Tote Goat Brings Mobility to the Farm

Scooter-type trail machines such as the Tote Goat filled a need in rural America in a fun way.

| April 2017

  • Even the farmer I worked for was enthusiastic about the trail cycle. He is shown here trying it out for the first time in an early fall snowstorm.
    Photo courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • The author, proudly posing with his "new" Cushman Trailster. It was large enough that a second person could ride on the back.
    Photo courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • In the five decades since small scooter-type trail machines ceased being popular, this is the only one I have ever run across. "Blazer" is embossed in the side panel. Apparently built near the end of the fad, it has a 2-speed transmission.
    Photo courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • When they were popular, trail cycles weren't just playthings. Serious individuals who frequented mountainous areas incorporated them into their off-road travels. Forest Service crews found them useful in maintaining trails, and fire crews used them to access remote areas and carry equipment.
    Farm Collector archives
  • These adds show the variety of trail cycles available in the 1960s, when dozens of small manufacturers produced similar scooter-type vehicles.
    Farm Collector archives
  • These adds show the variety of trail cycles available in the 1960s, when dozens of small manufacturers produced similar scooter-type vehicles.
    Farm Collector archives
  • These adds show the variety of trail cycles available in the 1960s, when dozens of small manufacturers produced similar scooter-type vehicles.
    Farm Collector archives

Although modern Americans have the idea that everybody rode horses in earlier times, the opposite was reality. Cowboys did indeed spend much of their time astride a horse, but with the exception of occasional wagon and buggy rides, most people’s method of mobility was walking.

Even the man who farmed with horses walked most of the time. Whether it was something as routine as going out to bring in the milk cows, or something more demanding, like using a “foot burner” plow in the field all day, farmers were on their feet most of the time.

Scooters roar into farm country

The arrival of automobiles and trucks brought change, especially for travel of any distance. Around the farmstead itself, large motorized vehicles were inconvenient. Even for the farmer wealthy enough to own a vehicle, most daily activities necessitated a lot of walking.

In the 1960s, a revolution in personal transportation began. The decades immediately following World War II saw war surplus items integrated into civilian use. One of those was the small, single-cylinder gasoline engine. Although they existed before the war, during the war years such engines were refined for military use. After the war, they were suddenly widely available and inexpensive.



Handy people began building small scooter-like vehicles in farm shops across the country. The scooters shared common design features: a simple frame with the front wheel steered by handle bars; a 1-cylinder gasoline engine manufactured by established companies such as Briggs & Stratton (I always jokingly referred to those engines as “Briggs and Scrap Iron”), Tecumseh or Clinton; and a centrifugal clutch. They usually had a twist-grip throttle, a simple cable-activated brake and a seat designed for one person.

Introducing the tote goat

One of the early entrants in the category was designed to help transport big game from where it was shot back to the hunter’s vehicle. Dubbed the “tote goat,” the name stuck. From then on, all scooter-like vehicles in our area were referred to as tote goats.



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