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Wisdom saved a tractor from a watery grave

In August 2010, I spent several weeks at my brother, Ted Snodgrass', Longhorn ranch and observed several life lessons in action. I wrote the story of how his quick thinking about a mishap with a John Deere tractor turned into a perfect illustration of the value of wisdom for solving the everyday problems of living. From the email I received, it was one of my most popular columns.

I am sharing that story once again in honor of my brother, Ted Snodgrass, who died in his sleep September 2, 2012. He was 52. He had been fighting health problems for a lot of years after nearly losing his leg in the late 1990s from a flesh-eating bacteria. Several years later, his health declined when he was exposed to black mold in his condominium.

Ted is remembered for his wit, ingenuity, and launching the flat-panel revolution with his invention of “Digital Dispense Technology.” This technology is widely used in semiconductor fabrication for television and computer screens plus the multitude of hand-held devices. In layman terms, that means the technology behind the screen of the computer or hand-held device you may be reading this email on originated in the brain of my baby brother Ted Snodgrass. That evolving technology is continuing to change my world as Kindle is/has changed forever the publishing world and offers new avenues of teaching and spreading God's love. Ted held over forty patents for his inventions.

Here's the story with additional applications:

The day began quietly enough when the hired hand Danny started mowing my brother, Ted Snodgrass’, pasture on his Longhorn ranch in East Texas. Longhorns, known for their lean, tender meat, often give new meaning to the cliché about the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence. The bull is usually an expert at finding the weakest place in the fence to break out. Then he leads his herd in stealing food from a neighbor's pasture.

Consequently, my brother Ted kept Danny busy making sure the Longhorns grazed on appetizing grass. Frequent mowing took down the weeds and helped the grass flourish. The ranch had several spring-fed ponds that supplied fresh water for the cattle.

As Danny mowed close to the edge of a pond, one of the wheels began sliding toward the water. When Danny tried to get the tractor going again, the second wheel on that side lost traction and began slipping, too. To his horror, one wheel sank into the water.

Danny quickly recognized the danger—the tractor could be lost in the pond. Even worse, if he tried to drive the tractor to higher ground, it could flip over and seriously injury him or pin him under the water. Because of the steep bank around the pond, only the roll bar was visible from the house. We would not know he was in trouble until it was too late.

Running to the house, Danny explained the situation to Ted who was eating breakfast. Ted asked Danny to get a heavy-duty hitch from the barn my dad, Ray Snodgrass, had welded 45 years earlier to pull irrigation engines. Then Ted told him where the new yellow-fabric wench strap was located to hook onto the tractor. Danny drove Ted’s Cadillac Escalade into position and attached the hitch. Then he attached the wench strap to the hitch and the front frame of the tractor.

Ted drove the Escalade while Danny steered the tractor. Quick thinking by Danny and Ted plus teamwork saved the tractor from a watery grave. Who knows how expensive it would have been to repair a tractor that had been submerged. Or even if it would ever have worked properly again.

Three lessons wisdom teaches from this event

Wisdom is the ability to perceive a problem.

Sliding into a pond is an obvious problem, but how many people try to save face and attempt to rescue themselves? Wisdom not only perceives the problem, but also determines the size and danger of the problem. Danny had the wisdom to not try to solve this problem by himself.

Wisdom is the ability to propose a solution.

Sometimes people try to ignore problems and hope they will go away or hide them so no one will notice. Some people numb their minds with drugs, alcohol, or watching porn. Others use distractions such as addictive television watching, working on the computer, or glued to sports. Still others take their frustrations out on innocent loved ones by hollering or making sarcastic putdowns. (Hey, you’re not so smart yourself!)

Finding something else to do is much easier than dealing with problems face to face with a live human. We may claim no one gets hurt. In reality, everyone loses out because the emotional void is very lonely. It takes effort and sensitivity to get along with family members who may feel unloved, unappreciated, and taken advantage of.

Wisdom requires a person to analyze the solution to determine if it will really solve the problem or just cover it up or expand our storage needs. A wise person looks at the consequences of a proposed solution to see if it will work. Obviously, a hitch welded to pull heavy weights and using a strong strap designed for difficult loads were up to the task of rescuing the tractor.

Wisdom requires action to put the solution into practice.

What if Danny and Ted had said, "Well we tried to keep the grass healthy for the Longhorns, but we failed. Let's just feed the cattle the winter hay stacked by the barn," and had walked away from the tractor trapped in the water"? How many people make good plans then fail to carry them out?

Consequences of the lack of wisdom

Many times I heard my dad tell about instructing each new hired hand during wheat harvest, "If you get stuck, come get me. Don't try to solve the problem yourself; because more than likely, you'll just get stuck even worse."

He complained about how his hired hands often assumed they knew more about those fields than he did. They would drive the heavy grain-loaded trucks where he told them not to thinking, “Ray will never know I took the quick way out of the field.” Embarrassed that they were caught not following directions by getting stuck, they would disobey him a second time. They would grind the gears trying to rescue themselves, only to sink the truck deeper into the soft dirt.

Then Dad would have to stop the combine and get a tractor to pull them out. Their not following directions wasted everyone's time. It left the ripened grain exposed longer to surprise thunder storms and even damaging hail.

My dad often amazed me how he knew exactly how much money mistakes in the field cost. When he showed me his first crop of cotton at age 82, he pointed to the rounded corners.

He explained, “See where the man I hired to run the tractor didn’t put in the effort to plant the whole field? It was easier to round the corners off than to do the tight plowing.I still had to pay the airplane pilot to spray those corners for weeds. But they didn’t produce anything.” Then he told me the exact dollar amount that idle ground stole from his profits.

Ignorance and a lack of team work—refusing to plow the corners—also steals happiness from marriages. For example, when God created Adam and Eve, Adam pronounced them a team—one flesh:

 Gen. 2:24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

Likewise, the verse in 1 Peter 3:7 calls the wife a “joint heir” with her husband. Marriage requires teamwork for success. Husbands and wives must each work together to provide a loving home for their children.

 Marriage is about exercising naked

1 Tim. 4:7: “On the other hand, discipline [literally—exercise naked] yourself for the purpose of godliness…”

In the context of giving the formula for sanctifying marriage in 1 Tim. 4:1-7, Paul concluded with admonishing us to exercise naked—to remove all hindrances from our minds and life that prevent us from obeying his instruction for marital happiness. Some people are born with a love of physical movement. Others enjoy sitting on the sofa watching life pass them by.

Life presents many times when the tractor of marriage starts slipping into the pond. The choice is always ours—we cannot choose for our mates. We can deny a problem even exists and put on a false happy face—at least when we’re around others. Or we can blame each other and only do what is necessary to appease our mates’ anger until they forget about the problem. We can refuse to turn to God to learn his solutions to propose workable solutions. Certainly, exercise requires getting up off our rears and applying the solutions.

Neither Ted nor Danny could save the tractor alone. First, they needed honesty to recognize that a serious problem even existed—a problem that could suck the tractor into deeper water. They were forced to act quickly before the tractor slipped deeper into the pond. They each needed knowledge about how to operate hitches and strong straps to give the tractor a chance to be saved. They were forced to work as a team—one driving the Escalade and the other guiding the tractor. Ted and Danny exercised naked (figuratively speaking) to save a tractor from a watery grave.

Are we willing to put on God’s wisdom to save something more valuable than an expensive tractor—our marriages? The choice is ours alone to make. We can make it only for ourselves, then hold our mates accountable for their own decisions. Do you have the guts to exercise naked before God?

Permission to Reproduce Wisdom saved a tractor from a watery grave

Wisdom saved a tractor from a watery grave by Patsy Rae Dawson. Copyright © 2012 Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved.

Wisdom saved a tractor from a watery grave by Patsy Rae Dawson is available at It may be copied for noncommercial use only, provided you do the following: 1. Retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices; 2. Make no modifications to the materials; 3. Do not use the materials in a manner that suggests an association with Patsy Rae Dawson LLC; and; 4. Do not download quantities of materials to a database, server, or personal computer for reuse for commercial purposes. You may not use this material in any other way without prior written permission. For additional permissions, contact Patsy Rae Dawson LLC at