MOUNT VERNON — At a spry, fit 77 years, Jim Young of Marengo finished first among four Antique Tractor Pull contestants Thursday evening at the Knox County Fair, his orange-colored 1935 Allis Chalmers WC pulling the weight sled 178.28 feet. His was in the class for tractors weighing 3,500 pounds or less during an event where weight classes increased up to 8,500-pounds plus.
If he can “stick around” in his sport another 16 years, the aptly named Young would be 93 when his beloved 4-cylinder tractor hits the century mark in 2035. At that point he would be powering up a true gallant “antique” competing against fellow competitors while giving Father Time a run for his money.
On Thursday evening, though, Young received the honor of a small but stylish trophy as all winners of their class did. He also had the privilege of being the first Antique Tractor Pull contestant. His trophy was sponsored by Bob Ronk, a local retired dentist, which made his eyes light up.
“He did a good job putting braces on my youngest daughter’s teeth,” he remembered.
Young said his dad, Jim Young, passed away a few years ago at age 94. His mom, Martha, turned 96 on July 21 and is doing well. So, posed with the question is he could still compete at 93, when his tractor turns 100, he said he reckons he can. He bought his Allis Chalmers WC about a decade ago at a Flywheelers Antique Tractor Show in Florida, and they’ve been in sync ever since. For a time, they competed in events just about once a month. Now it’s a few times a year but that’s by choice. Young belongs to both the Kokosing Valley Antique Tractor Club and the Morrow County Antique Tractor and Equipment Association. He owns more than a dozen vintage tractors and is proud to be in both clubs.
Also enthused with a good showing was Kari Bartley, 20, of Mount Vernon. Offering she has competed in the Antique Tractor Pull for five years, finishing around the middle of the pack, she had her best-ever finish in the 4,500-pound tractor class, placing second. Her John Deere B tractor, an early 1950s model, pulled the weight sled — all 30,000 pounds or so of it — 194.10 feet.
“I was really pleased with it,” she said. And she didn’t stop there, also competing just minutes later in the 5,500-pound class in a Case DC tractor, with a pulling result of 175.65 feet. Those cheering her on included her dad, Dennis Bartley.
Kari Bartley is just a few years removed from 4-H competition, being a past member of Clover Leaf Chums. She works full-time in farming now, helping raise pigs and cows, and producing her own crop yields including soybeans.
Frequent Antique Tractor Pull contestant Lester McKee of Bladensburg said it is truly amazing that so many farmers are also talented enough in their mechanical abilities to keep tractors going that are 60 to 70 years old, or older. The ones that seem to do best have 4 cylinders, or just 2 cylinders.
“John Deeres are the only ones that have 2 cylinders,” he noted. This is also the first year, he said, that tractors are required to have a “kill switch” for safety reasons.
In the small set of stands preparing to watch the tractor pull was Jeff Adrian of Mount Vernon, readying himself to cheer on friend and contestant Kirby Phillips, who would be driving John Deere and International tractors. He said his friend Kirby and his dad, Nathan, farm 1,200 acres on Chadwick Road.
He said Kirby is good with tractor mechanics and took on restoring a badly run-down tractor “just for this event.”
“He was a basket case for a while and his dad told him not to do it but he stuck with it and put it all together,” Adrian said.