Tractors, drivers put themselves to the test

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Tractor drivers put their machines and themselves to the test during the annual Fall Tractor Pull last weekend.

MOSES LAKE — In a way, tractor pulling is a series of puzzles.

The Northwest Fall National Antique and Classic Tractor Pull was held at the Grant County Fairgrounds over the weekend, and one by one the tractors rolled down the track, pulling a weight-filled sled as far they could.

It looked easy enough. Ah, but the sled is designed to get heavier as the tractors move down the track. In fact, the sled is designed to make it as difficult as possible to get to the end of the track, said Zack Peterson, Corvallis, Ore.

And that’s just the beginning. “Certain things you’re allowed to do and certain things you’re not,” said Doug Bouwman, Lynden. There are rules governing tires and engines, weight, any modifications to the frame. There’s a speed limit, depending on the size of tractor. And there’s the course itself – packed or loose dirt, wet or dry or hot weather conditions. Of course the driver is yet another variable.

Balancing all those factors is part of the fun. “It’s more fun when you win, but it’s just as much fun to find out what you did wrong,” said Jackie Gabelein, Whidbey Island. Many of the tractors produce about the same amount of power, she said, so it comes down to the driver, the weight distribution and the track.

“There are all kinds of tips and tricks you learn,” Gabelein said. “There are lots of secrets. And we can’t tell all of them.”

And sometimes the driver gets it all figured out: the right weight, the right speed, the right tires and tire pressure for the track. And sometimes when that happens, the driver makes it all the way to the end of the course.

Peterson did that Saturday morning. “You can feel it,” he said. The driver can feel the tractor bite into the ground, “and it starts to go,” he said.

Peterson got into tractor pulling through his dad, he said, and Bouwman started because his sons were participants. Gabelein’s father-in-law took up tractor pulling, and got his sons involved, and over time most of the family.

“It’s lots of fun,” Gabelein said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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