Real life is stranger than fiction

Is it real or fiction? Some people have extremely realistic dreams. Other people are extremely gifted at creating a work of fiction that seems real, but is entirely fabricated in imagination. And still other people seem to have the gift of finding themselves in real situations that seem stranger than any fiction or dream could ever be.

I seem to be one of this last group of people. Even though I have a pretty vivid imagination, I’d be at a loss to create some of the situations I find myself in. (Disclaimer: names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Take, for example, the situation I found myself in the other week. It all started innocently enough. I had volunteered to help set up for the verenike making for the MCC sale. Everyone else seemed to have been doing their jobs forever, and they seemed to know exactly what to do. I, the newbie, didn’t.

So, it seemed like a heaven-sent opportunity when they needed a volunteer to pick up a trailer and drive to Buhler. All I asked was that someone help me hitch the trailer to my truck. I didn’t want to be the one who forgot to hook up the chains and leave the trailer in the middle of the highway.

“The trailer is at Mr. Jones’. Do you know where that is?” Huh? WHO? A flurry of phone calls ensued, locating someone who could show the new girl where to go. Before long, I was told that someone—let’s call him John Doe; he’s a friend of the family—would meet me at the gas station, lead me to said farm, hitch my truck to the trailer, and see me on my way. Easy. I even had a full tank of gas.

After a slight delay, John Doe and I headed out to Mr. Smith’s farm. The gray skies drizzled at us, having already saturated and flooded the county the previous weekend. Without too much fuss, we got my truck backed up to the trailer.

Unbeknownst to me, apparently opening the driver’s side window and sticking my head out while I back up is considered downright gauche, if not incriminatingly girly. I always reasoned that it was easier to hear the directions coming from the back of my truck—before they turned into howls of pain or frustration—with the window open.

As it was, I still had to hop out, slog through the marsh that the trailer was parked in, and unfreeze the cotter pin to switch hitches. John Doe figured out how to hook up the chains—which were apparently meant for a much longer setup than mine—and then the fun started.

The hookup for the lights on the trailer didn’t match the plug for my truck. We’d stop by Mr. Doe’s son’s, we reasoned, and see if he had an adapter. Mr. Doe would follow me. I put my truck in gear, gave it some gas, and promptly went nowhere. I put it in low gear, and tried again. I went nowhere at an alarming rate. Deciding to give up before I buried my truck up to its axles in gluey mud, I saw Mr. Doe getting what looked like a 6-foot tow chain out of his pickup.

Yikes, I thought. This is going to get dicey. Ever the gentleman, Mr. Doe offered to crawl under the front end of my truck to hook the chain on and pull me out of the mud, so we could theoretically get the lights adapted and get me on my way to Buhler.

The morning was ticking away. Luckily, I had a tarp in the back of my trusty vehicle, so that Mr. Doe didn’t actually have to lay in the mud, just feel around on the muddy underside of my pickup. With remarkable speed, he located a suitable point and extricated himself from under my vehicle. His hands were covered in mud.

I rummaged for wet wipes, trying to do at least something that didn’t make me look completely helpless and incompetent. He brushed aside the offer. though, insisting that he had a rag in his truck. And sure enough, he did.

Reaching behind his seat, he pulled out a pair of pink flannel pajama pants and nonchalantly began to wipe his hands.

I lost it. I started to laugh. The series of unfortunate events, followed by this guy standing there wiping his hands on what looked for all the world like a pair of bloomers was just too much for my sense of normalcy. I started to tease him about the bloomers, while he vociferously insisted that they were pajama bottoms, as if that would make it any better.

I’m sure he was muttering some very choice words under his breath as he pulled the whole contraption out of the mud without further mishap. We got out on the road and to his son’s, who didn’t have an adaptor. We even tried to switch to a different truck, but apparently one of the hookups had changed since last year.

Finally, we gave up, with me still stifling guffaws and Mr. Doe very adamant that I not tell his wife about our adventure.

I sent my husband a text: “Remind me to tell you how I spent the morning in the mud with John Doe and his pajama bottoms.” Being the trusting soul that he is, hubby didn’t get worried until I mentioned that my wedding ring had chosen that very morning to come unsoldered.

Again, the timing couldn’t have been more surreal. Luckily, Mrs. Doe is also a very understanding woman with a great sense of humor.

So, all’s well that ends well, but just like they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at

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