Anymore, when Wayne Wenz looks around the Washington County Fairgrounds, he doesn't see too many folks who've been at it longer than he has.
The Blair man can think of one, however, and he'll gladly introduce John Timm as such.
While Wenz has competed in 37-straight Washington County Fair Tractor Pulls, Timm has 52 under his belt. He's run tractors every year since he was 13 years old, including during Tuesday's Fontanelle Hybrids Pull — an event rich with family tradition.
Timm, who is from Nickerson, got the itch to compete from his father, Franklin — a Nebraska Bush Pullers pioneer.
“After watching them pull, I was automatically hooked,” he said. “I was on dad, 'I've got to drive a tractor! I've got to drive a tractor!' And he said, 'You can go ahead and pull in Arlington,' which was great.”
Timm was able to drive in front of his high school buddies that way. His dad, five uncles and he competed to see who could pull the weight the furthest.
“We used to come down here with 18 to 20 tractors and pull,” he said.
The tradition continues today with his International Harvester 560 tractor.
“We've had a really good time with it over the years,” Timm explained. “We've tried to get other people involved, and all you've got to do it put them on the seat one time and they're hooked.”
Randy Cunningham of Fontanelle can attest. After securing his tractor to its trailer with chains Tuesday night, he explained why he's been at it for more than 20 years.
“Hell if I know,” he joked. “I watched them for a lot of years, and then I decided to try it and that's how it kind of goes.”
Tradition is what will keep tractor pulls like Washington County's going far into the future.
“If we don't get the next generation involved in this, there's not going to be any,” Wenz said. “We've got to keep it going.”
The Blair man said he's taught his boys about the work and had one of them, Jon, pulling alongside him Tuesday night. The finished product on the night of the competition is fulfilling.
“It's something I really look forward to every year,” Wenz said. “The show has gotten better every year.”
He's pulled with his John Deere 6030 for 18 years after buying it in southern Kansas.
“The back wheel was coming off of it when I bought it,” Wenz said. “It was supposedly junk.”
Like that John Deere, the Farmall 1456 21-year-old Taylor Dreessen — a Kennard native — was driving was far from junk. He was one of the fresh faces at the county fair pull, keeping the future of the event bright.
Dreessen's father, Tim, joined him.
“They did it back in the 1990s and, growing up, I just thought it was the neatest thing in the world,” Taylor said. “Now that I was old enough, I just pushed it and said, 'Let's go. We've got this many tractors — let's go and have some fun.'”
That's what's obvious behind the scenes and out of reach of the fairgrounds lights. The drivers mingle, sharing stories and beverages.
“There's some good farm people left around the country, you know?” Wenz said. “It's nice just to be able to hang out with everybody.”
It's an event many refuse to miss.
“We wait for it every year,” Dreessen said. “You wait for July. End of the month.”
For decades, Washington County pullers have kept the tradition alive.