Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Do you believe in magic?

Trailer Park
In the course of human endeavor, early man must have marveled at the spear. Sharpen a stick, jab it into a salmon heading upstream and, if you didn’t want sushi, wait a few millennia for the next guy to discover fire. While the modern progression has occurred at a much faster clip, it still seems as though it took an awfully long time for the dawn of magnetic baitcasters, chemically sharpened hooks and ice chests with wheels. Nevertheless, we have made progress.

Unfortunately, one of the most — if not the most — significant advancement in our daily lives as fishermen seemed to drift past us like an autumn leaf in the current. When it was first introduced in 2016, a few heads nodded approval, but the reaction was nothing like it should have been. This was, after all, what I considered a Velcro® moment – an epiphany of discovery that would be spoken of in hushed, reverential tones for centuries to come.

NOT EVERYONE IS an ace at backing down a trailer. PHOTO COURTESY OF BOAT-ED.COM

Of what I speak is Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a computerized system controlled by a dial on the dashboard that takes the agony out of backing a trailer and turns it into a video game. Just take your hands off the wheel and trust in the technology. Although I have not yet used this device, I have witnessed enough bad things on launch ramps to suggest that any assistance — of any kind — should be embraced and appreciated. After all, the agony to which I refer affects us all.

Like a lot of you, I know how to back a trailer and avoid those who do not. In my life, it became part of the job description where backing out of dark, one-way problems and negotiating launch ramps on major holiday weekends were proud battle stars on my trailer boat service ribbon. My talent was hard-earned, my confidence unshakeable. Okay, that unshakeable part was, at times, a bit of a stretch. I could be shaken, and I’d like to think, with good reason. Of course, I would never let you know it, not from the set of my jaw nor from my cold, steely demeanor. Somehow I would muddle through on a launch ramp where it was abundantly clear that no licensed contractor, architect, surveyor or civil engineer had anything whatsoever to do with its design or construction.

I never wanted any help because I didn’t need any and to accept it was tantamount to tearing up one’s Man Card. It’s probably the reason why Ford’s Backup Assist didn’t garner bigger headlines from the outdoor community. Even those tortured people who walk among us, who have no appreciable trailer backing skills, know the code. If they go fishing with us and should we offer to let them launch or load the boat, they will usually defer with one of two carefully-worded ploys: (1) “I don’t want to change all the settings on your seats and mirrors” or (2) “You need to park your own truck. If someone puts a scratch on it, I’m innocent.” (This is always followed by a knowing laugh, as if everyone understands how highly the truck in question is valued.)

In the unwritten etiquette of fishing, we are duty-bound not to push the issue. Our partner for the day is tacitly admitting that he has almost zero experience successfully backing a trailer. Whatever the case, we accept the ruse and move on. Everyone comes away from it with their dignity intact.

So how could any veteran angler admit to needing a computer assist? With a lifetime of experience negotiating launch ramps big and small, narrow and wide, long, steep, rutted and dimly lit, why would anyone want to rely on a mere gadget? Not I. No sir, when I’m inching down an icy ramp in the gloom of night, it’s all on me. Sure, it’s fine for those other poor bastards, the ones I’ve seen jackknife their trailers, dump boats right onto the pavement or create all manner of ramp mayhem, but why would I want it?

Well let me tell me why.

Mike, you’re a giver. It’s what you do. You recognize that others haven’t shared in the outdoor advantages to which you have become accustomed. They have real jobs. Some would like to stay married or otherwise engaged so they can either teach their wife or significant other the traditional method of backing a trailer complete with mirror use, danger recognition and a certain amount of cursing and screaming at public launch ramps or take the more rational approach and give in to technology. Obviously, you don’t need it but having one on your vehicle would set a wonderful example for those struggling with inner trailer demons.

And, should anyone who can actually handle a trailer point to the backup knob on the dashboard of your new pickup, act nonchalant.

“Oh that?” you say with casual indifference. “It was just part of the tow package.” 

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