Stephenson Tales

Piano Adventures - Part 3

During the two years we were in Carbondale where I was "Visiting Professor," I repaired the baggage trailer we had bought from Mrs. House at Interlochen. I put in a new steel frame and tongue with a 2-inch ball hitch. I kept (and still have in 2008) the axle from a 1932 Chevrolet!

At this time we drove the red VW bus. We stopped at Gull Lake to put the old piano in the baggage trailer and take it to Harper House. We had made a place for it in the downstairs bedroom (where Ada Harper had died in 1954). I do not remember who helped us load it and secure it into the trailer. I was eager to get on the road, although Lucy Chase thought it more prudent to stay over night and have the daylight to drive, but I gave in to my (foolish) preference. I checked the connection to the car and all seemed well.

It got dark as we drove, but I could see the top of the piano in the rear mirror. Then suddenly, as I looked, I could not see it. (?!?!) I pulled over on the side of the highway and got out and went behind the car. No trailer.

I ran back to the car and shouted to Lucy Chase, "The trailer is gone!"


"Yes, the trailer is gone - I'll go look again."

It was gone, all right. The ball hitch was bare. I could not believe my eyes. I peered down the highway, fully expecting to see a piano standing on the berm. No piano. No trailer.

We went to the nearest town (all this is very hazy) and to the police station. No one had heard of a wayward piano. They did hear a report of an empty baggage trailer in the ditch near the end of a long left hand curve in the highway - but nothing about any piano.

"Well, that surely must be it," I thought, "but where is the piano?"

We had a long series of visits with local police and finally found out where it lay on top of a carpet of now mashed down grass. The piano had continued moving though the trailer was nose first down in the ditch at the side of the road. It had skidded right through the front of the trailer and was lying comfortably in the tall grass. They sent a flatbed trailer and angled it down, pulled the piano up the ramp and then leveled it.

Then the driver and his helper and I got the baggage trailer out of the ditch. Without the piano in it the trailer weighs only 550 pounds. We got it turned around and reattached it to the car. We paid the rescue crew a modest sum and drove VERY slowly to Interlochen. I do not remember who helped to get it inside and into the bedroom where it stands - scars and all - to this day.

We have a wonderful home movie of a crowd of us around it as Alan Firestone played a whole evening of songs!

Here is the stinger: The ball on the VW trailer hitch was a one and seven-eighth size, and the connector on the front of the trailer was for a two-inch ball! I learned that the hard way. Thus my education was complete: traler balls and hitches come in various sizes. I did not know that. Now I do.

Composed 4 October 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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