A Fateful Day with the Rotary Hoe

The article about being bounced off the blue grass stripper reminded me of the time I fell off our DC Case tractor.

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by Duane Spencer
An old rotary hoe wheel not unlike the ones Duane Spencer encountered in an accident.

In 1956, when I was 8, my two younger brothers and I were supposed to be picking up rocks in the field and putting them in an old dump trailer. The hired man (boy) was driving the DC Case pulling the rotary hoe. He was instructed to drive in high gear so the small weeds would flip completely out of the ground. My brothers had been given a ride and my turn was up.

Everything went well until the turn-around at the end of the field. Drop down a gear, swing around as soon as the tractor straightened out, jump back into high gear and throw the hand clutch back in. As a know-it-all kid, I was sitting on the left fender cleaning my finger nails and not holding on. When the clutch was shoved in, I started falling off the tractor in front of the rotary hoe. I was grabbing anything I could and shouting, “stop!”

Just in time, the tractor stopped. I was sitting down on the ground facing forward. My back was being pushed forward and bent over by the front of the back hoe. The driver asked if I could get up. I replied “yes,” but that turned out to not be true. The driver had to put the tractor in reverse and back up.

For those familiar with the Case, you know that reverse is on the right side of the shift pattern between 4th and 1st gears. He put the transmission in a forward gear a couple of times, testing the direction of travel, carefully engaging the clutch. Each time the tractor moved forward a tiny bit, but rolled back as soon as the clutch was released. Finally he shut the tractor off, put it into reverse and pulled the two tines out of my lower back!

The backhoe tines were a straight style, not like the newer style with the flared ends, thank God. If they would have had the flare, this story would have a different ending. I thought I was going back to rock picking, but after one look at the two holes in the back of my blue jeans, we went to the house. My mother was a registered nurse at the Clarion, Iowa, hospital, 20 miles away. I was rushed into surgery, the two deep holes were debrided of the dirt and weed parts that were inside, and then a drain tube was put into each one, allowing me to heal from the inside out. The rotary hoe tines missed my spine by about an inch.

I don’t have any problems resulting from the adventure. I went on to a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force as a flight engineer on C-130E/H and AC-130H Gunships. During the three-week recovery, I was given a penicillin shot in the butt every four hours. The first week, that wasn’t too bad, but during the second week of the treatment, the nurses were using the prior week’s holes over again and that started to be painful.

At some point, I was told to stop organizing hallway wheelchair races and to keep out of the kitchen, as the cooks didn’t need my assistance. When the head nurse would come into the kitchen’s front door, I would sneak out the kitchen’s back door. FC

Born and raised in Clarion, Iowa, Duane Spencer lives in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. Have a story to share with Farm Collector? Send it to us at Farm Collector Magazine, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email it to editor@farmcollector.com.

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