Happy Days

It being the school holidays, I have the pleasure of the company of two grandsons for a couple of days a week.  Recently, they persuaded to make them a machete each.  It may seem a little reckless to arm a 6 year old and a 4 year old with a machete, but I judge them to be more responsible than most and they can take instruction.  Also they live on a farm with machinery and tools from a D7 bulldozer to tweezers, and I have a shed stuffed with tools most of which are potentially dangerous, including an array of 6 chainsaws.  If that wasn’t enough, they have a heap of uncles who each have a farm.  Their father takes safety seriously, and often has them with him, so lays down the law about what they have to do.  So do I.  Parents and trusted carers should take risks with their kids I believe, after the kids have been well briefed about what the risks are.  The alternative is ‘cotton-wool’ them and keep them from activities they dearly wish to try as they see the adults doing these things.  If you take that approach, you also miss the opportunity to instill a culture and mindset of safety.  They will get hurt and that will powerfully reinforce the lectures, so parents can just hope they are not badly hurt.

Anyway, I found some steel of a suitable gauge and hacked out suitably sized blades with a cutting disc.  A broken handle from some ancient tool became new handles, properly bolted, glued and bound with tape.  They asked for the tape and were quite specific it should be red to be easy to find when put down in the rainforest.  It is from clues like this that I realise they remember things I said from long ago.  Alas I didn’t have red so they had to settle for white.  Then we had a discussion about cleaning the blade of rust and sharpening.  Both wanted clean and sharp.  I used an orbital sander to clean and a bench grinder to sharpen.  I limited the sharpening.  For my own superb homemade machete, I continued with refining the angle with a belt sander, then lovingly stroked it with an oil-stone until the edge was razor quality.

Henry & Philip with machetes

They immediately went out and attacked the local vegetation with much gusto.  I had to remind them that one of the rules was that they had to keep apart by at least a few meters, but apart from that they certainly got into the swing of things.  They took their weapons home with them and you might be surprised to know that they were not promptly confiscated.  A few days later they were back in my care with their machetes.  My daughter Alice told me these were the best things they had ever had and they virtually slept with them.

The first thing they wanted to do was go and widen the road by cutting back the vegetation on both sides.   So all of use, armed with machetes, went up the road and started the long, laborious task of hacking back the ever-pressing growth along the track.  Have you ever had a problem keeping little kids on task?  Or getting a break from their constant chatter?  We were there about an hour and a half with constant work and very little said.  Just a couple of reminders for them to stay further apart.  I had equipped us all with water bottles, because any hard yakka in Oz requires a frequent drink.  And I was the one to call off the session, claiming my wrist was aching (true).  Henry didn’t want to leave until I promised another session later.  For them to be so engaged in an activity it must have a great deal of value to them.  I have some idea what the value was, but I leave you to ponder.  Hint:- emotional rewards are the arbiter of value.  We did another hour of track widening in the afternoon.

Yes, I fed them, they played in the creek, splashed water all round my patio, trashed my house and then we went back to the hard yakka of hacking track for another hour.  These kids know what hard work is, and that it can feel good and be satisfying.  I think the next time they are here on Thurs, I will up-grade the sharpening which will increase the effectiveness of their tool and the satisfaction they gain, making the point they have shown responsibility and control.  Kids really respond to praise and reward where it is justly earned.

I had a good day, the grandkids had a good day, we all learned a lot, the sun shined and what more could we hope for.



  1. Henry and Phillip are following your example Paul, they look up to you as their older male idol – That’s why they listen to you, trust you, and copy you as much as they can. They are such beautiful kids, all round, I can’t find a criticism only praise for the way they are. How lucky you are to be able to influence them in a good way, to add to the teachings of their parents and be their loving granddad as well. It’s a win/win, and may you have many more years to do this together.

  2. I literally saw the boys hacking into the roadside vegetation – skilled from lessons from GrandDad, they soon had the worrysome greenery under control. My only concern was the amount of passion with which they carried out their tasks, slashing urgently within inches of their limbs, but I needn’t have been concerned, these little kids were professional, well-trained, and focussed on getting the job done just like GrandDad! Which they did, mission accomplished.

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