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The Deere Plow

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If God was really serious back in Genesis when he condemned the fallen Adam and his posterity to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows, John Deere will be in a lot of trouble come Judgment Day.
Adam and Eve left Eden and went out into a world where the ground was cursed, so that it brought forth thorns and thistles. They lacked farm implements of any kind.Humans are a cantankerous bunch, and they soon developed crude implements to ease their punishment. About five thousand years ago, the first plow appeared—little more than a forked tree limb sharped at one end. God must have smiled at these pitiful efforts.

Subsequent improvements still required plenty of sweat to operate. The first plow to reach America arrived in Virginia in 1617. It was a heavy wooden affair requiring teams of oxen to operate. It made both humans and oxen sweat and was hardly worth the effort.

Adam's great-great-great-great-great grandchildren continued to sweat. Even Charles Newbold's cast iron plow in 1797 did little to ease the effort. The points wore off fast and could not be replaced. And all plows proved useless against the deeply rooted prairie soil of America's heartland.

Then, in 1837, a young dreamer, John Deere, invented a self-scouring steel plow. God could not have been happy with the results. John Deere's plow sliced through the prairie almost like butter. It was as if the old curse was lifted. Adam's descendants, tired of all that sweat, flocked to the Deere factory in Moline. 

We Rock Islanders don't believe John Deere is in any real trouble. Some of us, in fact, believe that heaven and hell are in the same place. The only difference is that the sinners labor to grow their food with forked sticks amid thorns and thistles, while the saints are seated each on a Johnny Putt-Putt tractor pulling a John Deere plow, turning over rich black celestial soil in a furrow that runs straight and true toward an eternal horizon lit by a sun which never sets.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.