Photography, Road Trips

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.

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13 thoughts on “At the tractor pull

  1. James Grey says:

    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

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    • 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!

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  2. Dani says:

    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.

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  3. Nancy (Roe) Stewart says:

    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.

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    • 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!

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  4. 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 ! 😜

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