First tractor was the talk of the town
AS THE days of the shepherds came to a close the grazing lands across the plains were cut up into smaller blocks and settlers moved in. They were confident they could grow grain and hay and as the dairying industry was in full swing it could be another source of income.
The plains were open and suitable for ploughing. Four or six-horse teams were used and they were drawing two or three furrow ploughs. This was the way they had farmed in other areas. Many had come from the cooler climate of the south and in the relentless heat of the open plains, the horses could not work for very long periods. But there were other problems ahead.
One of the settlers on the Jimbour plain was an American, Bill Ewing (afterwards known as Bunny). He was an engineer by trade but it seems he wanted to try a new lifestyle in a new country. He had seen the development of tractors in the US and in 1913 set about importing one for his property. It was a large Clayton and Shuttleworth tractor and when it arrived in the Dalby the locals were amazed.
As it was unloaded from a flat-top railway wagon, half of the town was there to see it. Then Bunny drove it down the main street to the cheers of the crowd. It was a 10 tonne, backfiring monster which spooked the horses nearby and some even broke away.
Bunny Ewing drove it out to his property and many of the locals assembled to see it perform. It worked well in the summer heat but proved too heavy on the damp, black-soil plains.
Owing to fluctuating markets a lot of the settlers found their farms were difficult for growing crops and too small for grazing. They later sold to neighbours. Bunny Ewing sold his farm and moved to Dalby where he set up a garage and workshop and later a successful engineering business.
Thomas and Ryder purchased the homestead area owned by the Bells. In late 1913 they purchased a Rumley Oilpull tractor, not realising it was fatal to plough deep. They planted 2000 acres of crop but none of it came up. The new farmers had to master the art of working the fertile black-soil plains.
Thomas and Ryder sold in about 1922. Bunny Ewing remained in Dalby for the rest of his life. The settlers departed, but the Clayton and Shuttleworth tractor remained. Though unsuccessful, it paved the way for tractors in the Dalby district. It has been restored and is now on permanent display at Jimbour.