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Kids take turns at tractor pulls

August 01, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - It's a heavy burden, but a horde of folks young and old were ready Saturday to shoulder it.

Or pull it, as it were.

And really, what's a farm fair without a tractor pull - or two or three?

It was midafternoon when the first batch of drivers gathered for the garden tractor pull at the 24th annual Washington County Ag Expo. Would-be spectators drifted into the stands at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center even though the sky looked like slate and a little blond-haired girl, pointing northwest, declared she'd seen lightning.

Thunder punctuated conversations in the stands and tractors rumbled in the distance, pausing while organizers played a recording of the national anthem.

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But despite the threats, the rain held off for a few more hours as the garden tractor pull got under way, beginning with the youth class for 8- to 18-year-olds.

Their machines looked harmless enough, but with names like "Mad Dog" and "Terminal," you might not want to meet them in a dark alley.

Each took a turn dragging a weighted "sled" until the tractor spun out and stopped. Despite its ambitious moniker, "Mad Dog" left its driver high and dry at a little more than 78 feet.

A few hours later, some younger drivers got their shot - pedaling a toy International "Red Rooster" with a smaller sled attached, but with the same steely determination to go the distance.

There were three divisions for children ages 5 to 10. Parents positioned themselves with cameras at the ready - except for Robbie Houser's mother, Lisa, who lamented not having hers. But she made up for it with enthusiasm, urging him to "pedal hard, Robbie!"

But Robbie, 5, ran out of steam just short of 20 feet in the 5- and 6-year-old division.

His brother Michael, 6, fared a little better - he made it to 22 feet.

But their mother put it all into perspective for Robbie, who lives near Sharpsburg.

"It's hard work pushing those pedals, isn't it - especially when you never did it before," she said.

Among the 7- and 8-year-olds was Keedysville's Dakota Barnhart.

"We do this every year," said her mother, Toni.

Dakota has been pedaling toy tractors in the competition for three years. In her first try, she made the 30-foot "full pull." But after the weight was raised to 60 pounds for a sort of pedal-off for the top contenders, Dakota found the going a bit tough.

"Come on, honey," her mother called, but she ran out of wind a little shy of 14 feet.

Darlene Baker, who lives near Boonsboro, was cheering for her grandson Jamie, who managed to place second in Dakota's division - after the weight was increased to 80 pounds. Jamie is one of her 11 grandchildren, she said, most of whom are boys.

In the last division, Jake Barnhart - brother of Dakota - placed third, pulling 120 pounds a little more than 15 feet. But third wasn't so bad - Jake won a play tractor, although it wasn't quite as big as the one given to winner J.R. Lowery.

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