Tractor Experience

Three stories of experiences with tractors and "kicking er outta gear"


| September 1999



Minneapolis-Moline G tractor

Minneapolis-Moline G tractor

Illustration by Sam Moore

A while back, a friend told me one of his great stories from a lifetime of tractor experience. I'll relate John's story, along with one of my own, plus another I heard when I was a kid. I'll bet a lot of readers will identify with these tales, and I look forward to hearing other hair-raising experiences of "kicking 'er outta gear." 

My own experience is the tamest of the lot, although it was pretty exciting for me. Early one spring, when I was about 13, dad bought some ear corn from a neighbor and sent me to get it one cool Saturday morning. We had a large, two-wheeled flat trailer with removable side and end boards, which I hitched behind our Ford-Ferguson tractor. I set out, with the excitement of driving the four or five miles to the neighbor's place (mostly on paved roads) offsetting the drudgery of shoveling a couple of tons of ear corn.

The trip over went without mishap, and I proceeded to shovel the corn onto the trailer. When I started for home, there was a lot of weight on the trailer, and a lot of that weight was on the tongue, but if I thought about it at all, it didn't worry me.

About half-way home was a long, fairly straight down grade with a long, straight level stretch at the bottom, a perfect place to "kick 'er outta gear" and let the thing run. Going flat out in third gear at the top of the grade, I put the transmission in neutral and prepared for a nice, fast, smooth ride down the blacktopped hill and a safe, gradual slowdown on the long flat straight-away.

Unfortunately, the blacktop wasn't all that smooth, and the surface was rather wavy. This, along with the heavy tongue weight, started the rear of the tractor bouncing, and the faster the rig went, the more it bounced. The little Ford's brakes weren't much good, but I stood on them, held on and prayed. It seemed to me as though I was going at least 60 mph and would go out of control at any moment, but finally the rig reached the foot of the grade and slowed to normal speed. The only damage, other than to my nerves, was a noticeable upward bend of the trailer tongue where it was welded to the front crossmember. Dad wasn't very happy about that, and spoke rather sternly to me about my carelessness.