On an 83-degree August day in Star Valley, Wyoming, as family and friends celebrate his 62nd birthday with a barbecue and chocolate cake, Tony Panarisi is thinking about winter. Unlike the expression he likely wore for nine previous winters, however, this time the cabinetmaker, artist and horseman is wearing a smile.

As to the source of that — let’s just call it a grin, really — look no further than to the 2,700-pound Kioti (pronounced like coyote) tractor parked along the edge of the 10-acre horse ranch that Tony runs with his wife of a dozen years, Priscilla Marden. “I’d be out there on my Honda riding blower,” Tony says, “which is made mainly for walkways, and all my neighbors would be out there in their enclosed tractor cabs very comfortably, very happily blowing snow off their driveways.”

The winter weather microcosm over Tony’s and Priscilla’s Diamondfly Ranch tends to dump more snow on theirs and other properties along the base of the Salt River Range than it does on homes just a few hundred yards to the west. With two dozen horses — sometimes more — on the ranch, he adds, “We need to have a clear path for the truck and horse trailer so that we can get to the vet at any time.” Given that the Honda tended to max out against a measly 4-inch storm, necessity was becoming the mother of a trip to the farm equipment dealer in nearby Idaho Falls.

But first, the practical, suburban-born Panarisi jumped on YouTube and asked, “What’s the best way to buy a tractor?” He recalls, “One guy went into dealer after dealer asking a hundred questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask. Another guy just did one-on-one comparisons.” Tony’s approach involved a little of both. While peppering the salesman with questions about a shiny, brand new Kioti, he noticed another bright orange one right next to it for $18,000, or about half the price of the new one.

“It was three years old, on consignment from a guy who wanted to upgrade to something bigger and better,” Tony recalls, “and it still has three years left on the warranty.”

In the month that he’s owned the Kioti CK2610 with its versatile KL2610 frontloader, Tony’s winter-prep exercises have included hauling off a tree that blew onto his shed, moving tons more manure than he ever could before, and giving rides in the enclosed cab to the grandkids who were visiting with his stepson.

“It was forty bucks every time I had to call someone to plow my driveway,” he recalls with a wince, “then it got to be a hundred. Still, I always seemed to be last on the guy’s list. Now I am in much better control of our life. I can do bigger and better things.”

Such as unloading his own pallets of cabinetry that arrive on trucks that never seem to have lift gates. Such as getting stuff into and out of the barn’s hay loft door, where once a tall ladder and lots of muscle were required. Tony says he was tempted to splurge on a front-end snow blower, $6,000, but elected to go with the rear-end unit for $2,000. “I’m glad I did,” he says, “I asked my neighbor first, and he said with a front-end blower I’d have to take my front bucket off for the whole winter. It’s worth it to me to have that bucket ready to use, plus I saved four grand.”

Standing on the green grass of his front yard, holding a cup of coffee and admiring another spectacular Wyoming sunset, Tony confesses that he does love summer. But given his investment in the orange machine that will change his life as he no more comes in from the cold looking like a snowman, it is a fair bet that he is looking forward to this winter more than ever.

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Clifford Fewel’s AutoFewel column appears each week in the Tri-Valley Dispatch, as well as online at pinalcentral.com/opinion/columns.

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