The Big Red Monster

Rick Ryckeley

All of our efforts to stop it had failed. Bruised, beaten and bleeding, my three brothers and I could only watch in horror as the surreal scene before us continued to unfold.

As if it had a mind of its own, the big red monster lumbered past us on its way down the hill, only slightly slowing its destructive rampage as it entered the swamp.

Continuing to churn forward, the colossus bellowed agonizing sounds of a huge beast in pain. Arriving at the middle of the swamp, it let out one last gasp while struggling to free itself. Holding our breaths, we all thought that it would.

The monster, after toppling on its side, finally disappeared in the gray muck. The swamp swallowed it and, in doing so, swallowed the hideous sound that was still ringing in our ears. The behemoth was dead…and my three brothers and I were soon to follow.

Dad had just entered his beloved garden. A garden that now lay completely demolished. All of us were at fault for the machine’s destructive rampage.

Early Saturday morning, Dad had given us one job – using the tiller to dig up the garden. He’d be back down at lunchtime to start planting.

The garden was located at the edge of the swamp at the bottom of the grassy hill in our backyard. Soon all that digging became laborious, and we were getting bored so Big Brother James came up with a great idea to dig while also having fun. One of us could sit on the top of the monster red tiller as someone else walked behind, guiding it as it dug up the black dirt.

Riding the wild machine was fun … until it suddenly lurched violently due to digging up a root or large rock, bucking the rider off. As long as you weren’t the one flying through the air and crashing into the ground like a sack of potatoes, it was really funny to watch. After we all had a couple of turns, Older Brother Richard had another idea.

With a six-foot length of rope tied to each of the tiller’s handles, Richard held onto the ends while sitting in the red wagon. Twin Brother Mark started the machine, placed it in drive, jumping out of the way just as a laughing Richard bumped his way past.

Pulling on the ropes, he was able to guide the big red monster around the garden. It wasn’t very effective digging up Dad’s garden, but it sure was lots of fun — right up until Twin Brother Mark took his turn.

Halfway around the garden, the tiller dug into a large rock. Thrown off course, it headed straight towards the garden tool shed. The sudden change tossed Mark off the wagon and into the freshly dug dirt where he slammed his head into the rock. He was bleeding but okay. Crashing through the side of the shed, the tiller finally rumbled to a stop. Seeing all the carnage, I got a bit nervous.

Helping extricate the tiller, I said, “We really need to dig the garden. Dad will be here soon.” Everyone agreeing, we started back to work. We each took turns struggling behind the tiller as it dug the black dirt. At best, it was difficult to keep the machine under control when it was just digging and breaking up dirt, but add any rocks or sticks and the job was almost impossible.

And that was the last game we played that morning: How many sticks or rocks can you run over without losing control? The game lasted half an hour before my brothers thought it would be funny to throw grapefruit-sized rocks in front of the tiller. I tried to hold on, but one of the rocks hit the controls, jamming the big red monster into high.

Torn out of my hands, it started a jerking journey towards its ultimate destination — the swamp. We each tried to stop it, but to no avail. Eventually, all of us were thrown to the ground, exhausted and bleeding. And that’s how Dad found us.

From that day forward, we were only allowed to dig the garden with hoes, shovels, picks, and pitchforks. Dad said it would be safer than using a gas power tiller and harder for any of us to get hurt.

Yep, you guessed it. During the fall gardening season, one of us got hurt dreadfully bad. But the story of just how the emergency room doctor got that pitchfork out of Mark’s foot is a story for another time.

Happy gardening and be safe … especially if you have small children helping you.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]