Tractor Wrestling in Vermont

Hardly a Sport, Only a Lucky Few Survive Even One Round

Wheel pounded the concrete

Just visible is a mark made from the Fordson's other wheel as it pounded the concrete.

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Tractor wrestling, for the uninitiated, is any event that gets you tangled up in a life-or-limb situation on, under or near a tractor. Paul Ferguson of Springfield, Vt., knows this firsthand.

Paul, my co-worker at the time of the accident, has a history of heart trouble, and when he didn't show up for work one Monday morning we were concerned.

Our worst fears were confirmed about 10 a.m., when news came Paul had been in a tractor accident and had also suffered a heart attack while en route to the hospital. Although we were very worried (and not just a little curious), no one wanted to trouble the family to ask what happened. The next day we learned Paul had been run over by the rear wheel on his tractor and that his pelvis was broken.

Paul had pictures of two of his tractors on his toolbox, so we scurried over to check them out. His 1935 McCormick-Deering W-30 had 4-foot steel rear wheels with spikes about 2 inches long, three abreast, across its 8-inch wide face. The spikes would have punctured four or five holes through his pelvis. The other tractor was a 1922 Fordson with 4-foot steel rear wheels with 14, 2-inch high steel webs riveted to each 8-inch wide face. The webs would have left three or four huge gashes and would have pulverized his pelvis. We decided it must have been another tractor.

It was two weeks before Paul could have visitors, and I popped in to visit him as soon as I could. Paul was still pretty uncomfortable, so I only stayed long enough to find out what happened.

'I started up the 1922 Fordson to get it ready for the tractor show the following weekend and left it idling inside the shed,' Paul told me. 'As I stepped down in front of the left rear wheel, my cut-off pant leg slipped over the gearshift lever, which left me with one foot on the floor and the rest of me dangling. In the struggle to get loose, the lever popped it into gear as the pants tore loose and I hit the concrete floor looking up. This 4-foot tractor wheel was about to run over me from the right side of my pelvis toward my left shoulder.

'With one wheel web imbedded in my pelvis, I reached up and held a wheel web with all my might and screamed for help. My wife came quickly and helped me hold the wheel; the power transferred to the other wheel and it was pounding every time another web hit the concrete. Just then my son jumped up and rammed it out of gear, which sent my wife flying to the concrete - but it stopped climbing my bones.' His pelvis split apart three inches, and doctors had to install two steel plates and seven screws to repair the damage.

This isn't the first time that quick thinking, brute strength and luck won out over almost certain death in the Ferguson family. In the late 1950s, Paul's father was unloading a field crop into a silo blower. His foot slipped off a plank resting over the auger and he slipped in, losing a leg. His other leg slipped in, but he jammed the plank in the auger before it pulled him in. He recovered in time to go hunting that season, and he ran the family dairy farm for nearly 30 years with two stubs, one above the knee and one below.

Now, over a year later, Paul can walk without a cane and even laugh about it a little. By the way, Paul's son and some other good friends took the tractor to the show that next weekend and got a trophy for all his hard work.

I cranked up my old 1954 Ferguson 9N tractor the other day and stepping down in front of the 4-foot rubber tire stared down the front tread, which is almost nose high, and had a respect attack. I climbed back on over the dead weight on the rear and decided I liked the looks of the top of the tire tread better than the front.

Contact engine enthusiast David Scott at: 955 Spencer Hollow Road, Springfield, VT 05156.