10/09/09 — Tractor competitors have to scramble

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Tractor competitors have to scramble

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 9, 2009 2:00 PM

"We need a brick to put in it (seat)," Betsy Hood said as she watched her son, Garrett, fighting to keep the tractor he was driving in Thursday night's competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair from cutting off.

"He had the same problem with the riding lawn mower and we put a brick in the seat, one of those things that you are not supposed to do, to keep it from cutting off," she said. "He's almost 13, he just doesn't weigh a lot.

"In order to press the clutch he had to scoot forward. When he did it made the tractor cut off because he doesn't weigh enough in the seat. He was a little disappointed he wasn't able to complete the course, but it's OK, next year he'll weigh more. We will put bricks in his pockets next year. "

Several other drivers experienced the same problem, prompting extension agent and judge Kevin Johnson and other adults to look for ways to disengage the tractor's sensor. The first attempt not only killed the sensor, it kept the tractor from cranking.

Someone suggested duct tape, but when none could be a found, a wedge piece of cardboard cured the problem and the competition got under way an hour late.

Garrett got another chance to drive and finished in second place in the junior division, while fellow Grantham School student Braxton Hood finished first.

It was a demonstration of how problems that crop up on a farm have to be resolved, Johnson said.

"Once we got the tractor running and going, everything went smoothly," he said. "It never works out like you want it to, but at the end of the day you always get it done."

Zach Price, 15, a 10th-grader at Spring Creek High School beat out 11 other drivers to win the senior division for ages 14 and up.

Price, the son of Michael and Sherry Price, said that while he gets a lot of real-world experience on the farm he still practices.

"I like to practice the course because it is not the same thing you get to do in the field, but I feel pretty confident in the competition because I get a lot of practice at home as well," he said.

It was the first year he has competed.

"I have run it (course) at school the past two or three years, but I have never been in the competition, but my cousin, Rex Price, has been out here a lot," he said.

Stakes and twine marked off three areas in a parking lot at the fairgrounds. Inside one was a piece of equipment. The driver pulled the tractor forward before backing to the shed -- the stakes roped off with twine -- entrance to attach the equipment.

Nearby was an alley about 40-feet deep that the contestant must back the tractor and equipment down. The event is timed and points are deducted for running over the stakes and twine.

The next obstacle required the driver to maneuver through a figure eight before backing the equipment into the original shed and returning the tractor to the starting position. There are only about 6 inches of clearance on either side of the interior of the sheds.

The event attracted students from Southern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock, Spring Creek, Rosewood, North Lenoir and South Lenoir high schools and Grantham Middle School.

"We had more (contestants) this year," Johnson said. "We probably had eight in the seniors (division) last year, this year we had 12. We didn't have any juniors last year.

"There was more interest this year. It is good that we have this kind of excitement out of these young men. They are going to be our future farmers."