- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Man," says a young grandstand admirer, "look at that rig old Dickie Sullivan has [a 1066 International Harvester diesel]. You'd think that thang would just melt. It must put out 2,000 horse the way Dickie's got her going."
"Yup, but that's all the dang thing is good for."
"I'll tell you what, you just give me that trailer Dickie hauls that old 1066 around on. That must be some loose change all by itself. You give me that and you keep the old pulling tractor."
In addition to the contest itself, a lot of the popularity of pulling comes from talking and marveling about how much money is tied up in the machines straining down the track and speculating on the risks being taken with all that money. At Poplar Bluff the point is continually emphasized by the announcer, a cattle auctioneer by the name of Big John Wagster. As an Allis-Chalmers hooks up to the WTM, Big John bawls, "This here is one of your hot running jobs, folks. In them little stores and coffee shops they'll be talking all winter about this old orange paint [the factory color of Allis-Chalmers]. There he goes, folks. Looks like he's a gonna pull her clean over to the airport."
About 150 feet down the track the A/C comes to an abrupt halt, enveloped in a spectacular cloud of flame, smoke and minced metal parts. "Lord a mercy," shouts Big John. "I believe he done blowed her up. Daddy, go get that boy another 5,000 long dollars. He's gonna need them tomorrow for old orange."
Though he is perhaps not typical, being one of the biggest and most consistent winners on the Grand National circuit, Don Harness, the Dana. Ind. farmer (1,200 acres of corn and soybeans) whose wife mends while he tinkers in the tractor shop, is illustrative of the life, times and problems of a more or less full-time puller. Harness' specialty is the 5,000 modifieds that many buffs feel is the most interesting class, because they must be light enough to make this lowest weight but are usually powerful enough to compete with weights added in the heavier divisions.
Two years ago, when Harness and a lot of other pullers were running on nitro fuels, now banned for safety reasons, his blown 454 developed between 1,500 and 1,700 horsepower. But this year, using LP gas—alcohol and water is another mixture used by pullers—he is putting out 800 or less horsepower. If it were not trying to drag a 30-ton weight machine behind it, his rig would hit about 65 mph. Harness estimates.
A modish lime and chrome creation, immaculately polished and maintained. Harness' tractor is not only one of the best pulling machines on the circuit but is also one of the handsomest, if one finds beauty in very heavy equipment. Charlene Harness is largely responsible for the cosmetic touches. "I told Don that if we were going to get any attention, we were not going to run just another red or yellow tractor. There are so many of them nobody notices you no matter how well you pull. Lime is a pretty color and nobody else was using it. When Don was all finished working, he started the tractor up to show our little girl. You know those 454s can be pretty loud in a shed. Donna came running out with her hands over her ears. She said. 'Mom, it's a loud mouth lime.' She'd been watching those Jell-O commercials on TV. I told Don that it had to be the name, so he went and painted it on the tractor."
With the Loud Mouth Lime in tow, the Harnesses traveled some 40,000 miles in each of the last two pulling seasons, entering about 50 events a year. "Actually, it fits in pretty well with farming," he says. "In fact, that's why the pulling season is when it is. We hit the indoor pulls and the Florida-Georgia circuit in the winter when work is slow. We get back to put in the crops in the spring. Then we pick up pulling in June and finish up in late September, just about in time to get back for harvest. When we started we grew a good bit of wheat, but getting wheat in didn't work out too well with pulling so now we've gone pretty much to corn and beans. What with prices, that hasn't been a bad move."
Despite the time, effort and money he has invested in pulling. Harness resists being called a professional and in strictly financial terms he cannot be so classified. "Last year when I won the national championship was the first year I made any money at all with pulling," he says. "We took in about $17,000. Maybe when you figure in repairs and travel expenses we cleared a couple of thousand, but if you added up the time. I'd have been working for about 10� an hour."