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21Country: Competitive tractor pulling

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WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA21) - “The first ride is all you need on a tractor to decide if you ever need one.”

Churubusco’s Colten Brown has been a competing in tractor pull for the last four years.

Before that, at the age of 16, he was doing the same thing, using his truck.

Now, he’s registered in the “9,500 Hot Farm” class in the upcoming 2021 Midwest Winter Nationals in Shipshewana.

But the journey hasn’t been easy.

So much so, that his tractor is ironically named, “International Disaster”.

“When I got the tractor, it seemed like every time I tried to do something to make it better, it was a disaster,” Colten told us, “just every little thing that I ran into, I thought should be better than it was, or was supposed to be, but it was a disaster. That’s when I just started over and built everything all new.”

And “International Disaster” lived up to its name in the weeks leading up to the competition.

“We were on the hunt for extra horsepower at the dyno down at Haisley Machine,” he explained, “we had a rod that wouldn’t hold anymore horsepower and it made a window through both sides of the block.”

The video, and images showcasing the damage, will make one cringe if they understand how much time and money he puts into his tractor.

But he remains in good spirits, “that’s part of tractor pulling. Try to make things as reliable as you can, but push the limit at the same time to make the most power that you can.”

Despite the frustrations, Colten says it’s all worth the rush for that short few moments on the track.

“Your adrenaline is going wild, your heartbeat is going through your ears. The crowd - its a complete out of body experience almost. You start off at the end and your heart’s beating like crazy, and you get to the other end and you’re thinking, ‘what just happened!’”

A few miles away outside Columbia City, Brandt Schrader and his father put the finishing touches on his tractor, “Addiction”.

The story behind his name?

“I’ve been addicted to it ever since I was a little kid going to watch my dad pull, my grandpa, and my uncles,” Brandt told us, “It’s been in the family for a long time.”

He too made the jump to a higher tractor class, having it ready to competitively pull in mid-2020.

“I started when I was about four or five on a John Deer 106, and then when I was old enough to pull dead weight, I did that with an Allis-Chalmers WD-45 for many years,” he explained, “then we finally made the jump to the big John Deer.”

He spends a lot of days and nights in the pole barn working on perfecting “Addiction”.

“Everything we make on this tractor is homemade, very little did we go and buy. Like the frame wheels and the front axil, it’s all custom made,” Brandt said, “we would come home everyday and work till about 9 o’clock on it every night, and over the summer every day until maybe later.”

And though it hasn’t happened to him yet, Brandt is very aware that no matter all the time and preparation he puts into his tractor, there’s still a chance he might not make it down the track.

“It’s very easy to go out there, hook up - you can have one little thing off, and the tractor won’t even leave the start line.”

Though they’re competitors on the track, Colten and Brandt are friends.

“One thing about tractor pulling - you’re buddies with everybody, but you always want to beat them, but at the end of the day you can sit back and talk to them like you’re pals,” Brandt shared, “If they beat you, they beat you. It’s not a big deal. You’ll go get them next week.”

Colten helps the Schraders transport their tractor to events, until they get their own rig.

And with that devastating engine failure, he might just be cheering him on the sidelines in Shipshewena.

Both men say everybody should watch a competitive tractor pull at least once in their life.

“I have two nephews… that just love everything about horsepower, tractors, trucks. Little kids, the gas engines, they just rattle, they rattle everything,” Colten explained, “It’s an exciting feeling as a child, as an adult”

“Everyone’s having a good time,” Brandt said, “there’s a lot of action going on, everybody loves it!”

The 2021 Midwest Winter Nationals was scheduled to begin Thursday.

Organizers postponed the event to early February.

Colten says that may just be enough time to repair his engine, and compete.

Author Profile Photo

Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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