"The Winnebago galumphs across the landscape, scattering cows. It catches a wheel and sprays a rooster tail of red dirt."

"catches a wheel"? And "rooster tail"?

  1. If "Catches a wheel" means the obvious, what's the proper english term that describes that situation? ie., "A wheel catching"

  2. What connotations do the latter line (rooster tail) of concern have? What does "spraying a rooster tail.." mean? What does it imply? Some sort of a pattern?

  • Here is a GIS of "boat rooster tail" to give you a sense of what the expression means. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


This is another question from a Breaking Bad script.

The "rooster tail" is simply referring to the shape of the dirt spray behind the Winnebago once it hits (and slings) the dirt. It's similar to when a car goes through a puddle of water at a moderately high speed: the water sprays in a satisfying arch outward.

So the Winnebago looks like it has a rooster tail behind it, made of dirt.

"Catches a wheel" means going off the road (or a compacted dirt surface) onto a looser dirt surface. This is a bit more ambiguous, as the Winnebago didn't do this; it hit a cow pile, described as olive green in color, so why the spray should be red is just a bit of active imagination and bending to cinematic appeal.

  • To add to this, the term 'rooster tail' is not a set phrase (I don't think anyone else has ever used this to describe such a spray of dirt), it is simply a metaphor made up by that author this one time.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 17:18
  1. "Catches a wheel" refers to the idea that a wheel will run smoothly over pavement, but if it runs off the pavement into softer dirt, the dirt will grab or bog down the wheel; "catching" it.

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