Youths compete in tractor contest

August 02, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Biting his tongue in concentration, Justin Watt carefully threaded the John Deere tractor, complete with manure spreader, backward between the posts and forward again toward the figure eight course to his left.

"He's going so slowly," a bystander commented.

"Yes, but he's doing really well," replied another as 12-year-old Justin completed the course without hitting a single post.

Justin, who lives with his family on Md. Cedar Knoll Farm in Middleburg, was one of 14 youths who participated in the tractor driving contest yesterday.

The contest was one of several events during the first day of the Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster. Fair events, which are free, will be open until 8:30 Saturday night.

Among today's featured events will be the judging of wool exhibits at 9 a.m., a sheep-fitting and showing show at 1 p.m. and a horse-pull at 7 p.m.

"I think I did pretty good," said Justin, who was one of four youngsters competing in the junior class for youths 8 to 13. Ten teen-agers competed in the senior division for youths 14 and older.

"I like driving the tractor," Justin said. "I think they're fun to drive."

Although the drivers are timed, the contest -- open to any 4-H'er who has completed any of the group's tractor courses -- stresses safety, said Ed Dutterer, one of the judges for yesterday's event.

"You get very few points for time," Mr. Dutterer said. "We can't impress the safety aspect upon them enough."

The contestants, three of whom were from Howard and Frederick counties, must complete a 50-question written test based on their tractor-safety textbook. They must also complete a practical exam, telling judges what has been incorrectly adjusted or placed on a test tractor.

Howard and Frederick counties did not have enough contestants to sponsor tractor driving contests of their own this year, said Bob Shirley, a Carroll County Extension Agent who works with 4-H.

"The kids from other counties are just using this for practice for the state contest," Mr. Shirley said, noting that the out-of-county contestants were not competing for prizes with Carroll County youths.

The champion in the senior contest will represent Carroll County at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium during the first week of September. In both junior and senior driving competitions, the driver backs the tractor up and connects it to a two-wheeled manure spreader. After pulling out from the 8 1/2 -foot wide "shed" area, the driver must back the tractor down a 9-foot wide "alleyway" and pull forward again.

"They need that skill to back down along the barn to haul manure or hay," Mr. Dutterer said.

The driver then drives through 12-foot wide gates in the shape of a figure eight.

"Basically, that's like if they are maneuvering between gates going from the pasture to the field," Mr. Dutterer said. "They may not do a figure eight, but they will use part of it."

Senior-division drivers must also connect the tractor to a four-wheeled hay wagon, pull it out of the stall, drive around a ring and back it into the space again.

Results from the contest were not available yesterday. Mr. Dutterer said they will be released at the awards ceremony Saturday.

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