These Wheels are Made for Hiking…and Hunting, and Fishing, and…

 

Brad Parker uses eight wheels instead of two legs.

The 28-year-old Noelville-area resident (southeast of Sudbury, Ontario) uses an Argo to get around his property, to go hunting, fishing or “romping through the bush.”

A 1979 car accident severed his spinal cord, and Parker was to spend the rest of his life using a wheelchair. “I just felt lost, sitting around and watching TV,” says Parker. But a zest for the outdoors and modern technology have combined to get him out, and he’s more active than many people who have the use of two legs.

The Argo is an amphibious all-terrain vehicle. The throttle and steering are hand-controlled. Parker also has a winch attached to the front of his machine. If the Argo gets stuck, the steel cable is pulled off the winch and attached to a heavy object, such as a tree. The winch then pulls the vehicle out.

“I’ve hooked it up myself,” says Parker of the winch. “I had to get out, crawl through the snow and hook it up, and then crawl back.”

After getting out of the hospital in 1980, Parker became aware of an Argo for the first time. He used one and liked it. The machine gave him more mobility than anything else as he drove around his family’s Woodstock-area farm.

“After the accident we thought we would try it, and see what it was like,” says Parker. “It’s just what I needed. They are hand-controlled, and you can drive them all year round.” In the winter the Argo is better for him than a snowmobile because Parker finds it easier to keep his balance on the Argo.

Parker bought a secondhand Argo, and used it for a few years. Then he purchased a new model, and drove it for eight years. “The tires were flat, the top was gone. I really put it through its paces,” he says of that machine’s condition when he traded it in.

The southern-Ontario company which manufactures the Argo delivered a new machine to Parker’s home in January 1992. He paid $11,198 after trading in his old Argo, and it’s worth every penny as far as he’s concerned.

Parker’s love of the outdoors led him to look for a place in the north, and he found the perfect spot in the Noelville area in the fall of 1991. It has 160 acres (64 hectares), most of which is bush, a large house and a small cottage beside a lake. “I always wanted a place with a lake,” says Parker, who adds he’s “always outside.”

He uses the Argo for hauling wood, and come spring a small outboard motor can be attached to the stern to move it quickly through the water. It’s ideal for fishing as Parker doesn’t have to transfer to a boat and back. He can simply drive the machine to the lake’s edge and into the water where he can “wet a line.”

Some modifications were made to his latest model. Special roll bars and a five-point seat belt, the kind used in racing cars, were installed. A fire extinguisher and transfer handle to help Parker ease out of his wheelchair and into the Argo were also added.

A few months before Parker’s new Argo arrived, he tried a little deer hunting with his bows and arrows. He had to use his wheelchair to get through the bush.

“It took a while to get back there,” he says. “It makes it a challenge.”

Argos are manufactured by Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd., which is based in New Hamburg, near Kitchener, Ontario. Bob Hunter, a company representative, says the Argo can be equipped with a remote-controlled arm that will lift a wheelchair into the machine. That’s one of the modifications the company can make to the machines to meet the needs of people with physical disabilities.

“It’s a small market, but it’s one we are pursuing,” says Hunter. “It’s gratifying because it opens up the outdoors to people who use wheelchairs.”

(Terry Pender is a reporter for the Sudbury Star. Reprinted with permission.)

 

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