Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Radio Flyer

Dear Mr. Radio Flyer President,

I wanted to write to let you know that the red Radio Flyer wagon, found discarded in a back alley in Phoenix over 20 years ago and subsequently refurbished by my father-in-law (I think all it really needed was a new handle and some fresh paint) has served above and beyond all expectations.

When our kids (his grandkids) were little, this wagon was used for walks to the park (I walked, the kids rode). It was used to haul dolls up and down the driveway and toys from the front yard to the back. Our dog, Sandy, was often hitched to the handle to pull one or the other of the girls...sometimes the stuffed monkey and bear. Tipped on its side, the wagon made a good fort wall.

Once our kids were grown, we often used the wagon for gardening projects and to move items too heavy or unwieldy for the wheelbarrow. I personally liked having 4 large tires to keep the thing balanced. There were probably some years in there where we didn't use the wagon at all, but we kept it safe and dry.

Then we moved to a farm! I wonder if your people ever thought about the many uses their wagon could provide to ease the chores of farm life?! Much like the 101 uses of duct tape in the world (I think there are books about this), I could write a book.

Throughout the year, our little red wagon is used to haul hay, straw, and grain to the barn, from the barn, out to the chicken yard, and down to the garden. I have to balance my loads carefully because most of them weigh in excess of 75 lbs and the path is narrow and full of dips and holes. If I had to do this with a wheelbarrow, I am not sure I could make it across the bridge to the barn.

In fall, we use the Radio Flyer to bring the vegetables in from the garden and lots and lots of buckets filled with apples from the orchard. I also balance drying racks full of potatoes and onions, dragging them across the bumpy lawn to the root cellar. This year, we even used the wagon to take our heavy cider press out onto the grass where we pressed grapes and plums for wine (thought it would be too messy in the carport). Once the carboy glass jars were filled with liquid, we hoisted them back onto the Radio Flyer to move them to a more permanent storage area.

In winter, our little red wagon serves as the perfect transport for split wood we use in our wood stove to heat the house. The logs are just a little longer than the width of the wagon and stack nicely so that we only have to make about three trips between the wood pile and our inside bin to fill it. I have discovered that I can even drag the wagon straight into the laundry room so I don't have to walk as far.

In spring and summer, our Radio Flyer is filled with containers of flowers and veggies for planting. This is kind of an ongoing process as I find color holes that need to be filled or a special sale of something pretty to put near the front door. The wagon also is good for carrying the potting soils we need and all the tools of the trade.

So, all in all, I don't know what I should have done had we had left our Radio Flyer back in Phoenix when we moved. You have created the perfect farm tool: simple, durable, and totally useful. Exceeding your customers' expectations is always a good thing. Congratulations on a wagon for the generations, since I soon hope to be pulling my new grandson around the farm too! Regards,

Photos: top - Radio Flyer filled with chiles and tomatoes from the greenhouse; bottom - Radio Flyer loaded with a bale of straw headed for bedding in the barn.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Trapped Again

"Where's Cisco?" Karen asked when she came through the door to find me sitting on the carpet surrounded by non-working Christmas lights. I looked up, my concentration on a tiny fuse broken. Yeah, where was Cisco?

Karen, Allen and I had returned from our morning walk with three dogs instead of four. Not to worry. We had lost Cisco at the last turn down the trail and so close to the farm you could almost see the barn. We figured Cisco was following the scent of a squirrel or a deer. He knew his way back.

But, that was now two hours ago.

We had tackled the STEEP hill today, something not everyone in our group likes to climb so we reserve it for special days. I will have to admit that I am impressed at our ability to actually make it to the top because driving to the top to drop dead animals (yup, this is our sheep drop precipice hill) requires low gear.

Like any challenge and any hill, the best part is coming down. The dogs think so too although they do seem to run off the road whether we are going up or down. It's a challenge sometimes to keep them within ear shot or view because there are so many great smells and small animals, ostensibly, to chase. Today was no different. We had come home with three dogs before.

With the hill behind me and chores completed, my primary focus was getting the Christmas lights up on the house before...what? Before we looked un-merry. Cisco was not my problem but the Christmas lights were fast becoming one (or many). Snaking around the kitchen floor, every strand I had plugged into a socket so far, and I had used a variety of sockets, refused to light. How could this be when they had worked just fine a year ago when I took them down?

With vague instructions to Karen and Allen, who had come down to help me with late fall garden prep, I hopped into the truck and headed up the road to see if I could find Cisco. Was he stuck in a culvert or caught by his collar somewhere? Why did I insist that the dogs wear their collars out in the woods? So if they were hung up and strangled, someone would know where to bring the body? I got out of the truck and called and whistled. It was silly, really, to have taken the truck at all because I couldn't hear over the motor noise, and the distance from where we had last seen Cisco was only a short walk from the farm...even shorter than I remembered.

I drove half way up the hill before turning around, getting out of the truck to call, walking part way into the brush, listening for barking or whining. Nothing. No movement at all in the forest. No twigs snapping. No deer retreating from my entrance. Not even the sound of birds. I returned to the farm. Could Allen stop what he was doing and bring the dogs?

We almost gave up. We yelled and called and whistled and the dogs ran on and off the path. I ended up back at the place I had first started my search. The gully was steep sided - not something a dog could climb out from easily. I looked at Louie, Allen and Karen's yellow lab, standing still, his gaze on me, then away. I looked again and, under a fern, about a yard away from him, I saw Cisco lying quietly. He blended so well with the forest floor I wasn't sure what I was looking at and his position was peculiar.

I called to Allen I had found the dog, but something was wrong. It wasn't until I was beside Cisco that I saw the trap grabbing his front paw tightly. How long had it been? My God, at least three hours at this point. Cisco didn't make a sound. He just looked at me, scared and quiet.

Getting a dog out of a trap is a tricky thing at best. Getting Cisco out of a trap adds to the challenge. This is the dog that doesn't get his toenails clipped, he is that picky about his feet. He and I had been through this procedure once before, about two years ago, so I knew how the trap worked and what to watch out for in terms of Cisco's teeth. I had to get Allen up to speed on the trap, but he was the one to suggest we throw a jacket over the dog's head and body to keep the peace.

The trap ended up being stiff. I never could have released it on my own. Allen's first try didn't work and it took him standing on the ends to spring Cisco's foot. Adrenaline helped. We released the dog and he ran off toward the road to join the other dogs, lying down to lick his foot from time to time. Allen grabbed the trap and we yelled for all the dogs to stay close. Who knew if there were other traps around.

For the second time, Cisco was a lucky dog. $150 vet bill and antibiotics were all it took. I called Fish and Game only to find that the trap was legally registered and anyone can trap on public land, the land we were hiking. What? Did I okay this as a tax payer! Trapping is a horrible way for an animal to die. Better it be a bullet than a leg-hold trap.

I met the trapper a couple days later. It was illegal for me to keep his trap, even if my dog was caught. The guy let me know he had pulled all the traps from our road and surrounding area, not realizing there were folks walking their dogs in the woods. As he said, it was not his intention to catch family dogs. This is an increasing problem, I was told by Fish and Game. People moving to the country and walking their dogs. New ways butting up against old, causing trouble all over the place.

The trapper answered every question I asked. He and his dad had hunted out all the beaver down Honey Grove years past, and now he was working on bob cat and coyotes. What for? Pelts for clothing. Until the economy tanked this fall, he was getting $40-$50 a pelt. The life of a bob cat is worth so little? An animal that hunts rodents to live, when even Bubba our killer cat can't keep the rat and mole population under control, but bobcats might? I could have argued the point but to what avail? At least the traps are off the road and bobcats and dogs are safe for a bit up the Honey Grove.

Photo: I took this picture in the fall when the leaves were at the end of their color and the road we hike was as beautiful as I have ever seen, when I am not looking at my feet to make it up the steep bits! Wonder how many times we passed that trap without catching a dog!!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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