Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Early Days of Pulling


Seeing some of my old tractor pulling buddies at Wilmington last night reminded me of our early days in tractor pulling.

I remember getting an animal ready to show at the Brown County Fair when I was a boy and I heard this tractor screaming down the track and ran to see what was going on.

There was a 4010 John Deere, Bob Webb's from Wilmington, Ohio turning the tires in 7th gear and blowing smoke into the sky. I was hooked.

I had seen the neighbor Donald Dye whipping everyone with his little WC Allis Chalmers with a D-17 style engine in it for years.

In the early years they just pulled a dead weight sled so many feet, 20 became the standard. Then they lengthened the sled and made it long enough for a man to stand at every 50 feet and get on the sled as it drove by until the tractor stalled or took it out the end. Full Pull became the goal.

I know it was done with horses first to see which farmer had the most powerful team of horses then it soon adapted to tractors. The first one I saw was in the 50's.

By 1970 it became a very popular sport for farm people and started drawing non-farm people. I will never forget seeing dad's Oliver 77 with the head off for a valve job and looking at the big thick sleeves designed to make the engine repairable and operate for a long time. You can build a lot of cubic inches where thick sleeves sat.

Dad would have no part of me pulling, money was too scare and we barely had enough machinery to get by on 300 acres. I think it was 1970 when my friend Tom Salisbury let me drive his 77 at the Highland County Fair. I won second place in a hard class and was really "hooked" then.

We hosted our friends down from Williams County this weekend, almost in Michigan and Indiana.

Allen and I were lookin at Les's 36 foot John Deere Air Seeder and up pulls Greg Taylor on his newly restored 2010 John Deere. It looks really, really good. He was getting ready to haul it to Wilmington as a pulloff tractor with their Gator so his dad Bruce could ride around the fairgrounds he was secretary for so many years. One of those priceless moments, you know what I mean?

We oogled over the restoration and finally Greg said Ed, I have been wanting to talk to you. Down here, that means uh oh, what is he going to say?

He said I want to write a book about the early days of pulling but I can't do it. I thought and thought about it and decided you are the man.

Me? Little ole me? Sweat was running off my brow about that time.

He said he would provide me all the information and pictures he could gather but he wanted ME to write it! I first thought, why didn't I think of that, if I ever did I quickly put it aside. But Greg thinks enough of me to put his words into a book?

I always wanted to write a book. I have one now after 6 months on Google, thank you.

So I went to the pull wanting to see my old puller friends and the first I ran into was Ron Barga out of Rockford, Ohio, Mercer County.

I saw Ron crippling out of the pulling trailer and said, Ron, we are getting too old for this. Oh no he said, we are still good! Neither one of us can carry 100 lb IH suitcase weights like we used to.

We had a great chat and I finally said Ron, I have seen my dad and father in law pass, we are next. He laughed and said, yes, I know it but so what? Ron, it needs to be written down.

He looked all inquisitive and said his wife has been telling him that. I said we lived through a period of time where we learned to spend our extra every moment and burst of energy on pulling, like the early county fairs.

I said what got you into pulling? He said we put this 427 Chevy in our old Cockshutt 40 and I took it down to El Dora Raceway to pull it in 1970. He said I did lousy and a neighbor laughed and said that thing couldn't pull against a real farm tractor.

He knew it could so they made a bet. They decided on the Ansonia Fall Festival to have their grudge match, the big farm tractor against the little Cockshutt 40.

About that time his wife came and listened to every word we exchanged. She has been wanting him to get this written down for some time. I have watched Ron pull several hundred times in the past 40 years.

Ron said the other farmer said his tractor weighs 13,500 lbs. He said weight your tractor however and we will have a grudge pull and I will show you what wins.

Ron weighted that poor little 5000 lb Cockshutt with 13 sets of wheel weights and 47, count them, 47 suitcase weights and pulled against his neighbor.

The neighbor ran first and made it to 150 feet. Ron said he let out the clutch and thought the little Cockshutt would split but he got to the neighbors wheel tracks and he was still moving.

The whole community had bets on who would win, some even had counter bets! He said the flagman waved him on with his green flag like you, won, WhooHooe, lets see how far you can go!

Ron said he put the peddle to the metal and the Cochshutt went the Full Pull!

You can imagine how the adrenalin was flowing so Ron was hooked for life. So he and his boys were pulling in Wilmington last night.

I could hardly sleep on that story as I started pulling the same year.

If you have any pulling stories to share with me please send them.

Ed Winkle

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