homepage logo


By Staff | Aug 28, 2015

“Recycle, reuse, make do” isn’t just sound advice. For many of us, these words are a creed to live by. They also explain why I now own a skid-steer loader.

A skid-steer loader is a crucial piece of equipment for most dairy farms much in the same way that wings are a crucial piece of equipment for most airplanes.

For those of you unfamiliar with farm implements, a skid-steer loader is a smallish (although some can grow quite large) tractor-like contraption that has a loader permanently attached.

A skid loader is steered by speeding up and/or slowing down the wheels on either side of the machine, causing the tires on one or both sides to slide. A skid loader can turn on a dime and leave a nickel in change. It’s the figure skater of farm equipment.

Some skid loaders are outfitted with tracks, which makes them look like miniature tanks. Except that skid loaders generally don’t have cannons.

We didn’t have a skid loader when I was growing up on our dairy farm because Dad couldn’t afford such an extravagance.

Besides, with eight children he could make do with kid power in lieu of horsepower.

We eventually expanded our dairy to the point where a skid loader became a necessity. This was a game-changer. A person doesn’t realize how handy such a gizmo can be until you actually own one.

It was like going from a pair of tin cans connected by a piece of string to having the internet piped directly into your brain.

Our skid loader was used for everything from cleaning the barn to moving baby calves. Sometimes, just for fun, I would hop on it and do a few graceful layback spins in the barn’s driveway.

And when our sons’ room became especially messy, I would loudly opine that we might need the skid loader to neaten things up. They got the hint, so it never actually came to that.

Speaking of kids, one of the first pieces of powered farm equipment our sons operated was the skid loader. I won’t say how old they were when they first soloed in the skid loader lest I rouse the ire of the child welfare folks. And my wife.

It’s amazing how quickly youngsters can master a new activity. After operating the contraption for only a short while, our boys’ skills were such that they could have used the skid loader to pick pockets.

This proficiency proved to be a boon for our youngest son when he took a summer job with a local homebuilder. A new foundation had been poured and the excavation surrounding it needed to be backfilled with dirt. One of the construction guys mounted their skid loader and commenced backfilling operations.

At least that was his intention. The skid loader disobeyed his commands, bucking beneath him like a wild stallion. He soon abandoned the machine, declaring it defective.

Our son – who was all of 14 at the time – jumped onto the skid loader and proceeded to deftly plunk the backfill precisely where it belonged.

Because his forward-thinking dad (ahem) had enabled him to hone this skill set, our son was immediately promoted from rafter monkey to skid-steer guy.

My wife’s stepfather, Duane, is an exemplar of the “recycle, reuse, make do” doctrine.

Like many of those who were born during the Great Depression, Duane is loath to toss out anything. He has never met a bolt or a screw that wasn’t worth saving.

He will take a load to the landfill and come home with more stuff than when he left.

As a fellow former impoverished farm kid, I can deeply empathize with Duane’s impulse to hang onto junk. But I could never keep up with the lofty standards he has set regarding recycling.

I have been skid loader-less since exiting the dairy farming business some years ago. Having reached the point where he needs to simplify his life, Duane recently offered to sell his skid loader to me.

I went to take a gander at Duane’s skid loader and saw a reflection of his deeply ingrained instinct for thrift.

I don’t know how old that skid loader might be, but it’s quite possible that its original owner was Fred Flintstone.

Like many of Duane’s things, it was cobbled together from used, beat-up and rusted parts. It’s his magnum opus to the “recycle, reuse, make do” mantra.

I’m happy to be the new owner of Duane’s old skid loader. And not just because it satisfies my urge to recycle.

It’s also because my workshop has become awfully messy.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page