HOW A ROTOTILLER KEPT ME OFF THE STREETS
My dad shelled out $250 in 1974 for a piece of state-of-the-art technology: The Sears Roto-Spader. This four-horsepower monster, powered by a futuristic two-stroke Briggs & Stratton engine,had a place of pride in his garage.
Dad bought this monster truck of rototillers because my parents had recently purchased a nice home on three acres at the top of Whidbey Island in Elliott Bay, near Seattle. They had the house made to their specifications, and now it was time to put in a lawn and a large garden. Recently retired from a 20-year stint, my dad would see the entire globe consumed in hellfire before he hired someone to do something as simple as ready the soil and roll out some sod—thus the Roto-Spader purchase.
This mustard-and-white Mercedes of gas-powered tilling machines did what was asked of it. It chewed up a vast virgin acre amid the towering Douglas firs of dad’s maritime estate. It mixed the steer manure and other fertilizers in and patted it down, all while gently humming Charlie Pride songs under its breath.It was just that awesome.
When my dad bought the Roto-Spader back in ’74, he expected it would last. It was built during an age when such things were expected, after all. But he did not expect that what he bought to put in a lawn would keep his eldest son from having to take up residence in an al fresco riverside camp alongside gentlemen with names like Skillet and Thumbless Ned.
Now, fast-forward through years (and years and years). I graduated from college and, like all forward-planning individuals in a world of spreadsheets and focus groups, had zero idea what I was going to do with myself. I knew I was going to attend rock shows and write poetry. But I quickly figured out that neither would keep a roof over my head. So, with an unnecessarily dramatic flourish, I whipped the dusty tarp off a banged-up, nicked and oxidized relic of the past and went to work.
The modern world in which the Roto-Spader awoke is one of shoddy workmanship, where garden tools and even automobiles are cobbled together by committees and constructed of plastic. The Roto-Spader, American-made of 95% metal and 5% magic, roared in frustration. Time to show them how they do it downtown.
Over the next few years, Rusty, as the 1974 Sears Roto-Spader is now known, churned his way through a thousand miles of sun-baked Willamette Valley clay—relentless, militant, animated by purpose once again. I charged a reasonable fee to those to whom I introduced Rusty.
Rusty helped me bridge the gap between college and career.
It’s 2010. Last week, I got out the 36-year-old rototiller. I started Rusty up. Rusty and I rototilled some garden, is what we did.
That’s called value, cats and kittens.