When it comes to the Vinland Fair’s tractor-pull competition, no one can hold a candle to Max Moore.
Moore, who is 92 years old and still actively farms his 300 acres just north and west of Baldwin City, was on the fair board when the idea was hatched to have a tractor pull back in the early 1960s. He also won the first tractor pull with his Ford, but his favorite, the 1950 Ferguson, has a better record.
“I won the first one with the Ford, but this Ferguson has never been beaten in its weight class,” Moore said. “I’ve got a lot of trophies around here, but I can’t find them.”
He can find what he won that first year. It’s in a safety deposit box in the bank.
“They gave me an old flour sack with 50 silver dollars in it,” he said. “I’ve still got them. That was first prize.”
Moore doesn’t know what those silver dollars are worth today and “will probably never find out.” But he knows what his pride-and-joy Ferguson is worth.
103rd Vinland Fair Schedule
2 p.m. — Old-time farm skills contest
6 p.m. — Baldwin High School band plays
6:30 p.m. — Talent show
7 p.m. — Rabbit and poultry show
7:30 p.m. — Alferd Packer Memorial String Band plays
10 a.m. — Stock bicycle races
Noon — Sack and other races, tug of war
7 p.m. — Antique tractor pull
7:30 p.m. — Wood Valley Packers Band plays
9 a.m. — Horseshoe pitching contest
11 a.m. — Box turtle race and pet parade
2:30 p.m. — Pedal tractor pull
3:30 p.m. — Watermelon seed spitting contest
5 p.m. — Lawn and garden tractor driving skills competition
7 p.m. — Homemade ice cream making contest judging and serving
7:30 p.m. — Witness Band plays
Homemade food, including fruit pies, will be served throughout the three-day fair.
“Bought it new in 1950. Give $1,100 for that tractor,” he said. “In about 2000, I traded that off for a John Deere. We lost track of it. Mom (his wife, Doris) was never happy without her Ferguson. We went up to a farm sale in McLouth that had one on the sale bill. It was the same tractor.
“I said ‘I’m gonna take it back no matter what it cost,’” Moore said. “What it cost is $4,400, four times what I paid for it originally. It’s our carry-all and we use it about every day. I don’t think anyone can show me a tractor of any make that runs like this.”
Don’t believe it? Moore will have it at the fairgrounds for the opening of this year’s 103rd Vinland Fair. The antique tractor pull starts at 7 p.m. Friday. Moore will be recognized by the fair board — if the weather allows. It will be hot.
One member of the fair board who remembers Moore’s first win is Larry Craig. It wasn’t an antique tractor pull back then.
“Back there and then, we took them straight out of the field and pulled them,” Craig said. “The bigger the tractor, the more weight you pulled. He was very light. He had the draw bar set right. He probably had weight in his tires.
“He knew what he was doing,” he said. “I was just a kid.”
That “kid” remembers the old sled the competitors pulled. So does Moore. He and four others spent a whole night working on the sled before its first event.
“We welded the sled together from metal from the old Baldwin water tower,” Moore said.
Unlike the mechanized sled used today, the weight for the old sled was added as the tractor went down the course. At every “stake,” more weight was added. That weight was men and boys who had been weighed prior to the competition and jumped on the sled.
“It’s a wonder someone didn’t get killed,” Moore said.
“Nobody got hurt and we always wonder why,” he said.
Moore quit competing in the tractor pull many years ago after people started to “soup up” their tractors to win a trophy. Despite that, he’s not so sure his Ferguson still can’t get the job done.
“I might be able to beat everyone,” Moore said. “I had a lot of fun at those tractor pulls. Absolutely.”