Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pulling the Horse Trailer

I think I almost hit the horse trailer coming into the driveway. I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t see. It was dark. But it looked pretty close. It looked so close, in fact, that I cringed while waiting for the resulting scrape of wood post on metal. Luckily my entrance was of the soundless variety except for the slow crunch of tires on gravel and the horses whinnying to each other—You’re back! Hi! Welcome back! But it scared me.

I only thought I had to be scared going out. I exit out of the driveway onto the side road. Even though I got out the loppers before we left and cut off all the bushes that I could, widening the driveway by about a foot, it’s still pretty narrow and the street you turn on to, which I could do nothing about as far as widening, is just as bad. If I miscalculate, I’m in trouble. If I don’t turn wide enough, I’ll hit the hip of the trailer. If I turn too wide, I’ll go into the ditch. And I don’t know how to back up. It’s the reason why when the weather was iffy last month and we were supposed to go to a 4-H meeting on horseback (hence, requiring the trailer), I said, “I’m not going in this rain. I think I saw lightning. Yes, I definitely saw lightning!”

“It’s not even raining,” Kelly said, holding her hand up to the dry air. “And that was the neighbor’s headlights.”

You can’t pull the wool over her eyes. So I bribed her with the mall and then I distracted her by promising to take her to the tattoo parlor to get her cartilage pierced right after school on Monday. Hey, it’s not like I offered her a big sprawling tattoo of a skull-and-crossbones. Plus we were completely out of Victoria’s Secret underwear and Cinnabons.

The truth is, after twelve years, including trips back and forth from New Jersey to Oklahoma and Oklahoma to Virginia and then to New Jersey again, numerous times, I’m still no good with the horse trailer. It’s the backing. It’s tricky backing up a horse trailer. When you want the trailer to go left, you have to turn the steering wheel right. When you want it to go right, you turn the steering wheel left. It goes against everything I was taught. Point the nose and the back end will follow. I know, I know about the trick where you grip the steering wheel on the bottom, so that when you want to go right, your hand is actually moving to the right. But then I get even more balled up, as my mother would say. Top, bottom, left, right—where am I supposed to put my hand?! Wait, wait, I can’t think!

Throw the video screen in there that’s in the new dually, and I don’t even know where I should look. At the screen? Over my shoulder? In the side mirrors? But which side mirror? The left one or the right one, the whole mirror or that little miniature mirror that’s built into the whole mirror? Do I look ahead or should I just stop and get out and survey the situation before I go one more inch? My head is whipping all over the place like Linda Blair’s head on The Exorcist, my hand is going all over the place like the steering wheel is too hot to hold and the horse trailer is going all over the place—veering to the left, jackknifing to the right—and somehow I am getting more and more off course. Pretty soon, if this keeps up, I will have to call Kurt.

It’s embarrassing. I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed. No one who may be watching knows how long I’ve been pulling the trailer. As far as they know, this is my first trip out. I have nothing to be embarrassed about.

Kurt says just smile at one of the guys and he’ll help you. And that, in effect, is the whole problem. I’ve been smiling at the guys to get them to park my trailer for twelve years now, or letting Kurt drive (because he likes to drive and every time I think I should practice while he is with me, I’m too tired to insist and decide just to put my cowboy boots up on the dashboard and find a good country music channel instead) and so I’ve never really practiced.

Now I’m getting desperate. I’m thinking about letting Kelly do it. Of course, she doesn’t even have her license yet. But I’ve got a loophole. I heard there’s something called a “farmer’s license.” This is a special license for kids who aren’t old enough to get their real license yet but are needed on the farm to drive tractors and pickup trucks laden with blueberries or asparagus, a special permission for farm families who need all hands on deck, so to speak.

Or I can cowgirl up and just practice. And hang one of those Victoria’s Secret bras I got from the mall on the antenna. It couldn’t hurt.


Jill said...

Always love reading your stories. And in this one, I relate! When I was in New York, I had to drive a 7 passenger SUV to Connecticut with my crew of 5 and all our camera equipment. As you know, being a petite lady, the rental guy pretty much swallowed a laugh as he handed me the keys.

As badass as I like to think I am, I do get nervous driving something big and wide down the street, especially in the city. I snapped the right side mirror inwards by thinking I had enough room to go between a cab and a parked car! Luckily, no harm, no foul, but no fun!

The camera on the mirror is cool, but I don't trust it. Is that really what's behind me or is that pre-recorded? Or lagging behind, or...don't know, but it's hard to trust.

I also loved how you smile and ask a guy for help. While effective and providing great relief at times, hat keeps us from learning this stuff. On the other hand, we can't be good at everything!


Grey Horse Matters said...

When I first got my trailer about 20 yrs. ago I couldn't back it up to save my life. It was always jack knifing on me. So I took it to the school parking lot on an empty day and practiced. Here's one little trick for backing up that might help:
Never look in a mirror always look over your shoulder and go slowly so you can make adjustments as needed. With any luck you won't have to bat those eyelashes anymore or hang a bra from your antenna.

Ms. Shypoke said...

I feel your pain! I completely suck at backing up.. even without a trailer..lol. I have had people coach me on backing my trailer.. and there are a couple of tricks.. including the put your hand a the bottom of the wheel thing. The other thing is to make very small adjustments and just go super slowly. Another thing you can try is to steer with your non-dominant hand.. I had a horse trainer who made me ride left handed because I had too many "habits" with my right hand.. you know.. lope, lope, lope.. head correction lope, lope lope.. head correction. I was driving my horse crazy with all the little adjustments.. When I ride lefthanded.. I only do things when I consciously have to do them.

I still rely on getting someone to park my trailer at the shows though.. or find a pull through spot.

If you are on private property.. you can have your daughter drive whatever you want.. license rules only apply to public roadways.. so you can do the straight forward driving.. and make her practice backing and parking at home.

I always have trailer anxiety.. especially since the time I hooked up the boat by myself on the bumper hitch.. drove for 5 miles until I braked and the dang thing wasn't fully on the ball.. popped off and hit the back of the explorer.. fun times. Thank goodness all I got was a dent in the lift gate... I was just about to get on the highway!

CountryDew said...

My husband can back up anything without even turning around to look. He does it all with the mirrors. He amazes me. He says he practiced until he could do it.

Gilly said...

I think you are very brave even to attempt pulling the horse trailer! And as for backing it - oh my gosh, that sounds horrific!

Beth said...

Oh my goodness, Debi...I can definitely relate. Not that I have a horse trailer (or a horse, for that matter). But if I had one, I'm not sure I could ever back that sucker up. Heck, I even have trouble backing my car sometimes.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Gilly, it IS horrific!

Jill, I DO think what I'm seeing on the screen is prerecorded!

Guys, you've been a big help. I've been taking your suggestions and practicing, going real slow and what do you know? I've backed it into it's spot a couple of times without any mishaps. Well, just one time when I unhooked it and the wheel was not centered on the block and the next day it had fallen off and the trailer almost hit the barn because I also didn't put a block under the tire. But other than that, I'm doing pretty good!

Tanya said...

ha, i cannot even back up a vehicle that isn't towing anything...i'm the worst at it...yes, i am sure that i am worse than you! when we still lived in ca we'd take the jet ski out and i'd drive us back home...had no trouble driving the truck with the jet ski trailer as long as we were going forward. as soon as we'd get to our street though, nick and i would switch and he'd back it right into the driveway, lickety split!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Right! Forward is fine! I can actually squeeze through some pretty tight spaces if I'm going forward.

Jeff said...

I've definitely not been reading blogs lately - you can tell! Practice makes perfect - if you want to feel better about your abilities, just go to the nearest boat ramp and have fun watching men try to back their boats into the water! I'm sure you have a new-found appreciation for the drivers of the big tractor trailers who fit their rigs into impossibly tight spaces. If you really want to watch skill, go to the airport and watch the tow tractors moving airplanes - those tow bars have two pivot points: one at the front wheel of the airplane and one on the back of the tractor. Now, that's skill!!

Sweetflutterbys3 said...

I have enough trouble with my mini van! You're brave.

Anonymous said...

Trailer anxiety actually makes me break out in a sweat even though I started driving country backroads when I was 12. I guess the best way to get over it is to hook up the trailer and practice. It's on my bucket list.

Tanya said...

when are you going to give us a new update missy?!! dying to hear how things are coming along!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

I know Tanya! I've been bad. I'm going to work on it!

Jamie "Green" Ferraioli said...

So funny. And I thought I had it tough, panicking at the thought of having to parallel park my tiny Hyundai Accent in town sometimes.

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

I feel so much better reading this post! All this time, every time I had trouble remembering how to back up a trailer, I thought about you and assumed you were one of those people who could just go driving a trailer backward down the interstate, no trouble, not even halfway looking! I also practiced, and go much better after multiple trips to the butcher, back in the day. But it always involved sweating. A few bad words. Clenched fists. And a few times I asked someone else to do it for me. Am happy to see your blog after the hiatus. And ps, LOVE the black. Tell NJ hello for us.