Tractor Wrestling in Vermont
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
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
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
‘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
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
Contact engine enthusiast David Scott at: 955 Spencer Hollow
Road, Springfield, VT 05156.
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Farmers from the 30s to the 50s built makeshift tractors called doodlebugs from available parts and pieces found on the farm.
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