TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1600 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Horse-to-tractor switch laborious

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

The big switch from equine horsepower to gasoline power was about over when I became old enough to remember. I can recall as a young boy, helping harness a team of horses to pull a feed wagon down on the Parsell Ranch on the Canadian River. I never had to farm with horses and I probably couldn't harness a team today on a bet.

I do remember the changes made in early tractor wheels when we switched from lugs to knobby tires on our tractors. Dad ordered change-over kits from Montgomery Ward, and we had a blacksmith named "Mac" at Perryton to cut the lug wheels off and weld on the new rims to the old spokes. We were proud to be so progressive in this effort.

I also remember the efforts made by dad to weigh the tractors down so the new, knobby tires wouldn't slip when pulling. First we mixed concrete and poured the centers of the wheels around the spokes and later added water, filling the big inner-tubes. When "bar" tread tires were introduced most slippage stopped.

The most accurate story of why the farmers changed from horses to tractors is best told by comparing the U.S. Census reports of 1930 and 1940. These comparison figures, best explained by Dr. Gary Nall in the 1975 Panhandle Plains Historical Museum Review, tell about the rapid changes made as the Great Depression and Dust Bowl wound down.

Farming methods had to change to stop the dust from blowing. Farm sizes grew as the more successful farmers took over from the less successful. Fields of marginal farm land were returned to grass for livestock to graze in order to provide a more balanced income potential. Increased livestock production required some former grain crops to be converted to forage for livestock so significant changes were made as the hard times of drought passed.

During the years from 1930 to 1940, census records show the horse and mule population dropped from approximately 52,000 to 18,500 head. During the same time, tractor numbers grew from 8,168 to 12,110. The Roosevelt New Deal programs began in 1934 with tractor numbers increasing rapidly after government benefits began to arrive.

The rise in commodity prices, as a result of government programs, made livestock feeds more costly thus making the switch to tractors more desirable. One example cited came from tests showing horsepower farming cost $3 per acre while tractor farming costs from $1.75 to $1.88.

Additional benefits came as a farmer using a tractor could farm more acreage than a horse-powered farmer, thus increasing his profits and diversification. Sadly, one man tending more acres put a lot of tenant farmers out of business but it did achieve more efficiency in the operation.

This caused some 20,000 people to leave the Great Plains farm areas during the 1930s according to the census report. Farm size growth, plus the suffering from the Dust Bowl and Depression, were equally responsible for the decline.

The "big switch" spawned many a hilarious episode on the farm as long-time horse farmers had to learn how to drive their tractors. Many a stretch of barbed wire fence suffered as tractors plowed on through with the driver yelling, "Whoa! Whoa!."

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" February 21 , 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.



More stories:
Texas | Online Magazine | Texas Towns | Features | Columns | "It's All Trew" |

 
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES
Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters |
Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us
Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: February 21, 2008