Vroom! Vroom! Have you ever taken a ride on a tractor? Wonder Friends who live on or near a farm may have enjoyed being pulled by a tractor on a hayride at harvest time.
Some Wonder Friends may have even been lucky enough to help drive a tractor as it does important farming work, such as harvesting, cultivating and planting. Tractors are used to pull all sorts of farming implements, including wagons, cultivators, seeders, plows, bailers, mowers and sprayers.
People have farmed for thousands of years, but tractors have only been around for the last hundred years or so. What did farmers do before tractors? They used horses to pull their farming machines.
After the Civil War, farmers began to have competitions to see whose horses could pull the heaviest loads. Some of the competitions involved hitching a horse to a barn door laid flat on the ground. As the horse started to pull the door, people would jump on the door to create more resistance. The horse that could pull the most people the greatest distance was the winner.
With the invention of the tractor, it didn’t take long for farmers’ competitive spirit to move from their horses to their tractors. Instead of bragging about their horses’ physical strength, they began to brag about their tractors’ mechanical power.
Horse pulling competitions eventually gave way to tractor pulling competitions. The first tractor pulling event occurred in 1929 in Bowling Green, Ohio. Tractor pulling events didn’t grow in popularity until the 1950s and 1960s.
Competition rules varied from state to state and sometimes even county to county. Eventually, in 1969, competitors settled on a common set of rules and formed the National Tractor Pullers Association.
In the earliest years of tractor pulling, competitors used standard farm tractors. They lived by the motto, “Pull on Sunday, plow on Monday.” In other words, they used their regular farm tractors in competitions.
Over time, though, competitors began to modify their tractors to take competition to a whole new level. Today, professional tractor pullers use very sophisticated tractors with multiple engines and turbochargers to compete. These specialized tractors are only used for competitions and will never see a field or real farm work!
There is one thing that remains from the days of horse pulling, though. In competition, tractors pull a special sled — called a sledge — down a dirt track. The sledge contains a weight that moves closer to the tractor the farther it is pulled. This increases resistance the farther the tractor pulls the sledge. Like in the old days, the tractor that pulls the sledge the farthest with the most weight wins!