by Sally Colby
The tractors lining the arena looked like a testimony to mid-20th century farming. Brand names included Case, Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis Moline, Massey-Harris and lots of John Deere, many restored to use after being discarded in favor of new models. And if it weren’t for the polished paint and shiny stacks on the 60-year old tractors, they’d look just as at home working a field.
Those who come to tractor pulls come for a variety of reasons: There’s a lot of visiting among fellow antique tractor aficionados along with some trading of tractors and parts, but there’s also a competitive streak common in the group.
Alana Eisenhour and her family were among the contestants in the antique tractor pull held recently in Harrisburg, PA. Although Alana has only been pulling since May of 2013, she has held her own in competitions.
“My dad was into tractor pulls, and I wanted to pull too,” she said. “He didn’t think I was ready, but one day he said, ‘ok, we’ll go to a pull and I’ll stand by the line and walk down with you.’”
That was the start of what has become something Alana truly enjoys.
Alana is at home around tractors — she works with her family on their beef, hog and crop farm in York County, PA. “We own a 2,000 acre farm, and rent 6,000 acres,” she said. “We have crops, a beef feedlot and a sow operation. The feedlot at our farm holds 750 steers, and another lot holds about 200 animals. We also have about 100 Angus show cattle and calves, so we’re busy with those too.”
The family exhibits at as many shows as possible throughout the season. This past summer, Alana showed cattle in Missouri and has been to Colorado, Georgia, Virginia and Iowa. Steers are shown primarily at local fairs. Alana is in FFA and just received her Keystone degree.
As for learning how to pull, especially with old tractors, Alana says that they practice by pulling just about anything on the farm. The recent purchase of another farm that had a lot of old machinery on the property yielded an old truck that was perfect for pulling practice. But for serious practice, the family is considering building or purchasing a sled to use at home. “That way we won’t come to a pull and not know what to expect,” said Alana.
Alana says driving newer tractors is quite a bit different than driving the antiques. “With the big, new tractors, it’s just pushing buttons,” she said. “I never drove a two-cylinder tractor until May, and that’s when I started getting into it.”
For the Farm Show competition, Alana pulled with two John Deere tractors in the 3,000 and 4,000 pound classes. The family attends as many pulls as time allows, including pulls at nearby Williams Grove.
Although she doesn’t know a lot about how to modify a tractor for pulling, she’s learning and plans to learn more. “The guys who work on our tractors know more about the engines,” she said. “This summer I pulled bolts off, helped change a head gasket, and I’m learning little by little. I don’t want to be someone who just gets on and drives.”
The Eisenhours are John Deere devotees, but they recently purchased a Minneapolis Moline tractor that is currently being overhauled for pulling. “It’s about 300 horsepower, and I got to run it this summer,” said Alana. The tractor she pulled with at the farm show is a 1947 John Deere B and a 1949 John Deere G; both of which started with about 15 HP prior to modifications.
Alana says she’d like to go to an antique tractor pull in Harrington, DE on March 8, but has a cattle show in Virginia that weekend. “I missed a couple of pulls over the summer because of all the cattle shows we go to,” she said.
After high school, Alana will attend Penn State to pursue a B.S. degree in animal science with a business and management option. “I’m probably going to come back and help manage our family farm,” she said. “But this is what we do for fun.”
Young woman carving a spot in antique tractor pulling
by Sally Colby