A Fast Ride

It was a very hot afternoon in the summer of about 1961 as I was involved in moving sprinkler pipe on the "dry farm".  Elsewhere on the farm, workers were hauling baled hay.  My grandfather, W.A. Adams was busy harrowing in the same field where  I was moving sprinklers.  He was driving his "trusty:" favorite Allis Chalmers tractor, going back and forth from the Bear River Canal that ran through the farm in East Garland, Utah to the bottom of the field.  On the southeast corner of the field, there was a piece that sloped quickly and then levelled off above the river bottoms where the steep hillside dropped from the upper dry farm field several hundred feet to the bottom, through which the Bear River channeled its way through the land.

I looked up as I moved the pipe and saw that grandpa's pickup truck was moving away from the field, and also noted that it had been a while since I had heard the tractor.  I knew that grandpa was harrowing in that lower piece. 

The old Allis Chalmers had been on the farm for as long as I could remember.  I believe that grandpa had used it even before we moved to the farm in about 1948.  It seemed to me that the tractor was old even at that time.  But it was grandpa's pride and joy!  As I recall, it had a crank at the front, and required the crank to start the engine.  On the steering column, just in front of the steering wheel, there was a throttle that was used to speed up and slow down the tractor.  On the floor  below the steering column and to the front of the area of the seat was the brake.  The brake was a long rod that was pushed forward to the floor when it was off.  Next to the brake was the clutch.  A foot was required to push the clutch to the floor board at the same time that the driver would have to bend forward, take the brake, and pull it back from the floor board toward him in order to engage it.

The throttle had notches in an arc and the handle could be adjusted from one end of the arc to the other and placed in the chosen notch for the speed desired to run the engine.  But the handle would often bounce back to a slower speed as the tractor bounced along.  At the time, grandpa was about 86 years old, and it took some effort to lean down to grab the brake and bring it toward him.  He also had a habit of using baling wire to tie the throttle handle to the end of the arc so it would't bounce to a slower speed.  As he harrowed, he had the throttle wired wide open.to full speed!

This is what my grandfather Adams' Allis Chalmers looked like.  This model was manufactured beginning 1927 -- one of the first with pneumatic tires.

After a time, being almost finished with moving the sprinkler pipeline, I noticed that grandpa's pick;up truck had arrived where workers were loading the baled hay.  Grandpa got out of the pickup and he and the workers visited for a bit.  Then they came to where I was finishing up the line, just as I was ready to go back to the beginning and start a tractor attached to the pump to take water from the canal to the sprinkers for the next irrigation setting.

Grandpa had climbed into his pickup, drove it about three or four miles to the north of the dry farm to Fielding store.  There he had puchased a carton of six bottles of soda pop.  At this time, soda was dispensed in clear glass bottles -- before the use of aluminum cans like we would use today for Coke, Pepsi, and other carbonated drinks.  When he came back to the field, he treated the workers to soda while he told them of his adventure with the tractor.  He and they came to where I was and I was told the same story.  Then we went to the edge of the lower part of the southeast corner of the field.

As we neared the edge of the field overlooking the riverbottoms, we were all amazed at what was before our eyes!  About 1/4 of the way down the hillside was the gasoline tank (the top portion of the tractor)! Scattered below the gas tank were various parts of the tractor, strewn along the hillside.  At the bottom, several feet from the bottom of the slope, the radiator and the front wheels were partially buried in the ground. The harrows had been strewn toward the bottom of the slope! While we viewed the sight before us, grandpa told us of his experience in riding the tractor down the side of the "mountain".

He couldn't remember exactly what had occurred.  Maybe he had fallen asleep but, at any rate, it looked like he had ridden the tractor headed straight down the side of the hill.  If he hadn't gone straight down, the tractor would have rolled and he probably would never have been able to survive.  There was no evidence that he had tried to stop or slow the tractor.  He had wired the throttle wide open as he harrowed the field. 

As the tractor "bounced" down the hillside with the harrows on the back, somehow he was thrown from the tractor as it apparently dumped him and the harrow flew over the top of where he was dropped because one of the tines of the harrow had made contact with his back.  The ordeal over, and the tractor in pieces over about an acre of ground, he climbed to the top of the hillside, walked to his pickup truck, drove to the store to purchase the soda pop, and drove back to the field to tell the story of his adventure!

The following day, he was "laid up" and was not able to move off the sofa in his home in Tremonton.  As one of his neighbor's visited him and grandpa recounted his tractor adventure, his neighbor listened patiently and then said, "Will, the Lord was certainly with you."

Grandpa's reply: "If he was, he sure had a Helluva ride!"




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Dick Pellek (website) on Monday, 23 July 2012 18:18

If I had a grandpa like that, I'll tell that story many times. A remarkable story about a remarkably young 86 year man who just knew he had to fetch those bottles of pop.

If I had a grandpa like that, I'll tell that story many times. A remarkable story about a remarkably young 86 year man who just knew he had to fetch those bottles of pop.