Runaway tractors are bad luck

Published 7:22 pm Friday, August 11, 2006

A young neighbor stopped me as I was mowing a couple of weeks ago, to tell a story about another young neighbor who had a little bad luck on his tractor.

Well, actually, it was a LOT of bad luck!

The way I heard it, there were several tractors in this huge field, land leveling. Our Hero attempted to level the land too close to a light pole, and his dirt bucket, in the Up position, clipped the pole off. Pole and wires began falling around the moving tractor, which was too much for the young driver: he bailed out.

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The tractor had dual wheels on it, you will understand, so this act of bailing out was no small feat in and of itself. Takes a lot of athleticism to exit a running tractor (it was later clocked at 14 mph) bearing a light pole and sparking wires, to jump completely clear of the cab, platform, and both rear wheels, and to alight running, like Our Hero did.

The tractor finally shed the pole and wires all by itsownself, but with the dirt bucket in the Up position, it commenced to chasing other tractors involved in land leveling, then lit a shuck in the direction of the fuel tank. Someone jumped in a pickup and attempted to back up to the tank to hook to it and pull it out of the way of the Runaway, but the Runaway got there before the pickup did, fortunately missing the fuel tank by a little bit, though not enough to have missed a pickup hooked to it, had there been one there.

Another tractor driver dumped his load of dirt (which impedes speed) and accelerated to get ahead of the Runaway, then slowed down to try to let the Runaway come up against his dirt bucket gently, at which point he slowly mashed his brake pedal, thinking he could slow and stop the Runaway. However, this action only served to break the weights off of the Runaway’s front. Then, unimpeded by front weights, the Runaway began to climb INTO the offered dirt bucket! The driver had to accelerate to a lot more than 14 mph to save his own tractor and himself, although his dirt bucket suffered near-fatal damage.

At this point, the Runaway approached the four-foot-deep ditch next to the gravel road – nay, not only approached it, but jumped slap over it! However, this action served to turn (or maybe “bend” would be a better word) the front wheel, and the Runaway slewed around in the gravel road to jump the ditch again and re-enter the land-leveling field. Interestingly enough, the original driver was able to observe that when a tractor jumps a four-foot ditch, cab doors fly open, or perhaps even slap off, and anything not tied down tends to bounce out of the cab. The Runaway obligingly exhibited its ditch-jumping ability again, in case anyone had missed it the first time. However, the second jump blew a tire (or, did he say “blew the wheel slap off”?) and the Runaway began to spin in the field and eventually stalled out. Wouldn’t all this have been a great comedy movie scene?

I could only wonder what the young driver said later. (Well, actually he told me, “I don’t need any more grief about that!”) Surely it wasn’t as classic as Big Bumpy’s remark after a similar incident several years ago on our farm.

We had just gone from six-row to eight-row disks, and Big Bumpy, our foreman, was disking down the road from the barn while Brother Beau and I were welding on something in the shop. Suddenly the electricity went off. We stepped outside in time to see that Bumpy had clipped a light pole off, which fell onto his cab, wires sparking. Bumpy also bailed off, likewise avoiding both rear dual wheels. He ran alongside the tractor as it eventually shed the pole and wires, then he sprinted ahead of the tractor, gauged its speed, and daringly ran in front of the right dual wheels, grabbed the handhold, stepped on the footpad, and swung himself back up into the cab of his tractor.

And went right on disking the field!

Beau and I jumped in the pickup and waved him down on the far end of the field to see if the tractor, or Bumpy, had suffered severe injury from the pole or electrically-charged wires, or the Runaway tractor itself.

Big Bumpy looked in surprise at us and exclaimed, “Pole? WHAT pole? How come y’all think that it was ME who hit that pole?”