FARMING WITH A FORDSON

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

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.

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