Letters to the Editor

Room for rubber and steel

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The article "An Uphill Battle" by Sam Moore (Farm Collector, September 2006) brought back memories of my dad in 1936. We lived on a wheat farm in Grant County, Okla. We owned a quarter section of land and he usually rented three additional quarters. He had a couple of good crops and decided he needed to upgrade his farm equipment - two new Case Model L tractors, two new 4-bottom, 14-inch plows and a grain drill. He wasn't convinced that rubber-tired tractors were the way to go, so he bought one on rubber and one on steel. His theory was that he would pull the combine with the rubber tractor, but if the ground was too wet and they got stuck, he would switch to the "lug" tractor.

As soon as the combine made its first trip around the field and the back swath was cut, a hired hand started plowing with the lug tractor. When harvesting was done, both tractors were put to plowing, sometimes night and day. Usually by the first week of July all the fields were plowed.

The main advantage of the lug tractor in plowing was you didn't need to steer it. Just set the front wheel in the furrow and the steel vertical blade didn't deviate unless the steering wheel was turned. Dad never liked narrow-front wheel-type row crop tractors, because you had to steer them everywhere you went. Since we plowed the fields round and round, when the field was finished you had to "plow out" the corners. This was where the steel wheel tractor had a distinct advantage. You were plowing across open furrow after open furrow. The rubber-tired tractor bounced every time you hit a furrow regardless of which wheel hit and sometimes the opposite wheel hit furrows at the same time. Talk about "rock-a-bye-baby in the tree top." With the steel wheeler, you hardly noticed when it crossed an open furrow.

In later years we just lifted the plow out of the ground at the end of the furrow, did a sharp right-hand turn and dropped the plow back into the ground heading off in a right angle. Of course by that time, the plow lift was equipped with hydraulics, which was much smoother and faster than the old mechanical lift system.

Finally, in 1944, Dad persuaded the OPA to allow him to buy a set of used tires for the tractor and he converted it from steel to rubber. The old steel rims were sold as junk to support the war effort. In 1945 when we moved to a new farm in Harper County, Kan., he sold the old lug tractor (now on rubber) to the young man who took over farming the rented farm where we lived. In the end, except for plowing out corners, he had to agree that rubber did just as good a job as steel wheels.

- Ivan L. Pfalser
R.R. 1, Box 162
Caney, KS 67333
(620) 879-2938

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