COL­UMN

It’s not ev­ery­day a 2,2-ton trailer dis­ap­pears mid-jour­ney, says Piet van Heerde.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

Ilook in the rear-view mir­ror and I re­alise some­thing isn’t right. Then it hits me like a ton of bricks: My trailer is gone! I hit the brakes, jump out, and run to the back of my car. Nope, there’s still no sign of a trailer. Anx­iously I get back into my Cruiser. It can’t be. It can’t just have dis­ap­peared. I re­trace my route and I shake my head from side to side more than a spec­ta­tor at a Wim­ble­don fi­nal. And the more I say it to my­self, the more I don’t want to be­lieve it. The trailer is gone. I’M BUSY MOV­ING from Hope­field to Brack­en­fell, and like any move, it’s an ex­er­cise in in­con­ve­nience. I rent a 2,2-ton dou­ble-axle trailer for all the small items. When I go to fetch it in Brack­en­fell, the staff and I in­spect the tow bar and lights – ex­actly like any re­spon­si­ble tower would. My Cruiser tows that trailer like a champ. I’m al­most un­aware that I’m tow­ing be­cause I can’t feel the trailer, and be­cause you sit high up in a Cruiser it’s dif­fi­cult to see it. Again, like any good tower would do, I make a point of check­ing my rear-view mir­ror to see if the trailer is still trail­ing be­hind me. I stop in Malmes­bury to re­fuel and check every­thing again. Every­thing seems fine; no prob­lems or ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. And while I’m driv­ing out of Malmes­bury I even check to see how I’m man­ag­ing to keep the trailer in the lane per­fectly around a bend. I re­ally am a good driver and a re­spon­si­ble tower. Over the hill out­side Malmes­bury the tur­bod­iesel is pulling like a steam en­gine. I even pass a few trucks. I turn off to­wards Hope­field and every­thing is go­ing smoothly. I’m go­ing at about 100 km/h, Pink Floyd blar­ing on the stereo, and the trailer is per­form­ing ad­mirably. The next mo­ment, I feel a slight jerk. I’m still a bit en­tranced by Roger Wa­ters and the boys but I quickly snap out of it. I look in the rear-view mir­ror. Nope, the trailer is still there. No prob­lem. It was prob­a­bly just a gust. A while later I re­mem­ber that the road is about to get bad. And once I see the first pot­holes, I slow down and look back to check that the trailer isn’t shak­ing too much. Every­thing checks out. A kilo­me­tre or so fur­ther down the road I check again. Gone!

WHILE I’M DRIV­ING AROUND look­ing for the trailer, I start to doubt my­self. I am af­ter all on the wrong side of 50 – did I per­haps imag­ine that I saw the trailer ev­ery time I checked? Was I too en­grossed in Dave Gil­mour’s gui­tar so­los? My brain feels numb, like when I had to write ex­ams in school. The numb­ness changes to dizzi­ness and tun­nel vi­sion be­gins to set in. I drive all the way back to Malmes­bury, which is where I know for sure I last saw the trailer. Noth­ing. I phone the owner of the trailer. At first he thinks I’m pulling his leg, but then he starts get­ting up­set. No, he says, he’ll send some of his peo­ple to come help me look. I drive back the way I came, just a lot slower. And I check the world around me like a pro­fes­sional hunter. The trailer is nowhere to be found. I reach the point where I first re­alised that my trailer had dis­ap­peared, and I turn back again. This time I drive even slower and I imag­ine that if I nar­row my eyes I’ll spot it. But the trailer re­ally is gone. Like last month’s salary. I DE­CIDE to drive back to Hope­field to fetch the kids from school. Three pairs of eyes are bet­ter than one. Again we drive the stretch of road over and over again, but we see noth­ing – not even a mark on the road that would give us some kind of clue. I in­spect the back of the Cruiser and I start to get a clearer pic­ture of what hap­pened. The tow bar is not the typ­i­cal fixed ball type, but rather a ball with a shaft which fits ver­ti­cally through the mounted piece. A safety clip through the bot­tom end keeps the shaft in place. It looks like the safety clip broke, be­cause the ball and shaft is miss­ing. The next line of de­fence was the ca­ble that winds around the tow bar to ac­ti­vate the trailer’s brake in case it un­hitches. But that couldn’t have hap­pened be­cause the en­tire tow bar is gone. I de­cide some­one ob­vi­ously saw the trailer, hitched it, and drove away. It’s the only log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion. So I re­port the mat­ter to the po­lice. The con­sta­ble looks at me like I’m crazy as he writes: “…while driv­ing, the trailer went miss­ing in an un­ex­plained man­ner”. Back in Brack­en­fell I go to the owner and we agree that I’ll write a re­port he can use to get the ball rolling with his in­sur­ance. I still need to move my things though and for that I need a trailer. But I’m too em­bar­rassed to ask the same guy for an­other trailer so I go some­where else. I drive to Hope­field, and there, in the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle of trail­ers, I spot a trailer in a field next to the road. I stop and walk closer. It’s my trailer! I’m so happy I jump into the air like Fred Flint­stone and click my heels. “Are you look­ing for this?” a voice next to me asks sud­denly while I’m look­ing for my cell­phone to call the owner. It takes ev­ery inch of self-con­trol not to hug the farmer be­cause he looks like the type of guy who prob­a­bly wouldn’t ap­pre­ci­ate that kind of af­fec­tion. Yes, I say. Where did you get it? “This morning I was putting the sheep into the camp, but then quickly went to in­spect the fence. I came to a spot where only the bot­tom two wires were bro­ken and there was a faint track run­ning to the op­po­site side of the field. I went to go look and I found your trailer at the end of the track. I hitched it and towed it here.” WHAT EX­ACTLY hap­pened? The safety mech­a­nism broke, the trailer un­hitched with ball and shaft and all and then with its own mo­men­tum went full steam ahead. Thank good­ness there was no on­com­ing traf­fic. The trailer went through the fence and con­tin­ued for about 300 m be­fore com­ing to a stand­still at the far side of the field – neatly con­cealed un­derneath the bushes. I didn’t see the bro­ken fence be­cause it was in the tall grass. And it must have hap­pened right be­fore I looked in my rearview mir­ror be­cause I stopped not even 750 m fur­ther on. I’m thank­ful that noth­ing and no­body got hurt… ex­cept for the fence and my ego. But I’m even more thank­ful that the mys­tery of the ghost trailer was solved.

A kilo­me­tre or so fur­ther I check again. And there is noth­ing. I start to doubt my­self. I am af­ter all on the wrong side of 50.

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