Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Worst of Steve Hyden: The 2000 state championship for the National Micro Mini Tractor Pullers Association

I like to think of this blog as a public notebook for my writing and an archive of past work. My hope is people will read it and tell me whether it's any good.

Some stuff I know isn't any good. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am introducing a new semi-regular blog feature, "The Worst of Steve Hyden." This is my chance to highlight the comically terrible wing of my legacy. I can't wait.

The following story isn't badly written, per se. But whenever people ask what the dumbest thing I ever had to cover is, this is the story I usually mention. It's about the 2000 state championship for the National Micro Mini Tractor Pullers Association, a group dedicated to men who like to play with toy tractors and pull stuff. The assignment itself wasn't so bad; I like writing about bizarre events. But the "pullers" were, shall we say, aloof, and totally uncooperative whenever the geeky intern newspaper reporter (me) wanted to ask questions about the pulse-pounding competition. I guess I can't blame them. Mini-tractor pullers have to deal with the media all the time, so it's bound to get tiresome.

FREEDOM - The noise of tractor engines was ear-splitting Saturday afternoon at Freedom VFW Memorial Park, like a chainsaw on hyperspeed.

What do you expect? It was a tractor pull, after all. But this sound was tinnier and higher pitched than the rumble you'd expect from a raging pro stock tractor. Before the full-sized versions competed in this year's Wisconsin State Championship Truck and Tractor Pull, the National Micro Mini Tractor Pullers Association held its own competition with its miniature tractors.

They looked like toys, 1/16-inch scale models of the real thing. But there weren't any kids underneath the NMMTPA's tent. Just a lot of serious-looking men who didn't like to be bothered while playing with their tractors.

The tractor making all the noise was a black three-pound puller dragging a trailer carrying 125 pounds. It sounded like a struggle for the little guy, but as a crowd of 30 people looked on, the tractor made its way from one end of a 16-foot long table to the other. Then a tiny man named Chip climbed off the trailer and gave the audience a thumbs-up sign. OK, maybe that didn't happen.

"When you see a three-pound tractor, that's pretty impressive," said Duane Goman of Leland, Ill. Goman had 11 tractors at the pull Saturday, two of which were for sale for $150 each. One of the tractors conked out just before going on the track.

"It's really irritating because I just tore it up," he said, shaking his head.

Behind him, a five- pound super stock tractor was pulling 200 pounds, another impressive feat. The NMMTPA recognizes six different classes of mini tractors, based on size. The group started in 1976 and has over 70 members in 12 states and Canada. Pulling competitions are held around the country at fairs, antique machinery shows and truck shows. Pullers compete for points and a small money prize, usually a percentage of entry fees.

"You aren't going to make a lot of money with this hobby," said Goman, NMMTPA's state representative for Illinois. "If you're lucky, you'll break even."

The points determine the state award winners and qualifiers for the annual "Super Pull," sort of a Super Bowl for teeny tiny tractors and their owners.

No one seemed too wrapped in the competition Saturday.

"I ain't doin' worth a damn," laughed Clyde Gilbert of Bellflower, Mo. He had four tractors at the pull and his favorite puller didn't do well.

"It let me down today," he said.

The number one priority for the 19 competitors seemed to be fun, and meeting up with friends

"The people here are really helpful," said Dean Furman of Belvidere, Ill. "You see them once a month and get caught up on things. "I'm not here for the winning because I don't do that." -


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i remember reading this. -m

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not your fault you had to cover a lame event and write about it. The article doesn't suck the subject does.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was impressive, but I'm curious as to how those micro tractors plowed the micro fields, cultivated the micro corn and fed the lillepuetians before Ted Danson and his rug arrived for a TNT made-for-tv three-day event.
As you know, the Indians call it maize.

2:12 AM  

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