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‘No modern tractors’ allowed at plow bee

October 30, 2011
By LARRY KERSHNER, For The Messenger , Messenger News

JOLLEY - It took seven antique tractors, driven by a dozen operators, pulling 20 plowshares, two hours to turned over seven acres of ground coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program.

With their own harvesting chores well ahead of schedule, a handful of antique tractor enthusiasts gathered on Oct. 23 for an impromptu plowing bee on the Jolley-area farm of Ed Courter.

"We just decided to do this the other day," Courter said. His ground, coming out of the CRP program this year, lies along both edges of an east-west running county drainage ditch. "No modern tractors are allowed."

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Larry Kershner
Ed Courter, right, leads his band of antique tractor/plowing enthusiasts on Oct. 23. In two hours, the seven machines turned over seven acres of CRP ground on his farm.

Those participating brought vintage John Deere and Massey-Ferguson tractors, all but one pulling a three-bottom plow.

A hay wagon transported family members and others interested in watching how field work was accomplished in an era when a big farmer operated a half-section at a time.

"I grew up on a farm," said the 52-year-old farmer, "and we always used plows when we were younger. Nobody does that anymore."

As he was planning on cropping his CRP acres, Courter said, "I decided to have a little fun." He called a few of his neighbors and pieced together the small plow exhibition.

In two hours, the targeted acres were turned over, with operators taking a short break for refreshments midway in the process.

Bill Courter, 57, of Jolley, Ed Courter's older brother, noted the seven machines made relatively short work of the project.

Back in the day, he said, "you would plow three weeks on a 10-acre field." Courter said he and his brother farmed for 32 years with their father, Donald Courter, who died earlier this year.

He remembers that handling plowing chores, one would work "for four to five hours and just have a small strip finished."

When he was 8, Courter said he recalls the day he accompanied his mother to take lunch to his father planting in the same field that Oct. 23's plowing was being done.

Watching as Ed Courter's John Deere 730 passed by, followed by Randy Nehman, of Fonda, on a John Deere 70, and by Noel Nehman, of Jolley, on a Farmall M, Bill Courter continued his story of taking lunch to his father.

"He told me, 'there it is - go.' And that's how I learned to plant. Of course he was right there" keeping a close eye on his son's maiden planting venture.

"It was a privilege farming with my dad.

"I loved the farming because I didn't have to do the maintenance and I didn't have to pay the bills - just run the equipment and do chores.

"Farming is a wonderful way of life, even though it's a big business now. I mean, it was a business then, too, but now "

Rolling up behind an idled tractor, Noel Nehman, 72, hopped down from his seat and popped open a can of cold beer.

He said his early plowing experiences were with hydraulic plows.

"It just gets into your blood," Nehman said. "I've bought and restored many old plows. At one point, I had 60. I have about 30 now.

"Every plow has a story." On this day, he was using a two-bottom Cockshutt he bought in Albert Lea, Minn.

Making short work of the grassy land along the south edge of the drainage ditch, the operators rumbled across a bridge as old as any tractor out there and proceeded to turn the soil on the north edge.

Across the field, in the next section, a modern New Holland tractor was pulling tillage equipment getting as much done in a single as the seven tractors did in the two-hour span.

It was a telling moment. In just two generations of farming, how the technology and size of equipment matches the growing size of 21st century farms.

Watching the operators laboring under the autumn sun, and comparing the modern tractor off in the distance with its air conditioned cab and array of computerized gizmos - agriculture has come a long way.

"It's good though that guys can be in the cab now," Bill Courter noted. "So many of the old guys are battling skin cancer now" because they were exposed to the sun for long periods.

"Dad never let us take our shirts off out here," he said. "And now I'm glad he did."

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or



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