At the age of 26, Rodney Covington still plays in the mud.

He runs his truck through the mud as fast as he can in area "mud bogs."

Besides splashing and slogging, bogging has other attractions.

"It is still a sport where you can have fun," Covington said. "It's easy-going. Everyone gets along."

Man is forever finding ways to compete against his fellows, especially with machines.

Mud bogs have become very popular in the last five years, thanks to coverage on cable television's ESPN. Events are staged indoors or out, held in thearea through the warmer months at Arcadia in Baltimore County and Kingsdale in southern Pennsylvania.

The mud bog is like a combination drag race and tractor pull. The object is to get from one point to another as fast as you can, without getting bogged down.

What separates the two points is, what else, mud.

The pit, a couple of hundred feet long, is made of soft mud. It is not the real soupy stuff used in swamp buggy racing.

The race course is made by digging a hole 3 to 4 feet deep, then refilling it with dirt and water mixed to the proper gluelike texture.

The race starts with the front wheels sitting in the pit. To obtain the best time, the driver has to rev hismotor and wheels so that the truck glides on the top 5 inches of themud. If the wheels turn too fast or too slow, the truck skids or sinks into the muck, resulting in a slower time.

A winner can pick upabout $500 -- not bad for one run and one of the main reasons that Covington turned to mud-bogging.

"It's less expensive. There are less headaches," he said.

"You only run once, instead of round afterround like in drag racing," Covington explained. "You either win or lose.

"Then you can go home at a decent hour, wash your truck and be ready for the next event." The major maintenance required is lubrication, a good motor check and regular oil changes.

Until Covington started running in the mud races, he was at the drag strip with hisstock Camaro every week. Three years ago, he quit because of the expense.

He switched to mud bogs and raced a Chevy Luv in the TractorTire Class. Covington sold his truck when the class was eliminated this year.

Three months ago, he hooked up with Lee Holtz of Finksburg, who has been mud-bogging in super and open classes for 10 years.

Now Covington is racing Lee's truck, a Jeep funny car dubbed the "Black Agitator."

This is not your ordinary Jeep.

It is powered by a 417 Donovan engine -- a version of the Chrysler hemi-head engineof the 1960s -- that can produce as much as 1,900 horsepower. The popular drag strip power plant, prepared by Jim Thompson of Sykesville,originally powered an alcohol-burning funny car.

Running a truck like the Black Agitator may be relatively inexpensive, but the costs of building one can add up. Holtz is said to have more than $25,000 invested in his Jeep.

Off the track, Covington is a backhoe operator for L & G Mullins of Sykesville. His wife, Sally, attends races with him.

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