So I have, for a while, been looking for a way to purchase a utility trailer. Something to hook onto the back of my Dodge pickup or the Ford Explorer and haul things on. Any time I needed one, for example to move my riding lawn mower, I had to borrow one from one of my uncles. The problem however, was that I didn’t have the $500+ laying around to buy one, and at $500 they are pretty small.
A solution to my problem became apparent however. I had an uncle named Earn who lived out in the woods for most of his life. He had a small camper trailer, about 15 feet long, where he had the essentials. He hunted and fished, grew a garden and lived off the land until the day he died. The road was just barely good enough to take a 4 wheel drive vehicle up. He lived on the property of a friend of our family who didn’t mind him being there.
He died several years ago, and since then his little trailer had been sitting there falling apart because nobody was willing or able to go move it. A tree had fallen on it and broken the roof, allowing rain and moisture to get inside, and most of the wood was too rotten to be of any real use. The landowners had told me a long time ago that I could use their property as I needed to as long as I was respectful and wasn’t destructive. I try to avoid being up there too much out of respect for them and use my own land, but decades ago my mom’s family owned a large piece of that property, so there’s a lot of old scrap metal still there from before nature re-claimed it, so I go up there and retrieve scrap metal from time to time. The landowners told me that they wanted to reclaim the field my uncle had lived in, and if I pulled that trailer out of there and cleaned it up for them, I could have it to sell for scrap metal.
So to work I went. I, along with my brother and cousin for help, started the business of ripping that old trailer apart.
Here’s a picture of the trailer when I first started by myself. I went to pull an electric cord out of the wall because it was snagging and holding pieces together, and when I pulled the whole front wall came out.
Here’s a picture of the crew working on tearing it apart.
We burned all the wood, hauled the insulation off to the recycling center to be disposed of properly since it was asbestos insulation, and every piece of metal on it got loaded into the back of my truck, hauled off and sold for scrap.
However, when I started busting through the floor with my wood maul, I noticed something. The frame of the trailer was solid steel, and heavy duty as well, with beams several times as thick and wide as your average boat trailer. On top of that, it wasn’t hurt too bad because the rest of the trailer had been sitting on top of it, mostly protecting it from the elements. The tires even held air, and once I pumped some grease into the bearings and pulled on it, the wheels broke loose and started rolling. Of course the tires, being 50+ years old, weren’t safe to put any weight on, but they were good enough for me to get the trailer out of there so I could put some better ones on it.
Here’s a picture of the trailer frame, after I cleaned it off and sprayed it with undercoating to protect it. The silver piece laying on it was a bumper that extended out the back of the trailer. The lights and reflectors I added after I got it home since the old ones were so old they wouldn’t fit a standard vehicle light hookup any more.
So after some experimentation and a new set of tires, I was able to find some deck boards to floor it with, and now have myself a 15′ utility trailer that’s several times stronger and much bigger than the ones sold at the stores. At the local Tractor Supply store, you can get an 8 foot trailer made out of some cheap wire mesh with 1 inch support beams for about $500. By simply cleaning this up and putting some effort into it, I was able to get myself a 15 foot trailer with 4 inch wide beams for the price of the lights ($30 for a full set) and the tires ($50 for both together), because the deck boards I also got for free from an uncle who was repairing a porch and had some extra ones laying around.
This was an interesting little project for me. The tires in the photo above are the old ones, but since taking this I’ve put new tires on it and already used it to haul off loads much heavier than you could ever put on one of the dinky trailers sold at the local stores, and way more than I could safely load on my pickup frame by itself. The place I sell my scrap metal to cuts it up and sorts it by type (Aluminum, steel, etc.) and then ships it off to a foundry where it is melted back down and put back into the system to make new products. All of this was possible because I was willing to use what was already available to me.
So I guess if there’s anything to be learned here, it’s that you would be amazed at what you can do with your “trash”. Before you just throw anything away, see what you can do with it, make it useful. The “throw-away living” way of life is a dangerous one. Birds and animals in parts of the world uninhabited by humans are dying because they’re eating bits of plastic washing up on the beaches because of the amount of things that we use and throw away. Most of us don’t think twice about what happens to our trash. Paper will degrade over time, but some things, like plastic, last for a very long time, and cause an immeasurable amount of damage to our environment. Let’s all try to make use of the things we already have. Let’s try to invest in things that will stick around for a while. If you’re going to buy plastic plates and silverware, make sure they’re dishwasher safe so you can continue to re-use them instead of just tossing them in the garbage. We only have one planet Earth, and we’re a long way off from figuring out how to survive anywhere else, so let’s all make a conscious effort to be kind to the world we live in by recycling a little bit.