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Families pull together

Tractor pulling often fosters a competitive spirit among kin

May 28, 2010
  • The Martin family of Chambersburg, Pa., has been pulling tractors for 11 years. From left are Robert Martin Sr. and Patty Martin, sons Josh, 28, at rear, and Bobby, right, 38.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

On Saturday, families will offer an alternative take on what it means to pull together.

Washington County Tractor Pullers Association is hosting a pulling event with the East Coast Pullers, the local division of the national Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, at the Washington County Agricultural Center south of Hagerstown.

But during the event, brothers will go against brothers, husbands will go against wives, and sons and daughters will go head-to-head with their parents in an effort to spend quality time.

A purposeful family life

"It's what we do as a family," said Robert L. Martin Sr., 63, of Chambersburg, Pa. He plans to drive his tractor, That Darn Deere, Saturday, against his sons Robert "Bobby" Martin Jr. and Jason Martin, who said pulling has brought the family closer.

"Before tractor pulling, we never really traveled much," said Jason Martin, 28.

For a time, Robert L. Martin Sr. and his wife, Patty Martin, traveled the Midwest competing in pulling competitions. Jason joined them while Bobby Martin ran the family farm.

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Bobby Martin, 38, of Chambersburg, said it's only a matter of time before his son, Cody, 16, starts pulling in the same division as his father. Bobby Martin said his other child, Christopher, 7, is too young for pulling.

For those new to the sport, know that when they say "tractor and truck pull," they aren't necessarily referring to your granddaddy's John Deere.

Some drivers start out pulling antique tractors or stock farm tractors fresh off the fields. But more competitive teams build engines that growl and add pipes that belch exhaust. Flames, teeth and phrases like "XTREME" are painted onto the exterior. Two huge tires at the rear power the vehicle down the track.

These machines were created to haul a weighted sled down a roadway. The vehicle that goes the farthest wins.

Saturday's winner gets a $600 cash prize, said Dave Moore, director of East Coast Pullers, whose family tree is also full of competitive pullers. Moore said drivers also earn points at the event, which are tallied up at the end of the season, earning them a larger cash prize.

To make the competition fair, vehicles are split into groups based on engine size and vehicle type, said Kristi Chastain, director of the Lucas Oil League, which is based in Sellersburg, Ind.

The league was formed in 2006 and has around 850 members who span nine national regions, which include East Coast Pullers.

Dad inspired the family

Cory Forrester, 38, of Shippensburg, Pa., plans to compete at the Ag Center on Saturday. He said for a time, he competed on a national circuit.

Forrester, who competes with the East Coast Pullers, comes from a family of competitive tractor pullers, though the rest of the family competes in a different league, the Interstate Truck & Tractor Pullers Association.

Forrester has two brothers and two sisters - all of whom competed in pulling at one point in their lives. Now, it's mostly the Forrester boys who compete.

He said it was their father, A. Jay Forrester who got them all started, Cory Forrester said.

But their dad's life was cut short.

In 2000, Forrester died from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. Cory Forrester said he was on his way to a pulling competition in Luray, Va.

According to an obituary that ran in The Morning Herald, Forrester, 58, of Chambersburg was a member of the American Tractor Pullers Association, Interstate Truck & Tractor Pullers Association, Pennsylvania Tractor Pullers Association and the Franklin County Tractor Pullers Association.

He left the family business, Forresters Farm Equipment, to Cory Forrester. The week after his death, the family pulled their dad's tractor at the Franklin County Fair in Chambersburg.

"We knew that if Dad were there, that's what Dad would have wanted," Cory Forrester said.

It's not the money

The pulling legacy continues. Cory's sister, Lisa Stoner, said her son, Austin, 15, pulls, as does her husband, Denny Stoner.

Lisa Stoner said she used to compete but doesn't do it any more. She enjoys watching her family. Her step-daughter Amanda Stoner also pulled.

"I get so excited for them," she said.

Her brother, Jason Forrester, is the president of the Franklin County (Pa.) League of Tractor Pullers.

"I've been pulling since I was 10 years old," said Jason Forrester, 33, of Chambersburg.

He started off on a Ford 9000 called Papa Smurf. He said the appeal is the power: You're sitting on lots of horsepower, he said, and there is no way to practice ahead of time. Your practice is when you compete - even when it's your first time.

As to the pull of pulling? All families agreed that it isn't the money. These trucks and tractors are an investment of love and money.

Moore said pulling trucks can cost as much as $300,000. Sponsorship is possible, but it's hard to come by. Most drivers do it for the love of the sport.

Cory Forrester said it's not unheard of to put $100,000 and 250 hours worth of work into tractors.

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