LET'S TALK RUSTY IRON
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Walk-behind and shovel plows
By 1840, walk-behind, single-horse wooden cultivators with iron teeth came into use, along with the shovel plow - little more than a shovel blade attached to a wooden beam and pulled by a horse. Yet, by 1850, farmers used walk-behind, straddle-row cultivators in the fields. These machines were pulled by two horses and allowed the cultivation of both sides of a row in asingle pass, thus cutting cultivation time in half.
Two angled beams - each carrying two or three shovels, or 'teeth' - were attached to the cultivator frame so that the teeth ran on each side of the row. The combined cultivator beam and its attached teeth is called a gang. A wood-en plow handle was attached to the rear of each beam so the operator could sink the teeth into or away from the row of plants as he walked behind. This feature was useful for dodging corn plants that were out of line or for taking out a weed that was in the row between the hills.
Finally, several enterprising (or lazy) individuals rigged a seat on the straddle-row machines so the operator could ride. Then a problem arose: how to move the teeth into and out of each row without the operator's help? That problem was solved on some machines by leaving the wooden handles in place on either side of the seat so the operator could reach them and guide the plow blades.
Other designs included a foot stirrup to each gang so the perator could use his feet to steer the gangs. On still other machines, foot stirrups not only moved the gangs sideways, but also steered the cultivator wheels as well for really quick dodging. Some cultivators - appropriately called 'wiggle tails' - were designed so a slight swaying motion of the body swung the seat to one side or the other. This motion of the seat, in conjunction with the operator's feet on the gangs, provided the necessary side ways movement for the equipment.
Literally hundreds of one-row riding cultivator variations existed during that time. The equipment offered by just one manufacturer, B.F. Avery & Sons, included cultivators bearing such names as Joy Rider, Jack Rabbit, Bob White, Southern Queen, Avery Queen, Avery Leverless, Avery Pivot Axle, Majestic and Majestic Jr. Many more makers existed, some brands remembered and some long forgotten. These machines were designed to quickly and cleanly cultivate any row crop under any kind of soil condition.