Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Uphill in the Snow etc. etc.

This past weekend I may have utilized that great parenting crutch of "walking to school in the snow. Uphill. Both ways" for the very first time[*]. Admittedly, we were engaged in a boring and un-fun task. We had driven about 3.5 hours with a trailer down to a house we still own in Tilden, Texas. Once there we loaded up the trailer with the stuff. As unpleasant tasks go, it wasn't that bad. We had food and drink, Jacob had a book to read, some old toys of mine to mess with, and the weather was cool and sunny.

Nevertheless, he was bored. Bored, bored, bored. Nor was he shy about communicating this, and at some point I had enough. I told him about how I had to go there every weekend, and how I had to work on the ranch, and how we didn't run the air conditioner, and how I didn't get to carry around a book, and about the heat and the dust and the long drives after a hard day. I was about to start in on how I had to feed cattle on cold winter days when I realized what I was doing and allowed myself to run down.

Jake was impressed, however. Not enough to quit grumping completely, but he did quiet down for a while.

Speaking of that trailer…It was a bit of old home week there. As a kid I really had done all the stuff I was telling Jacob, including something I didn't go on about, which was driving the pickup with a big gooseneck trailer full of cattle behind it. The sixteen-footer were pulling this weekend wasn't much compared to that, and I found the skills of backing and maneuvering the thing not too hard to recall.

There were some important differences, though. A gooseneck hooks onto a heavy eyebolt which is threaded into a massive (ours was 8" across) nut welded to the pickup frame. This makes the truck-trailer much more of a unit and pulls the center of gravity forward a bit. The other difference was that in those days, the official speed limit was 55. Which meant we basically drove 60 all the time. This cheap trailer we had this weekend hooked on by way of your standard ball hitch. Even more importantly, I discovered pretty early on that at anything like current highway speeds, it was unstable. Press the speedometer anywhere past 65, and the tail of that thing began to sway ominously back and forth. Scarier than seeing that in the mirror was feeling it in the steering wheel.

So I kept things below 65mph. I tried for 63, which was good empty. On the way back every once in a while the trailer got a little antsy, and I'd have to back off some more until it settled down. Probably I should have settled for 55 or 60 at most, but I confess that I was sick of pulling that thing after a while and begrudged any loss of speed that meant for a longer drive.

I have to say I never thought I'd miss that old gooseneck.

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