The tractor of the future: 20 miles to the bale and never needs an oil change!


What if I told you that I'd developed a tractor that ran on hay, produced a biodegradable exhaust that could be used for fertilizer and required minimal upkeep? What if I told you that it was not only cheap, sustainable, and environmentally sound, but that it was a cutie-wootie, fuzzy-wuzzie widdle sad-faced mule?

Yes, that's right: mules are back. After decades of being largely ornamental, the sterile offspring of donkeys and horses are being returned to service. Not only do they run on grass and look cute, but mules are less temperamental than other beasts of burden, and don't need a lot of maintenance. In fact, as Tennessee farmer T.R. Raymond has discovered, they are a cheap alternative to the tractor that he previously used for farm chores. As Raymond's son Robert noted, these traditional farm animals are "the wave of the future."

One wonders how long it will be before other animals start returning to the ranks of the working class. With gas prices rising, many beasts of burden will soon become cheaper than the machines that replaced them. With mules making a comeback, can oxen be far behind? How about donkeys, Shetland ponies, and Clydesdales? In fact, PETA be damned, my next vehicle will be a pinto, of the four-legged variety!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's tried to get his cat to help out around the house. Apart from an unfortunate incident involving a spray of Endust and a frenzied run around the apartment, it hasn't worked out too well.

Originally published