PLACES I’VE PLAYED: Where have all the bumpers gone?

By Bill Skiff


Gone to Plastic every one.

Will they ever bump?

No, they never will.

Gone to junkyards every one.

I remember the night my buddy’s car wouldn’t start after the dance—he was so excited over his new girlfriend that he left his lights on. No problem. I simply jumped into Dad’s Ford, drove around behind his car, aligned our bumpers, and began pushing his car down the road. As soon as we got up enough speed, he popped the clutch and away he went.

Then, there was the time the wind blew down a small maple tree on our front lawn. I got our chainsaw and cut it into logs. Then I wrapped a chain around each log, hitched the other end to the back bumper of the truck and dragged it to the woodpile.

One summer Dad’s farm truck broke down, so he rented a hitch that clamped on the back bumper of his sedan. He hitched the car to a wagon, filled the wagon with trash and headed to the dump. The car’s engine overheated—but the bumper held strong.

When I was learning to drive, I backed into our mailbox. The car bumper did its job. The four-by-four post was broken off at ground level, but the Ford’s bumper didn’t even have a scratch.

Well, don’t try any of those things today. I know because I tried one just last week. Bad idea.

It seems as I get older, I look for ways to conserve time and energy. I am just beginning to realize that when I follow this strategy, it usually ends up taking me more time—and seems to end up costing me money.

Last week, I drove down from my house to the road to get the paper. It’s not that far, but when you figure in the wind chill walking factor, it can seem a lot longer. When I arrived down at the bottom of the driveway, I pulled into the road and backed up toward the mailbox to grab the paper.

This time, when I executed my save-time-and-energy routine, I misjudged my backing angle. I hit the post with my bumper—just as I had done as a teenager. However, this time when the post broke, so did my bumper. The impact scattered the left fender. And the bumper split all the way across the back of the car, leaving a variety of accessories lying on the ground.

Where was my bumper when I needed it? All I did was bump something. I paid for that bumper when I bought the car so why did it let me down when I needed it? Maybe for the same reason insurance companies raise your rates when you ask them to make repairs—after you have been paying them all those years for not repairing anything.

I told my buddy Ken about my bumper boondoggle and you know what he told me?

“Bill, they are not made for impact, they are made not to rust.” The body man told me, “Bill, in this freezing weather those plastic bumpers are so cold that any impact will shatter them like ice.” Thanks, guys.

After admitting the whole thing was my fault and receiving the estimated cost of the repairs, I remembered one of my Dad’s favorite sayings—”Education is expensive.”

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at