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...