As many of you know, we have had an alpaca farm for 20 years now. Inherent and implied in the contract of being a good livestock owner is that one will develop skills around hauling a trailer. You know, hooking it up, going forward, going backward, not letting it pass you on the highway—all the basics. That being said, I have never had to actually drive while pulling a trailer in all those 20 years. Nope, not once. Alpacas are small and they fold, so if I just have to take one or two somewhere, they fit in the back of the car. Jim normally drives the truck and trailer if we need to take our horse trailer somewhere, and otherwise I’m just usually the ridealong and day labor once we arrive. And yet, because I have ridden in trucks pulling trailers hundreds of times, I seem to believe I have picked up some of those skills through osmosis. Turns out that’s not only highly improbable, it’s also not actually true.
The story goes something like this: Years ago, my friend Monica asked me if I’d go with her to trailer a few of her female alpacas out to a ranch in Bennett, where they had a play date set up with some male alpacas. Always up for a road trip, plus being friends with the Bennett folks, I replied, “Heck, yeah!” So we loaded her girls up into her trailer and off we went. Once out there, due to a slight distraction, we drove right past the driveway we should have turned into (ok, we were gabbing away and perhaps didn’t pay as much attention as we ought to have). This was a narrow dirt road out in the middle of nowhere with no obvious nor easy place to turn around. By easy, I mean where we wouldn’t have to actually back up. I should also mention that a decently deep ditch ran along both sides of the road.
We picked the first place we could, which was another (pretty darn narrow) driveway with a culvert across the ditch, and Monica pulled in far enough to then reverse out and go back the way we came. Turns out, Monica’s skills in reverse with a horse trailer were also not exactly polished and she was struggling a bit. So, generous and optimistic soul that I am, I offered, “Would you like me to back us out of here?” to which she replied, “That would be great!” (Ted Lasso fans will realize that questions should have been asked here.) I jumped in the driver’s seat, she stayed outside to guide me, and you’re all smart enough to see where this is going. The good news is, I neither put us in the ditch nor did I jackknife. The bad news is, after 20 minutes and at least 10 tries where both of those occurrences seemed probable, Monica hollered in, “Have you ever actually backed up a trailer before?” (There’s that question that would have been more effective 20 minutes earlier.) I replied, “No, but (mutual friend) Kim always makes it look so easy. How hard can it be?” Needless to say, that got me booted right out of the driver’s seat and Monica managed to get us turned around. Still not gracefully, you know, but no ditch/no jackknife, so we called it a win. I also like to think she laughed about it afterward, but I have no actual proof of that.
The aforementioned friend Kim will also delight in telling you the story of the time I was going to ride with her to take one of her alpacas to the vet. We were all hooked up and in the truck and as she’s backing up, she asks me to look at the mirror on my side to make sure she’s not too close to a tree stump that is there. I look in the sideview mirror and immediately (in full panic) yell, “STOP!” She hits the breaks and asks “What?!” to which I replied, “You were about to hit the trailer.” (Dramatic pause here.) Yes, the trailer that is hooked up to the truck and is backing up WITH us. Kim has said since we first met 20 years ago that she was going to take me, the truck and the trailer to an empty parking lot and teach me how to back up a trailer. Offers to do that dwindled significantly after that last incident. But I do know she not only laughed about it—right to my face—but continues to do so as it’s one of her favorite stories to tell and it cracks her up every single time.
I should also mention that Kim is the one frequently responsible for my column content here. If I’m stumped for a humorous topic, all I have to do is call her and ask what I should write about and she’ll bring out a list a mile long of things I’ve done over the years that don’t always make me look good, but certainly seem to provide her with hours of entertainment. She was also responsible for the last column about my psychotic-phobia-perfectly-normal-fear of rodents. When you see her, ask her about the very real sounding mouse in my car that turned out to be a squeaky cat toy. But that’s a tale for another day.
Final note: The photo here is not a recommended way to transport an alpaca or any other livestock. It’s just a really funny photo.