I am mad at my dad. He managed to get himself killed by his own carelessness, and I resent him for it. And now, I can’t even give him grief about it because he is gone. Gone. A large vacuum where a difficult force of nature just existed. A vacant lot where an anachronistic hardware store once stood.
The man was a putz. Over-engineered every project. Took ten times longer than necessary to get things done. Perfectionistc and pokey. It’s ironic, that in his safety-factor, double-check world, it was a careless shortcut that did him in. For all the times he lectured me about the advantages of a threaded bolt secured with a nylon “aircraft” nut, I don’t know why he would’ve anchored a critical pulley with a simple cross-pin and then secured it with the wrong size cotter pin improperly installed. Very sloppy. Not like him at all. Was it a work-in-progress? Was he in a hurry to get going and planning to fix it later?
Transporters equipped with a tailgate which tilts down as an unloading ramp are inherently dangerous. If the lowering device malfunctions, the heavy gate can fall on the unsuspecting party who unlatches it. People have been killed, and trailer companies have accordingly gone out of business. It was a known danger, yet a manageable one. As the lowering winch for the tailgate on my father’s transporter has grown weaker, he modified the cable routing to achieve compound leverage. It was an improved pulley he designed, built and installed last week that came undone. Nobody else to blame. Not even fate. This one is all on him. I think I’m gonna stay pissed off for a while about this one.
His racing days were numbered. His reflexes and judgement on the track were failing him, and he was begrudgingly preparing to hang up the driving gloves. But he had a good race weekend at Atlanta. While lumbering down the Interstate back to Sarasota, the cotter pin fell out.
He delayed unloading the rig to spend the day with my mom. Moth and flame those two, but a reconciliation was in progress. I am glad for both of them they had a good last day, even if they didn’t know it at the time.
It happened in an instant. He unlocked and removed the padlock. Swung the release lever out and up. And instead of stopping after a few inches of cable slack, the gate just kept coming. No way for an old man to stop it. Nowhere to run. A witness ran for help, and desperate men with jacks lifted the gate off him within minutes. But it was too late. He was gone, the padlock still clutched in his hand.