Couple find all’s fair in love, tractor pulling
The Jefferson couple each has 9,300-pound super farm tractors with 1,400 horsepower diesel engines beneath the hoods.
The wedding rings stay on but the fighting gloves come off when Tom and Kathy compete against one another and other high-powered tractor drivers entered in tonight’s Super Farm-Badger State Tractor Pull.
“Yes, I enjoy beating his butt,” Kathy said as she swaggered into the couple’s tractor barn with German shepherd dogs at her side.
The challenge was made. Tom reacted with a quick laugh that announced he’s ready to be boss of the track. The couple own Gallitz Grading, east of town on Highway 18.
Fans enjoy the competitive spirit. At last year’s fair, about 10,000 people packed the fairground stands to watch the pulls, said Susan Pruessing, a fair spokeswoman.
After all, Tom entered and won his first pull at the Walworth County Fair in 1984. At the time, Tom was on the truck side of the competition.
Five years later, Tom married Kathy, a self-described local farm girl who knew all about driving tractors. Tom switched from truck to tractor pulling in 1997.
Kathy said she wasn’t interested in tractor pulling. Tom got her interested by making a bet that if he rode her horse, she would drive in a tractor pull. He won, Kathy put the pedal to the metal and the rest is history.
The couple competes on state and national levels and consistently rate in the competitive point standings.
The Walworth County Fair competition is important in the statewide competitive point standings because the season is drawing to a close.
Kathy said she is having a better year in the standings than Tom, but neither is sure who owns the most victories.
“We’re having a good year because we did our homework during the off season,” Tom said. The homework translated into souping up their tractors.
“We’re outmuscling the competition,” Tom said.
Horsepower is just part of the equation, he said. On race day, pullers can get a competitive edge by determining proper tire inflation of a tractor’s large rear tires, properly balancing a tractor’s weight distribution and finding a lane on the competition track that’s not too wet or too dry, Tom said.
The point of the sport is to pull a heavy sledge, also known as a sled, on a 300-foot long track. If a tractor drags the sled the entire 300 feet, that’s known as a “full pull.”
Those tractors then pull the sled again with added weight added. The sled is geared so that the further it’s dragged, the harder it gets to pull.
The winner is the tractor that can pull sleds with additional weight the farthest.
In addition to bragging rights, winners of sanctioned events are awarded up to $500 a competition.