Tractors: Not much more than horsepower?

Published 6:27 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

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“You’re goanna be 90 years old and still trying to push in the clutch on this ol’ stick-shift car,” my friend Weezer admonishes me.

Well, for good reason. I learned to drive on a tractor. So, shifting gears is a part of my DNA.

My cousin, Jimmy, and I would take turns pushing in the clutch and changing gears on the old trusty Farmall my granddaddy allowed us to drive out through the pasture and down to the fish ponds. Many hours, we spent on that ol’ tractor, Babe.

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So, I have fond memories of and fascination for antique tractors and a continuing desire to push in the clutch and shift gears.

Thinking of tractors, I remembered the story that was told to me by a seasoned farmer here in Pike County. Mr. Jim shared with me the difficulty farmers had in putting their mules in the barn and tractors in their fields.

Mr. Jim said farmers wanted to branch out with their farming operations but they knew what their mules could do and they didn’t know what a newfangled tractor could do. One local farmer “branched” out and put money on a tractor. Every farmer in the county was waiting to see what the tractor could do when he took it out to break up his land. All the men around, including the ones at the bank that had loaned him the money, went to stand and watch.

The farmer did alright, if knocking down a line of fence posts and a gate was considered alright.

Some farmers, in and around Pike County, turned a good profit with their tractors in spite of plowing up part of their crops along the way.

Mr. Jim said tractors weren’t much more than horsepower and mules didn’t get stuck. He took great pride in having to pull a neighbor’s stuck tractor out of a mud bog with his trusty ol’ mule.

But in time, Mr. Jim decided to try tractor farming and bought an International Harvester for about $800.  His wife moaned and cried about her husband spending all their money on a tractor when they had a good dependable mule in the barn. She said they were on their way to the ‘pore’ house.

Mr. Jim said, if they were, they could go his brand-new tractor.

Giving up their mules for a tractor was a scary thing for farmers back then. A farm’s just not a farm without a mule, Mr. Jim said.

And, in today’s world, a farm’s just not a farm without a tractor… whether it plows the field or stands sentinel as a yard ornament.