Night Shift on a Crawler Tractor

Dryland farming demanded ’round the clock effort, exposed to the elements on board a crawler tractor.

| May 2019

The D4 Cat hooked to the two 3-bottom Plows. Since the tractor was used almost daily in extremely dusty conditions, a tall extension pipe was fitted to the air cleaner to give the engine as much clean air as possible.

There is an old saying that, “A man works from sun to sun. A woman’s work is never done.” There never seems to be controversy as to the truth of that. However, there was a time when, in some places in rural America, where, if the man was a farmer, his field work was never done.

That is because there were not enough hours to accomplish what needed to be done with the resources at hand. But even if one came up short, getting close was considered acceptable. It was understood that a successful crop year required unique efforts by everyone involved.

Every farming operation is different. This discussion pertains to the author’s personal experiences of being “a small cog in a big wheel” in a family farm’s marathon effort in the spring to prepare for the summer farming season. Much of what I did as a teenage farm employee was what others of my age were doing for other farmers.

Six 12s and room and board

You see, we lived in a high altitude valley with a very short growing season. From the time the deep snow melted and the ground dried up enough that field work could begin, almost all high school “kids,” as we were referred to, had employment opportunities. We didn’t know it at the time, but local farmers desperately needed our help. That didn’t translate into high pay, but as a general rule, we were well treated.

The usual arrangement was a daily wage, along with room and board (I got $4 a day room and board. Adult employees got $8 a day with no room and board). Since farming operations were some distance from our little town, the young employees lived with the farmer’s family, slept where they had room for us and ate meals with them. On Saturday nights, our parents would drive out and get us for our day off.

5/5/2020 9:49:32 PM

Wow, did this story bring back old memories. I grew up on a ranch in the Central Valley of California during the fifties and the sixties until I entered the Army in 1967. Boy, do I remember those days. We used crawler tractors to pull disks, plows, harrows and land planes used to keep the fields level. I started driving the smaller tractors on the ranch when I was 9 years old (Today my dad would go to jail for that) and "graduated" to running an old 1949 Caterpillar D-6 when I was about 12 years old. We had an Allis Chalmers's HD-14 (?), the D-6, a D-8 and a ;big old International TD-18. And we also did a lot of night time disking and plowing. During school that was on Friday and Saturday night and during Spring break. I would not take anything for those first nineteen years of my life. As the song says, "Thanks for the memories"!

5/8/2019 10:29:44 AM

I remember seeing a few crawler tractors on the dry farms in southern Salt Lake County back in the 50s and 60s. They would be out working in the dry dirt surrounded in the middle of a dust cloud. I remember one time taking a girl to high school dance in the spring time when grain was about a foot tall. She was a city girl who had never been out there. We were driving past about 10 or 12 miles of dry farms. There were no houses at all around there. The wind was blowing and creating waves across the grain. It was pretty, but I was used to seeing it. To me it wasn’t a big deal. I glanced at her. She was staring out the window with her mouth dropped open and not making a sound. I asked her if she was OK and she said that she have never seen so much green in her life. So I stopped the car and let her get out and we stood there for five minutes while she looked around in amazement at all the green fields. City folks don’t know what it’s like out on the farm.

5/7/2019 7:04:09 AM

Terrific article. Americana at it's best. When America was America.


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