The Foot Burner

| May/June 1959

Eureka, Montana Part I

ALTHOUGH NEW Methods and modern machinery are rapidly taking old farm equipment out of the picture, there is never a spring that one can not still see the old breaker plows, or 'foot burners' still being used, for garden plowing, or new land infested with roots, and rocks, where other methods of plowing would be impossible.

There are little or no changes in the design, from the first one that was turned out by the inventor John Deere. Now a breaker plow, when adjusted right, and under favorable conditions can be operated with some degree of comfort, and a limited amount of profanity, but where it is used on newly cleaned stump land, or rocky land as it mostly is, it can be an instrument of torture to both man and beast. It has no doubt been the medium by which most young men have decided to catch a handful a boxcars and leave the old farm for another form of livelihood.

The average homesteader started in with a foot burner, often times with a yoke of oxen, and as he rested his team or span of oxen, and also his aching muscles, he had visions of the day when he would be financially able to buy, or make a down payment on a big 30-60 tractor, or a steam engine that would be able to plow from 8 to 12 plows at a time. If he was lucky enough to beat the law of averages, on such crop risks as hail, drought, grasshoppers, he might, after 4 or 5 years of wrestling a foot burner, live to see his dream realized.

In the part of the 'Treasure State' that I lived in when I was a kid, the farming game contained about the same percentage of risks, that would be involved in setting cold storage under a bucking broncho. Those that sold good improved places, or some other business back in the middle west or the east, mostly started in with gas tractors, or steam breaking rigs as they were called. The revenue from custom breaking, for their neighbors would in some way help pay for the rig and plows. Those were the years that new tractors were coming on the market, 'with millions of acres of new land being homesteaded in the western states, Canada, and Argentina, there was a big demand for large size rigs, something that could really do the job. Most of the tractors were from 15-FOS to 40-HP. size. 'Twin City Co.' came out in 1909 with a 60-120, the largest tractor built up to that time. The gas truck was giving the steam engine some heavy competition. Any youth of that time who was fortunate enough to take in a State Fair, or demonstration where these new power plows with power', or steam lifts, power steering, etc., was likely to take a dim view of the old foot burner when he returned to the farm. It looked like darn small potatoes, and mighty few in a hill in his estimation.

If an old timer shows up at a State Fair, or some such gathering where old style machinery is on exhibition he will soon show up at some machine that he has owned or operated in the past, particularly if it should be a favorite make with him.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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