Mini-Dozer Garden Tractor: 1969 Struck Corp. Kit Tractor Still Out-Working a Wheel Tractor

This 40-year-old Struck Mini-Dozer garden tractor still does what a wheel tractor can’t

| May 2010

It is well known that the phrase “Greatest Generation” applies to those responsible for victory in World War II.

But relatively few alive during those years were involved in actual combat. In fact, even in the wartime military of 15 million, only one in every 26 soldiers was in combat. Front-line soldiers, sailors and airmen were unique.

A similar situation existed in American agriculture, in what might be called the “Early Tractor Generation.” In the first half of the 20th century – before the great migration from the farm to the city first recorded in 1930 – millions of people performed various kinds of farm work. But few did that work on a crawler.

Crawlers occupy unique niche

Among that shrinking pool of farm workers, only a small number ever used the track-type tractors commonly known as crawlers or tracklayers. Crawlers remain relatively scarce in antique iron circles today. They are rarely displayed at shows, and only occasionally appear in calendars and books and on TV.

There are a couple of reasons for that. At their peak, crawlers accounted for just a small part of total tractor production in the U.S. (The rubber-tracked tractors of modern times are not crawlers: Crawlers had steel tracks.) Secondly, track-type tractors are heavier, slower and much harder to transport than a tractor on wheels. Additionally, track grousers (also known as cleats) damage the ground. They leave their mark traveling straight ahead and are noted for tearing up the surface when turning.

However, when it came to getting farm fieldwork done, crawlers excelled. Track-type tractors were the dominant form of farm motive power in some parts of the country up through the 1960s. Large grain-growing areas of the Great Plains and mountain states relied on crawlers almost exclusively for several decades. The tractor of choice in my part of Idaho was Caterpillar. Small farmers used gasoline-powered Twenty-Two Cats and the later diesel-powered D2s. Mid-size farms used one or more D4s; bigger operations utilized D6s. Less popular were International TD-6s, TD-9s and large TD-14s. Occasionally one would run across a farmer using an Allis-Chalmers HD-5 or a larger model from that line.

Crawlers slow but sure

In south central Idaho (where dry-land winter wheat is common), farms ranged from 1,000 acres up to several thousand, with individual fields commonly 60 to 160 acres in size. Since those fields needed to be plowed, disced, harrowed, summer fallowed (worked to keep weeds from growing and preserve moisture) and then later seeded, they were worked several times a year.