Son engineers plan to get Bob rolling again

Susan Manzke
Bob on his mower with his engineer son, Russ, checking to see if his creation is working properly.

When our son Russ was a child, he always wanted to know how things worked. Early on it was easy to see that he took after his dad. Both look at mechanical objects, wondering how they work and how they can be improved.

The entire family was proud when Russ earned his mechanical engineering degree from UW-Madison, but no more than Bob—my husband is an engineer. It’s the way he thinks and works on the farm.

Today, Russ brought his dad a special engineered gift. Ever since cancer weakened Bob, he worried that he’d never be able to do any work again. He especially missed mowing lawn with his zero-turn mower. It would have been too difficult for him to step up over the mower, and then onto the platform before getting onto the seat. But what could he do?

Russ took this as a challenge. His dad needed steps and railings to get aboard his mower. With pencil and paper, Russ started to sketch ideas about possible solutions. He and Bob discussed the mower and what was needed.

Our family engineer took his ideas home and stuck them on a CAD program, drawing up ideas and then emailing them to his dad.

It took some tweaking, but Russ came up with a design to attach to the mower that would help his dad get on and off without problems.

A couple of weeks ago, Russ brought the iron to the farm to do the final measurements and start cutting the lengths of metal.

Bob came out to watch Russ work and to add his two cents to the project. It was one of the first days Bob had been out of the house besides going to doctor appointments. The day tired Bob out, but he was excited about the project—not being able to do any kind of work made Bob feel useless. Now it looked like things were about to change for the better.

Today, Russ came with the finished mower adaptation, ready to complete the assembly.  Bob was outside again watching his son work.

This time more family members were around because we were celebrating Easter. Rachel’s husband, Dave, was lending a hand with the last minute work on the mower addition. All this was taking place while eight of our grandchildren ran around the yard having a belated Easter egg hunt.

After the egg hunt and a potluck lunch, it was time to give Russell’s creation a test run. Bob walked to the front of the mower. He grabbed hold of both railings and stepped up.

The lowest step was easy to reach. The second step took Bob up and finally he was on the mower platform. He still had hold of the upper framework, which was great as Bob needed to steady himself. He then turned and sat comfortably on the seat—exiting was just as easy.

Bob was overjoyed. It took a few turns of the key, but soon the mower came to life. Bob pulled out of the garage and was on his way—Russ made the lowest step fold up out of the way when Bob mows the ditch.

Bob drives into the ditch with front step folded up out of the way.

There were tears in Bob’s eyes as he drove away. There were also tears in the eyes of all the adults who watched this monumental drive.

Now that Bob can get on and off of the mower on his own, he’s going to try to take off without me. The thing is that I don’t intend to let Bob roll around the farm alone. When he’s out mowing I’ll be nearby on our cart. That will be my way to keep an eye on him and see that he doesn’t get into trouble. But it sure is nice that Russ gave him the opportunity to get into trouble again. Thanks, Russ.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;