The final adventure with the red 4X6 trailer

June 29, 2011

See UPDATE at the end of the article.


The new tandem trailer was still loaded with plywood from the previous day’s shopping expedition when I realized that we would need shingles for Garage #2 before the weekend was out.  Off I went to Smiths Falls with a list and the old 4X6 trailer.  It was rusty, but the tires held air and the lights worked.

My estimate of 26 bundles of shingles was pushing its weight capacity.  The guy at the counter at Rideau Lumber explained that I would run short unless I added enough for cutting, so the order went up to 30 bundles of the textured, architectural shingles.  “But you won’t use architecturals across the top of the roof to form a cap.  You’ll need at least two bundles of regular three-tab shingles to cut up for the top.”  Turns out we used 25 bundles of architectural shingles, and one bundle for across the top.  Had I stuck to my own estimate, this sorry tale might not have occurred.

But I listened to expert advice and the load on the pallet grew pretty tall before they set it onto the trailer.  The tires took the load well, to the surprise of the lift truck operator.

Away I went through the maze of streets in downtown Smiths Falls in search of Hwy 15.  Everything worked fine until I turned off the bridge at the Combined Lock.  Then suddenly I heard the sound I like the least when towing, a high-pitched screeching, accompanied by billowing clouds of white smoke:  the death throes of a tire.  I ducked out of the traffic and had a look.  The right wheel was tilted so that it was rubbing on the box of the trailer, producing considerable friction.

Still less than a mile from Rideau Lumber, I thought I might be able to limp back across the river and through the park to the yard and have them transfer the shingles to a truck for normal delivery.  Off I went, trailing a major cloud of strangely white smoke.   Cars went to some lengths to avoid the cloud in the heavy traffic, but I persevered.

The load was within two blocks of the Rideau Lumber yard when the tire finally let go with a muffled bang.  Rolling became very difficult after that, as the flat tire soon shredded off and despite my slow, deliberate pace, the wheel started to dig a furrow through the pristine asphalt of the quiet residential street.  This was unlikely to go over well with the residents of the neighbourhood, and I was stopped right outside Walter Cecchini’s house.  Years ago Wally was a colleague at Smiths Falls Collegiate, and his favourite wisecrack about me was, “I never liked him!”  Now unless I was careful he’d have some justification for that prophetic comment.

So I phoned Rideau Lumber to ask if they would send their lift truck to undo the burden which had broken my trailer’s back.  A look underneath revealed that, weakened by rust, the axle had snapped off when negotiating the corner.  Mike told me that they couldn’t take the lift truck off the lot because of insurance requirements, but he would see if they could send the boom truck.

Before long a new SUV stopped.  Arnold Mosher got out to look.  Arnold operates the pride of the Rideau Lumber fleet, the boom truck.  He eventually decided the job was feasible, so he came back with the huge rig while I directed traffic.

I love to watch Arnold operate his boom.  He has this wireless, waist-mounted console on a belt with which he controls the thing, so Arnold and the truck perform this ballet during which they move heavy objects and avoid each other and trees, wires, and vehicles.  If you enjoyed the Transformers movies, you’ll get a big kick out of having Arnold deliver a pallet of shingles or a lift of 2X4’s to your project site.

Scott Fleming, my former student and the owner of Rideau Lumber, drifted quietly by in his pickup truck, keeping an eye on things.

The shingles were no problem.  Arnold lifted the pallet off my severely tilted trailer and placed it fairly far back on the bed.  “Think there’d be room for the trailer up there, as well?”

Arnold nodded to the space at the front.  “I can strap it on there if you like.”

So that’s how the red 4X6 trailer made the final trip back to the farm with its load.


The concluding sentence above makes a fine, sentimental farewell to a beloved tool, but the truth is somewhat in abeyance with this story.

In fact, the wrecked trailer lay in the yard for a month or so until Princess Auto had a sale on axles and wheels. Then for about $300 and a couple of hours of work I had the trailer back on the road, somewhat battered, but seemingly capable of carrying 1 cubic yard of gravel home from the quarry yet again.

It was just too good a trailer to lose and I couldn’t find a suitable replacement, regardless of price, on the new or used market. So far it has hauled two heaping loads of gravel from the quarry for various jobs around the property and is fixing to do more. In between it carried a set of 10′ garage door hardware from Kingston and a load of lumber from Smiths Falls lashed to the top of the box while the tandem trailer sat under a ton and a half of drywall.

So I guess it’s made a round trip to trailer Heaven.


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