For those who participate in the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair's annual tractor pull, held Friday evening at the fair, pulling is a way of life. Most drivers hitting the dirt at the Buck Miller Arena learned to drive their tractors before ever sitting down in the driver's seat of their cars.
The tractors taken on the pull are often as much a part of the family as any living members, and in fact, many of these vehicles predate most of the living members of these farm families. They come in as much of a variety as the drivers themselves, from companies like John Deere, Farmall, International Turbo, Oliver and more. Some have a long history, with families swapping out parts over generations, while others are fresh off the factory floor.
At the tractor pull, the drivers — divided into four farm stock classes, four interstate classes, a regular street class and a semi class — attempt to pull a weighted sled as far as their tractors can carry. As the sled is pulled, the weight moves forward and closer to the vehicle making the entire piece more difficult to pull.
While on the field, each driver takes his own tactic. Some drag the entire contraption slowly and steadily, while others rev up and blast their front wheels off the ground in an attempt to overpower the weighted sled.
Despite the diversity of talent and style, one thing unites all the drivers. Their passion for the tractor pull.
"It's just super, super fun," said Henry Brunnett, a 16-year-old student at Westminster High School. "It's great to take something that you spend all week working with, and then you get to take it out to play."
Brunnett drove a '58 International Diesel tractor during the competition. He said day-to-day he uses it to move hay, but when the tractor pull comes around, they modify it specifically for the competition. Modifications can take many forms, Brunnett said. Drivers can add weights as ballast, change the tire pressure, or swap out the tires entirely to best carry The Rebel Sled.
While to the naked eye, the tractor pull can seem like just a straightforward drive in a line, Brunnett said there are a number of things a good driver has to pay attention to. It's knowing when to shift gears, power through and where to look at all times that separate a champion from a novice, Brunnett said.
The tractor pull has been held at the 4-H Fair every year since 1969, with the weighted sled introduced in 1971.
Rick Myers, of Mount Pleasant, said he has loved anything with an engine ever since he was young. He said working on the tractor is almost as much fun as pulling, though as he gets older, his interest goes more toward driving rather than repairing. He said he uses his 1466 International for some work, but mostly uses the tractor for pulls.
Jeremy Hanson, of Rileyville, Virginia, said his love of tractors began when he was 8 years old and saw his first pull. He said that evening, he told his dad that he wanted to own his own tractor when he grew up. Hanson said once you know your machine, tractor pulling is the easiest thing in the world.
"If you're a true tractor puller, when you're out there, you become one with the machine," Hanson said. "You've got a lot of people who think they're tractor pullers, who go out there and overthink about what they're doing and they end up making idiots of themselves."
If You Go
What: J Bar W Ranch Rodeo
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30
Where: Buck Miller Arena, Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair, 704 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster
Cost: $10. Children 7 and younger are free
What: Family Fun Fest
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30
Where: Activity Tent, Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair, 704 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster