Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Didn't get a chance to finish your story? Purchase a day pass digital subscription for only $1.00 and you'll receive unlimited online access for one day (24 hours). You will have immediate access upon completion of your purchase.

The four-wheeler would not start.


“Dead battery,” I thought. I connected the battery to the trickle charger for a few hours. Va-room. The ATV started.

One day later, the four-wheeler would not start. I bought a replacement battery. I had to relearn how to add hydrochloric acid solution to this old-style battery for my old-style ATV, circa 2002, but it worked. Va-room.

Three days later, the four-wheeler would not start.


I tried the trickle charger on the new battery. It recharged. Va-room.

Two days later, the four-wheeler would not start. This time, a 24-hour connection to the trickle charger also failed. No va-room.


I looked at my utility trailer, a 5-foot by 10-foot homemade contraption with a high gate/ramp sticking up from its back end. The trailer would be needed to haul the ATV to the shop for a diagnosis.

I had not moved the trailer since last fall. What usually happens when that occurs? Yep.

Flat tire.


I turned to my air compressor, the kind that plugs into a 12-volt outlet.

To my joy, the tire reinflated.

But I could not hook up the trailer to the hitch at the back end of the pickup truck.

The combination wheel and jack that adjusts the height of the trailer tongue had sunk to below its axle in the rain-softened soil. That left the trailer’s hitch cup a good foot below the ball on the back end of the pickup truck, instead of hovering above it in hitch-it-up fashion.


I trekked to the garage and retrieved my teeny floor jack. But the jack’s top was too short to reach the trailer’s tongue even at full extension.


I retrekked to the barn for an armload of 2x2 and 4x4 lumber. I built a platform beneath the trailer’s tongue, placed the teeny jack on it and lifted the trailer tongue high enough to be mated to the hitch at the back end of the pickup truck.

Since it was getting dark, I hustled through the routine of attaching the trailer: Connect brake lights, hook up safety chains, and push the locking pin through the trailer hitch lever.

I did not say, “Hmm,” and look around.


The next morning, I got into the truck without looking around.

During the year in which I had not used the trailer, some of the branches on the nearby trees had grown.

I started the truck, and pulled forward.

Ka-WHAPPPP! Ka-sproing!

A corner of the upraised mesh-covered gate at the trailer’s back end had gotten snagged on one of those newly grown tree limbs, then was yanked forward by the truck. The left edge of the trailer gate looked normal. The right edge looked like a bent hockey stick, leaning drunkenly backward.

I went back to, “Hmm.”

I pulled the trailer forward, then backed it up at a 90-degree angle, so its gate would rest on the higher slope of the yard, giving a nearly level surface suitable for pushing a no-varoom ATV.

But the gate would not drop down. The bent edge had been creased outward, right above the hitch pin that held the gate in place. I could not pull the pin, because the gate crease was resting on the top of the hitch pin.


Another trek, this time to the garage to retrieve a sledgehammer.

Once upon a time, I could drive stakes with a sledge. I could break rocks with a sledge. I could heft it, hoist it, swing it, use it.

No longer.

I swung twice, then wheezed 10 times. The crease in the steel gate end shrank slightly away from the hitch pin.

Swing, swing, wheeze. Swing, swing, wheeze.

A half-hour later, the gate had been sledged away from the hitch pin, and even partly straightened out. I pulled the pins and dropped the gate.

One edge rested on the slope. The other one, still bent, hung in the air.


Grab the sledge again.

Swing, swing, wheeze.

At length, the gate sat fairly level. Of course, it also looked like I had driven it through a tornado, but, hey, that is what most of my carpentry and metalworking looks like anyway, so it belonged.

The rest was anticlimactic, a trip to Brookville Motorsports, another new battery, a refund for the new-but-dead replacement, might as well have it serviced, etc.

Now here is the sneaky little secret. This project, moving a no-varoom ATV from the barn to the trailer, did not take one day. It did not take two days.

It took two weeks.

Count the “Hmms.” In my younger days, each “Hmm” would have meant a minutes-long pause. These days, “Hmm” means, “Enough for today. Come back tomorrow or, if it is raining, in a few days.”

That, my friends, is “putz speed.” I love it.

Now that the ATV is back in service, I have tree limbs to trim. Let’s look at how much work is involved.

Hmm. Gonna be a long rest of the summer.


❑ ❑ ❑

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: