Two â€˜Close Callsâ€™ 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 â€œclose callsâ€. 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 â€“ a 41â„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 engineâ€™s hot manifold. Instead of getting off the tractor safely â€“ off the seat and down and around â€“ 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 â€“ 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 2â€ by 6â€, 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 wasnâ€™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 Walterâ€™s much bigger, more powerful Farmall â€œMâ€ tractor and having to stretch to reach the foot clutch. No â€œclose callsâ€ as I remember. Lucky, too, as tractors in those days had few safety features or protective guards.