You start it up, and pyrotechnics go off that would shame any fireworks display. Point to one of its wheels, and it falls off. Point to a second wheel, and it falls off too. So does the steering wheel. Grab the wiring harness and the gauges fall out, saying you’re flying at 3,000 feet. Whatever you do, don’t call it any names or it might chase you around the barnyard.
This is a typical day in the life of a Hoyt Clagwell tractor.
We television viewers now travel back in time to the mid 1960s, somewhat abandon our senses, voyage about 300 miles from “Chicargo,” and take the Cannonball to the town of Hooterville, which is near Crabwell Corners and Pixley. Then let’s take a drive down an unnamed dusty county road and enter “The Old Haney Place,” home of Lisa and Oliver Wendell Douglas, which has now been renamed “Green Acres.”
We find a ramshackled country farmhouse, filled with stylish, modern furniture that looks like it came out of a Park Avenue, New York, apartment, because that’s exactly what it did. Out back is gorgeous Lisa feeding Eleanor the cow and Henrietta the hen and her chicks, who also have individual names. In the nearby barn, poor Oliver and hired hand Eb Dawson (No kin to Jack) are hopelessly trying to get their old tractor going. Mr. Douglas is in his plowing suit today, so we know many of his acres need to be tilled.
The phone rings, and Oliver scrambles up the telephone pole to answer it. He then loses his perch and falls off. This may be right after he gave his famous speech about planting seeds and watching them shoot up out of the ground, reach up to the sky, and turn into corn and wheat and alfalfa.
In reality (If TV really has a reality), the Hoyt Clagwell was a 1918 Fordson Model F, and this tractor deserves an honored place in American farming and manufacturing history.
The Model F did for tractors what the Model T did for cars… that is, it put them into the hands of the people. It was the first mass-produced “automobile plow,” using many of the same assembly line methods Henry Ford had developed for cars.
One unique design innovation was to make double use of the engine and drivetrain as the tractor’s frame. This greatly reduced production time and costs, and is a feature used on virtually all tractors today.
According to Wikipedia, “It took thirty hours and forty minutes to convert the raw materials into the 4,000 parts used for the tractor assembly.” The Model F cost $750 on October 8, 1917, when it was introduced; I can’t remember how much Mr. Haney sold it to Oliver for. I doubt much less.
The early Fordsons were not without their faults. Just like in the show, they were hard to start, the wheels broke, and they overheated. They had a nasty tendency to flip over backwards since they were aft-end heavy. Later on, larger radiators helped cure the overheating and weight distribution problems. And like the Hoyt Clagwell, their reliability was “uneven” at best.
I don’t think Oliver’s tractor would have any trouble flipping over, as its steel wheels were smoothed – possibly to avoid damage to the studio’s concrete floors. This also meant that it would spin on any terran surface, and would easily get stuck in soft soil.
So it’s time to fess up a little. It seems I’ve lived somewhat like I was on Green Acres for about 50 years now; the parallels are almost uncanny. Our house is not unlike The Old Haney Place (just reversed), as it’s the typical shotgun-style farmhouse, complete with a loose front door knob and is in constant need of paint and repair.
We also had an antique grey tractor, a Ferguson TO-30, which is a descendant of the Model F. It served us well until a larger John Deere 2150 came along. Though the Ferguson was slow to start sometimes (It even had a hand crank), none of its wheels ever fell off. But it did chase me one time (That’s another story!).
So obviously, my feelings for a Hoyt Clagwell, Green Acres, and Hooterville may run deeper than most folks’.
There’s also a great Green Acres website, where you can learn and/or buy most anything about Hooterville and its citizens.
I wish there were new TV shows like Green Acres today. This was absolute hilarious and innocent comedy writing. Maybe the trend of well-written comedy shows will return and reprise a whole new genre of television, and we could someday see a reduction in these senseless and cheaply-produced “reality” shows.
Image Credits: The dapper Oliver & Lisa photo on the Hoyt Clagwell is from Maggiore.net. The radiator image is from BlogSpot.com. Our Hoyt Clagwell “glamour” shot is from BlogSpot.com. The scale model image is from BlogSpot.com.