Remembering a Tractor Accident

Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Oliver B. Cleaver shares the tale of a tractor accident he experienced as a young man.


| November 2006



Farmall Tractor Accident

Several years ago, I wrote a column titled "Kicking 'er Out of Gear," describing the risks involved in taking a tractor transmission out of gear and coasting down a grade. That column prompted a lot of comment, and one great letter from the late Oliver B. Cleaver, who then lived in Ft. Pierce, Fla. Mr. Cleaver's letter is reprinted here, just as he wrote it.

Dear Sam, 

My brother, John, sent me your column headed "Kicking 'er Out of Gear." I have been living on "borrowed time" for almost 60 years. In April 1938, I upset an F-12 Farmall end-over-end, forward. 

I grew up on the family dairy farm a mile or so south of Mt. Pleasant, Ohio, where John and his son, Charles, still live. We bought the little Farmall in 1936 and I took on some custom work to help justify the expense. It was soon obvious that the steel wheels were not adapted to roaming the neighborhood, and sometime in winter/spring of '38 I got wheels and tires from Montgomery Ward. I laid the wheels on paper on the cement floor in the barn and poured them level full with concrete. After the wheels and tires were on the tractor, the 11.25-by-36 tires were filled with calcium chloride. 

Some other modifications were done to increase power (and speed). Gasoline manifold and carburetor changes, (high) altitude pistons, planing the head and making a thinner gasket from paper flour sack, and governor changes to get more rpm. The F-12 was ready for jobs that mostly needed a bigger tractor, but road speed was still a good brisk walk. (Author's note: The top speed of the F-12 was listed as 3-3/4 mph.)

Thus prepared, I felt ready to range a little farther and agreed to do some discing for a friend who farmed on the ridge between Harrisville and Adena. I don't remember why he didn't use his own tractor, but I was to use his disc so I didn't have to trail any equipment. It was obvious in a couple of rounds that the field was too wet. I headed home again about daylight and was itching to get at something else.