Kirby: Old trailer teaches life lessons

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Robert Kirby had the day off. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

In 1948, my grandfather Charlie Felt bought a bare axle from Sears Roebuck. He took it home to Springville and built a trailer on it.

Drunk and jobless a lot, Charlie was good at making do. When he took Grandma to Yellowstone, he converted the trailer into a sleeper by loading an aluminum boat onto it upside down.

Temporarily possessed by sobriety the following year, Charlie crammed everything he owned into the trailer, hooked it to a Model T and hauled his family to California in a scene straight out of "The Grapes of Wrath."

Today, Charlie is in his grave in Manti and the Model T is at the bottom of Lake Powell. But the trailer he built nearly 60 years ago is parked in my backyard.

Over the years, my family has used the trailer for camping, landscaping, relocating, trash hauling and a hundred other things. The old man even made me ride in it once when my mouth got the better of me on a long family trip.

One summer we moved a squirrel 300 miles. He got in at a mountain campsite and jumped out in downtown Denver. Ran straight up a light pole. That's some serious culture shock.

I burned the trailer down once while playing with matches. It was just one of the many times that the box on it had to be rebuilt. Even so, we never really improved on the original design.

In addition to helping us keep the things we wanted, the trailer also helped us get rid of things we didn't. It's carried everything to the dump, including punctured beanbag chairs and dead horse parts.

I'm not sure what Charlie was thinking when he built the trailer. I'm betting it wasn't to teach his progeny life lessons. More likely he only wanted something to haul his boat in.

But I learned a lot from pulling Charlie's trailer. In fact, everyone needs an old beat up trailer. A good one won't teach you everything you need to know about life, only the important stuff.

First, a trailer will teach you that when you want something to follow you, it's important to securely attach it. Charlie's trailer bears the marks of me forgetting to do this and having it pass me on the highway.

A good trailer will teach you to not be in such a hurry that you forget to look back occasionally. Few things are more embarrassing than to be heading off camping only to be pulled over by a cop whose back seat is full of your road-battered gear.

This brings up another trailer lesson: If you can't live without something, take it out of the trailer and put in the truck with you.

Another important trailer lesson is that it's harder to go backward than it is forward. But if you must back up, do it carefully so that you don't run over the reason you're backing up.

Perhaps the most important trailer lesson is what to do with all that old baggage hanging around making you miserable. Throw it on, get rid of it, then spend the rest of your days sitting in the sun and going to pieces.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or