Monday, January 1, 2007

Pellet-packin' Time

Blythe and I spent one of the final days of 2006 packing 4,000 pounds of pellets. These would be wood pellets which provide the fuel for the Traeger grills Tim sells to the people fortunate enough to possess one, which neither Blythe nor I do - own a Traeger, that is.

Tim, as most of our friends know, has been in the Veteran's Hospital in Indianapolis for quite a while. Usually, he makes a trip to Missouri to get more pellets but this time, they were shipped and put into Pam's brother's warehouse.

Our initial plan was to drive Tim's big truck over to the warehouse to pick up the pellets but when we got to Tim's, the truck had sat for so long, unstarted, that its battery was dead. This circumstance required a new plan so we drove to Blythe's storeroom and proceeded to unload her truck, which is like a mini-Walmart itself. In fact, I'm positive Blythe could set a Guinness Book of World Records record for the most amount of stuff packed into the inner space of an Aztek. She and her truck could be stranded on a desert island and begin an entire new society on the basis of what it contained. There would be complete wardrobes for herself and the, previously naked, native islanders. She would be able to supplement their diets of fish and coconuts with any number of varieties of candy, pretzels, cookies, and Little Debbie cakes. They would soon scorn simple water in favor of variations featuring the flavors of peach, raspberry and orange, as well as a sampling of exotic teas and coffees, and 4 bottles of several-year-old Canadian beer. They could take up farming with the amount of implements pulled out of the innards of the truck - hoes and rakes and shovels and picks. They could be given pillows and blankets (though they might wonder what the pictures of horses and wolves and cardinals represented). They could initiate a police force from all the leftover mementoss of her years on the Sheriff's Reserves. They could clean the hell out of their grass huts with 247 bottles of various cleansers and multiple rolls of paper towels and keep the Aztek in functioning order for decades with the oil, windshield washer, antifreeze (possibly not necessary considering the tropical nature of the island) contained therein. Interior decorating would become de riguer when she began handing out wreathes and pictures and other little crafty doodads to the palm hut housewives. There would be more than enough stuffed animals for every child on the island to get one, with a few in reserve for babies yet to be born. This would be the most Christmas decorated South Sea Island with enough strings of Christmas lights to brighten every palm tree on the beach. Not to mention that, because Blythe, has not yet delivered all her Christmas presents, there would be snowman and santa-wrapped, bowed and ribboned, gifts for all, as well as an abundance of batteries to operate the electronic stuff.

Anyway, you get the picture - we had to unload the Aztek before proceeding to load it again with pellets. Until we got to the warehouse where Pam's brother, Rick, had the shrink-wrapped mountain of pellets on a fork lift..... He thought loading them individually into Blythe's truck was a terrible idea. Instead, he suggested that if she had jumper cables, we should go back to Tim's and get the big truck onto which he could place the entire skid of pellets.

Blythe actually said she wasn't sure if she had jumper cables, a statement which immediately provoke a fit of hilarious laughter from me. "Blythe," I sputtered, "of course, you have jumper cables! There's no way you could not have jumper cables! It is just a matter of looking." So Blythe delved into various storage areas, revealing spare tires and tool boxes and flash lights and Ice Melt and flares until she, naturally, located jumper cables.

Tim's big truck started right up so back to the warehouse we went and Rick expertly plopped the skid of pellets onto it. Luckily, it is a tough truck because although it groaned and settled, it accepted the skid.

We then started off, going slow and avoiding the busy streets. It was nerve-wracking for me, the worrier, as I envisioned the whole skid sliding off the back of the truck, with sacks all busting, releasing two tons of pellets loose onto the street, possibly engulfing a citizen, which would have put him or her in the Guiness Book of World Records as: "The Only Person Ever to Die of Drowning in Mesquite-Flavored Wood Pellets."

At one point, Blythe took a turn rather sharply and the entire shrink-wrapped mountain shifted so that it was hanging precariously over the side of the truck. I remember groaning, "oh, my God - oh, my God, why did I ever let you talk me into this?" I felt as if I could sense the tires on that side of the truck flattening, the frame bending, the axle breaking - or something like that (my knowledge of the underworkings of vehicles being somewhat limited). Blythe was, well, blithe about the whole thing.

"Just relax, Vic, it will be fine."

"You'll think fine if we ruin Tim's truck and have to sweep up 4,000 pounds of pellets with a wisk broom and a dust pan!"

We made it to Tim's garage and formed an assembly line of unloaders. Rick stood on the truck and handed off the 20-pound bags to me. I, in turned, handed them off to Blythe, who stacked them in flavor-defined rows. It didn't really take all that long to unload the 200 bags of pellets and there was one less thing for Tim to have to worry about - his customers will now have their choice of apple, mesquite, hickory, cherry, alder and maple-flavored pellets with which to season their grilled offerings.

I guessed I was glad the other two had vetoed my idea of each of us kicking in some money to hire some strong young kids to do the job - the 60-somethings did just fine, thank you.

Of course, once we finished with the pellets, Blythe and I had to return to her storeroom to re-load, just in case she ends up on a desert island and needs to start a new civilization out of the back of the Aztek.