John Deere 8640 twin-wheeled farm tractor (Belgium 2005) Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Werktuigendagen
10 Forsythia Grove, Outer Hamlet, CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
January 13 2000
My Dear Ralph
I have a story today which centres on the dangers that can be posed by giant farm tractors motoring towards one fully-loaded with straw bales, and with the driver apparently unable to see out of the cab. I can say this with some assurance Ralph as, surely, if I am unable to see the driver – then he will also be unable to see me?
What happened was this. I was motoring down the farm track in the Banger 0.9L Mk III (towards my destination just beyond it) when, all of a sudden and with no warning whatsoever, a large – and fully laden – farm tractor emerged from a side turning just ahead of me. It turned in my direction and motored, at a brisk pace, towards me. I should think that around 6m separated us at this point.
I don’t quite have words to describe the sensation of horror which overcame me as this towering mechanical monster loomed over me. (My mind came up with an immediate mental picture of its sharp metal “spears” – used for impaling bales of straw upon – also puncturing me.)
The Banger is fitted with one of those gear sticks that require one to elevate a circular disc prior to engaging reverse gear. And I must admit dear that I was so petrified in my seat that I was unable to find reverse gear in time. I was very fortunate that morning that my car horn worked, and equally fortunate that the tractor driver was not hard of hearing. For he stopped – around 3m away from the front of my bonnet. As he turned away, I made a “fluttering heart” gesture at him and he smiled enigmatically . . .
Neither of us got out of our vehicles and neither of us said a word. It wasn’t until later – while boning up on a Health and Safety Executive file on the subject of “Driving a Tractor Safely” – that I realized, firstly, how many grisly incidents occur in any one year involving farm tractors and, secondly, that the driver is supposed to look all around him/her before setting off and sound his own horn! In fact, from what I read, we should have made an entry in the farm accident book and recorded a “near miss!”
I am certainly much more aware now that tractors are prone to toppling over on uneven ground and that one should not motor underneath one while its loading gear is suspended overhead!
I have also practised a more rapid capacity for getting into reverse gear and proceed down the track with a window wound down so that I can listen out for an engine starting up!
We all think our day is going to proceed smoothly, don’t we? But all it takes is a series of apparently minor errors on one, or more, people’s parts for our day to end up in the mortuary.
Yours still in the land of the living . . .