Men who eat quiche can’t back up a trailer.

March 1, 2009

The utility trailer has emerged as the best transportation value in our modern world.  Its overhead is negligible:  $35. will license it for life.  Insurance is unnecessary.  It will do all a pickup truck will do, but you don’t have to worry about scratching it, and you can unhook it and leave a partly-completed task behind.

A bit of skill is the main requirement to benefit from this transportation boon.  The driver has to be able to back it up, and thus we come to one of the defining tasks of manhood for my generation:  backing up a trailer.

Learning the skill was a long and difficult journey for me in my sixteenth year, committed to a summer of mornings hauling firewood into Alan Earl’s basement with a tractor and trailer.  The firewood followed a serpentine route down a driveway, between a shed and a brick house, then around a 180 degree turn under a clothes line and up a slight incline to the basement door.  I had to back a loaded trailer through this maze, several times per day.

I soon knew every inch of that route, and still rue the day I left a series of bolt-shaped swirls in the gray boards of the shed wall when I edged the tractor too close in an effort to make the turn.  No doubt those scratches are still there today.

Later on I learned that it’s much easier to handle a trailer with a vehicle which has a rear-view mirror.  All you need do is take a sighting of the corner of the trailer in the mirror, and then if you hold that image still as you back up, the trailer will go straight.

Longer wheelbases are easier, as well, but if you want to observe the true test of a marriage, just watch a couple launching a boat at a ramp without a dock.  Logic indicates that if one partner is in the boat at the time of the launch, nobody need get wet.  The trick is to have one trained to start and free the boat from the trailer and the other equipped to back the vehicle and its load down the ramp into the water.  The problem is that usually the same partner feels uniquely qualified to do both jobs.

The first time Bet tried backing in at Forrester’s Landing, my shouted instructions didn’t seem to help, and she actually ended up sideways on the ramp before leaping from the vehicle in disgust.  From that point on my wife has put trailers out of her mind.  When I asked for her opinion for this article she paused, thought, and said, “They’re for hauling garbage and moving university students.”

A friend from Ottawa was more forthcoming:  “I have a history of poor choices with men, and not one of them could back up a trailer.  Maybe it’s that men who eat quiche can’t back up trailers.”

Of course the trailer challenge is specific to my age group.  Our son’s generation never had to learn.  From hours of play with remote control cars, reverse-steering is hard-wired into their brains.  You see, with an RC car the controls steer one way going out and the opposite way on the return trip. The crossover to trailers is a breeze.  Charlie was about twelve when he learned how to drive his Grandpa’s Jeep around the farm, and the next day I looked over to see him with a trailer attached, backing the rig straight across an eight-acre field.

One of the most insidious things about trailers is how easily an owner can be persuaded to add another to his fleet.

Last fall when I bought a utility vehicle I gradually realized that I couldn’t take it anywhere because it was too big to fit any trailer I owned.  Soon a Kijiji ad put me on to a pair of axles, so I drove to Kingston and picked them up.  My neighbour Peter Myers straightened one axle and lengthened both to give the 6′ bed width the UV required, then guided me through the design process to produce quite a wonderful flat-bed trailer. He accepted that I wanted a trailer which was neither too big nor too small, and all it took was a week of work and a lot of steel. I quickly added low wooden sideboards and stakes to go with the magnificent “headache bar” he rigged across the front to provide a positive stop for the front wheels of my UV.  Before I got at it with a paint roller, Peter’s creation was a thing of beauty.

Painting steel in late November is strangely difficult, but Tremclad will dry at below-freezing temperatures.  It just won’t spray, so the roller was a must.  Wiring trailer lights is never fun, but it’s worse when your fingers stick to the pliers, the trailer, and even the bolts.

Notwithstanding the crude paint job, the new trailer has fitted in well with the other eight in the barn.  Bet suggests this fondness for trailers must be compensation for my utter inability to back up a farm wagon.  There, I’ve admitted it.

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4 Responses to “Men who eat quiche can’t back up a trailer.”


  1. Thanks for your sharing..

  2. helen dakin Says:

    ROZ is expert at backing up trailers. Many years of experience. She only made one mistake in all that time and I will let her tell you the story (involves going up and down an incline with a mast installed on a towed boat). You can always hook roz into helping you with any trailer needs.
    helen

    • rodcros Says:

      Amazing! I’d speculated that equestrians were likely exceptions to my rather fatuous rule, but I neglected sailing coaches.

      Rod


  3. Great post… I have a “CITY” freind who has had a boat for 2 years and still can not back it down the ramp with confidence… Maybe I should take him out in an “8 acre farm feild” and let him get some skills.

    BTW… he eats quiche.


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