Mechanization of Farms
Iowa Public Television
It was a time of transition and the families who went from horses to tractor horsepower, witnessed the birth of mechanization on the farm. And while some sons were anxious to get on that first tractor, most fathers were reluctant to let go of their dependable team of horses.
Neil Harl: My father liked horses. He was very good with horses. He continued using horses long after many others had shifted to tractor power. He had arguments about why horses were superior. You could grow their feed. You couldn’t grow gasoline, but you could grow feed for horses. You could raise replacement horse. They didn’t cause compaction of the soil.
Laverne Hult: My dad never liked to drive a tractor. He thought it simple when I got mine in ’37. I told him “Well, you can drive it. See how nice it is.” He drove it a couple times round the field a couple times, but he said “You got to watch where you’re going all the time when you’re driving the tractor. The horses they’d come to the end and they’d turn around themselves and go back the other way.” So he thought that was a lot simpler. He never drove a tractor that at all.
A team of horses could do things a tractor couldn’t do, such as pulling a wagon while a driver was handpicking corn. A farmer merely had to make a sound with his teeth to move the horses forward and then yell “Whoa!” when they were to stop. It was inconvenient to have to stop, get on the tractor, pull it ahead and then resume picking corn.
Dwight Jorgensen: This one Saturday he told us if we went out and helped pick all the corn and put in piles and finished picking it, that he’d buy us a dime carton of ice cream. And at that time a dime carton was a heaping pint. So we went out there and really worked hard that Saturday morning and got our dime ice cream.
Harold Woodruff: It was hard work, but it was always a lot of fun to go with dad when he was doing the shucking of the corn. And if you didn’t do it right he’d give you one row, he’d take two rows, and if you was slowing down, once in a while that ear of corn would hit you upside the head and make you speed up a little.
Philip Ingmason: And the horses they didn’t travel very fast, you know, and when we cultivated corn we cultivated on row at a time, three times. And now the renter that farms my farm doesn’t do any plowing they just put down chemicals that kills the weeds. That’s all they do.
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