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6 Really Strange Truck Spills

When I first heard that a truck had dumped 40,000 pounds of sausage on Wisconsin highway, my first thought was, "Mmmmm, sausage." My second thought was, "That has to be the weirdest truck spill ever." But it's not. With help from friends at Truckspills.com, we found some truck spills you would definitely rather read about than encounter.

1. Molasses

Picture 10.pngIf any town might prepare for a sticky truck spill, you'd expect it to be Sugar Land, Texas. That's where, in 2008, motorists came face to face with a monstrous wave of . . . molasses. 5,000 gallons spilled when the truck carrying it jack-knifed and rolled over. The cleanup took eight hours and 8 trillion handy wipes.

2. A Whale

(Warning: Disgusting photo ahead!)

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The Taiwanese city of Tainan looked like the set of a slasher movie after a 56-foot sperm whale exploded on its way through town. At the time, the whale was dead, having beached itself earlier, and was being carted via flatbed truck to a research facility for autopsy. As the whale lay rotting in the sun, gases began to build up inside its carcass until they detonated in a flood of whale guts.

3. Beer

Last year, when a driver lost control of his rig on a Colorado interstate ramp, the capsized trailer was shorn open like a beer can . . . full of beer cans. That's right: this particular truck was carrying twelve-packs of smooth-drinking Keystone Light. Keystone markets itself as "Always Smooth, Even When You're Not"--like, say, when you take a ramp too fast and crash your tractor-trailer. Fortunately, the "uninjured" beer was recovered and loaded on another truck, leaving me to imagine that a poor beer-lover somewhere bought himself a very foamy twelve-pack.

4. Money

As tough as the economy is, maybe people should start combing the highways for loose change. In 2004, a wrecked armored truck spilled $2 million in coins on the New Jersey Turnpike. In 2005, an armored truck caught fire and splashed $800,000 in scalding quarters on an Alabama road. And just last year, a truck carrying 3.5 million nickels (worth about $185,000) to the Miami Federal Reserve dumped its load after a violent wreck that killed the driver.

5. A ship engine

Picture 121.pngWhat do you do when a 200-ton marine engine destined for a San Diego shipyard flips off its flatbed? Get a crane. Actually, get three cranes--and a new road. The massive engine pancaked cars and even shoved one below the pavement. True to Murphy's law, the truck driver involved went to the wrong address, realized his mistake, backed up, hit a curb, and—kaboom! For a cool description of how engineers put the engine back on a truck, check out the original article on the crash.

6. Explosives

Picture 131.pngIn 2005, a truck carrying 35,000 pounds of explosives rolled over on a Utah highway and (in classic "A-Team" fashion) blew up moments after the driver and passenger escaped. The blast dug a crater 30 feet deep and 70 feet across. It also propelled concrete road barriers hundreds of feet in the air and twisted nearby railroad tracks like straws. Fortunately, no one died.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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