A spring plowing ritual with antique tractors

Posted: April 24, 2012

(Photo by David W. Showalter)
BRIDGEWATER — Remember the Sept. 20 article about the antique tractor owners? They were riding their puttering hotrods to a West Virginia festival. [Shenandoah Journal Sept. 20-26.]
Well, some of them were back in action April 14—working, kind of.

Every spring they plow part of Jeff Patterson’s 63-acre riverbed field off Spring Creek Road.

Nobody remembers exactly when they started this spring ritual, but the best guess is 1998 or ’99. Patterson planted the idea of an antique plow day with his friends. The guys finally took him up on it.

“I thought they’d get sick of it, but they just love it,” Patterson said. “For us [farmers,] it’s work, but these guys come out and it’s a big party for them.”

They definitely weren’t concerned about getting an early start. Patterson had said they typically arrive about 7:30 a.m.

Steve Eckard was the only one there at that time.

“I don’t know where they are,” Patterson had to admit. “They are getting older.”

By 8:15 am., Norman Puffenbarger, Dan Rhodes and Tom Wilfong pulled in. But Wilfong wasn’t quite ready to plow. He had to load up his lawn chair and cooler—nothing like a cold Coca-cola when you’re working hard.

“[Norm] and I both have bad backs, so we have to plow awhile and sit awhile,” Wilfong explained.

An hour later, Roger Hoover, Dale Hollen and Carl “Pidge” Rhodes showed up. A late start, yes, but Hollan said he wouldn’t be stopping for lunch. “I’ll just keep on going, because I enjoy it.”

Pidge Rhodes, however, was philosophical about the time.

“We work by the hour and when you work by the hour, you can’t get behind,” he said. “So why get in a hurry?”

But Patterson is grateful for their help. As a teenager, he had to till that massive field with a two-bottom plow. It took a week of 10-hour days to complete the job, he said. With his buddies, they can plow 40 acres in one day for corn and soy beans.

Just like his friends, Patterson loves driving his tractors. So does his son Jason, 19, a student at Virginia Tech.

“I was pretty small when I started,” Jason said. “I just always liked it. It’s all I could do to stay on the tractor. That’s all I wanted to do.”

The tractor enthusiasts have also inspired an even younger generation.

After witnessing last year’s activities, Samuel Hadacek, 9, and his brother Bailey, 12, wanted to join in.

Samuel took the wheel of a John Deere, while Bailey was on a Ford Jubilee, owned by their father, Dan Hadacek, of Mount Solon.

They pretty much expressed the same sentiment the older guys did about the joys of tractors.

“Basically, the fun I get out of tractors is just driving them,” said Samuel.

“I just like being around machines,” Bailey said. “I just like the toiling of soil. It’s just kind of my thing.”
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