A single, precisely aimed shot from Jimmy Wood’s 12-gauge stopped the 16,000-pound beast dead in its tracks, and its lifeblood began to squirt from a steely vein.
A half hour earlier, cotton farmer Ricky Blackmon had foolishly awakened the green giant with a screwdriver to short out its starter. To his utter surprise it awoke with a lurch, and rolled over him.
Though badly hurt, Ricky managed to crawl away and call for an ambulance. Then in a sudden fit of pragmatism, he dialed up his friend and neighbor Jimmy Wood to ask a favor.
It was Thanksgiving Day in the early 1990s and farmers across the west Tennessee countryside were finishing up their harvest and looking forward to the holidays. Ricky’s harvest had taken him well into the night, and Jimmy had already gone to bed.
Jimmy was a little shocked when he picked up the ringing phone and his good friend Ricky hollered, “Get your gun, come over here and shoot this tractor.”
When Jimmy got to the field, his friend Ricky was being loaded into an ambulance and the driverless tractor was running in deepening circles in the field. Two families had been evacuated from nearby mobile homes, and several policemen stood by, uncertain of what to do. There was no way anyone could have gained access to the tractor cab without endangering himself.
But despite six broken ribs and being tattooed with tire tread from head to toe, Ricky couldn’t get his mind off the possibility of losing his tractor to any extreme action to disable it. To take out the tractor at minimal cost, he needed Jimmy to make a miracle shot.
Wood knew the shot would not be easy. The tractor’s primary oil filter was on the inside of the turning circle, meaning he had only a small window in which to take aim and fire.
Wood held the shotgun steady and fired one blast which didn’t seem to slow the tractor at all. He was about to shoot again, when he saw oil spewing onto the glass door of the cab. He saw the tractor hesitate, cough and die — all to the rising sound of applause. One of the steel shot from the shotgun had gone through the oil filter and another had burst the fuel filter.
Best of all, both Ricky and his tractor would live to farm another day, although Ricky had to endure some friendly ribbing from his friend Jimmy.
“I told him I was going to make two sets of screwdrivers for him,” Jimmy recalled. “One regular size screwdriver for hotwiring a single-wheel tractor and one extra long one for hotwiring a dual-wheel tractor.” (It was the outside dual that ran over Ricky after he started the tractor while it was still in gear.)
In 2004 Ricky left this earth for cotton fields of a higher plane, but surely the recollection of that Thanksgiving night when Jimmy Wood shot a killer Deere would still bring a twinkle to his eye.
As for the tractor, well, thanks to Jimmy’s expert marksmanship, it cost Ricky only $27 in parts to repair.
Be safe out there this holiday season.