Many of you that tailgate with us know this story, but my dad recommended that I write it down before I forgot. So here goes.
When the Tailgate Box was first released, it was all white. And sitting in the back of my truck, it looked like one of those old fashioned ice delivery trucks. So Sam started singing “Ice Shack baby” and soon that is how it got its name. Most all of our nicknames start with a stupid story like that.
November 2, 2014. Pats vs Denver. Game time = 4:25 PM. I still had a few things left to do on the Box and Sam was going to help me, so I stayed at his house and we got up early to work on the box, figuring we would hit the road around 10:00AM. It was really cold and windy and was hard to get things done. I wanted to rig the grill lighting so we could see what we were cooking after the game. Everything goes well, we load the truck, head to the game. Great tailgate (as always) and a win over Peyton Manning too. We hit the road about 10 PM headed for home. In the front seat is Sam Nelson, in the back is Ed Kelly and John West.
It’s very windy and I am driving in the low 70’s. We are headed north on the Everett turnpike in Nashua at about 11:15 PM. I feel a big gust of wind, the truck moves in reaction in a way I haven’t felt before. There is a strange crack sound and as I look in the rear-view mirror I see the box flying through the air out the back of the truck. I am told that I yelled “Holy Fuck!” At which point Ed woke up.
Now let me just say in my defense that there were two small screws holding the box from sliding backwards out of the truck. Because it weighed at least 800 lbs loaded, I never thought anyone could physically steal it and since it is framed over the wheel wells, it would only really slide a few inches backward until it hit the steel frame and stopped. I NEVER considered the aerodynamics of something so big as being able to generate enough lift to pull it up 8 inches, sheer the screws, and then float out the back of the truck.
So all I could picture as I look back on the highway is the big rig about 1/4 mile behind me, smashing this giant wooden box on the highway and like in the movies, it shatters in a million shards. The box was framed to be light-weight, so there is not a lot of structure to it, I tried to frame it as smart as possible using the interior dividers as strength members. But I did worry about the 3 car batteries and 2 propane tanks and cornhole frames and generator and some poor old lady driving along, hitting the thing and getting hurt. By the time I could get to the right lane and pull over, we were at least a half mile up but could see the big white box sitting smack in the middle of the highway which was 5 lanes wide at this point (between exits 4 and 5).
I bolt out “we gotta go get it.” The guys were not as convinced, and hinted at leaving it. But I have a decent amount invested, I wanted to at least try. I tell John to call 911, we head for exit 5 to loop back. While we are heading south John tells us that the 911 operator says that at least 10 calls have come in for a “refrigerator” on the highway. I get off at exit 4, head to the north on-ramp and see a local cop in a Ford Explorer getting on the highway. I try flashing my lights but he continues on. We catch up to him on the highway and he flashes on his blues pulling right up behind the box, providing cover. We pull up along side in the breakdown lane. All of us are amazed, “Holy shit, no one hit it!”
I yell to the cop who had rolled down his window, “That’s mine, we are going to come get it, ok?” He yells “Go ahead”. The 4 of us then run out into the middle of the highway and I tell the guys that we can push it to the side of the road. 4 grown men lean into the side of the thing…it doesn’t budge. Wow this thing is heavy. There was a lot of colorful language. We get all 4 of us on one side and start to ‘spin’ it, one end at a time, for the side. As we move it and progress slightly forward, the cop is moving with us, providing cover. Later we would joke that it was like playing Frogger with cars zipping by at full speed.
We get the box to the side, the local cop takes off because a state trooper pulls up. This guy must have thought we were all nuts. He never asks our name, but already knows that we are coming home from a Pats game. We unlock the storage doors and start unloading everything onto the side of the highway. This includes my large plastic bin FULL of empties, because well you know, I have to recycle them. Sam’s grill tray is partially broken and it falls off as he lifts it out, smashing himself in the face (black eye the next day). We get all the heavy stuff out and I tell the guys that we can lift the front and I will back up to the box, lay it on the truck and then all 4 of us can lift the back and hinge it forward sliding it over the wheel well and then back in place.
Believe it or not, the plan works flawlessly. The trooper held the flashlight for a while while we put all the crap back in and then went back to his car, I think he was cold…we certainly were. We load everything back in the box and then I throw 3 ratchet straps over the top, because now I am paranoid.
This whole episode only took about 45 minutes and as we got back in the truck to drive on, it was so surreal that we kept saying, “Did that really just happen?”
A few days later, I finally had a chance to assess the damage. The 42″ tv cracked, but special thanks to the crew that chipped in for the new one. Sam’s grill got dinged. The frame of the box had a few cracks and scratches, but since it landed square on the highway and just skidded, it was actually ok. One of the cracks was from where I ratcheted the strap down so tight that it cracked a piece of the frame…oops. One of the batteries cracked a cell. Everything was jumbled around, but no bottles in the bar broke, all the electronics were fine, and the other two 32″ tvs were fine. I was amazed. We all praised my “Built in America craftsmanship” and the “Flying Ice Shack” lived to fight another day. I thought it was poetic that the next week was the bye week, and then we had an away game. I guess the whole team needed some time to heal up for the playoff run and Superbowl victory!