The tiny town of Rocklane is named for a reason. There are more rocks within a two-mile radius of that berg that you can count. Big rocks, little rocks, hidden rocks, rocks so big you can't move them with a skid-steer loader – they're all there. They were left behind when a tongue of the Wisconsin glacier melted in the vicinity, depositing all the rocks it had pushed up in front of the giant mounds of ice.
Recently I rode with a farmer planting corn in a field just a few miles south of Rocklane, the epicenter of rocky land. There were a couple of rocks he went around because the part exposed was likely only the tip of the iceberg. Then there was one lying on top, so I got out and moved it so he could plant through. It was heavier than it looked, but I scooted it out of the planter's path.
This spawned a story from years ago and I proceeded to tell the farmer.
I was working for a farmer on weekends and summers while going to college. He farmed 80 acres very close to Rocklane. One Saturday he sent me up to plow – yes, with a moldboard plow. This was the early 1970s. I drove an Oliver 1650 gas with an Oliver 4-bottom plow.
Oliver was noted for how strong their plows were, supposedly. He even greased the plow for me before I left. The plow was designed so bottoms would trip back if the plow share hit something it couldn't slide over. The third bottom didn't take grease when he tried. It had never taken grease as long as I could remember- it was plugged. "Ah, go on, it will be OK," he said.
"Ok, you're the boss," I thought. No, I didn't say it.
I headed off on my 10-mile journey to the farm. Once there I started plowing under corn stalks. It was a rolling field with some steep slopes and yes, rocks. We went around some of those "wonder what's under the tip" rocks my farmer friend mentioned earlier. My boss had taken a few out. But hearing a clunk and seeing a rock pop out on freshly plowed ground was a constant occurrence.
I was tooling along and suddenly the tractor bolted. The front wheels went up in the air and I hit the clutch. There was a noise from behind. I looked back and couldn't believe what I saw.
My four-bottom plow was now a three bottom plow! One bottom remained hooked in place, apparently on a rock. The bottom broke clean off just above the moldboard, clean as a whistle.
Well, I couldn't very well plow with three moldboards and there were no cell phones, so I waited until he showed up to bring lunch. I figured he would start yelling. He just looked at the broken bottom, saw the clogged grease zerk, and said, "Man, I wonder how big that rock is?"
I never found out. As far as I know, he didn't either. A rock big enough to break a plow bottom off is likely left where it's at. We marked the spot and farmed around it in the future!
Editor's note: Look for Our View each week on the Web. This column formerly appeared in Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine