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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: We get to do it

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairyman Published on 09 June 2017

A couple days ago, when I was out in the barn feeding the cows, something that happened many years ago came to my mind. I was surprised because I hadn’t thought about it in years. But it brought a smile to my face, and I then realized I had to write about it.

I had just returned home from the hospital with strict orders from the doctor not to do any work for a while. It was hard for me to sit around and recuperate and watch my family and neighbors do my work. But I pretty much did that, although I did do a little bit of light work. I just couldn’t sit and do nothing. I’m sure many people reading this can relate.



On one particular day, my two young children came into the house and told me the tire on one of our chopper boxes had gone flat. It was obvious it needed fixing, and I couldn’t do it. I told them we had one of two choices: They could take the tire off, or we could have our neighbor take it off and take it into the tire shop to get it fixed.

I told them if they wanted to do it, I would come out and help them. They were all smiles and readily agreed to it. “We get to do it!” they said to each other as they ran out of the house.

Catherine carried a lawn chair down to the shed for me to sit in while Joshua got his tool box. Then he had to run back to the shop and get a jack and some blocking. My part in all of this was to give them advice when they asked for it, and only when they asked for it. This was their project.

They were so excited; this was the first time in their lives they were getting to change a tire all by themselves. What’s more, Joshua was getting to use some of his own tools he had received for Christmas. You know he couldn’t use my old tools; it had to be his new ones.

They started out by blocking the wagon good, and then Joshua jacked it up and tried to break the lug bolts loose, but the wheel turned for him. He asked me, “What do I do?” I replied, “What do you think?” “Let the jack down some?” he guessed, to which I said, “Yes.” So he quickly scurried under the box and let the jack down some.


Joshua tried with all his might to break the lug bolts loose but couldn’t. He looked at me and said, “Now what?” To which I replied, “What do you think?”

He sat there thinking a few seconds and guessed, “Get an extension pipe for my breaker bar?” To which I, smiling, said, “Yes.”

He took off running up to the shop to get it and then ran back down. He couldn’t walk; this is just too much fun. With the extension pipe, he got them all broke loose. Then I stopped him and asked the children what to do next. Catherine replies, “Jack it up higher?” To which I nodded my head.

Then they got the bolts all out and the tire off. This all took about an hour, but were there ever big smiles on their faces. They had done it. The next day, our neighbor, Howard, took the tire along with one of his own into town and got them fixed.

With the tire back home, the kids were just itching to get it back on. I knew that tire was pretty big for my young kids to get back on to the hub. I told them if they couldn’t get it, we would ask Howard to do it. But they were determined to do it, so off to the shed we went with the tire. I was happy to go out to the shed and sit in the lawn chair and supervise them; it sure beat sitting in the house.

They tried to get it on, but the hub was too low. So Joshua scurried under the wagon and jacked the jack as high as it would go. They tried to get it on then, but the hub was still too low. One of the kids said to me, “What do we do now?” To which my answer was, “What do you think?”


Suddenly, Joshua’s face lit up and he said, “Get another jack and blocking?” To which I only had to smile and nod my head. He took off running and returned a couple minutes later with them.

Having jacked it higher, the next thing was to get the wheel back on the hub with the holes lined up perfectly. That proved to be quite a job for them but, with much persistence, they got it on. Then they put the lug bolts back in and tightened them down good. With that done, they took the jacks and all the blocking out. Their faces were just beaming; they had just changed their first tire all by themselves and a good-sized one at that.

In this world today, I see so many young people who don’t work and aren’t given any responsibility. I think, “How sad.” Their parents might think they’re being nice to them in not making them work, but nothing could be further from the truth. Children need to be given work and responsibility; they need challenges. They need to do profitable things and make good use of their time.

Children who are taught to work early on and to do a good job normally make excellent workers later on when they’re adults. They normally do very well in the work place and are very blessed and fulfilled.

I can’t imagine not working, nor can my kids. I enjoy getting up every day, going out and working on the farm here. My wife and kids do too. And if I have a tire to change? I have two kids eager to do it with big smiles on their faces. They always remember that first one they did and how much fun it was.  end mark

om Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Email Tom Heck . or order his book at Tom Heck.