by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- This may not seem like a big deal to some of you – and if it doesn’t, I’ll bet you didn’t grow up in Huerfano County. Because, to people who grew up on a ranch or a farm, everyone absolutely positively MUST know how to back up a trailer. And if you don’t, you are a mutant. There are a few of us who managed to get through life (so far) without this all-important driving skill, but we’re suffering for it now that we have moved to the country, where it seems like we are backing something up somewhere all the time – either to avoid running over stuff, or to use one of the three parallel parking spots in the county, or to get out of driveways that look like driveways but actually go nowhere.
I’ll confess, although I grew up on a Pennsylvania farm, I do not know how to back up a trailer. I have absolutely no excuse. My younger brother tried to teach me once, but he ended up walking away shaking his head in disgust. And he was 12. I could not visualize what the trailer would do when I turned right or left, that is, when I could remember my right from my left without looking for my vaccination scar.
Ever since those thankless days when I was assigned to toss hay bales because I could not back up the hay wagon, I managed to get through every “trailer turning” situation by driving forward until I could turn around without backing up. Yes that may have been a hundred miles, but I was NOT going to try to back up a trailer in order to turn around. It’s embarrassing. And as sure as shootin’, as soon as a trailer-backing-challenged person tries “one more time” to back up a trailer, there will be a guy there from the Associated Press who will take a picture and the next thing you know, bam, you’re in the Wall Street Journal with the headline: “Hick cannot back up trailer, even though living in the country.”
Honestly the entire science of backing up eludes me. And I can blame my dad, because he once told me, “Don’t back up if you can go forward.” No he wasn’t talking about a trailer, he was talking about the family station wagon. But, whatever. I am trailer-backing-challenged forever. I’m lucky I married someone who CAN back up a trailer. He does this so well, it kind of makes up for me jackknifing it every time I’ve tried. It all balances out in the scheme of the universe, doesn’t it?
There is no support group for trailer-backing-challenged people – yet. On the Internet, I found 17 web sites about how to back up a trailer. But let’s face it, reading about backing up a trailer is WAY different than actually trying it and running over a lilac bush. One of the web sites starts out with, “My wife can’t back worth a darn.” Now, I’m fairly sure this wasn’t written by my spouse, but it could have been. Even when I try to give him directions to back up a trailer, I always stand in the wrong place so he can’t see all of my elaborate hand gestures in the mirror. He just wants the stuff they use at the airport to tell the planes where to park, but instead he gets: “almost there . . . almost there . . . a little to the left . . . a little to the right . . . AAAK! You went too far.”