Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tons and Tons and Tons

Have you ever heard expressions like “It hit me like a ton of bricks,” or “He made tons of money?” How about “My wife has gained a ton of weight!?” (These words have never come from my lips and are only uttered by men who have little regard for their lives) Or have you ever read a sign that said something like the following: “Bridge Ahead—Weight Limit 5 tons?” If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then congratulations! You now have a frame of reference from which you can appreciate this column.

A ton is a lot of weight. In case you thought one size fits all for tons, I offer you a brief tutorial. A “short ton,” to be exact, is 2,000 pounds. It is a generally accepted notion that if we want to speak about things that weigh a whole lot, we speak in terms of tonnage. Sometimes we invoke the term “metric ton.” A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms or 2,204.6 pounds. The metric ton has some unknown and unnecessary correlation to liters, Celsius temperature, kilometers, and the French.

Most metric measurements, like the French, are wimpy and effeminate. However, there is something very manly about anything, even fanny packs, purchased by the metric ton. One does not need to know how to convert metric tons into any sensible measuring unit, like the bushel. It is simply enough to know that the ton is a whole lot of weight. We men look at one another knowingly, and exude respect for a fellow male who orders anything by this measurement.

But something about tonnage changed after I moved to the country. It suddenly became a fairly insignificant unit of measurement. The biggest, baddest dump truck I could find could only hold 20 tons of sand and about the same amount of gravel. (“One inch Clean” not a “Crusher Run”)

There is something very satisfying about a dump truck backing down your driveway. It signals to all within earshot that you mean business. The dump truck declares to all who draw near that a country man is hard at work. Dump trucks carry the stuff with which boyhood dreams are forged—sand, gravel, dirt, and dead animals. These boyhood dreams come to life at the first sighting of a dump truck approaching a grown man’s property.

Recently I ordered 20 tons of sand for three reasons: I had built a sandbox, I wanted to build a golf green and sand trap, and that was how much Jimmy Ghin’s dump truck could hold. I had no idea how much twenty tons of sand was. I thought, when delivered, it would create a 30’ mountain on my property and, once leveled across my 9.73 acres (per survey), that 20 tons of sand would make my property look pretty much like the Sahara Desert and a maybe even a lot like the set of Rat Patrol.

Upon delivery, I found my little sandbox took 1-2 tons. Then, the rest was distributed between my green and sand trap. It eventually melded into the landscape until I hardly recognized any difference. In fact, I even needed some more but even though the cost was only $14.95 per ton, I was told for delivery there was a 15 ton minimum order. What sort of world do we live in when a guy can’t order 14 tons of a macho commodity like sand, gravel, or cow manure without being considered a lightweight?

It was a lot of fun ordering sand and gravel and such by the ton. But something else gave me even more satisfaction than the dump truck backing down my driveway— the sight of my kids playing on the ten ton pile of sand on the “green” before we smoothed it out.

From where I sat, they appeared to be having tons of fun. And for me that was worth every penny of that $14.95 per, metric or otherwise.


  1. Love this! Boys and their toys, I always say. Bout every "boy" in my neighborhood rides down the street on some sort of tractor at least once in the spring and once in the fall. But I must say too, that you were very brave, or very stoopid, to start out with the "ton of weight" comment. And no, you don't get a pass by pretending to qualify your statement. : ) Karen

  2. I'm going to borrow "macho commodity" someday. I hope. :-) Catherine

  3. Great piece, Greg! Thanks for the chuckles. Mother-in-law has been in the hospital a lot lately so I really needed the laugh!