Phobias and More

I think I might have had a phobia or two or three; maybe I still do.  At times I seemed to have had irrational fears of doing something stupid.  Problem is that fear often comes true.  I appear to have a long history of doing stupid things.  My newest phobia concerned pulling my new/used Aliner camper to the Big Horn Mountains for a camping trip. What bad things lurked out there that would make my first trip a disaster?  It was too late now to worry.  I was on my way, camper in tow, attached to my Chevy Traverse. Whether I would end up proving my neurosis or not was yet to be discovered.

On this first trip I was driving alone except for my fears, phobias, and neurosis riding in the back seat ready to jump me at any moment.  Fortunately, interstate highway 25 heading north to Buffalo is an easy drive.  As I drove, I sang along with 50’s music on the radio.  My singing does hurt my ears but it also keeps the flies that are trapped in the car annoyed and buzzing about. I like to antagonize them before I shoo them out the window. I would not be alone once I arrived at Meadowlark as I was meeting members of the Casper Photography Association for our July photo field trip.

I could see in the rear view mirror, the white camper, with bubble shaped windows, all tucked into its folded travel position following me politely. That’s good!  If it was passing me, I’d be in trouble.  I do recall a similar situation I witnessed in Casper several years ago, but I was not directly involved.  Remembering this incident helped one of my phobias attempt to arise from the back seat.

Aliner camper trail parked at Meadowlark Lake in the Big Horn National Forest.

Aliner camper trail parked at Meadowlark Lake in the Big Horn National Forest.

With this particular circumstance, I was following an old, sliver, beat up pickup pulling a battered, faded green, utility trailer with lawn mowing equipment and piles of green grass in its bed. Hand painted on the tailgate in white was “Have mower, Will Travel” and a phone number.  They were headed east on 12th street laughing and visiting with each other and traveling a little faster than maybe they should have been.

They bounced over a dip in the road and I watched amazed as that darn dilapidated trailer popped right off the ball and became a detached independent vehicle traveling by itself apparently with a mind of its own.  It skedaddled to the left bouncing and speeding up as it headed north, green grass blowing out.  I’m sure that little trailer was thinking, “what fun.  I’m free. Wheee”.  It didn’t seem to have a care in the world as it galloped on it’s way.  The old pickup proceeded straight, the occupants still laughing and visiting unaware of their newly sovereign trailer.  That trailer merrily danced over the curb and spotted a small, beautiful, cream-colored boat innocently parked on the owner’s driveway.  The detached trailer made a beeline for that boat.  Its tongue, like a spear, bayoneted the watercraft flying right into the side coming to a stop only after all the trailer’s tongue had disappeared deep into the cream-colored hull of the boat.  Eventually, the driver of the pickup gave a double take, his cap flying off, as he finally noticed his trailer ram into the boat.  The pickup came to a screeching halt. I swerved to miss them.  No one was hurt so I kept on driving thanking my lucky stars it wasn’t my trailer or boat.

The vision of that trailer impaled in the boat was haunting me now as I traveled with my camper trailer following close behind me. I kept checking the rear view mirrors in case the camper had desires to travel independently.  I had made sure I had locked the ball hitch into place and fastened the safety cables.  If the trailer did mysteriously pop off, those cables would at least keep the trailer from scurrying into the other lane or the bar ditch.  Needless to say, I was relieved it didn’t go visiting during this drive.

Another fear was that the camper would get a flat tire, and I’d never know about it.  This fear (phobia?) also comes from my past.  As a teenager working for a rancher during “haying” out of Big Piney, Wyoming, I was given the simple task of driving an orange Allis-Charmer tractor sweep to some hay fields at the Johnson Place near Cottonwood Creek many miles to the north from the home place on South Piney Creek.

The first time I ever saw a sweep I thought it must be a manufacturing mistake. I walked around it with deep concern.  I had seen enough tractors to know that the smaller wheels go in front and the large ones were in the back.  This monstrosity was reversed. It must be the result of someone’s nightmare.  It was a freak. The large tires are in the front and the smaller steering tires were in the back.  Attached to the front just beyond the large tires was a rack of four steel teeth probably five feet long and each tooth about four inches in diameter.  It was designed to push wind-rowed loose hay in front of it with that horrendous rack of steel teeth. The seat sat in front of the engine instead of behind it as it would in a normal tractor.  The steering wheel sat even further in front and just behind the sweep head. How was I to drive such a mutant?

I wasn’t going to admit my fear to anyone.  All I needed to do was take the sweep and drive along some dirt roads I was familiar with and safely get the sweep into the hay fields of the Johnson Place. Any idiot could do that.   As a teenager, I was not about to admit I had reservations about driving such a thing.  I was full of fake confidence and swagger.  I’d told Bob, the rancher, I’d just pretend I was driving backwards but be going forward. He looked at me dubiously.  My stomach did flip flops.  Would Bob let me drive?  He didn’t have anyone else available for the drive. I was the bottom of the barrel and got elected as driver.

I was having a good old time driving, singing merrily, harmonizing with the sound of the engine serving as music.  Road dust trailed behind me creating a long rooster tail of reddish-colored dirt which swirled into the air making a cloud following above and behind me.  The tractor bounced and wobbled along with me steering.  I was living one of my boyhood dreams.  I was working on a ranch in Wyoming, sometimes being a cowboy, sometimes milking cows, sometimes fencing and now working the hay fields and driving a tractor even if  this tractor looked funny.  Not bad for a boy not long removed from Louisiana.   How much better could it get?  Fake confidence exuding from me more and more.

Not a care in world; waving at vehicles as they met me on the rutted, dirt road; minding my own business; never realizing or thinking about…. tires….. I was only 16 and rather new to driving. I never thought during the entire trip to turn my head and examine the steering tires. So, it was to my utter amazement when I arrived at my destination that I had been driving on a flat tire. The small left rear tire was flat ,and I hadn’t noticed it.  Fortunately only the bottom was flat.  Bob didn’t seem to think that was good enough and was somewhat upset to say the least.  I’m not sure how long I’d been driving on the flat.  The tire was ruined, but since the wheel was good enough, it didn’t need replaced.

Bob talked about firing me, but realized I was still the bottom of barrel as far as hands went, so he kept me on.  He screamed and cussed at me  for while.  He even wondered if my brain was a quart low.  I could tell he wasn’t an experienced cusser.  He wasn’t nearly as good at cussing as Everette. One could tell Everette was an experienced cusser.  Everette cussed fluently.  I knew that because earlier in the Summer back at the home ranch, John and an unnamed co-conspirator attempted to tip the out house over.  We never accomplished it.  How was anyone to know Everette was in it.  John and the unnamed co-conspirator didn’t see why he was using such eloquent cuss words.  After all, he climbed out of the out house and was hardly wet or messy.  That old cowboy sure could cuss, but that’s another story.

That tire deal was another example of my paranoia and stupidity that haunted me from my illustrious past as I pulled the camper ever northward on I25 finally arriving safe and secure.

It was fantastic trip with no flats and no runaway trailers.  The camper was very comfortable for the two nights I stayed there.  The photo club members were great friends and I enjoyed their company. We all managed to take some good photos.  It was a fun trip.  My phobias did not cause any problems.  What was I ever worried about?  Success!!  But wait, what is that lurking in the back seat???


This picture can not be taken while staying at the Holiday Inn, but can be if one stays at the campground on the hill above Meadowlark Lake.

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2 Responses to Phobias and More

  1. Lolena Shambaugh says:

    Great story, Good humor as usual. Brings back good memories. One of your phobias must have been riding with us since we had 2 flat tires on that trip.

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