philipp's blog

My Dad Buried Things

Time to make good on my promise to bring back the quirkyness.

My dad buried a lot of things. I’m not talking about an emotionally-repressed father figure - he literally buried things. These days I am reasonably sure that everything was dug up eventually, so now I feel comfortable posting this online.

Let’s start somewhere in the middle.

Two Cars, Half-Buried

My father was furious: Idiots, he exclaimed, broke into our garden, took photos and published them in the newspaper! He was so agitated that he drove nails through wooden boards and laid them, pointy side up, close to the fence surrounding our garden. Never mind that he had neither enough wooden boards, nor enough nails, or even enough fury to cover the full length of the fence. Or the fact that it’s generally not a good idea to lay dangerous traps, even if it is on your own property1.

Our garden was a short bike ride away from our home. It wasn’t technically a garden. Dad couldn’t afford one, so he bought a small pasture. He wasn’t allowed to use it for anything besides growing trees or feeding cattle, but he built a fence around his new property, planted huge hedges towards the front and did what he damn well pleased.

Dad also always wanted to own retro cars, specifically a Renault 4. He couldn’t afford one in good shape, so he bought one in bad shape. It broke down. He bought a second one. It broke, too. He tried to fix them. He couldn’t. He tried selling them. No one wanted to buy.

Someone spotted them in our garden, covered in plastic wraps. Then they crossed the fence, removed some wraps and took photos. These ended up in the local newspaper. One of the cars was standing in what looked like a very shallow hole, so they concluded Dad was trying to bury it.

I can assure you, that is exactly what he tried to do. But the ground was rocky and full of roots, and all he had was a shovel, so he stopped after about 30cm and left it at that.

Hindsight is 20/20

I always knew Dad was burying broken stuff in the garden, long before the issue with the cars. He talked openly about it at home. “The lawnmower broke for good”, he’d say, “so I buried it.” And my mother nodded as if this was a completely normal thing to say. Or do.

Years later, when I told someone the story about the cars, it finally occurred to me that this was not normal at all. And I remembered the lawnmower, the hedge shears, everything was shining in a new light now. That picturesque tiny hill, covered in flowers, that my dad has put next to the pond? That’s our old sofa, buried under a lot of dirt and nice looking flowers. Once you knew it, you couldn’t unsee it, and you understood why no one was allowed to climb it.

I can still accurately recall some of the locations in the garden. Where Dad buried Tigger, our beloved one-eyed cat. Where he buried Stan, my brother’s albino rabbit. And where he buried the string trimmer.

The Pieces Don’t Quite Fit Together

I don’t know why he did it. Dad was never a man of many words. When I asked him point-blank, he looked at me as if I asked him why he walked on two legs instead of three, and didn’t answer. He didn’t bury many things out there, though arguably any non-zero number of broken things buried in the garden is too high. What makes this even more difficult to understand is that back then, even bulky trash was regularly collected from your doorstep, for free. Hauling our sofa from our home to the garden required much more effort than just dropping it near the curb, which was a perfectly legal and safe way to dispose of sofas.

Some things I do understand: for example, he never worried about leaking fluids into the environment. A man who thinks it’s a good idea to use nail boards as deterrents against intruders is not a man who thinks about consequences of burying a lawnmower with some gas left in the tank.

Ripple Effect

I told this story many, many times. I sometimes changed it a bit so that people didn’t realize it was my Dad I was talking about. And at one point, the story went full-circle when someone told the story to me - with cars and sofa and all - since he heard it somewhere and thought I’d find it hilarious. I did.

Dad abandoned his garden a long time ago, but didn’t dare to sell it for a while. Understandably. He tried to gift it to my siblings and me. We all declined. I understand he sold it eventually, after properly getting rid of everything that didn’t belong there. That was long ago. Google Maps seems to show green pastures where the garden used to be.

A perhaps unrelated side note: The junkyard that eventually picked up the cars has an advertisement which has become a cult classic in the area since they started showing it at the local cinema before every single movie, for years. I don't know when it started, but I have my suspicions. It’s about a man who buries a car in his garden.

  1. even worse, he did have kids at that point - us.