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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Nov 28, 2014

The name Ferguson has been heard repeatedly in the news lately. For most people it is the name of a small town near St Louis that has received some really bad press since last summer.

However, for a tractor fan who was around during the 1950s, it is the name of a small gray tractor that greatly resembles a Ford 8N.

The namesake of the Ferguson tractor is Harry Ferguson, a resident of Great Britain, who made several improvements to the tractor, but is remembered mainly for his three-point hitch.

His hitch design that allowed using the tractor’s weight for additional traction when plowing, was incorporated into Ford tractors after a meeting with Henry Ford.

Unfortunately, the deal was done with a handshake and after several years, Ford decided to stop paying Ferguson royalties which created a long lawsuit that Ford lost.

The lawsuit was costly to Ferguson as well, and, in the mid-1950’s, he merged with Massey-Harris.

Massey-Harris red and Ferguson gray were applied to the new line of Massey Ferguson tractors.

That is the history that any tractor fan knows, but my interest in the Ferguson tractor is more personal.

My dad bought a new Ferguson model TO-30 in the early ’50s. He bought it for one reason – loading a manure spreader.

It arrived with a loader and snow bucket in front, a three-point blade in back and something that, while not rare was not necessarily common, either – half tracks.

It was a lean, mean, manure moving machine, at least for that time.

You have to remember that this was the early 1950s. Things like a shuttle clutch, power shift, or hydrostatic transmission were not available and would not be for another 10 or so years.

This tractor also did not have power steering, which meant that when the bucket was full, steering was done by two hands firmly gripping the steering wheel.

The front axle was also overloaded with every bucket full.

The transmission was replaced in the early ’60s. The constant driving ahead, shifting into reverse and backing up, then back into forward took a toll on the transmission.

The operator was not too happy about the three-handed operation of steering and shifting either, but the alternative of loading by hand was not even considered.

It was the major manure mover for about 10 years when it was replaced by a tractor that had a bigger bucket, power steering, and a shuttle clutch.

Plus, it was an industrial model designed for loader work.

Don’t you just love progress?

At the end of its life, the half-tracks were worn out and had been removed. It was a very tired tractor when it was traded in for its replacement.

It did earn its keep for those years cleaning up after 200 or so head of cattle, plus the hogs that were kept with them much of the time.

The half-tracks provided great traction that showed the tractor’s four-cylinder engine was certainly not over-powered.

Its solid gray paint added to its role of holding a job with no glory.

But there was no disputing it was a faithful employee that showed up for work and gave all it had every time it was called to duty.

For me, I am sure the memory of that Ferguson will outlive the sorrier memory of the Ferguson that has been in the news.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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