BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
CREEDS — Farmers and tractor enthusiasts traveled to Bonney Bright’s Farm on Buzzard Neck Road on Halloween Day, and many of them brought their antique workhorses in all models, sizes and colors — and then they put them to work plowing.
By mid-morning on Saturday, Oct. 31, the air was filled with the smell of freshly turned earth while the tractors moved back and forth across the fields, plowing deep into the soil.
Farmer Bonney Bright, helped by Ashton Lewis, organized the second annual Plow Day, and Bright said about 40 tractors and drivers from Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and northeastern North Carolina attended. The event was held in conjunction with the Albemarle Antique Power Association, and it built upon the success of the inaugural event in 2019.
The day was chilly with dark wind clouds in the eastern sky, but this didn’t deter the participants from plowing, showing off their tractors and chatting with onlookers who stopped to ask questions.
Some tractors were huge and some looked like miniatures, and they dated from the 1940s through the 1970s. They included John Deeres and at least one Ford driven by Pungo resident Joe Burroughs.
“He’s very proud because he has the only Ford here today,” said daughter Tammy Burroughs Hindle, pointing to her father’s 1961 Ford 801.
These events, which have become very popular in the Midwest, evoke nostalgia among farmers for an older style of farming in which the farmers plowed very deeply with powerful tractors and aggressive blades. That style of plowing has yielded to a less aggressive form that allows the farmer to dig vertically into the soil, which saves fuel and reduces erosion.
Still, sometimes farmers get nostalgic for the sights and smells of deeply plowed earth, and tractor collectors are fascinated by the technology, so they celebrate their passion by gathering for Plow Day.
Bill Jennings of Elm City, N.C., plowed with his 1952 tractor, wearing his signature red bib overalls.
Jennings, who loves retro Farmall tractors, said that the red bib overalls were a sudden inspiration that “hit me one day” – and he said he’s been wearing them for about 15 years.
Jennings’ overalls weren’t the only colorful feature. Many tractors were red or green, but Blackwater resident Eddie Gilbert declined to plow his newly-painted, bright orange tractor for fear of getting it dirty.
“My tractor’s too shiny to plow with,” said Gilbert, who said that he’d just restored the 1950 Case SC, which his father bought on Water Street in Norfolk.
While he’s apparently fond of the tractor now, it once provoked him so badly that he decided to quit farming, Gilbert said.
“It cut off on me in the field when I was plowing, and I got down off of it, walked back to the house and joined the Marine Corps,” he said.
The participants, some of whom were waving American flags from their tractors, plowed about 50 acres, and the loamy soil was lightly colored and relatively dry despite drenching rains earlier in the week.
“This soil is sandy,” said Barry Hathaway, “and it’s just perfect for plowing. It has just the right amount of moisture, and it’s a perfect day for plowing.”
© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC