zoe rohrer-cub cadet kids.jpg

Farm kids on the Cub Cadet.

Sometimes a small project gives back in bigger ways. Last fall my dad cleaned out one of his barns and decided to get rid of a Cub Cadet mower that didn’t run. It just so happened that my sons, ages 10 and 12, heard about this and, being inclined to salvage junk, they asked to claim it for themselves. A few days later, Grandpa delivered it. The excitement level was that of Christmas morning.

Upon Grandpa’s direction, the first thing they did was drain the old gas. There was water in it, so it had to go. When it was refilled with new gas, they found the jumper box and started it up. Some duct tape was soon covering the ripped seat and they were driving all over the farm on their very own mower.

The boys quickly tired of jump-starting the mower and implored me to stop at the local parts store to grab a battery. I obliged, since I was rather enjoying this new hobby of theirs. A few days later they installed the new battery. The strap that holds the battery in place gave them some trouble since the new battery is a slightly different shape than the old one, but they managed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

After a while, the Cub’s drab paint bothered them. So they gathered their dollars and we stopped at the hardware store to look for just the right shades of spray paint. They had to patiently wait for warm, wind-free weather so they could get their painting done. It does look much nicer now, and they’ve gained some painting skills.

One day it sounded like there were gunshots outside my kitchen window. It turned out that the boys had figured out how make the mower backfire. They also put a straight exhaust pipe on it and we immediately turned into the obnoxiously loud family in the neighborhood. Oops. The boys know they aren’t allowed to run noisy toys before 9 a.m., so hopefully we are not waking anyone up.

It did not take the boys long to find the little four-wheeler wagon in the barn and hook it up to the Cub Cadet. Now, the wagon is used to haul around all kinds of playthings and tools. At one point, they made a cardboard fort in the wagon and they’d haul their little sister and her stuffed alligator around in it. Unfortunately, the cardboard didn’t stand up to the wind and when they were toting a cousin around, the fort blew off the wagon.

Then, for a while, the mower wasn’t used much. It was cold outside and the boys preferred to stay inside and play with Legos. Soon, though, the spring weather had them driving around again. The boys decided the Cub needed a buddy seat. They asked for a chair that I wouldn’t mind them cutting up. We found one and out came the handsaw. A few minutes later, the legs were used for playing in the dirt pile and a little buddy seat was forming for the Cub Cadet. They grabbed an old cupboard from the barn, nailed some braces on it and stuck these braces into the mower frame. Now the chair seat was strapped to the cupboard. I tested it out, but decided that it might not be quite sturdy enough for a grown woman. It seems to have held up under quite a few children, though.

Then the boys and their sister “made hay” a few times. The grass was long enough that they cut it with the mower and made windrows. One mowed while the other would collect the grass with a rake and toss it in the wagon. They took the clippings down to the trees in the meadow and threw it there to keep the weeds down. They even gave their sister appropriate driving lessons and had her cut the grass. This allowed both boys to better keep up with the clippings collection. (Don’t worry, I kept a close eye on that process.)

Last week, a trip to a local greenhouse yielded some fun, new perennials. As I was standing in the flowerbeds contemplating where I should plant them, my oldest son asked if I needed any bushes ripped out. Why, as a matter of fact, I did, so out came the mower. He found a heavy chain and with a little pre-digging with a shovel to loosen the outer roots, that Cub Cadet pulled out two unwanted boxwood bushes.

These two sons of mine are learning some valuable lessons as they work on their Cub Cadet mower. They are gaining much knowledge about working with engines and learning how to run farm equipment. And to top it off, the memories they make as they work together are wonderful. It never ceases to make me smile when I see them pulling a wagonload of friends down to the meadow for some creek play and fort building. It’s all about joy for them, and these new skills will certainly come in handy some day in the future, too.

Lancaster Farming

Zoë Rohrer is a third-generation dairy farmer’s wife from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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