Seasoned tractor pullers are anxious for season’s start

Farm Forum

Last Saturday night a number of us were sitting in a local café having supper. The welcoming got around the table and settled in to weather talk. Finally, after determining we had solved the cold spell, the talk turned to, “What are you working on this winter?” “I put my Oliver in the shop to tweak it.” “I have my 560 in the shop.” “I don’t plan to fix any of mine.” “I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer.” “I can’t wait for the season to start.” The season is of course – when do we start tractor pulling?

I thought I should contact some of our “seasoned” pullers to find out what they were doing to get ready to pull as well as check on the status of some of the groups that make up the Brown County Old Time Tractor Pullers Association (BCOTTPA). We have approximately 54 members which includes a number (5) of female pullers. But our seasoned pullers are all male. They farm throughout the year but leave the hard work behind when they want to go and play with tractors. So no rain, sleet, hail, snow, blowing wind or hot sun keeps them away. Sound familiar?

The oldest active puller, Bill Hearnen, Sr., who was honored at the end of the 2013 season banquet as the Season Points winner, is 89 years young. He pulls two tractors an IH 450 and a JD G. Bill Sr. started pulling 20+ years ago after watching an old unstyled JD G pull a sled. Following in his footsteps is his son, Bill Jr who pulls a JD 730. Another seasoned puller is Doyle Burkhardt. He has been pulling off and on for the last 40+ years. His son-in-law Gary Meehl pulls with him. They pull Olivers. Early in 2013, Doyle had a serious farm accident and had to watch from the sidelines. The Gab brothers from Eureka have been pulling off and on since 1973. We have four lifetime members who were with the original pullers when the BC tractor pullers were organized. Some of the “younger seasoned” pullers have been active since the early 1990s-2000s.

The majority of pullers pull Internationals and/Olivers. The most popular is the IHC 560. Coming up 3rd is the John Deere. Some of the other tractors pulling are Allis Chalmers, Case, Co-op, Ford, Minneapolis Moline, and Massey Harris. If you are coming down Hwy 281, 212, 12, 45, 47, 14, 10, or 20 on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you can watch the semi-trailers moving down the road carrying their special cargo heading to a tractor pull. To some of the passersby, seeing the antique tractors brings back memories of lost times. Some honk and wave to give us encouragement to continue and good luck. For others, we are just a nuisance in their way slowing them down in getting to their destinations.

The roadside gas stop in Mellette is a gathering point for those coming from Gettysburg and Miller to meet, eat, greet, get gas, and of course, potty break. The caravan continues on its way. For example, going to the Brentford pull, I counted 11 trailers with approximately 15 antique tractors. At the Conde pull, the Worlie family brings all of the antique Allis Chalmers to the pull for the public to see. The tractors are on display throughout the pull.

Food. We always have great food. Central South Dakota has some of the best cooks who know how to put on a great picnic lunch – sandwiches, chips, drinks, desserts and much more.

BCOTTPA has nine contract pulls during the season. OTTO (Old Time Tractor Owners) Miller will be sponsoring four additional pulls during the season using their sled. PCOTTP (Potter County Old Time Tractor Pullers) Gettysburg will have two pulls that they are sponsoring and will be using their sled. We start pulling the first Saturday in June and end the season the last Sunday in September. Most pulls start with registration and reading of the rules before the first tractor starts down the track. The pull starts at 1:00 p.m., and we try to get finished by 5:00 p.m. The BC Fair pull starts at 10:30 a.m., as well as the Andover pull.

All of the pulls are open to the public and are free to watch. We charge $10.00 per hook if you want to bring an antique tractor (1959 or earlier) and give it a try. If you want further information, please contact the following individuals: BCOTTPA (Alan Dixon, 605-229-1101), OTTO (Joel Christiansen, 605-853-3836), or PCOTTP (Rudy Jacobs, 605-442-2519). We are always looking for sponsors and sites for tractor pulls. You can contact any of the pullers listed here.