Truck versus Tractor: Who Really Won?

Ed Rood

The ear-piercing scream of a highly-modified engine is the sound associated with tractor pulls of today. I recall a time when the noise of competition was comprised of the pop, pop, popping of farm tractors driven out of the field and into battle.

The year was 1966. Few central Iowans had heard the term “tractor pull,” let alone witnessed such an event. On Sept. 10, the Huxley Community Club surprised everyone by sponsoring the first such event in this area. Adding a little extra clout to the happening was the voice of WHO radio personality, Don Warren, who served as announcer.

I was a member of the Slater Jaycees. We attended the Huxley event and watched in amazement as the tractors and drivers did their thing while an enthusiastic crowd cheered them on. Following the pull, we Jaycees walked down to the track to congratulate the contestants (most of whom were local farmers.) Warren was also doing a lot of hand shaking and back slapping. Without missing a beat, he ascertained our status and suggested we sponsor a pull in Slater. It didn’t take long for the Jaycees to announce a tractor pull set for Sept. 25. Just like Huxley, there would be five classes: 15,000 pounds, 12,000 pounds, 9,000 pounds, 6,000 pounds and 4,500 pounds. Don Warren would serve as announcer. The pull was to be held on the parking area south of Nite Hawk field.

The rules were simple. The tractor in competition would start out by pulling a tractor of equal weight on a skid. At a point every 20 feet along the course, two adults would get on the skid until the tractor either stopped or the front end of the tractor would raise too far from the ground.

That was 50 years ago, but I can’t help but recall a bit of competition that took place after the official pull had ended that day.

As is usual during an event testing power and stamina, a heated discussion had flared up among some of the fans over which brand of tractor is the best. The debate grew even hotter when one of the fans suggested his four-wheel drive pickup could outpull any of the tractors. Before long, an unsanctioned pull was being planned and bets were being wagered.

The skid was no longer available, so an alternative pull was decided upon. A tractor and the pickup were positioned back to back in the center of the pull area. A log chain was attached to the trailer hitch of the pickup and the back of the tractor. The drivers each pulled ahead until the slack was out of the log chain. The object of the pull was to see which machine could pull the other a specified number of feet. Amazingly enough, the pickup won. It wasn’t easy as both vehicles grunted and groaned for several seconds.

That unofficial pull seemed to cause more excitement that the legitimate pull did. The young man with the pickup then strutted around as he basked in the glory he had created. He was a hero.

I believe it was just a day or so later that the pickup was in the repair shop. Seems the truck’s rear axle had developed serious problems. The truck’s actual owner, our hero’s father, wasn’t happy about the problem. Fortunately, he knew nothing of the truck-tractor pull.

As I mentioned before, that was 50 years ago. I guess it’s safe to tell the story now.

Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.