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Published May 10, 2010, 03:05 PM

Daddy the draft horse

TOWNER, N.D. — Of all the tasks I’ve taken on since I was kid, there’s been one overriding constant — picking up stuff and carrying it from here to there.

By: Ryan Taylor,

TOWNER, N.D. — Of all the tasks I’ve taken on since I was kid, there’s been one overriding constant — picking up stuff and carrying it from here to there.

I’ve carried feed buckets from the granary to the trough, grocery sacks from the car to the house, fence posts, lumber, salt blocks and sacks of mineral from where they are to where they ought to be.

If I ever complained of the manual labor, my folks would assure me that hard work never killed anyone. Of course, I never asked them to cite any actual medical research to back up that claim.

Nowadays, we buy stuff in volume that comes on pallets so the folks at the farm stores can load you with ease using a forklift. But when I get home, sans forklift, I roll up my sleeves and start unloading my palletized parcel one box at a time. Pick it up here, carry it over there.

The years of training as a pack animal serve me well now as a father with three small children.

Carry me!

Packing kids around starts innocently enough when they come home from the hospital at a svelte 7 or 8 pounds. No problem. It’s an easy and pleasant little package to tote.

Then they start growing and before long, you’re looking at a 40-pound toddler with outstretched arms pleading, “Carry me, carry me!” You start to think twice, and remember the advice about lifting with your legs as you bend over to get them.

Like all good beasts of burden, parents have devised various harnesses to handle the load. There are slings, wraps and something from the ingenious Swedes called a BabyBjorn to pack around the infants. They’re expandable to the point where kids should start moving themselves around.

The harnesses adapt as the kids age. I got a homemade man harness from friends whose son used it to pull tires and weights around to strengthen his leg muscles for sports training.

I slipped it over my shoulders and used it to pull a sled full of youngsters across the snow while I was cross country skiing. It makes me look a little like Roald Amundsen striding for the South Pole, except the supplies in my trailing sled are wiggling around and shouting, “Mush, Daddy, mush!”

Wheeled transport

Versatile horses and parents are broke to ride or drive.

Piggyback rides are great fun for the rider, but a little tough on the parental pony over long distances, especially in hilly country. Shoulder rides are best for the outdoors. Inside, the doorways are sure to catch you getting careless and result in some bumps and boo boos.

When not riding their father, the kids enjoy a nice buggy ride with Dad pulling the cart behind his bike. I pack ’em in, gear down my fat-tired prairie mountain bike and hit the trail.

Together, the boys are getting to be pretty heavy cargo. After our last trip, this draft horse daddy was all in. I put the boys on the scale, added the pounds, counted the axles and divided it all out. I told them we were breaking the spring road restriction rules and they’d have to start pedaling themselves on our trips. Don’t want to damage the roads, you know.

They just as well may start building some endurance to be a paternal pack horse themselves someday.