It's All Trew

Back by Popular Demand: Revisiting the go-devil

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The column I wrote for the January 2006 issue of Farm Collector ("What the Dickens is a Go-Devil?") generated more than 30 responses from all over the country. Phone, letter and e-mail messages told of readers' experiences with a go-devil or a Listed-Crop Cultivator, which was the official company name for this implement.

Little boy tales of runaway teams, turning too short and upending the tool, spankings by papa for not tending to business, barbed wire fences, stray skunks and other weird happenings all involved the lowly go-devil cultivator.

One "good ol' boy" tale told of an elderly man and wife traveling across country to a family gathering. Along the way, he saw a go-devil sitting in a yard and stopped to inquire. Not surprisingly, he purchased the oddity.

To prevent having to return to pick it up, he installed ski racks on the roof of his car, tied the go-devil to the rails and continued his journey. At every stop along the way, he had to explain what the dickens he was hauling, and how it worked.

Many readers told of owners using "southern-inspired" innovations to make the tool perform certain jobs on specialty crops or in unusual soil conditions. Most interesting of all were the stories and photos telling of the change from horsepower to gasoline power and efforts to adapt the old equipment to new tractor options, trying to forestall expenditures for new equipment.

"Little-boy tales of run-away teams, turning too short and upending the tool, spankings by papa for not tending to business, barbed wire fences, stray skunks and other weird happenings all involved the lowly go-devil cultivator."

This evolution first involved placing two go-devils side-by-side, hitched together in a drag-type, 2-row configuration. Next, some placed three or four units side-by-side in a 3- or 4-row, drag-type configuration. Another improvement added lift-wheels activated by jerk ropes to lift the implement out of the ground in order to turn more sharply. And finally, all the knives, shovels, sweeps and disc apparatus were attached to tool bars lifted hydraulically by the tractor.

The hydraulic lift is considered the most important improvement in farm machinery since the PTO was invented to transfer tractor power to the implement, eliminating old ground-drive wheels. Amazingly, moving a small handle now lifted or powered the equipment being used.

Thanks to Robert D. Hansen, a Farm Collector reader from Crescent, Iowa, for sending dealer catalog illustrations giving instructions on how to set, adjust and operate a tool bar mounted, 4-row listed-crop cultivator. In spite of the multitude of new innovations, designs and engineering improvements, a close study reveals the original configurations of the simple, old-time go-devil.

Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; e-mail: trewblue@centra media.net