The Tongue Truck, or Kids Sometimes Misunderstand

| 11/23/2011 10:46:54 AM

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An acquaintance named Melvin once told me of an experience he had as a young boy on his father’s farm. The father had been an active farmer until being badly enough injured in an accident that he gave up farming and went into a business where he needed a truck. He bought a used, early 1940s Ford one-ton pickup that the family always referred to as “the ton truck.”

 1940 Ford One-Ton truck 
1940 Ford One-Ton truck. From a Ford ad in the Jan. 1940 Farm Journal, from the author's collection. 

The father then advertised the no longer needed farm machinery, which included a grain binder, for sale. One day a farmer came to look at the grain binder, which led to Melvin’s embarrassing moment. Melvin’s father wasn’t home but the boy, feeling quite important, undertook to show the machine to the prospective buyer. After a careful examination of the binder and a lot of questions, which Melvin endeavored to answer, the farmer asked, “Do you have a tongue truck?”

Melvin had never heard of a tongue truck and heard the question as, “Do you have a ton truck?” “Yes!” He answered and proudly led the way to a shed where he pointed to the Ford. After a good bit of confusion on both sides, it was revealed that there was no tongue truck for the machine and the disappointed buyer left empty handed.

For those of you who, like Melvin, aren’t familiar with tongue trucks, here’s an explanation.

Tongue trucks were often used, not only with horse-drawn mowers and grain binders, but with disk harrows, corn planters, corn binders, potato diggers and even dump rakes. Most two-wheeled, horse-drawn machines are designed with the seat sticking out behind the axle, thus allowing the operator’s weight to help offset the weight of the implement on the horse’s shoulders. Tongue trucks are used to lessen this weight on the horses, but they have other important benefits as well.