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Fringe benefits of off-road vehicles

I try to avoid endorsing products, unless of course they pay me a kick-back, but at times a person can not help themselves.

Everyone needs to have a Gator, Mule, Ranger or any other brand of similar vehicle. It is what may be referred to as high-priced toys for grown-up boys. These are four- or six-wheeled vehicles with seats that are side- by-side.

I happen to have a Gator. It has a roll cage, windshield and a bed in the back that will dump with the push of a button. If I were not opposed to such descriptions, I might call it an old person's four-wheeler. I have had four-wheelers and enjoyed them a great deal. At the time, I also had teen-aged sons that enjoyed them even more than I did, to the point they would not last for more than a year or two.

Unlike most four-wheelers, a Gator will not race through the pasture at 60 miles per hour. Top speed is more like 25. At this stage in my life, that is as fast as I need to go. I am not in nearly as much of a hurry as I was a few years ago. It is nice to have a windshield to block the cold north wind, and four-wheel drive means you probably will not get stuck. If you do, you are really stuck, because a Gator is also fairly heavy.

I justified the purchase for farm use. A person can put several posts, rolls of wire, and tools in the back when they are needed for fence repair. Seed, feed or salt blocks can be transported with the greatest of ease.

The best use I have found for it so far is touring. It is great to load the wife, a grandson or two, perhaps a dog or two in the back, and tour the farm.

The weather was unusually warm last Sunday. My wife and I gatored around the lake and saw a pair of bald eagles watching at the edge of the woods. Two trumpeter swans circled the lake and landed in the far reaches away from the traffic. We saw numerous deer and countless turkey before heading back to the cabin, where we met up with Damon, Amanda, the grandsons, and their trusty dog, Boudreaux.

Damon and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather to cut some firewood and sight in the rifles. The suggestion was all it took for the women, kids and dogs to disappear with the Gator. Before the Gator returned, we had the rifles sighted in, shot all the bullets we had, and cut enough firewood to last several families a year.

When the Gator wound its way into the timber, of the two dogs that started out running ahead, one was lagging behind, and the other was riding in the back. One little boy was still excited, grinning from ear to ear, but his brother was fast asleep in his mother's arms. From the women and the awake grandson, we heard the story of the great ride through the timber while the dogs collapsed and slept at our feet. They had a fun ride, going only where they felt comfortable, but still getting to see all corners of the farm.

I may have been able to justify an expensive toy for farm use, but I think it may have been taken over by my wife. She can see wildlife, exercise the dogs and put the younger grandson to sleep all at the same time. I hope to be able to use it occasionally.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.