he waited. When he began to maneuver the truck into the loading position, he had to drive ahead and back up several times to get the truck across the road lengthwise, but eventually he got the positioning exactly right.
And then for some reason he backed up a little further… just missed one of the old trees and made a direct hit with the stone wall. A truck-wide portion of the wall collapsed inward onto our front lawn.
The resulting noise was incredible. The ground shook. And suddenly the loud machinery noises stopped as the men all came to stand in front of the collapsed wall. The truck driver’s face was beet red and he kept saying “I am SO sorry” over and over again. The other men kept walking around and looking at the hole in the wall, the stones on the ground and the back of the truck like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Everyone was obviously very embarrassed. The man in charge apologized profusely and offered to have his men try to “put the wall to right,” although he said none of them had any idea how to build that type of wall. When we thanked him for the offer but said we could rebuild the wall ourselves, he seemed pathetically relieved that we were not angry. There was another round of apologies and the men went back to their equipment and the work started up again. The driver who had hit the wall sat in his truck looking straight ahead. The ready smile had disappeared.
Eventually that truck was filled and another truck came to take its place a few feet further up the road. This driver was obviously more experienced, and he had the truck in position lengthwise across the road very quickly. And then HE backed up a little more and the back of this truck rammed into one of the trees and then into the wall. A big branch broke off and fell onto where the wall had been. Again, the stones from a truck-sized portion of wall were now pushed onto our lawn.
All the activity stopped abruptly, and once again all the men mingled around looking at the damage. This time the man in charge was so embarrassed he could barely speak, but once again he offered to have his men try to fix the wall, and once again we said we could build it back up again ourselves. Several of the men promised that they would make sure that no more damage would be done to the trees or the wall.
They kept their word. From that point on, every time the big trucks had to back up towards our stone wall, one of the men would get between the truck and the trees and tell the driver when to stop. It took the rest of the afternoon before the men had worked their way past our yard and up into the wooded area, but there were no more accidents.
That night we got a telephone call from the road agent. He hadn’t been part of the crew but had obviously been told what had happened. He said he was calling to apologize personally and to tell us that we would be getting a new culvert for our road sometime during the next week instead of sometime during the next year as previously planned. We told him we appreciated the call… and the culvert. He said HE appreciated the way we had accepted the damage calmly and without getting angry. (Apparently none of the men had seen the steam that must have been coming out of our ears!
The clean-up was incredibly hard physical work. It took most of one day to move the rocks off the lawn and for my sons to rebuild the stone wall. Over the years… out of necessity… they have become quite skilled in dry-stacking stone, and they do quality work.
So if there is a plus side to this whole unfortunate incident… it is that the rebuilt stone wall looks even better now than it did before!