Farm Hand Gets More Than He Bargained For
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Top speed for that small Case and most other similar tractors in the 1950s was about 10 mph. That doesn’t sound like much, but compared to droning along 10 or 11 hours a day at a fieldwork speed of 3.7 mph, it seemed like flying. In most farming situations that road speed was adequate to get from field to field. However in the wide open spaces of the West, moving from one field to another sometimes meant travel of 30, 40 or even 50 miles. Today a semi would be used to haul equipment from site to site. In the 1950s, the only way to make such a move was to drive the tractor while towing an implement.
Farm hand's slight miscalculation
A 15-year-old friend lived about 60 miles south of our high mountain valley. Irrigated row-crop farming was practiced down south; we grew dryland hay and grain. Because our growing season was always behind that at lower elevation, some farmers would make the trip to help us put up our hay crop after theirs was finished. My friend’s boss started him our way early one morning driving a tractor pulling a large New Holland hay baler. Equipped to cultivate row crops, the John Deere Model B tractor was really a little small for such an implement. It was the typical spindly John Deere of the 1940s and ’50s, with a single front wheel. The baler probably weighed as much or more than the tractor because it was powered by a fairly large engine mounted above the front flywheel.
The relative size of the tractor and baler was of little consequence on the flat land where it was regularly used. However, the 60-mile trip consisted of many hills, culminating in a high one just before descending into our valley. The road speed of 11 mph seemed pretty good early on but as the hours went by, it seemed like a person could walk that fast. Some of the smaller hills required shifting down, which dramatically slowed progress. Most of the trip was through an unsettled area with no houses nearby and my friend thought he would never reach his destination.
When he finally arrived at the high last hill, he was bored out of his mind from his long, low-speed trip. He shifted down and the Model B worked hard at gaining the summit. Before him it was all downhill to the valley floor. “Here is a chance to have a little fun,” he thought. “I’ll take it out of gear and coast down.” Although he was familiar with the road, he’d never paid attention to the lay of the land. Thus he began to descend a hill much steeper than he thought it was with the tractor in neutral.
A bit low on oil