10/05/08 — Field work pays off for fair's tractor operators

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Field work pays off for fair's tractor operators

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 5, 2008 7:51 AM

News-Argus/Steve Herring

Spring Creek High School student Murphy Vaughn backs up the tractor during Thursday’s Tractor Operator competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair. Judging the competition were Wayne Agricultural Extension Agent Kevin Johnson, left, and 4-H Agen

Spring Creek High School senior Rex Price said he has driven tractors "pretty much since I could reach the pedals."

On Thursday night he used those years of experience to back his way to first place in the senior division of the Tractor Operator competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

It was the fourth year he has competed in the event.

"I've gotten first, been disqualified and second, so I have got a mixed bag," he said.

Price said he enjoyed the event and that "everybody ought to try it."

The competition was for ages 9 through high school. The youngest competitor Thursday was 13-year-old Murphy Vaughn who also is a student at Spring Creek.

Price said he gets plenty of practice driving a tractor on the family farm.

"We (Spring Creek FFA) bring a local farmer's tractor out to the school and we build our own course and practice for several days before the actual event," he said.

Agricultural Extension Agent Kevin Johnson and 4-H Agent Wallace Simmons were the judges for the competition. Aycock Tractor donated the use of a Ford tractor.

Flags and twine were used to mark off a small mock "shed" where a fertilizer spreader was parked. Also marked off was 40-foot-long "shed" and a figure-eight "shed."

The students had to back up to and attach the spreader, pull out and then back it down the 40-foot "shed." After maneuvering through the figure eight, the student had to back the spreader back into to its "shed" and return the tractor to its starting point.

"It (the figure eight) is pretty complex," Johnson said. "They are being timed and there is not much room between the gates -- about three inches on each side in the 40-foot 'shed' and in the figure-eight 'shed' they have six inches on each gate.

Johnson said organizers were concerned about safety, and that safety figures into scoring.

"We look at safety issues like parking brake, seat belt use, are they going too fast, are they grinding the gears," he said. "We look at all of that and they safely know how to operate a tractor efficiently.

"It takes three to five minutes to complete the course. A real good one can do it in less time. Some, like me, it would take every bit of eight minutes. If they go over eight minutes they are docked points. It hurts their score."

"It was frustrating trying to turn the tight corners and back up," said Vaughn who won first place in the junior division. "I couldn't really see where I was going."

It was also frustrating that the tractor kept shutting off. It took a few minutes to figure out the problem was because the parking brake had not been disengaged.

"The parking brake was on and I didn't know anything about it," he said. I have never driven a Ford a lot, I've only driven a John Deere," he said.

Vaughn said he learned to drive a tractor on his family farm where he mows and plows fields.

For Rosewood High School student Jeffrey Powell it was his second time competing. He explained the secret to a successful run.

"You have just got to drive it in and hope for the best," he said. "You have got to know when to go to the inside and when to go to the outside and know which the trailer is going."

"I'll be back next year. Backing into the shelter is the toughest part of the competition. It isn't the easiest thing you have ever done."

Other winners in the event were Jackson Grantham, Southern Wayne High School, second place in the junior division; Ben Davis of South Lenoir High School, second place in the senior division; and Steven Best of Spring Creek High School, fourth place in the senior division.