Tractor pulls have come a long way since the days when two farmers would hook their tractors up to one another and try to pull each otheracross a line.
Competition tractors, and now trucks, have become sophisticated pieces of machinery, which compete by pulling a weighted sled down a 300-foot course, rather than by dragging an opponent.
Both have evolved into several divisions, classified by their weight and motors.
Steve Horman of Taneytown pulls in the two-wheel-drive truck class. He has a 1949 Chevrolet pickup powered by a 440-cubic-inch Dodge motor equipped with a 671 GM supercharger. The fuel-injected motor runs on alcohol and produces more than 1,000 horsepower.
Truck-pulling is a hobby for Steve; he hasn't the time or money toenter pulls across the country. His job keeps him close to home and also keeps him from competing in weeknight events. He seldom travels more than 300 miles from home to a pulling event.
Though his truck-pulling is only a hobby, Steve estimates that he has more than $13,000 invested in his equipment. He has saved thousands of dollars by doing all the work himself. But he says the time is worth it, not only in money saved, but in the satisfaction that comes with doing well with your own equipment.
"We have a low-buck operation," Steve said proudly. "But it is built tough to stay together."
Before he entered the sport himself, Steve had always enjoyed going to tractor pullsto watch his uncle, Eddie Horman, pull with his International Super Stock tractor. But because of the cost, Steve gave participation little thought.
That changed when his friend David Feeser talked to him about pulling. Together they began to work toward the day that theycould compete.
It wasn't long before they found a partially finished truck frame. Then they picked up a truck body. The motor came from a retired puller in Frederick, Fred Barnsley, who used to have a twin-engine tractor. Steve still goes to Barnsley for parts and motor work.
Feeser died in an auto accident before he had the opportunityto enjoy the rewards of their labor. The truck is now run in his memory.
Steve has been "playing at this for four years," he said, andhas come a long way from his first pull.
"There is more to pulling than meets the eye," Steve said. "It takes a few years to get to the point where you can be competitive.
"It is more than just driving the truck and pulling the sled down a straight course."
First, the driver has to get to know his equipment, Steve says. He has to putweights in the right place to achieve the proper balance. Then he has to get the right gear ratio.
"One of the hardest things is to overcome the tendency to let off the power when the (truck's) front endcomes up."
Truck-pulling is more than a one-man operation. Steve's 16-year-old stepson, Mark Smith, is a tremendous help.
"He gets everything ready without being told," Steve said. "It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders and lets me concentrate on what the other trucks are doing, their tire speed, front-end height, and which way the track is going."
Reading the track is probably the hardest part ofpulling. Steve and other pullers read track conditions to determine how much power to give to the wheels. Too much power can mean blowingan expensive engine, which is something Steve did at the last meet at Westminster earlier this year.
There is also a lot of work between events. Steve adjusts the valves after every meet and makes sure that there aren't any bent pushrods. After five runs, he changes the oil and checks the cylinders.
Winning isn't always the name of the game in truck-pulling. Making it through the night without breaking anything is almost as important.
"Having a fairly decent run and being able to drive it on the trailer tickles me to death," Steve said."The name of the game is keeping them running. It is almost a biggersatisfaction than winning.
"I tell you, it feels good to build everything and have it work. It is a great satisfaction."
The truck is owned and sponsored by Steve's employer, Delmar, and Helen Feeser of Feeser Trucking in Taneytown.
Steve said he would like the chance to run a superstock tractor someday, but he has no ambition to turn professional truck-puller. Unless, that is, he hits the lottery.