Monday, May 11, 2015

The Museum of Comfort TV Salutes: The Hoyt-Clagwell Tractor

 
Imagine a place where all of the instantly recognizable objects associated with classic television are on display. It doesn’t exist so we’ll create it here, and pay tribute to many of our favorite Comfort TV things.

Greek mythology tells of Sisyphus, who was condemned to the underworld for his sins and forced to push a heavy boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down as soon as he finished the job.

Where Sisyphus had his boulder, Oliver Wendell Douglas had his Hoyt-Clagwell tractor. 



Both men were cursed to repeatedly have their day’s labor undone by cruel fate (and in Oliver’s case, deficient factory standards). His noble attempts to uphold the tradition of the American farmer he so admired were no match for an ancient derelict vehicle that would fall apart if you tried to ride it, or start it, or even sometimes if you just looked at it the wrong way.

It was Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, who described Green Acres as the story of Oliver Douglas in hell. Everything about life in Hooterville bedeviled him at one time or another, from his wife Lisa’s “hotscakes,” also suitable as an afterlife punishment, to the agricultural guidance he received from county agent Hank Kimball, the ideal personification of government bureaucracy.

But Oliver’s Hoyt-Clagwell surpassed mere incompetence to verge on outright malevolence, like a rural version of Stephen King’s ‘Christine.’ Even Mr. Haney, who sold Oliver the tractor, couldn’t control it. In one episode Eb recalled how it used to chase Haney across the field; even on those rare occasions when it’s moving, this tractor cannot be trusted. 



I don’t believe it ever chased Oliver, though my Green Acres recollection is not without gaps. I do recall it catching fire, losing wheels, losing its steering wheel, and nearly electrocuting its owner during an attempted battery jump. In the season one episode “Neighborliness,” Oliver tries to attach the tractor to a plow. That didn’t go well, either.

I love the name “Hoyt-Clagwell” because it sounds authentic. Of course, no such company ever existed – and even in the fictional world of Hooterville it had long since passed into history. When Oliver went to Drucker’s General Store to order replacement parts, Sam Drucker told him that Hoyt-Clagwell closed after Mr. Hoyt left the tractor business to make plastic fruit.



The tractor that was immortalized as a Hoyt-Clagwell was actually (according to multiple sources) a 1918 Fordson Model F, and in its day was considered a miracle of modern machinery. That is, when it wasn’t flipping over because of poor weight distribution. The wheels tended to break as well – talk about perfect casting.

Before I began researching this piece, I was not aware that Ertl Toys, makers of die-cast models of many classic TV vehicles, had also made a Hoyt-Clagwell tractor. Now I want one. 



Of course, we are proud to have the original here in the museum. For your own safety, however, just don’t get too close. 

5 comments:

  1. A toy version of the Hoyt Clagwell!? I. WANT. ONE! The tractor is a running joke in our family--anything that inevitable breaks or we don't mechanically trust, we always call a Hoyt-Clagwell. I'm glad to see it's not a lost reference ;)

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    1. How did we not know the Ertl model existed? First thing I did when I finished this piece was see if one was available on eBay. No luck yet.

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    2. David, It's there on ebay.
      4 days left so far 4 people are watching or buy it now for $40.
      The carton is pretty worn and they give you a number of views of the item.
      I'm not the seller just a Green Acres fan.
      I'm still waiting for them to release the rest of season on DVD or reissue the complete set on Mill Creek Entertainment.
      Good luck!

      ebay title:
      Vintage GREEN ACRES - FORSON TRACTOR by ERTL, 1969 - Original Box

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-GREEN-ACRES-FORSON-TRACTOR-by-ERTL-1969-Original-Box-/221763641402?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item33a224a03a

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    3. Here is an eBay search with many an Ertl Fordson Model F, many in grey with red wheels:

      http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=fordson+ertl&_ipg=200&rt=nc

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