Letters to the Editor

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During the mid-1990s, my older brother, Fred, and I purchased
hardwood from the state. We cut, sawed and hauled the cordwood 10
miles to our homes in Pitcher on a 200-bushel barrel spreader
modified for this purpose.

One day, I drove the 40-year-old Farmall 400 to the woodlot,
pulling the empty spreader. The 400 was running good: With a recent
engine overhaul and new brakes, she could climb every hill out of
the Otselic Valley, N.Y., in high gear without shifting down. Just
before the woodlot, you have to climb the mile-long Bel Mar Hill,
which is very steep. The tractor pulled it with ease in high

Once at the woodlot, I filled the spreader full and rounded high
with green maple. On the return trip, coming to the crest of Bel
Mar Hill, I disregarded Fred’s advice to always shift the tractor
to a lower gear, instead leaving it in high fifth. The spreader,
loaded with green maple, weighed about as much as the tractor. When
about halfway down, I realized too late I should have followed
Fred’s advice. At that point, there was no possible way to shift
down, with the engine screaming and gray smoke pouring off both
brakes. I prayed that if I were to wreck, no one else would be
hurt. I continued to stand on those brakes as if my life depended
on them (and it did).

Bel Mar Hill dead-ends into the state highway with a stop sign.
With no traffic in sight and the engine sounding like it would
explode, I roared through the stop sign and managed the left turn
without losing a single stick of wood. Safely on the main road, I
pulled the rig over. A close inspection revealed the tractor and
spreader were OK. I continued the rest of the way home with no
additional thrills.

When Fred saw the tractor with those blackened brake housings,
he lifted his eyebrows and said, “Wow! What happened?” The cost of
my foolish act: a new set of brakes, repainting the brake housings
(which had been scorched solid black) and chastising myself for
risking lives and property just to save a few minutes. Maybe others
can learn from my mistake: Always put safety first!

Gil Raymond
Kershaw, S.C.

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