old farming trailer
An old farming trailer (Photo by Wirestock Images / Shutterstock.com)

By Austin Snedden
Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden, Valley Ag Voice contributor.

There are certain things in life with just no explanation. Sure, humanity has tackled some big issues like antibiotics, flying, and high-tech communication, but we may never know the mysteries of trailer light wiring and where all those tape measures went. These, among others, are issues that require immediate attention. I demand a task force, working group, summit, committee, or congressional investigation. Although all of the above-mentioned collaborative efforts exude the same amount of ineffectiveness, nothing resolves more problems than a congressional investigation. Nothing will help me find my lost tape measures more than a herd of politicians lined up at a microphone waiting for their 2 minutes of feigned outrage directed at a camera.

Based on the enormity of the trailer light issue, the investigation better start with a regular 4 flat trailer plug. Almost every old farm or ranch trailer has been re-wired multiple times. There was that time the squirrels ate the wires or that time it drug crossing a ditch and removed the wires from tongue to tail. If you are lucky, there may be 2 different colored wires laying around to re-wire the trailer, but most of the time you just find one big spool, all one color to do the job. When 4 wires come to the plug, there is only one combination to wire them correctly. Oddly enough, there are between 350,000 to 500,000 ways to wire them incorrectly. No one really knows the exact number; statisticians have tried to observe in order to find how there can be that many combinations with only 4 variables but were driven away by the foul language and threats made towards the machinery by the cowboy electrician. Heaven forbid the number of wrong combinations with a five round or seven round trailer plug. Generally you get to a point in your trailer wiring that is called “good enough,” meaning that there are some sort of electrical impulses going from the truck to the trailer, and most reasonable people should be able to interpret what is going on in a traffic situation. Never mind that when I push on the brakes my marker lights flash, and never mind that when I turn on a turn signal my trailer brakes lock up; these “custom” features are perfectly acceptable to other motorists who have done their own trailer wiring.

Similar to the existing black hole issue with every clothes dryer as it pertains to socks, the vanishing tape measure is equally as mysterious. I have owned one pair of fence pliers for 15 years; in that same time period I have probably briefly had in my possession over 100 tape measures. I could probably pave my driveway with tape measures if I could find all the ones lost on the ranch over the years. Apparently, the only way to keep a tape measure from getting lost is to break the recoil spring or kink the tape in many places—that is the only one I ever find. Only the good, straight tapes with the proper recoil function end up in the Bermuda Triangle of ranch tools. The tire pressure gauge is equally as elusive as the tape measure, but its disappearance is not as shocking due to its small size. Somewhere in the lost city of Atlantis there are a bunch of unmatched socks, tape measures, and tire pressure gauges laughing at me. 

If you don’t want to be labeled as a “science denier,” don’t even attempt to install or repair an extensive gravity fed water pipe system. Sure, water goes down and air goes up in a textbook, but on a hot day when the cattle are thirsty, air in the line goes wherever it wants with flagrant disrespect for physics. When the source of water is higher than the destination, with multiple vents at all the high spots, that is perfect physics to make water flow, right? A perfect plan but no one accounts for water essentially making obscene gestures to gravity and acting as if it has no respect for all of Isaac Newton’s family. Ranch plumbing will shake the core of a physicist’s entire worldview.

The gopher is a creature that has to be on a list of great mysteries. Some people believe they are small mammals, but most of us know they are aliens. They can show up in the middle of nowhere, no sign of a bus stop or public transit for miles. They can dig a hole in ground so hard that it would ruin a good set of post hole diggers. Not only are they immune to my attempts to murder them, but they put off pheromones that drive people to do irrational things. There was a time when you couldn’t go to a farm show without someone trying to sell you a propane powered gopher exterminator. The pheromones emitted by these little creatures were driving people to detonate propane filled gopher tunnels, making yards and fields look like the beaches of Normandy. I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but these creatures were driving people to make craters out of mole hills. I can shoot a coyote at 250 yards (*not always), and I have the ability to rope a cow (*not always), but these little aliens we call gophers lurk several inches below the surface of my lawn with complete immunity.

I realize there are some mysteries that we may never understand. Thomas Edison had no way of knowing that someday in the future a cowboy would be saying disparaging things about him while working on his trailer lights. In the meantime, if you see me on the road with one of my trailers, it might be wise to put a few extra car lengths between us.