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Tractor pull big draw to folks who like raw power, engine roar

July 11, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN

julieg@herald-mail.com

Standing along the short chain-link fence separating spectators from the track at Mason-Dixon Dragway, the sound was loud enough to make people feel their eardrums vibrating.

Noise.

That's what brought some of the spectators as well as the drivers to Saturday's tractor pull held by the Washington County Tractor Pullers Club. The dragway is along U.S. 40 east of Hagerstown.

Thousands of people attended the tractor pull with many bringing their own seats - lawn chairs or pickup beds, and some brought ear muffs.

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Noise and horsepower is what Mike Cochran, 59, of Frederick, Md., said draws him to tractor pulls.

Cochran brought his wife of three months to her first tractor pull on Saturday, calling it their honeymoon.

"I think this is a great place where men can be men," said Heidi Cochran, 43. She described the event as a "male competition thing, one-on-one thing between man and his machine."

"Too many men are emasculated in our culture and this is raw testosterone," Heidi Cochran said.

Raw testosterone and modified tractors, pickups and interstate tractors taking turns pulling a long, heavy vehicular sled as far as they could down a 325-foot-long dirt track.

The sled has a box on top that slides toward the pulling tractor. The further the tractor gets up the track, the more weight shifts toward the tractor, making it harder to pull the sled, explained modified tractor driver Tom Kennedy.

Kennedy, a dairy farmer from Waynesboro, Pa., won the 8,000-pound, open modified tractor class by driving Old Reliable 288 feet, beating the closest competitor by 16 feet.

But, Old Reliable and the other modifieds are not what you would call your grandfather's tractor.

They are souped-up tractors with a look similar to a top fuel dragster. The back tires tend to stand about 5 1/2 feet tall and the front tires are about 15 inches high.

When they roar down the track, the sound makes children and adults alike reach for their ears.

Eleven-month-old Tony Eckenrode didn't like it much when his mother covered his ears during pulls, said Tammy Eckenrode, 26, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Eckenrode said she brings her children to tractor pulls to see them get excited.

Kevin Eckenrode II, 4, was so excited he couldn't bother to be interviewed. Barely taller than the short chain-link fence around the track that he clung to, Kevin was entranced by anything that went by with an engine.

Even his sister, Samantha Armstrong, 7, likes the tractor pull because "they're loud."

Kevin Lehman, 41, of Chambersburg, likes to see the power of each vehicle.

While Lehman likes automechanics, he isn't as interested in the finer details of the tractor's engines and fuel pumps sizes as his friend, Lorin Kennedy.

Kennedy, 38, of Greencastle, Pa., is a traditionalist, preferring the farm-style tractors.

Asked what he thinks about the flashier modifieds, Kennedy said, "I'd sooner they'd stayed at home."

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