Why I Can’t Live Without My Red Wagon

Here's the story of how a simple red wagon, the perfect size for many farm tasks, has become an irreplaceable piece of equipment.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

As many hobby farmers know, once in a while we come to possess a tool or machine that we use with such frequency that it becomes impossible to imagine life without it. The item in question becomes more than just another piece of equipment—it becomes a part of the farm.

Such is the case with my red wagon.

The red wagon is roughly what its name implies—a two-wheeled, medium-size wagon with a metal frame and wooden sides painted red. The red wagon is pretty old at this point; maybe not 20 years old, but close to it. In some respects, the years have not been kind to the red wagon; the fenders are a bit bent out of shape, and one of the wooden sides had to be rebuilt recently (although now it’s stronger). But these flaws, if you can even call them flaws, are more like testaments to the hard work that the red wagon has performed over the years.

Numerous factors make the red wagon so useful. For one, it’s large enough that it can hold a sizable load, unlike a typical yard cart that is much too small to move a large amount of anything. Its size and quality also mean it can be towed behind a tractor or truck; it even has blinkers. Yet at the same time, the red wagon is small enough that it can be towed by a lawn mower and maneuvered into tight spaces where larger wagons (such as a hay wagon) could never go.

Over the years, the red wagon has moved a multitude if items and substances—hay, dirt, mulch, tree branches, debris, rocks, building supplies, tools, fence posts, you name it. It has gone around fields for fence repair work, carrying the many supplies and tools needed for complicated jobs; it has carried huge loads of tree branches that had to be tied down with ratcheting straps.

Earlier this month, I was working on pruning back a large number of small trees and cleaning up a bunch of fallen pine branches. The area is surrounded by larger trees, and a hay wagon (my usual choice for this work) couldn’t even begin to enter it. But using a lawn mower, I could easily drive the red wagon in between the large trees and park it right where I was working, saving a lot of time and effort.

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Needless to say, if I were to create a Hall of Fame for farm equipment, the red wagon would have to be one of the inaugural inductees.

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