We started to dig on Tuesday night. Dig dig dig, jack up the wagon, prop it up on a pile of stones, repeat. Dig dig dig, jack up the wagon, prop it up on a pile of stones, repeat. After three hours we had the wheels high enough to slip stones between the rubber and the soft earth beneath.
The underside of the wagon was coated in a film of old spider web and dead spiders. Rabbit propped up one wheel while Feet broke apart the little shed attached to the side. Then I took the jack and shimmied under the back axle on my back. I thought of every small space/gross bug scene from every Indiana Jones and horror film I’ve ever seen and groaned.
“Ignore them, they’re all dead,” Rabbit said. Right. Cobwebs and dead bugs, nothing more. I concentrated on the axel and learned how to use the jack to slowly ease the wheels out of the ground.
Beside us lay the corpses of a raven and a mouse, starting to smell, but not yet rotten. Beneath us were red ants that bit us, leaving huge red welts on Rabbit’s tattooed arms.
As it started to get dark it started to rain, then pour. Water rushed down the sides of the wagon onto our protruding legs and soaked upwards into tank tops and sweatshirts where we lay in the dirt with piles of stones, two hydrolic jacks.
In a few minutes we were soaked through and fled to the car. But the wheels were freed of their earth tomb, and better still, they were perfectly intact.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Images of the wagon, of digging, of the building I would do once we got the thing home, if we got the thing home, raced through my head and my heart pounded. I fell asleep for a few hours, woke, lay awake until the sun rose, slept again, woke, slept again. At ten we threw some more tools in the car and headed back to continue digging. At 11 Truck would be there to haul her away.
We jacked the wheels up further, filling the holes beneath the wheels slowly up with stones and dirt. We smashed the concrete stair with a crowbar. We smashed in the fence, and I worried about bolts for the towing bar; the ones I’d brought along were all too short, and the original bolts were so rusty that they no longer fit into their slots.
We dug and fussed, and I frantically called Truck every few minutes to ask another last minute question. Can you bring bolts? Do you have a blinker for the back of the wagon? We have a steel rope, but it’s too short, what should we do? We forgot to bring a saw and there are some pine branches in the way.
Truck backed the enormous truck down the narrow garden road, and another aquaintence biked over with a chainsaw to take care of the branches. We secured the steel rope on the wagon’s front axel (the towing bar being inconveniently placed in the rear where we wouldn’t be able to reach it with the truck until we’d gotten the thing off of the garden plot and into the little road running through the garden settlement.
Slowly, very slowly, the wagon inched forward. For every foot of progress there was another reason to stop. The boards we’d put under one of the wheels had slid upwards and caught in the axel. The right front wheel wasn’t turned. We hadn’t managed to steer around the cement blocks framing a flower bed and needed to back up, rearrange the towing bar (which is connected to the steering mechanism) and try again.
We dug and jacked and shimmied and pushed until we came up against a fence post. We pushed the wagon sideways with one of the jacks, and finally just ripped the post out with the steel rope and the truck. The unmoveable wheel was stuck because of an old parking brake, rusted on. We smashed it around with a hammer and eventually it opened, and the wheel moved.
It had taken five hours, but at 3 we finally had her out of the garden and out on the street. I was eurphoric. Everything felt surreal. We’d gotten the wagon out. The wheels worked. We could drive it home.
“Oh my god, holy shit, look at it, it’s driving, we got it out, holy shit holy shit holy shit,” I gushed as Rabbit and I drove behind the truck and the wagon, blinkers on. The process had been surreal to begin with, and now I watched as my new house rolled through little towns, past businesses and over bridges.
There she is, parked, for now, in Mustache’s old spot, decorated with the tacky plastic flowers the previous owners left behind. The inside looks great, but there is a good deal of work still to be done: rotten boards to be replaced, wasp nests to be removed, insulation to be put in, an oven to de-rust and install.
And even more surreal than the digging and the moving, the spectacle of seeing my house drive down the highway, is this: besides the sweat and the gas money, I got her for free.