One Night at a Tractor Pull
I want to ask you a serious question: Have any of you at any time in your life, attended a Tractor Pull? This is no joke. A Tractor Pull. I have watched (this) popular event that is now in competition with Sculling or Curling. This is no joke. From what I have watched on one of the bigger sports networks, a Tractor Pull is a lot of fun to watch. Not that much fun if you are a fan or one of the tractor pullers.
A brief explanation: Tractor Pulling is a major fan-friendly event where a group of men and women get together to invest millions into "souping-up," and designing a huge farm tractor to make it faster and stronger. Plus, with the millions now invested in a strong, sleek tractor, a farmer (on weekends) can hire his buddy who just happens to own a professional sign shop and design his name or nick-name on the side of his tractor. The nick-names vary. "Hard Time," "Blazing Hot," and "Big Boy," to name a few. The point is make the tractor's owner as intimidating as possible. This might plant seeds of fear in the less-scrappy tractor pullers.
Some tractor pullers and their families act as a NASCAR crew, or business as it is known today. "Uncle Jimmy," can act as the engine builder; "Aunt Polly" can help polish the tractor looking sharp and "Sissy," the hot, blond tractor owner's single daughter, 22, now out of college can act as a tool (posing by and near the tractor) for drawing male, ticket-buyers to see her dad compete in tractor pulls. Sure, she will get lots of pressure to go out on dates, but that's the nature of the business.
How did the Tractor Pulling event get started? I am no expert, but in my research, I found that when mules were the tractors of Farming Days and one day, a cocky farmer issued a fellow farmer a heated challenge to see who was the best mule when it pertained to pulling heavy loads. Neighbors could cook and bring their favorite dishes to the newly-formed Mule Pulling Challenge and sell their tasty goods to the fans of this neighborhood event and have egg money for next week. Then these farmers would nominate a chairman to decide on entry fees as well as judge the length of each pulling event. Many times, the pastor of a local church acted as the chairman and judge. In olden days, no one dared argue with a man of the cloth.
And Mule Pulls evolved into Tractor Pulls and there you have it. Now I am the first one to concede that Tractor Pulls, which are not just held in the south, but in the Midwest and northern states, are not as popular as College Football, but it's inching its way toward that end. Fans of Tractor Pulls pay hefty prices for tickets and the fans do not quibble about paying $20 for adults and $15 for teenagers, no, sir. Tractor Pulling is here to stay. Plus the winning teams of the tractor pull can pull down thousands in purses for pulling a mechanical sled that has a moving sled device with various weights to increase as the pullers are weeded-out.
What I don't see is the tractor owners who have to have bucks to design and build those Monster Tractors (in above photo), but do the tractor owners who are successful soybean, corn and wheat farmers use their farming profits to cover the entry fees and pay for those huge tires that can go for $2,200.00 each and more for building and tuning those powerful engines? To make my point even stranger, if a farmer makes a million or two at the end of each wheat or corn harvest, why does he have to win First Place just to win $30,000.00? This is chicken feed. Oh, these farmers just want to have some fun on the weekends when his farming is finished.
I have also found out that some who build, design, and compete in Tractor Pulls, do this thing the year around. Mind-boggling if you ask me. The bottom line: A man or woman has to love and I mean love every smell of diesel fuel, dirt thrown in the face, arguments caused due to competiton, mechanic fees, that go along with Tractor Pulling.
Now, and thank God, women are now getting into Tractor Pulling with four feet. All in. These ladies do not fear any man who pulls on his helmet and fires-up his 2500 horsepower diesel power and goes down the track. I applaud these spunky and sporty women. I do.
I remember in 1983, during a hot summer day, I had heard that a Tractor Pull was going to be held that hot summer Saturday night. My wife and young daughter were all for it. It was somewhere near to go do something. And the city of Verona, Miss., and a Tractor Pull served both purposes. What made this outing was I had just received my Federal Income Tax Refund and whooo-eee! Bright lights! Big city! Time to party. But at a Tractor Pull?
I have to say this for you may not fully-understand what unfolded as we parked in a special parking area (ropes tied to form a square and a sign that read, "Parking"). I had drank a few cold ones as guys used to do in the 80s in the south when Saturday rolls around. Tradition, I suppose. But when we walked to the ticket booth and a man selling tickets, "Johnny Gibbs," I assume was his name, said, "for two grown-up's and a little one, uhhh, that will be $40 bucks!" I should have seen the red flag pop up and start flying in the air.
"Forty bucks?" I argued.
"Yep. Forty bucks, but the money we take in (a key phrase) goes fer charitees heah in VeronUH," "Gibbs," said very humbly while handing me the tickets.
"Would you mind telling me the exact cost of the tickets?" I said. "Just for my knowledge."
"Okay, ye' got $15 for you and the wife and $10 for ye' little girl--that comes tuh' $40 dollers!" "Gibbs" said with a huge smile that showed his teeth covered with nicotine.
My wife, who had her fingers pinching my side, just led me and our little girl back to where signs said, "Seating Area," someone had painted on big barn roof pieces of tin. So common sense said for us to choose a seat which was easy. There were not designated seats, just empty spaces on concrete stands where our butts were to be placed. Pretty easy. So far, so decent. Not good.
"Hey, you all kant park thar!" a gruff male voice said in our direction.
"Why? We didn't see any place that said reserved," I said pointing out what I was talking about.
"I know, but friend, them places are fer our mayor and his wife who hepped to git this thang started--so would ye' pleeze move down thar a little? 'ppreciate it," the middle-aged guy wearing a yellow Traffic Safety vest said.
What make me almost laugh was it was dark. Good and dark. And this guy who gave us a mild bum rush from the mayor and wife's concrete place for their special butts to sit was wearing RayBan sunglasses. What? Even my wife who is very reserved chuckled.
We had not been sitting where we had been told to sit until the same guy walked around to us and said, "tickets please," and added: "if ye' ain't got tickets, I'm gonna need $50 for all three of ye'"
"Sir, I just handed a man in the Ticket Booth out there $40 for all three of us, so here are our ticket stubs. Okay?" I said now very irritated.
"What's this?" the man asked quickly--probably for not being able to see due to his RayBans.
"Ticket stubs. To prove to you that we just paid," I said almost asking for our money back.
"Did you buy these here tickets?" the man said very confused.
I was so upset that I chose not to speak. But thanks to my wife, she saved the day, or Tractor Pull in this sense.
"Sir, my husband here, did give the man at the ticket booth $40 for our tickets," she said very humble.
"Ohhh, Ium, soreee. Didn't know you were payin' kustoomers," the man said trying to walk out into the aisle without falling.
Then it hit me: Paying customers? Was there a place for people to watch for FREE? I tried to convince my wife that we might have paid when we could have enjoyed the Tractor Pull for free, but she argued and won by telling me to leave well enough alone.
By now, hundreds of Tractor Pulling from Verona and surrounding cities had begun to file in and choose a good cement place where there were not cracks or broken glass laying precariously only to cause some innocent Tractor Pulling fan some injury sending them to a nearby ER. These folks were all die-hard Tractor Pulling fans for everyone would yell to the tops of their lungs when a few diesel tractors were on the arena track to warm up before the event began.
Please do not fall prey of the dreadful Pre-Conceived Notion as you continue to read the rather thrilling adventure that says Tractor Pull! Enjoy yourself.
In this Tractor Pull, these fans loved to drink beer. But no hard stuff. I could not help but glance around the crowd because (then) I worked for a weekly newspaper and newspaper employees are a curious lot. I can testify to that fact.
When I witnessed many of these fans bending elbows turning up beer cans and bottles in a seemingly-endless motion, I suddenly became very thirsty. Power of Suggestion bit me in my throat and hung on. It was as if I were going to perish if I did not get my hands on a few brews to drink while the Vernona Arena was filling up with fans.
My wife suggested that I walk back to the Concession Stand that was sitting near the Ticket Booth when we came in, so I made my way up these dangerous concrete steps and thank God, I did not fall. Truthfully, the cold beer that I had drank at our home (before we left for this Tractor Pull) had all but worn off.
The line at the Concession Stand was not long, but long enough. One customer at a time until I walked up to another guy who I thought had to be "Johnny Gibbs'" twin brother, the Ticket Booth worker.
"What'll it be, buddy?" the man said looking anxious to take my cash.
"A six-pack of that beer there," I said. (and notice? I did not use the brand name for I want this narrative to be entertaining and education without any flags telling me about Spammy Elements.)
"Good. That'll be $9.00, sir," the Concession Stand employee said.
"Nine bucks? The sign on the front says $4.75," I said taking up for myself.
"Ohhh, yeahh, that. It is $4.75 from the hours of 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., and now it is 7:30 p.m. and the prices go up," the man explained so eloquently that I just couldn't get angry.
"Okay. Give me a six-pack and here's the nine dollars," I said very low toned.
"Thanks, buddy. 'ppreciate it," he said with a wide grin.
"Yeah, but, I gave you a Ten Dollar Bill. Where is my change?" I asked.
"No change. We have to include tax and your tax was . . .One Dollar exactly," the man said still smiling.
This had to be a racket. The Ticket Booth and Concession Stand manager(s) had to be in cahoots. Had to be. In my drinking days, I never paid $9.00 for a six-pack. In Alabama when I drove to Colbert County, the nearest wet county to the north, the highest that I ever paid was $5.00 per six pack with tax included--but as the Ticket Booth Manager told us, the monies were being given to local charities and to the mayor of Vernona and his wife who helped get this event for the City of Vernona. Does this not sound a lot like, kick-back, I thought. But I was happy with the six-pack and made my way back to my concrete seat.
"You bought an entire six-pack?" my wife asked. God love her. She was not a beer drinker and didn't know that beer drinkers follow a strict code: No beer drinker shall, with any good sense, buy only one or two beers, but an entire six-pack. I thought that everyone knew this.
The P.A. system was trying to blare out the Tractor Pulling Entrants. I will not bore you with their names for there was a lot of "Billy John's," "Tommy Bill's" and "Sally Jo's." I am not making light of the south or southern names.
Before I could pop the first pop-top of my expensive six-pack, the P.A. blared a collection of static and a few discernable words and then . . .
"VAAAA---RRRRRR--OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" a big red tractor went flying down the dirt track pulling the sled with a sign that read: The City of Verona Thanks our Mayor and his wife for Having This Event!" hanging on the back of the sled. Now I am nobody's judge, but this was pure overkill in my opinion.
My wife and little girl stood up and cheered as the big red monster tractor pull blew out most of the eardrums of the fans, but that only fueled the excitement of watching the next contestant.
I wanted to share something with my wife about a good restaurant to eat when this event was over and before I could speak . . .
"VAAAA---RRRRRR--OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" a huge green diesel tractor went down the dirt track and filled the air with black smoke. The fans went wild. I opened a second beer. I had to drink it quickly for I did not bring a handy cooler.
"Pam," I yelled. "where do you want to . . .
"VAAAA---RRRRRR--OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" a big, menacing black tractor roared down the dirt track and it took the lead--I found this out by a man sitting behind me who WAS pretty lit. (Lit: a rural term for being drunk.)
eat?" I finally got my question out.
"Well, I would like to . . .
"VAAAA---RRRRRR--OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" a woman tractor puller did a great job driving her silver colored tractor that sounded a lot like an F-16.
eat at some Mexican restaurant," my wife said not shaken by any of the tractors bursting the atmosphere with their engine.
And throw in the P.A. announcer telling the fans that the Tractor Pull was sponsored by the Mayor Verona and his wife--and I started some serious thinking. This guy and wife must be the godfather of some southern racket with the Ticket Booth and Concession Stand manager(s) as two of their henchmen.
I was now down to two beers left in the expensive six-pack and I was now wanting to find somewhere to eat, but I happened to look upward in the aisle and a hefty young man wearing a nice white shirt and black dress pants and RayBans being held up by two gorgeous girls who were keeping him from stumbling onto the concrete. This was more exciting (to me) than the
"VAAAA---RRRRRR--OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" made by the tractors.
With my last six-pack gone, the Tractor Pull, sponsored by the Mayor of Verona and his wife, was coming to an end and I suggested that we get to our car to beat the crowd that looked to be in the number of 300 people more or less--besides I was hungry.
Just when we got up to walk up the aisle headed for the Exit, it looked like two or three people in the stands above us were just counting the moment for them to get up and jam the aisle to make our exit the much slower which was now causing me more stress, hunger, and with the six-pack of beer in my bloodstream, I was becoming vocal . . .asking Pam, my wife, sensible questions about what I had witnessed and heard while trying to enjoy the tractor pull.
Honestly, I saw all of the huge tractors sound like a freight train that derailed and all of the freight being thrown into a busy highway intersection.
I witnessed two southern ol' boys (that I called them) who managed the Ticket Booth and Concession Stand really, in my opinion, jack up the prices just so the Mayor of Verona and his wife could get their piece of the pie.
And there were TWO things that I did NOT see:
I did not see whether or not the Mayor of Verona's wife was a gorgeous brunette or not. And I sure didn't see the hot, 22-year old blond, a college graduate who was working for her dad to help entice his fans to buy tickets to see his tractor pull.
This was nothing more than an elaborate racket. On paper, a legal event. But still a racket.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery