Thursday, September 29, 2011

There's A Hitch To It

I have a checkered history with pulling trailers that continues unchecked. To wit: I recently hauled another load to the new house and decided to make a quick trip to the Big Box Home Improvement Stores nearby — one decked out in orange, the other in a red-and-blue motif. I figure you have shopped these establishments if you live in America. I prefer the mom-and-pops, with my current favorite being Breed & Co. near the UT campus, and Zenger Hardware, further north off Burnet. Both remind me of my all-time favorite hardware store, now greatly diminished, which was Cason Monk & Co. in downtown Nacogdoches.

In the day that was such a lovely store, with a distinctive smell emanating from the merchandise and hardwood floors, kept clean with Murphy Oil Soap. At least that is how those floors smelled to me. I search for places in Austin that remind me of Cason Monk. Someday after retirement I might end up working in a hometown hardware store, if there are any left. That’s how I think these days, post-crash, as do many folks of my age. We scheme about what our post-career job is going to be, not what we will do with all that leisure time in retirement. Fine with me. I have learned through a few brief periods of joblessness that idleness is definitely not my strong suit. I need to work to stay healthy and just this side of wacko.

That’s all I’m asking. Just keep me on the skinny side of sane.

Anyway, to get on task, I was aisle-shopping at a Big Box, making plans on what type of plastic storage unit to store lawn implements. I had taken a trailer-load to the new house and hauled it empty to the stores. As I cruised down Parmer Lane at about 50 mph with that unloaded trailer, I noticed it was bouncing more than usual. Loadless trailers bounce a bit, so it took a few hundred yards for me to realize my trailer was whip-sawing about. Somehow it had come off the trailer ball and was only connected by the safety chains. The tongue was bouncing off the road at 50 mph, likely kicking off sparks on the pavement. Other drivers gave me a wide berth as I pulled over on the shoulder. The trailer slid under my Ford Escape. Fortunately the hitch ball stopped it from plowing into the back of the vehicle. Even more fortunately, I wasn’t on MoPac going 70 mph when this occurred, which is where I had been an hour earlier.

Luckily the trailer was light enough to pull out from under the car and put it back on the ball. I drove slowly back to the new house and figured out that the latch that keeps the hitch locked on the ball had broken. I rigged it by wrapping a 6-foot bicycle cable around the hitch and ball and padlocking it, then slowly drove back to find someone who could fix the trailer. The fellow I found has tattoos on top of his tattoos, including his forehead, cheek and neck. I am hopeful he gets my trailer fixed before his parole is revoked.

It galls me a bit that I appear to finally have learned how to properly tie down loads — and the dang trailer breaks, potentially causing a pileup on Parmer Lane — a six-lane ribbon of traffic that evokes none of the pastoral feelings that the label “lane” implies. I once lost a load of one-by-six pine lumber — about 500 boards — on Highway 59 in Nacogdoches while helping my builder haul it to my shop on his 16-foot trailer. Hoo boy. I foresaw a criminal trial for negligence, as 18-wheelers bore down the hill. Providence played a role in that mishap not becoming a tragedy.

Some months later, I headed to the lumber yard one Saturday morning to buy a sheet of plywood, got home and realized with horror that the plywood was no longer in the trailer. Who knew a gust of wind could flip that sucker out of a trailer and me not notice? Thank goodness a motorcyclist wasn’t tailgating at the time. I found the plywood on the side of the Lufkin loop about a mile from where I bought it.

Now I carry two jugs of bungee cords in the back of the Escape. When loaded, the trailer looks as if it is ensnared in a giant spider web, with both jugs of bungees deployed.

My trailer is still being held hostage by the tattooed guy. Motorists in the Austin area are safe in the interim.

1 comment:

  1. nice story, gary, although the implication that someone with tattoos is currently under parole is a little dated. :-(