Ch. 7 Close Calls


Two ‘Close Calls’ on the Farm

We sometimes read, site mostly in the few remaining farm magazines, about horrific farm accidents. I was very lucky as a teenager to live through two “close calls”. They both involved our John Deere Model B tractor and field work.

One fall day I was one-way discing a field after harvest. Our one-way was a Cockshutt – a 41⁄2 ft heavy piece of equipment with large discs set on an angle to cut into the soil and turn the soil and crop residue back into the ground. It was a clear, cold, windy October afternoon. I stopped the tractor and (luckily, as it turned out) throttled back the engine of the machine. I wanted to briefly warm my cold hands by the engine’s hot manifold. Instead of getting off the tractor safely – off the seat and down and around – I opted to jump over the drive pulley side of the tractor. John Deere tractors of that era had a long hand clutch which, when I jumped, slipped inside my parka jacket. As I fell forward, I pulled the tractor into gear and it started forward – and stalled. I could easily have been carved into pieces by the disc, but I was lucky.

On another occasion, I was harrowing with 6 sections of harrows in a field north of our farm home. Approaching the end of the field, I turned the tractor, but too close to the fence. The harrow draw bar, a 20 ft 2” by 6”, struck a fence post at the end of the field. This swung the draw bar in such a way that the chain attached to it caught on the tractor tire and instantly all 6 harrow sections flew in the air, just missing my head and left dangling between me and the tractor wheel. I wasn’t touched, but I could easily have been killed.

Until my mid-teens I was pretty small for my age. At 13 or 14, or even before, I was driving Uncle Walter’s much bigger, more powerful Farmall “M” tractor and having to stretch to reach the foot clutch. No “close calls” as I remember. Lucky, too, as tractors in those days had few safety features or protective guards.