Heavy Dreams: A story about grand landscaping projects, heavy machinery, and failure.

I have a tendency to go headstrong towards a new project once I have a vision in my mind. More times than not, I follow through. But there are times when the vision eclipses ability, when my head gets ahead of my feet. This is a story about one of those times.

This past summer, in the heat of quarantine, I decided my backyard was a blank canvas that needed landscaping. I imagined native trees and bushes, a hardscape sidewalk, and privacy between us and our neighbors. At nearly ½ of an acre, this would be no small feat. But I was up to the challenge.

After a small paver project in the spring, I learned that cutting sod out of clay soil is not for the faint of heart — or muscle. It took me nearly a whole Saturday to lay a 4-foot by 8-foot patio. Needless to say, the idea of cutting 600 square feet of sod out of my yard manually for this grand landscape vision was off the table.

I quickly learned about sod cutters from a YouTube search. This led me to a local machine rental company who had a medium-sized sod cutter for daily rental. I called, reserved one of the machines, and hopped in my pickup truck excited about the endeavor.

When I pulled into the rental parking lot, I dialed the office and let them know I was there. A moment later, a man in a bobcat tractor with a small crane attachment rolled out from behind the building. Another man rolled the sod cutter out from a warehouse. The driver hooked the sod cutter to his crane and slowly drove it to my truck. He lifted it up and sat it down in the bed. The truck sank with the weight. I grabbed some straps and tied it in as if I was worried about it flying out.

As I drove out of the parking lot, the weight of the sod cutter began to set in. This was an incredibly heavy machine. Certainly, I can get it out of the truck, I told myself. Maybe I’ll need to ask the neighbor for help. They wouldn’t let me rent a machine that was too heavy to get out of my truck.

It turns out, they will. As I stood in the back of my truck with sweat pouring down my brow, I could barely budge the machine forward. I rocked it side to side and slightly forward.

I went inside and gave my wife a silent stare. “I can’t get it out of the truck,” I told her.

“What do you mean? I can help you,” she responded.

“No. I don’t think that’s going to work.” I paused. “Maybe Tommy (my wife’s brother-in-law) can come over, and we’ll figure something out.”

Tommy and I stood masked in my driveway staring at the machine. We both pushed, shoved, angled, and cajoled it. We started brainstorming. Maybe we could build a ramp to roll it down? Maybe we could enlist some construction workers down the street to do it for a price? Maybe we could drop it out of the bed and into the yard? How would we get it back into the truck?

Twenty or thirty minutes went by. We did more standing around and talking than anything else. There was no solution. I thanked Tommy and told him he could go home. I’ll take the night to keep brainstorming.

A couple of days went by and the sod cutter sat in the back of my truck. I saw my dream of a DIY landscape backyard fading into the summer sun. I had wasted time. I lost money. It was time to admit I’d never cut sod at the speed and volume I wanted. Some dreams aren’t meant to come true.

I drove back into the rental company parking lot and dialed the office number. The man with the bobcat and mini crane came rolling around. I unstrapped the machine as he came up.

“How’d the project go?” he asked.

“I never got it out of the truck,” I responded nonchalantly.

He chuckled as he angled the crane hook around the machine. I got back in the truck and laughed to myself. I wonder how many people rent machines they can’t get out of their cars. I wonder if I’m a cautionary story they tell future DIY dreamers before letting them rent heavy equipment. I wonder if he would’ve let me rent that bobcat and mini crane for the weekend, too.