Monday, April 11, 2011

Storm Ranch Ride, Part two: Miracle #1

I have been the recipient of some fairly significant miracles in my life, the biggest was when my daughter's second heart intervention (the first was a surgery, the other was a procedure to widen a valve) went from failure to virtually total cure with nothing other than time and serious prayer.

This was another significant miracle.

When I heard the sound at the cattle guard, that was most likely the point at which the trailer had leapt free of the ball, but was still on the hitch or chains. The next sound was it hitting the ground and scrapping along the asphalt. When we went back to look there were twenty yards of scratch marks in the asphalt, long thin white lines in the gray ribbon of the road, looking like claw marks.

The trailer brake never engaged because the chains themselves did not break and Donna, just like I do, places the emergency brake cable on the last part of the chain, where the hooks attach onto the frame of the truck.

I will never do that again. From now on that thing goes right on the ball.

Because the massive weight of the trailer stretched out the hook of the chain, and the hook slipped out of the holds like a wire clothes hanger that has been reshaped to unlock a car door.

The trailer plowed toward the side of the road, building of speed because of the ever so slight incline, passing us as if we were a slow driver on a highway. It missed the first set of trees by three or four feet, the very top branches lightly scrapping the roof - just enough to peel the lights on that side off. It came to a halt a good ten feet from the next set of trees, another grouping of massive trees.

We ran out of the truck immediately to check the horses. They were perfectly fine. They didn't kick or paw, or toss their heads. There wasn't so much as a bumped nose, and thankfully they were both wearing fly masks so any branches that might have poked them, didn't.

I secured my lead rope to Smokey (I had just hooked him to the trailer ties, and carried his rope in the truck) and opened the back door to the trailer. I realized it was a bit of a leap to the ground, particularly since the trailer was at an unnatural tilt. So instead of backing Smokey, I turned him and let him hop out. He was a bit up, but honestly no more up than he is whenever he arrives in a new place.

Donna did the same with Cloud. We tied them to the side and I set out hay bags so they could relax, while she called for help.

And help came.

In this picture you can see exactly how close we came.

You can see the dent in the front - we think the trailer hit the truck bumper although we didn't feel it.

We went over and over how this could have happened. I didn't hook up the trailer myself. I think of other people's trailers in the same way I think of other people's horses. You don't hook up another person's trailer any more than you mess with their horse. Help, sure. Line it up, absolutely. But every trailer I've come across has it's little idiosyncrasies, as does every trailer owner, present company included. So I can't be sure of what went wrong.

We know we had the right size ball.

We know we had the lock on (you can see it's still "locked" in the first picture).

The only two possibilities were that the ball has somehow gotten worn, or that the hitch never fully enclosed the ball. Despite the fact that the lock engaged. Can that even happen?

Eventually, with the help of a mechanic's jack and some well placed blocks of wood, we hitched back up, but since we were close to the starting point for the ride, we decided not to load the horses back in. If the trailer wasn't safe, we wanted to find out when the horses weren't in it. Instead we saddled our horses up while someone else drove the trailer over to the parking area about 100 yards away.

The horses were up, way up, but so were we. They were in a new place far from home, and we'd just survived, without a scrap, what could have been a full fledged nightmare.

It would be a long time before any of us calmed down.

And yet, believe it or not, there was one more miracle (albeit a more minor one) to come.

To be continued...


Wolfie said...

Some greater power was certainly looking out for you guys! Glad that everyone was OK.

Mikey said...

Wow, that is incredible. Soooo lucky. What a weird thing to have happen. Nothing that you could foresee. I agree, someone was looking out for you guys. So glad you're all ok.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...



Jeni said...

wow! Holy scary!!! I'm so very glad all is safe.

Anonymous said...

Miracle indeed - that's so, so scary! Trailer balls can erode from use and rust, and get smaller in size. And the locking mechanism on the ball can get loose. And sometimes the ball is the wrong size for the hitch. I actually take my trailer in twice a year for a safety check by the dealer, since I'm not mechanical. Safety chains and hooks have to be sufficiently large and strong that they can hold the full weight of the trailer if the ball/hitch breaks - the ones on my gooseneck are so big that they're hard to lift and the hooks look like something that'd be on an industrial crane - fortunately I've never had to test them out.

The only trailer incidents I've had are a tire brake locking up, horse related issues including the time Dawn broke her window and bent her window bars and bad drivers on the road almost getting all of us killed - especially almost getting themselves killed - any car that ends up on the grill of my truck, when my fully loaded truck and rig weight almost 10 tons, is going to be toast.

So glad all of you were OK.

Cheyenne said...

I`m pleased that it wasnt any worse than what I saw in the pictures. The only nasty thing that happened with my box, was a horse going down in the box while on the road! So I can imagine how you must have felt.

shadowlake said...

So thankful for your miracle! Looking forward to hearing the rest.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

How terrifying. You must have felt so helpless watching that trailer pass you up out of control.

Shirley said...

Every haulers nightmare- being passed by the trailer. I always double check my hitch before I drive, especially if someone else has hitched it up for me. Thats a good idea not to hook the breakaway on the chains. I'm glad the damage to people, horses and equipment wasn't an issue!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Deep breath of relief. Wow-That was sooo close.

I will never forget the time my brother and his roping partner flipped a 2-horse into the ditch. Our horse was fine, but it almost killed the other horse.

The only thing I can think to ask you guys grease your balls (Oh, that just sounds soooo wrong) regularly?

That was one of the first things my family ever taught me about hauling trailers. If not kept lubed, the hitch can wear a ball down and cause exactly what happened to you guys.

We used to just use bearing grease, but I have switched to a high grade marine lubricant and keep a tube in the door of the pickups. Whenever I go to hitch up, I just squeeze a dollop in top of the ball and hitch up normally. If the ball is dirty (which the lube has a tendency to cause dirt and muck to stick to the ball), I'll wipe it off and then apply the lube.

Very glad to hear that all ended well for you guys and the horses. I would have been "UP' too.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

I have heard people talk about that happening as a possibility or even a joke. However, this is the first time I have ever known of it actually happening to someone I know.

I'm glad all are well.


jill said...

Glad you're all alright!!
These are things that scare me about having a trailer, but I love having a trailer too!

Susan said...

I sure am glad the trailer stopped by itself!

Rising Rainbow said...

Oh Boy! I'm with you on miracles!

The darn thing shouldn't lock if it's not all the way closed around the ball. Something weird happened there.

I have a hole in my bumper right over where my ball comes out that I attach my brake line to. If the trailer jumps the ball, it will be pulled.

What a scary, scary thing! I'm so glad you're all ok and the trailer isn't much worse for wear.

allhorsestuff said...

Okay, now I'm gonna get mine checked, and my friends, for my ball! I've heard the greasing keeps the bask from, I'm getting a blue or red tennis ball...and greasing up!

I'm soo happy everyone was/is okay!