Whether it’s a four wheeler equipped with ATV accessories, a compact tractor, snow blower, chainsaw, boat, or dirt bike, these “tools” for work often double as toys. Growing up in the country, we lived at the end of Pine Bluff Lane—a quarter-mile of dirt and dust in the summer, a muddy, ravine-filled goat path in the spring, and in winter, a beast that my father and two neighbors eagerly tried to tame.
Since it was a private lane, maintaining it fell to my family and the neighbors, which wasn’t usually a lot of work, until winter. This was the ’70s and early ’80s—an era of big snows and rear-wheel drive cars. Even a smaller snowfall, when coupled with wind whipping across open fields, was enough to form road-closing drifts. Yes, winter was when the real work, or fun—depending on who you ask—began.
Today, compact farm tractors, gas or electric snow blowers, atvs and atv accessories—such as a snow plow—are more commonplace. Back then, no one I knew used ATVs and I don’t think an ATV for kids was even invented, but my dad and the neighbors each did have a garden tractor, which was essentially not much more than a glorified, beefier lawn mower.
Every fall, I’d watch him remove the mowing deck from that Sears Suburban 14-HP tractor, periodically cursing a belt that wouldn’t budge, or his bleeding knuckles. Then he’d bolt on cement weights to the rear wheels and add tire chains. Next, came the four-foot snow plow mounted to the front. Finally, he made sure the tractor had fresh gas, an oil change, a new air filter, strong battery and new spark plug. Then, he and the neighbors would wait.
When a “big one” was forecast, Dad was just as excited as us kids about the prospect of a snow day. Oh sure, he’d lament about having to go out in the cold or at night to “open the road” as he put it, but we all knew that he secretly relished the challenge. When night fell and the snow flew and we saw him strap on his rubber galoshes, we knew it was playtime.
He wasn’t alone, as it was often a race between he and the neighbors to see who was going to start plowing first. We’d watch from our bedroom window as the tiny headlights bounced up and down the lane all night. If only they had small tractors or ATVs for kids back then. I could have plowed snow with my dad, instead of running behind him with a snow shovel, trying to help every time he got stuck. Oh, how much faster the job would have gone if he and the neighbors could have only used ATVs or today’s four-wheel drive trucks. Looking back, however, I now realize that they weren’t necessarily interested in getting the “job” done faster, simply because they were having too much fun. It was an excuse to work hard and play hard, and one of the reasons why we love our toys—the ones often disguised as tools.
Editor’s note: When it comes to powering and maintaining your toys, Advance Auto Parts is your best resource. Buy online, pick up in store.