10/03/05 — Pulling for a prize

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Pulling for a prize

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on October 3, 2005 1:49 PM

They had names like Lucky, Ol' Bubba and Big Dawg.

And, of course, there had to be a Git-R-Done.

The tractors in the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair's Lawn Tractor Pull were little, but mighty. The contestants themselves ranged from young and daring to seasoned and experienced. All came prepared to win.

Walking down the drivers' area is like a trip to a NASCAR race. There are plenty of trailers and mowers lined up, with a contingent of fans along for support. Inside those trailers are tools of the trade -- everything a good pit crew would need.

After weighing in their machines, the contestants hooked up to the sled and pulled it as far as they could, stopping only when their wheels were spinning and their tractor could go no farther. The class in which they will compete is based on the combined weight of the tractor and the driver. There are other factors, too, like horsepower and the number of cylinders in the engines.

And don't be fooled, that sled's heavier than it looks. And it gets more burdensome every inch it moves upward as the tractors motor up the dirt track.

"It's super heavy," said Mount Olive resident Walter Scott, who was responsible for weighing in the tractors before the pull. "It's full of concrete blocks and sometimes we add more weight to it depending on the class. I'd say right now, it weighs about 5,000 pounds."

David Dillon, a fire marshal by trade and a weekend lawn tractor puller, has been at it for about five years now.

"We went to a pull in Pikeville and I said, 'Man, we've got to do that,' " said Dillon, a Benson resident.

He found a 1965 Cub Cadet lawn mower, and after a $2,000 investment and lots of hours of work, he had a winning machine.

Dillon won a points championship in 2003, and while he hasn't been as active in the hobby as he was in the past, he still comes to win -- which he did Sunday afternoon with a mighty pull of 169 feet 10 inches in the 850 class.

"I picked it up used for 200 bucks," he recalled of the now shiny, powerful tractor. "It's got a shaft drive -- that's why it pulls so good."

But Dillon is not the only one in his family with a desire to pull that sled as far as possible.

"When my wife, Misty, comes out, she will pull, too," he said. "It's a lot of fun."

For Tiffany Futch of Rosewood, fifth place in the 850 single cylinder class wasn't as spectacular a finish as she had hoped. She pulled 128 feet 3 inches. Last year, she came in second.

But that didn't stop the 14-year-old from hitching up her purple tractor to the sled and giving it a go. There were no nerves for this seasoned competitor.

"I have been pulling since I was 4 years old," she said.

Tiffany said she learned how to pull competitively from her dad, Steve.

The best part?

"Just getting out there and having fun," she said.

There is strategy, of course, and Tiffany knows how to compete with the men, some of whom could have been her grandfather. Starting is critical, she advised.

"You have to figure out what gear," she said. "You have to know how your lawn mower is set up."

She said she likes the dramatic starts.

"I like doing wheelies," she said with a mischievous grin.

One of the youngest drivers, but just as competitive, was Ryan Miller of Pink Hill.

The 11-year-old didn't place in the top of the 850 class, but his 106 feet 7 inch pull earned him a cheer from the crowd, and put a smile on his face back at his trailer.

"I love it," Ryan said, peeking out from under his protective helmet. "I've been doing this three years now, but this is my first fair."

His father, Bobby Miller, says he loves to watch Ryan compete against the big boys.

"I'm just the money man -- he's the driver," Bobby said with a laugh. "He's done a good job ... I'd say he's won about 100 trophies. We won four last night. We usually get four or five every time we pull."

Ryan and Tiffany weren't the only ones earning honors for their performances Sunday.

Noah Ray, 13, of Garner, earned a third-place finish with a pull of 139 feet 9 inches.