fbpx

Robert Erickson, Champion Plowman

My Uncle Bob was a champion plowman, back when that kind of thing was a big deal here in the Midwest.  I don’t want his story to be forgotten.  How many young men of his generation ended up meeting four presidents, and competing in Europe (twice!) solely because of a remarkable ability to plow a straight furrow?

Robert Charles Erickson (1924-2005) was my mother’s younger brother.  He grew up in a farm family in northern Illinois, and learned young how to drive a tractor and work a plow.  By the time he was a teen, he was competing in—and winning—level land plowing matches at the local level and beyond.

Make Instant Discoveries in Your Family Tree Now
Imagine adding your family tree to a simple website and getting hundreds of new family history discoveries instantly.

MyHeritage is offering 2 free weeks of access to their extensive collection of 12 billion historical records, as well as their matching technology that instantly connects you with new information about your ancestors. Sign up using the link below to find out what you can uncover about your family.

He first competed nationally in 1947 at age 23, where he lost by only .05 point.  But made a number of appearances at the nationals, and in 1954 at Olney, Illinois, he achieved his dream of being national champion.  So in 1955 he competed in the world championships in Uppsala, Sweden, coming in 8th out of 36.  1960 saw him winning the nationals again, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, qualifying him to compete the next summer in Grignon, France, where he placed 12th out of 48.

The photograph below shows him in 1956 with President Eisenhower.  I also have pictures of him with Truman and Nixon.  He told me once that he ate lunch with President Kennedy around the time he competed in France, but there was no photographer there.

35 Plowman 2 - Bob Erickson with Eisenhower - 1956 Newton IA

Advertisement

Uncle Bob retired from national-level competition after France, due to a rule that forbade the same person from representing the U.S.A. more than twice, so my mother told me…  She said the rule later changed, but he chose not to return to competition.  He went back to Minooka, Illinois and farmed there the rest of his life with his father, my Grandpa Erickson, who had taught him everything he knew about plowing.

Sadly, Uncle Bob died a lonely man.  He and his wife Shirley had no children, and his wife died many years before he did.  Quarrels about money and inheritances had broken his ties with most of his family by the time he died.  But he always loved his farm and his tractors and his stories.

I drove out to Minooka, Illinois one day a few summers ago and looked up his tombstone.  I was pleased to see that it was well cared for by his best friend Tom, and that it was a fitting tribute to a Champion Plowman.

35 Plowman 3 - Gravestone, Robert C Erickson

4 thoughts on “Robert Erickson, Champion Plowman”

  1. My grandfather is at the top of that leaderboard with your uncle Bob and Eisenhower! My grandpa Eugene Holmes also won the National Contour in 1955 and traveled to Oxford England in 1956 to compete in the world competition. I’m guessing they knew each other. We are currently sifting through old articles trying to preserve and organize them.

  2. I enjoyed this post. My husband had a distant relative from Northern Ireland who competed in International Plowing Competitions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Beginners' Guides

Whether you’re brand new to family history research or just want some help with the basics, our beginners’ guides - including our Family Tree Starter Guide - have the expert information you need.

Online Courses

Discover how to build your best family tree with our online courses. Learn with detailed tutorials, expert guides, hands-on lessons, quizzes and much more. Your registration never expires.

Free Genealogy

Billions of free genealogy records are available online, you just need to know how to find them. We’ve made the job easy with lists and guides to help you discover the records you need.

Send this to a friend