An old plowboy


As I was surfing through the TV channels recently, the title of a program immediately grabbed my attention: The British Ploughing Championship. Besides the fact that the word plowing had been misspelled (when will the Brits learn how to spell?), I thought the show might have some entertainment value for an old plowboy.

Very few American farmers use a moldboard, turning plow anymore. Minimum tillage and no-till equipment have proven to be essential to the conservation of both soil and fuel, and have reduced turn-plowing into an antiquated practice. Sixty years ago though, turning over the top 6 to 8 inches of topsoil was the first step in producing a successful crop, and my absolute favorite activity as a young boy.

We were mostly livestock farmers in the hilly and rocky terrain of the Ozarks, but our farm contained about 80 acres of rich, relatively flat, creek-bottom soil, and Dad always planted several acres of corn and oats each year. Both of those crops began with plowing up last year’s stalks and residue, with a two-bottom, moldboard plow, pulled behind an 8N Ford tractor. 

Early each spring, I couldn’t wait to get home from school, bundle up with warm clothes, cap and jersey gloves so I could run to the field and take over the plowing from my father so he could do the afternoon chores. I was probably around 10, and plowing was one of the few tractor-driving jobs that Dad permitted me to do without supervision. Even though he often pointed out he could train a monkey to plow, I felt like a grown man out on that open-station tractor, with nary a soul in sight. I plowed until dark, every afternoon the weather permitted.

One evening, I guess I went a little beyond dark, and Dad came down to the field to make sure I was OK. As I quit for the day, my father proceeded to drive the tractor back to the barn, while I rode with my feet on the running board, with my butt against the rear-wheel fender so that I could be the one to get off and on to open and close the gates. As the little tractor bounced across the rougher corners of the plowing land, I, too, bounced off, and my left foot went under the tractor wheel in the freshly turned soil. Dad, in more of a panic than I had ever seen, stopped immediately and jumped off to inspect my foot and leg. After he unlaced the boot and looked up and down my leg by the illumination of his pipe lighter, there wasn’t even the slightest scratch.

“Does it hurt?” he asked nervously. “Can you wiggle your toes?”

Because of the fluffiness of freshly-plowed silt loam and the relatively light weight of an 8N tractor, I answered, “No and Yes.”

As we got back to the house, and before we went in for supper, Dad quietly instructed, “There’s no need to tell your mother about the tractor.” I nodded, in complete understanding, because, again, I still wanted to be a plowboy the next day. 

Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. Jerry’s daily exploits on the farm are now viewable on YouTube at “lifeissimple678”. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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