At the tractor pull

Dawn and I drove to tiny Roann in northern Indiana to see its covered bridge and nearby historic grist mill, and found to our surprise that it was the weekend of the town’s annual Covered Bridge Festival. All of the trappings were present: carnival rides, food booths, and a parade featuring fire trucks from a five-county radius. Big doings in small-town Indiana!

The best part was the antique-tractor pull. I’m absolutely not a guy you’ll find at the fairgrounds on Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! with a lite beer in hand watching multi-engined, fire-breathing, smoke-belching megatractors. But it was undeniably charming to watch this motorsport in its elemental form: everyday people from rural Indiana who brought their antique tractors to compete at a small-town pull track.

I followed one woman driving her 1950s Farmall from start to finish. Here she is, queued up and waiting her turn.

At the tractor pull

She drove onto the track and backed up to the weight. I’m sure there’s an official name for the contraption she pulled, but I’m not hip to the lingo.

At the tractor pull

Then she was poised and ready to start pulling.

At the tractor pull

As she made her way down the track, I zoomed out to take in as much as my camera could see. The fellow reclining in the back was the official scorekeeper. I guess the object was to see how far each tractor could drag this weight down the track.

At the tractor pull

More tractors were queued up behind her. Here are the next three to go. It must be comfortable to lean forward and rest a forearm on the steering wheel.

At the tractor pull

This Allis-Chalmers got its turn soon enough.

At the tractor pull

As did this beautiful Cockshutt 40. Its style reminds me of the Streamline Moderne design movement from the 1930s, but these tractors were first built in 1949.

At the tractor pull

I have no idea who won. I barely understood how this whole competition worked! But it was great to see this old iron put to the stress test.

When I was a boy, my dad worked at the Oliver tractor factory. Read about it.


13 responses to “At the tractor pull”

  1. tina Avatar

    That’s pretty cool, Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was fun to come across.

  2. James Grey Avatar
    James Grey

    And then there was the picture of me back in the late 50s setting in an Oliver Tractor at the Oliver Factory.. See the attachment.

    The old man

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Unfortunately, I don’t allow attachments in the comments, so your photo didn’t show up! But I know the photo of which you speak. That tractor would have been the newest one in this pull!

  3. Dani Avatar

    Tractor pulling was always a big event at the Randolph County 4-H Fair. Second, was the greased pig contest. Or maybe the 4-Her’s Blue Ribbon Style Show? The thingy that the tractor pulls is called a weighted sled, nothing fancy.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for sharing what that thing is called! The tech writer in me loves to know all the lingo.

  4. Nancy (Roe) Stewart Avatar
    Nancy (Roe) Stewart

    Hi Jim. We love thos old tractors !! We have an Allis Chalmers WD-45 from 1949 and an Allis Chalmers-C from 1943. They both still run and we use them both. Jerry has restored the C and it looks pretty good. The WD still needs quite a bit of work. The Allis Chalmers factory in Laporte back in the day provided a living for many families for many years. They had the international Allis Chalmers meet in Laporte this year for 3 days and we really enjoyed seeing some of the really old stuff, like the old Rumley threshers – huge dangerous looking contraptions. My dad farmed with a Minneapolis Moline. It came from southern Illinois where my dad was from. After he married my mom and moved to Indiana his youngest brother drove that tractor half way to Indiana and my dad met him half way and drove it the rest of the way to Rochester. My husband Jerry started working on a farm down the road from his home when he was 13 years old and helped work that farm until he left for Viet Nam, and drove the tractors everyday.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Great stories, Nancy! Isn’t it funny how farmers built their loyalty to a tractor make? You’re Allis-Chalmers people and my friend Dani above, who grew up on a farm, is an International Harvester person if my memory serves. You know I didn’t grow up on a farm but because Dad worked for Oliver, I’ll always be an Olver guy! :-)

      I can’t believe your dad and your uncle drove that tractor to Rochester all the way from southern Illinois!

  5. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Two of my Uncles worked at the International Harvesters factory in Bradford UK in the 60’s. Previous to IH buying the factory it was the Jowet Car Company which one my Uncles also worked for. I’ts nice to see these old tractors being used. Interesting read and nice photos Jim I enjoyed it.
    A little bit more info about the factory here.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the link, Christopher! It’s interesting how many of my readers were touched in one way or another by farm tractors.

  6. irenadawn Avatar

    Jim- this was a great story with pictures and comments ! The two could not be separated !!! I loved the picture where the wife ( I assume) is pulling some huge contraption and the husband just needs to be holding a cold beverage as he leans back as though he is in a lounge chair riding!!! Then , of course the man driving with his whole arm over the steering wheel. I am still laughing now ! ๐Ÿ˜œ

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sure that the fellow riding the sled is not the driver’s husband, but just a judge/scorekeeper in the contest. He rode along on every pull I witnessed!

      1. irenadawn Avatar

        He was loving it !!! I would have really enjoyed this event!!! It looks like a great day for the photos, people, food, etc… Thanks for the share! ๐Ÿ˜œ

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