When our first child, Philip, was born, his great-grandfather sent us a check with a note asking us to buy him a wagon. Little did Grandfather know how useful this gift would be in the years ahead.
We went out and bought a medium-size Radio Flyer, just like the ones we had as children.
Our baby enjoyed rides galore: to the park to gather leaves and chestnuts, down the street to the horse pasture to pet the horses and to the corner store for a loaf of bread.
When his baby sister, Janie, arrived, she joined her big brother in the little red wagon, his chubby arms holding her tight.
Finally their little brother, Paul, completed the family circle. He crowded out Philip, who was ready for kindergarten and had graduated to riding a bicycle.
We had our tumbles. A wagon isn’t built for hot-rodding, and, as every wagon-pulling parent knows, corners are especially tricky.
But early childhood passed in relative safety, and that little red wagon had a birthday each summer along with our oldest child.
About 10 years after we bought the wagon, we moved to the country. We sold the children’s outgrown and outdated possessions, but the wagon wasn’t among them.
We cherished the memories it held, and hoped it would give us more years of service and fun. As it turned out, we had no idea how useful this battered piece of metal on wheels would be in our country paradise. It went where the pickup, the wheelbarrow and the riding mower feared to roll.
You wouldn’t believe what we’ve done with that wagon. We moved the playhouse, the chicken house, the sheep shed, you name it. This requires every hand on the place and a balancing act that would bring applause in any circus, but the job gets done.
Railroad ties, concrete blocks, sod, compost, manure, hay bales, and 50-pound feed sacks have all taken a ride at one time or another.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. If the wagon is involved, the children don’t see it as work. Wagons are for fun, aren’t they? We did get a few grumbles, but teaching the kids the value of work is one of the reasons we chose to live in the country.
The wagon will be 16 years old this year. Philip is ready for fancier wheels, something with shinier paint that requires a driver’s license to operate. But we aren’t ready to trade the wagon in just yet.
You would hardly call it red anymore, and it has a few rust holes, but, hey, there’s more work to be done out here. We’ll have potatoes and onions from the garden to haul in, lambs will be born next spring, and who knows what will need moving.
If any grandparents are wondering what to buy for your grandbabies, I recommend a wagon. Their parents will thank you for years to come.