Mclouth Bill Murr knows tractor pulling.
The rural McLouth businessman and farmer first entered a tractor pull in the mid-1960s, after he graduated from high school. Back then, he competed with his farm tractor at area county fairs.
In the early 1980s, he built a twin-engine tractor to use for pulling, and now he owns the Hooterville Express, a bright blue modified tractor that can hold up to three engines and that he conservatively estimates is worth $50,000.
Murr, secretary/treasurer of the Kansas Tractor Pulling Assn., holds his own when he hitches the Hooterville Express to a 54,000-pound sled at the starting line of a 300-foot dirt track a typical pulling scenerio.
He has finished first or second in a slew of events during the past 15 years, and has been voted Puller of the Year by KTPA members four or five times during that period.
THIS WEEKEND, for the fifth consecutive year, Murr will sponsor the Mid-States Fall Finals Tractor and Truck Pull at Steam Engine Park in McLouth. The event is sanctioned by the National Tractor Pullers Assn.
Pulling will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday and will resume at 3 p.m. Sunday. A gate fee will be charged, and Murr said he expected more than 10 competitors in each of three classes.
The event has been included in the Copenhagen/Skoal Pulling Circuit. It will be the last chance for pullers in Region 3, which includes Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota, to collect National Tractor Pulling Assn. points, Murr said.
The association keeps track of points each puller scores throughout the season, and the two competitors with the most points in each class qualify for the Super Pull in Indianapolis, a grand national event.
"IT'S NOT A `just come hook up and have fun and go home' type of deal," Murr said.
The tractor and truck pull will feature 6,200-pound two-wheel-drive trucks, 7,500-pound Super Stock tractors and 7,200-pound modified tractors, and Murr expects the competition to be tough. Cash awards will be given to the top 10 placers in each class, and the winner of each class will walk away with about $1,000.
Murr said he won't accept any prize money if he wins. He added he thought about trying to qualify for Indianapolis, but he wouldn't have been able to attend enough point-earning events because of the demands of his 120 cows, 3,000 acres of cultivated land and his farms supply business.
"I'm in the top runners, but my business keeps me pretty tied down from running that whole circuit. It's too big an area for me to keep up with," he said.
BUT MURR DOES escape work from time to time to compete. At the Wyandotte County Fair in August, he placed first in the 7,200-pound class of two-wheel-drive trucks and modified tractors.
During Labor Day weekend at the Nebraska State Fair, he won first place in the 5,800-pound modified tractor class. He also tied for first place in the 7,200-pound modified tractor class when he and another competitor scored "full pulls" by pulling the weight sled the full length of the track.
For Murr, a tractor pull is a reunion with old friends and a chance to test his driving skill and his mechanical expertise as well as a weekend getaway.
"It's just kind of nice to get away from the operation and the work," he said. "We go for the fun of it. It's quite a thrill to drive one of them, really."