Nationally-sanctioned even draws tractor enthusiasts from around the nation to the Ozarks. Photo by Laura L. Valenti.
Photo by Laura L. Valenti

Nationally-sanctioned even draws tractor enthusiasts from around the nation to the Ozarks 

LEBANON, MO. – Farmers love their tractors, and sometimes the older they are, the more they love them and like to show them off, be it at a county fair or a tractor pull.

Darrell Hendrix, a farmer from New Franklin, Mo., recently presided over an indoor antique and classic tractor pull at the Cowan Civic Center at Lebanon, Mo., for a competition sanctioned by National Antique Tractor Pulling Association (NATPA). 

“I’ve been setting up and promoting pulling events for 35 years now,” he shared as the thunderous competition continued. “We have participants from Arkansas, Oklahoma, New York, South Dakota, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as Missouri. 

“Folks are used to seeing these tractor pulls outdoors at county fairs, but we are starting to do more and more indoor events. Of course, that takes a different sort of set-up, like finding the facility that can handle it, getting it booked and then laying down the dirt track indoors, that kind of thing.”

The money to support the event comes from the competitors’ participation fees and a smaller number of sponsorships.

At the Lebanon show, there were 520 “hooks” on the first day of the two-day event. A “hook” is the number of times a tractor is hooked with a pulling sled.  A contestant can hook up as many times as they want in this competition. To be eligible to enter the national competition, a participant must have competed in five events, like this one. At nationals, there are only two classes, and a participant can only pull once. The 2023 national competition is scheduled to be held in Lincoln, Neb.

By the end of competition, Darrell was informed by the (NATPA) that the Lebanon even was the largest in the history of the organization with 1,009 pulls across the two days.

 “We’ll have three places – first, second and third – where contestants can win money, but the truth is for all of these guys and gals out here, pulling sleds, it’s not about the money. I got introduced to this when I was 13 and I’ve been hooked ever since. Like me, they all end up doing it for the excitement of the competition, the great friendships made along the way amongst the various competitors, for the love of the sport.”

Indoor Antique and Classic Tractor Pull at the Cowan Civic Center in Lebanon, Missouri. Photo by Laura L. Valenti.
Photo by Laura L. Valenti

Darrell grew up on a farm and works for Hart’s Diesel, where they row crop corn and soybeans on approximately 700 acres. When not involved in farming, he builds performance pulling parts for tractor and truck pullers.

“I got started in pulling at the Missouri State Fair and I’ve been the superintendent for all five days of tractor pulling at the State Fair for the past three years. I plan to do it again this year, too,” he said.

“The amazing part in all of this, in traveling the circuit, is the people you meet, the friends you make over the years. You become one big family. You take a look at these old tractors and realize they could be sitting off, rusting away in a field somewhere, along an old fence line. Instead, someone has taken the time, put in some real effort and some money to get them fixed up to keep them running. We have women drivers out here as well as men and even young ones getting involved. It’s another way to keep young people involved in farm life and we all know how important that is. I have a great crew. Hats off to them because they help keep it all running, getting the dirt track ready and making the hooks. I really appreciate their hard work.”

Darrell gives credit to a Greene County, Mo., farmer for the love of the pull. The pull as also named in honor of the long-time tractor puller. 

 “Carl Buckner of Fair Grove is the one who got me started in this all those years ago, helping out at the state fair,” Darrell said. “Pulling has come a long way since then. It just seemed like the proper thing to do, to name today’s event the Carl B. Classic as a way to remember him and continue the interest in pulling in his name.”

The next NATPA at Cowan Civic Center is already booked for Jan. 5 and 6, 2024.


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