Any of us country dwellers have learned or at least know about the fine art of driving a tractor with your feet.
Allow me to explain.
By way of explanation I feel it necessary to point out a few differences between driving a car and driving a tractor.
So let’s explore both shall we?
I’ll start out with driving a car by comparison. Whether standard or automatic, the principle is pretty much the same right? For the standard drivers in our group, you clutch into neutral or clutch and start from first gear, slowly engage the clutch by letting up on the clutch pedal as you apply gas to the engine.
Jerk — jerk — spasm — shudder — shudder — engine almost dies — you clutch less — pedal in more gas…and then you’re off!
Pretty simple right?
Don’t forget to grind a couple pounds of hamburger on your gear train as you struggle to find third gear.
With an automatic you make sure it’s in park, put your foot on the brake, start the engine, shift into drive (or reverse so you don’t slam through your garage wall into the living room) and go.
Even more simple right?
Now you want to turn. Left, right, doesn’t matter.
What do you do?
Well that’s a stupid question right?
You turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go.
The front two wheels angle in the direction you steer, and the rest of the car dutifully follows along.
Ah, the beauty of modern auto technology.
Now let’s talk about a tractor.
Nowadays they have automatic gear trains for tractors and I think that’s the cat’s pajamas.
But back in my day those kinds of niceties just didn’t exist. It was pretty much universally the same — clutch in start, feet on both brakes, give the gear shift handle a little wiggle to ensure that puppy is NOT engaged. If it don’t move I double dog guarantee you it’s in gear.
Then you hit the ignition button, rod out the choke and at the same time adjust the spark. If that bad boy is in gear it’s going to jump either direction on you.
You better pray you learned to fly before you got on that darned thing.
Okay you’re moving on down the row.
Cool, cool beans.
What about turning?
Well the Farmall Series M and H tractors built by International Harvester had a very unique configuration with their wheels.
Of course you had a pair of monster ribbed rubber tires on the back end. Tires which had no problem slinging sand and mud your way. The one I always drove didn’t have a cab, so you can just about imagine what I looked like after a few hours of driving one of those beasts.
The front of the Farmall M or H series was where the big problem was. The tractor had a pair of smaller front tires set close together. It was known as the tricycle tractor.
There was a reason for the configuration folks. The design folks at International Harvester didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey let’s build a motorized tricycle for our country brothers and sisters. It’ll be great!”
The small, close set wheels in the front were made that way so the driver could fit the nose of the tractor between planted rows of crops.
See? Pretty neat idea right?
Remember how you turn in an automobile? You turn the wheel left or right, just give it a spin?
If you try that with a Farmall Series tractor you’ll get the front wheels sliding sideways and plowing up a wide furrow of dirt. If you’re in mud, loose sod or God forsake you, loamy sand, you’re going to bury the nose wheels.
And should that happen when you’re rolling along at a speed faster than one of Grandma’s hens trying to escape becoming Sunday dinner, you’ll perform a roll over Evil Knievel would be proud of and set that sucker on it’s side.
Again, You better pray you learned to fly before you got on that darned thing.
And that is where your feet come in. Say it with me folks, Figure Eight — Right Foot Break, Figure Eight — Left Foot Break.
I said…say it with me.
FIGURE EIGHT — RIGHT FOOT BREAK, FIGURE EIGHT — LEFT FOOT BREAK.
For a moment I thought you weren’t paying attention.
So the best way to turn a Farmall series M or H tractor is simply to exit the row, and slightly, slightly, ever so slightly turn the front wheels, and at the same time mash the rear brake of your choice. As the right or left rear wheel slows the opposite rear wheel carries the load and moves the tractor around.
The day I figured out how to gauge my figure eight turns just right so I would be perfectly lined up on the next row to travel down, I celebrated with two, yes two, RC colas and a moon pie.
Heaven on Earth.
Yeah we were running zero turn equipment before it was cool.
Even so, with automobiles as they are you do use your feet a lot.
You’re either clutching with them, braking with them or speeding and getting one too many tickets with them because one foot has more lead in it than the other.
Just remember. You turn them with your hands.
Although I’m sure there are some of us who do use their feet to turn an automobile.
I’m betting they wouldn’t have a lick of trouble turning a Series M Farmall tractor.
Think about that one folks.
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