Considering That Ounce of Caution

Read this editor letter about why and how safety features can be a boon to you and your family while farming.

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courtesy by UK MF Archives
Harry Ferguson demonstrating the 1936 Ferguson-Brown Type A with 3-point hitch.

In America, our lives are wrapped in one great big layer of protection. From OSHA directives to food packaging, appliance safety (your toaster is not approved for use while bathing!) to warnings printed on everything from plastic bags to toddlers’ inflatable pool toys, government and industry have done all they could to enhance safety.

These days, of course, that fact is often the target of ridicule and scorn. We can afford to be snarky. How many farmers were killed this year by tractors that suddenly reared and flipped backward?

It was not always so. Before the invention of the 3-point hitch, tractors were designed to take the place of horses and used trailed implements. Because of the weight of the implement on the back, if the tractor was plowing and the implement hit an obstruction, the rear wheels would not slip and the tractor would tip over backward, often before the driver had a chance to react, leading to serious accidents.

The Fordson, in particular, had a marked and well-known propensity to tip. One magazine of the era recommended each Fordson be painted with the somber message “Prepare to meet thy god.” Nearly every category of early farm equipment contained at least one model referred to as a “widow maker.”

In the past several issues of Farm Collector, readers have recounted horrendous encounters with everything from husker-shredders to seed-strippers. All of these incidents occurred decades and decades ago, before safety appeared on any manufacturer’s radar.

Today, farm accidents still occur, but the volume and severity would surely be multiplied many times if it not for rollbars, shields, kill switches and countless other innovations. Harry Ferguson’s 3-point hitch caused less soil compaction and reduced field time and fuel expenditures – but it also paved the way for lifesaving innovations (Writer Bob Pripps walks you through invention of the 3-point hitch here).

Who among us hasn’t modified something to override safety features? Human nature being what it is, we’re probably going to keep looking for shortcuts, timesavers and easy ways out. If you ever got in a hurry and it backfired on you, you know all about haste and waste. A new year approaches: Why not resolve to be safe in 2021? An ounce of caution truly is worth a pound of cure!  FC

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment