Sunday, June 21, 2015

Zombie Trailer Death Trap

Everyone I know who has been around horses for enough years has a story about horses falling through the back door or floor of a trailer on the highway.   There are several other variations on that theme.   I will not be posting You Tube videos to illustrate.

With that in mind, let me make the following confession:  I made a really horrible mistake.

I bought this trailer.

This is the self-congratulatory photo I posted on Facebook after I doctored it up on Instagram.  I literally gave it "highlights" to make it appear more youthful and less rusty than it really was.  (Yes, it works for trailers, too.)

I'm going to come right out and tell you what I paid for it, even though it gives me a really sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  $3,400.

Okay, now that's a good price for a used three-horse trailer, isn't it?   Why, yes, it is a good price, and that's why I bought it.

We asked the seller how old the trailer was, and he said, "It's an older trailer."

I was not put off by this.  I am, relative to some, older, myself.

To paraphrase Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire, All of the deep, important qualities just get better with age.

So why shouldn't the trailer, assuming it has been maintained properly,  be in fine shape?   The owner assured me that it was, indeed, and that he had in fact maintained it in top working order.  They said, and I quote, "It is 100% safe."

Here's another quote from Blanche Dubois.

I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And it that's sinful, then let me be damned for it!

And that's why she is a tragic figure. 

In this story, Blanche Dubois is played by both the buyer and the seller of said trailer. 

The sellers were genuine horse people.  They weren't rich.  They lived up north, cheek by jowl with Minnesota.  Their daughter was an aspiring rodeo queen.   They were selling the trailer because they had acquired a fourth horse and they needed a bigger trailer.   

To me, it seemed (spoiler alert: here's the magical thinking part) providential.  

I had three horses.  I needed a trailer.  They sellers  lived all the way up near Minnesota, but they were coming all the way down to a town 15 minutes away from from where I lived to pick up their new trailer. It seemed like destiny.

 THEY ASSURED ME THAT THE TRAILER WAS SAFE.  They said, THE FLOOR WAS TOTALLY SOLID.... (The condition of the  floor is of critical importance to the safety of horses.)  

Moreover, the seller LOVED this trailer.  We texted via FB about how excited we both were about our respective new trailers.  She had taken her horses and daughter in this trailer to barrel races and rodeos all over Wisconsin and the Midwest.   She asked me to send her pictures of my horses in her beloved old trailer.  We friended each other on Facebook.  She was genuinely, GENUINELY, struggling to part with this CAN.   

So, that was her magical thinking.  And magical it was, because, frankly, it was only by PURE MAGIC and divine intervention that her horses did not fall through the floor on a highway.  

When I took the trailer to my mechanic, I was told it needed at least twelve-hundred dollars worth of work on the breaks and electrical.   They told me to make absolutely sure that the trailer was structurally sound before putting that much (more) money into it.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Why didn't I make sure that it was structurally sound before buying it? Well, remember what the owners told me about it being 100% safe.  Recall their genuine pride in the work they'd done on it and their sincere affection for this trailer.  

My husband tore into the wooden floor planks with a chainsaw.

This is a picture of what we found under the planks:

What you are looking at are the metal supports for the wood plank floor.  The horses stand on the wood planks.   

As mentioned, prospective buyers aren't encouraged to tear up the wood planks in order to check out the metal supports.   One could (and SHOULD) take a flashlight and physically go under the trailer to get a clear sense of the condition of the framework.... But.... I doubt many actually people do that.  We didn't, and we should have.  

This metal support is not attached to the other side of the trailer.  It is just floating in space.

The photo below shows the deteriorated condition of the bottom edge of the trailer to which the metal supports are supposed to be attached.

This is another metal support that looks like someone took a big bite out of it.

The wood planks were in perfectly good condition, but obviously the framework that was keeping them off of the road was completely inadequate.

I sent these photos to the seller, and she was properly horrified.  But she soon got over it, and didn't had nothing further to say after that first There-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I gasp.  I did not get my money back.

But let's hope that, at a minimum, (looking for the silver lining here), by sharing this tale of woe I might prevent a single horse from having its legs dragged along a highway at 65 mph.

Trailers range in price from virtually nothing to many obscene thousands of dollars.  I love the fact that horses are not a strictly upper-class thing in the Midwest. Regular folks like can have horses, and enjoy lives that revolve around horses.

My worst offense was that I could have paid a little more ($1500 more, to be precise) and bought a new trailer that would have been structurally sound and safe.  But instead, motivated by a corrupt combination of desire and cheapness, (not to say thrift, which implies some innovation and a successful outcome), I allowed myself to be carried away by wishful thinking--with potentially disastrous results.

Let me just say, to my credit, that I never once put a horse in that trailer. No horse will ever step foot in it. I had it taken away for scrap metal (and got $200 for it).

The scary thing is that at any given time you can find half a dozen trailers for sale just like the one I bought--on Craigslist, on Ebay, on Facebook, in the Want Ads....I found mine on the "Facebook Wisconsin Horse Trailers Only" page.

These death-traps are sold everywhere. They're as ubiquitous as the stories of horses falling through trailer floors on the highway. Everyone who's been around horses long enough has heard at least one of those grisly stories.

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