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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes


October 14, 2015

I will be the first person to admit that I enjoy finding odd stuff on the Internet. Let's face it -- sometimes people's creativity goes off in directions that we don't expect.

Last week I came across one of those items that caught my imagination: a former NASCAR driver by the name of Jack Donohue recently set a new land speed record for farm tractors.

Now, many of us in this neck of the woods have some experience with farm tractors, and generally speaking, they aren't happy going much over about twenty miles an hour. Back in 1935 a Bonneville racer by the name of Ab Jenkins got an Allis-Chalmers up to 67 miles an hour, and he reported that it was like trying to ride a frightened bison.

For some reason -- probably involving sanity -- no one has tried to beat that record in eighty years, until Donohue showed up at the airstrip at Wilmington, Ohio, where an outfit called the East Coast Timing Association holds meets to time record runs. Donohue brought with him a somewhat modified 1952 Ford 8N, which had been fitted out with a 1953 Ford flathead V8 conversion -- not quite stock, but Ford tractor dealers used to sell the parts for the conversion back in the day. "We tried to use stock equipment wherever we could," Donahue reports.

Donohue's 8N, which he calls the "8Ncredible" looks pretty stock from about the steering wheel forward -- it looks like the familiar Ford 8N that it is. From the steering wheel back, well, not so much, because of the shrouded wheels covering aircraft tires and the heavy-duty roll cage. Although Donohue wasn't saying, it was pretty obvious that there had been some serious transmission and rear end work done.

Ford quit building the 8N back in the fifties, but they are still commonly seen around here. Though they were smaller than most tractors of the era, they had some advanced features that were well ahead of its time. They were handy little beasts and were very useful for their size.

So how fast is it? Well, Donohue got it up to 96 miles an hour, and he was disappointed with that -- he'd hoped to crack a hundred on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but they were closed this year for the second year in a row due to deteriorating salt conditions. The mile and a half of runway at Wilmington was definitely a second choice, and apparently it was a pretty hairy ride -- the stock front axle doesn't seem to be real happy at that kind of speed, and Donohue plans to do some work on it before he goes to the flats next year, assuming they're open.

With apologies to the Beach Boys:
"Just a little Eight-N with a flathead mill,
but she'll whomp a John Deere like it's standing still"

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