Get a firm grip on the bed rail

G. Sam Piatt - PDT Columnist

We were returning home from a family house-boating trip on Dale Hollow Lake. There was close to a dozen of us in three vehicles. I was driving my ancient pickup truck pulling my boat. With me was my son-in-law, Dwight Cole, and my granddaughter, Heather, who was probably 10 or 12 at the time.

The others, in two vehicles, had gone on ahead. Since we would be traveling much slower, I told them to go on, not to worry about us, and we would see them at home.

I had confidence in the truck, even though it should probably have been junked years ago. I like old things.

I’m not certain why Heather chose to ride home with us. Maybe it was her love of adventure. She knew that accompanying her paternal grandfather on any trip was always an adventure.

Just outside Somerset, on a hill, the transmission started slipping. I pulled into a service station and we added three quarts of transmission fluid.

Thirty or 40 miles farther we added two more quarts. Finally, at Mt. Vernon, where we would connect with Interstate 75, it became evident we weren’t going to make it.

A man in McDonald’s told us of a garage about four miles out of town, and he said the proprietor was the best transmission man around. We limped out there at a top speed of about 20 miles an hour.

Turned out he happened to have on hand a rebuilt transmission that would work in an old Chevrolet pickup like mine. Not only did he agree to put it in, but loaned us his car to drive back into town. “Get you a room, come back in the morning, and I should be able to have it for you,” he said.

We found one of those little Mom and Pop motels in Mt. Vernon and rented a room. It was little more than twice the size of the average bathroom. It had one queen-size bed.

They brought a roller bed in for Heather. There was hardly room to walk between it and the bed.

Dwight and I, worn out, climbed into the bed, only to find that it sagged terribly in the middle. Fathers-in-law and sons-in-law, in such intimate situations as that, do not like to touch each other.

He rolled on his right side and I rolled on my left and we grabbed hold of the bed railing on either side. When our grip relaxed as sleep found us, we would roll down to collide in the middle. We would immediately recoil and assume our original positions.

We got probably three hours sleep, part of it no doubt spent back to back. Heather slept like a log all night.

Next morning, after breakfast, we drove back to the garage. The transmission was in. We were ready to roll. I don’t recall exactly what the bill was, but it was less than $200.

We hooked the boat back up and made it home.


I once got to meet the late, great Mike Royko, syndicated columnist whose newsroom time was spent at the Chicago Tribune.

He was the speaker at a writers’ conference in Columbus. He shared this story of a fish camp practical joke. He gave me permission to use it, which I did years ago, but you’ve forgotten it by now.

A restaurant owner and three friends were on a fishing trip up north. They were sharing a cabin on the shore of a wilderness lake.

Here’s the way Royko told it:

It was 10 p.m. They had fished all day and were going to turn in and get up before dawn for some more fishing.

One of them, let’s call him Joe, was the first to his bunk. He was exhausted. Within a few minutes he was snoring.

The restaurant owner quickly told the others his plan.

One of them got Joe’s wrist watch, which he had put on a dresser, and changed the time to 4:45.

They set the alarm clock to go off at exactly five o’clock, turned off all the lights, took off their clothes, and went to bed.

Fifteen minutes later, the alarm went off. They all got up, shuffling around, making the grumbly, miserable sounds that men make early in the morning. One of them put toast and coffee on.

The most miserable was Joe. He sat on the edge of his bed, shaking his head, moaning. “I don’t feel like I’ve been to bed at all.”

He kept looking at his watch. He complained as he drank his coffee and on the way to the boat.

“I must be getting old,” he said as they dropped anchor and began fishing.

Every few minutes he’s glance at his watch, look at the eastern horizon, and say, “What time have you got?”

“Five-forty,” somebody said.

“Boy, it’s dark,” Joe would say.

A little later, “What time have you got?”


He began looking concerned. “Shouldn’t it be getting light soon?” he asked.

By the time his watch said 6:40, he had stopped casting. He just sat there staring into the darkness.

Finally, in a voice filled with genuine terror, he cried:

“I’m telling you, something is wrong! It’s not getting light today! Something is wrong!”

“End of the world, Joe!” they hooted. “Doesn’t matter, because the fish aren’t biting anyway.”

That’s when he caught on.

And he took it well, although they had to wrestle an oar out of his hands.

G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at or (606) 932-3619.