Frank Kesselring

Frank Kesselring on the Fordson tractor and Sanford Fetters on the binder in 1930.

Content Tools

1408 N. Van Buren Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

Our first Fordson tractor was purchased used in 1928. This was a vast improvement over farming with horses although it made quite a change in the way we did the farming. The maintenance of a tractor was very different than caring for the horses. The kerosene was substituted for the oats and hay.

A used John Deere two bottom was purchased for use with the tractor. Our old horse drawn equipment was used. This included an eight foot single disc and a three section harrow. The Fordson was used to pull a grain binder and to pull the wagons with a hay loader. These two hot weather jobs for the Fordson relieved the horses of unpleasant work, although the heat from the rear end of the tractor made the seat extremely warm for the tractor driver. These tractors were 'air conditioned' by a hot southwest wind. This tractor was equipped with a belt pulley and we used it to grind feed. Also to pump water when the Stover gas engine would not start.

These Fordson tractors did not have a governor and the speed of the engine had to be regulated with the hand throttle. These tractors had a three speed transmission; the second gear was the work gear and about the only one used. There were no rear wheel brakes which made turning with a load very difficult. When coming to the end of the furrow and near a fence if one did not get the plow raised the tractor could not be turned. Then into the fence. Sometimes this meant going through the fence and turning around and coming back into the field.

When the ground was moist the steel wheels with angle lugs compacted the ground. Because of this compaction the center of the wheels between the lugs was cut out with an acetylene torch making a skeleton wheel. This worked fine in dry weather, but when the ground was moist the dirt would come up through these openings and the wheels would fill with dirt defeating the purpose.

Another fault of these early Fordsons was the clutch that would not release when the tractors were first started. The motor would have to be throttled down and the transmission pulled into gear. Then away you went around the barn lot until the clutch warmed up and would release. One of our interesting experiences was the time Dad was backing the tractor out of the shed on a cool morning. In trying to get the tractor in gear he accidentally placed the transmission in a forward gear. The clutch would not release and he took the back end of the shed out. He closed the throttle, but the back end of the shed and the tractor ran into a fence post and stopped. The only injury was to Dad's disposition.

A second used Fordson was purchased and these tractors were used until 1936 when a new Allis-Chalmers WC on steel wheels was bought. These Fordsons were a long way from being an ideal source of power, but they were an improvement over farming with horses. Modern machinery has come a long way with multi-gear transmission that can be shifted on the go without using the clutch. Hydraulic lifts, hydraulic seats, heaters, air conditioning, tape decks and radios are a long way from the sheep skin we had for our seat cushion.