The Mommy Files - Tale #406: Rescuing Timmy From the Well

(Image credit: User Jazzycat @

It's a familiar story: you've uncovered your toddler's hidden treasure chest of booty, it's splendors nestled within the comfort of an air vent. Most times it is a shallow floor duct, making those handfuls of cheerios, Matchbox cars, and stickers significantly easier to retrieve. But, if you're toddler is anything like ours, you've more than likely discovered said items tossed down a deep, dark hole of death.

Today we discovered our beloved had tossed a juice box down the deepest air vent in the entire house – a wall vent with a 10' drop in my daughter's bedroom. I of course envisioned mold growing on the juice box, the spores wafting up through the vent, slowly killing my family every time the air kicked on. Fear of death is always a good motivator, so of course we had to do something. And so begins the tale of how we rescued Timmy the Juice Box from the Well. Even Lassie played a part.

The most important part of a project like this, is to first plug your children into the television. Unoccupied children are naughty children, and that's exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. Be sure to put on something completely void of education to ensure their attention is held for the duration of your project.

Once that mission was accomplished, we were ready to move on.

Part 1: Going the Distance

We began by gathering our tools:

  • Mirror

  • Flashlight

  • String

  • Scissors

  • A fairly light toy that can easily be secured to the string (Lassie)

  • Black marker

  • Tape measure

  • Duct tape

  • Small, weighted item (we used

Our first step was to determine how far down the juice box was to see if we could locate an alternative access point. This particular vent was in the wall – not the floor – which made the angle much trickier to measure (we couldn't just fish a measuring tape down there!). We tied Lassie to the string, placing enough tension on it so we could properly measure the distance of the drop.

We angled the mirror so that, when we shone the flashlight onto it, the light reflected down the duct and we were able to see poor Timmy at the bottom. Slowly, we lowered Lassie down the well. Once she reached the bottom, we marked the place on the string where it hit the top of the duct (where we were). We then measured the distance between Lassie and the line, giving us the distance of the drop....10'.

Taking 7” into account from the wall duct to the floor, and an additional 1' for the thickness of each floor level, we eventually traced Timmy's location to a bend in the duct in our basement – 2 floors down, entering straight into the HVAC system. We were hoping to find an open access point here, but why would things be easy?

Part 2: Cut a Hole in the Vent

Just kidding. Don't do this.

Part 2 (fo' real): We're Going Down, Down

The only way to rescue Timmy was to pull him back out through the top of the well. But what could we use as our rescue bucket? Banking on the fact that our son would never waste a juice box, we assumed the box was empty – this meant it would be light enough to maintain a hold on duct tape during its ascent. So, we needed an item that was weighted, with a large, flat surface to apply pressure between the tape and Timmy. We selected a barbell end (about .5 lbs), securing the string tightly around it, making sure the string balanced the weight out nice and flat.

We placed duct tape over the string to ensure a secure hold between the weight and the retrieving layer of duct tape.

We then looped a piece of duct tape to the bottom....and added small strips through the loop for extra safety.

My husband would serve to lower the bucket during this rescue mission, and I his eyes. After all, if the tape brushed the sides of the duct or missed Timmy, it would compromise its stickiness...and we couldn't risk that.

Using the mirror and flashlight, I guided my husband through the descent of the rescue. Slowly, with steady hands and bated breath, we lowered the bucket down the well. After what seemed like hours, we finally made contact – the weight landed squarely on Timmy! Now for the challenge – guiding everything slowly back up the duct without knocking Timmy loose.

My palms were sweaty. Knees weak, arms are heavy. I was nervous, but on the surface I looked calm and ready. Could we do it? Would our marriage survive this test of cooperation?

I used the back of my hand to wipe sweat from my husband's brow. I guided him through Timmy's ascent. And finally – with a huge sigh of relief – we pulled him from the well.

You guys, I'm pretty freakin' proud of us. We may bicker just like any other couple, but you can be sure of this: when we are in Home Depot and when we are rescuing lost items within our HVAC system, we will work together as a team.

Stay tuned for our next Mommy Files - Tale #132: The Day My Husband Almost Died Trimming a Tree Branch.

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