The Life of a Man and His Rumely OilPull

Kansas man and his Rumely OilPull played a role in taming the Great Plains.


| August 2005



Sod Breaker

Opposite page: George Hudson (second from right) and Fred McCoy (second from left), his engineer, with a trio of local bankers, out for an up-close look at Hudson’s Rumely.

This story will tell about one year of my life: 1915, when I was breaking sod at Satanta, Kan., and on west. It was the year I bought my first Rumely OilPull, and the year that I broke the most sod. The OilPull traveled a little over a half-mile per hour faster than the steamers, and turned around a little quicker.

Editor's note: This article relates the experiences of 37-year-old George Charles Hudson breaking sod in extreme southwestern Kansas nearly 90 years ago. It was written by his grandson, Don Hudson, who grew up hearing the tales of his grandfather's adventures.

October 1915: Heading West

That fall, I ordered two flatcars to be in Macksville by Oct. 5. I had a brand new Model F OilPull: It was a 10-by-12 engine with a rated horsepower of 15-30, and a brand new Rumely 5-by-14 plow with a mechanical lift. We had packed the wheel bearings on the cook shack and the water wagon, which I now use to haul kerosene. My engineer was Fred McCoy, as good an engineer as you will find anywhere. His wife, Joy, was the cook.

J.H. Wolf, the Rumely dealer in Macksville, Kan., had serviced the OilPull and the plow, so I just left them in Macksville (roughly 100 miles west of Wichita) until our departure. I tied the cook shack and the water wagon together and took them to town; that way I only had to make one trip with the team. When I got ready to load, I just tied them on behind the engine and plow, made a ramp out of railroad ties, put my 3-by-12 from one car to the other, loaded up and chained everything down. The freight train picked up my cars a day later. Fred, Joy and I caught the No. 7 the next day, and we still beat the engine to Satanta (about 120 miles southwest of Macksville) by a day. We stayed at a boarding house for two nights. I made arrangements for kerosene and a team, and Joy finished stocking the cook shack.

A.G. English, my local banker, had made a deal with a banker at Satanta and the livery man there to find me 20 or so quarters to break by the first of the year. I was told that the quarters would be laid out with the plow, but when I got there, only four quarters had been plowed. So I had to rent a sulky plow and a big team of horses.

As I was plowing one day, here came Fred and the man who owned the ground. He wanted me to pull a single disc behind the plow. He had heard that the ground didn't dry out as bad if you did that. I told him it would cost 25 cents per acre, and where was I going to find a disc? He said he had a nearly new one, and he would sell it for $100. I don't like this kind of business, but what can you do? So I told him to get the disc out to the field and for Fred to get a chain, and I would take the price of the disc off of the bill. Well, he wanted me to pay for the disc when he unhooked. I told Fred just to move on: I guess he didn't think I would do that. I think the man wanted some poker money. He finally gave in, and said to go ahead and plow.