Drive down yonder, about 12 minutes or six miles from downtown Carrboro, and enter a another world. No sidewalk coffee shops, no traffic. The town of White Cross retains much of its endearing rural nature. It's where century-old homes still stand and a volunteer fire station keeps watch over the town. But change occurs. The town's elementary school now houses the NC Writer's Workshop, and conventional farming has gone organic. Carrboro/Chapel Hill artists like to live in this community for its bucolic beauty and proximity to the sister cities. Despite its evolution, one thing remains constant: tractor pulling. The 18th annual White Cross Tractor Pull competition lures folks across neighboring towns to the White Cross Recreation Center. They converge alongside a baseball field to watch competitors -- from as far away as Florida -- on a McCormick Farmall pull a weighted sledge (looks like a modified truck trailer) down a dusty orange field.
As part of this motorsport, tractors in distinct classes pull the sledge with a designated weight. If a tractor completes the length of the 300-foot track, it's dubbed a "full pull." If more than one tractor achieves the course, additional weight is added. Drivers exceeding 300 feet go on to a pull-off. The winner pulls the sledge the farthest. "It ain't how fast you go, it's how far you go," announces emcee, Terry.
He's perched on a truck trailer bejeweled with a black and white umbrella and cardboard boxes of shiny gold-colored trophies. Behind the chain link fence, kids wear oversized ear protectors, fingertips hide beneath sticky ketchup, and heads bow for an opening prayer. Tractor pulling tugs along its own culture.
The event itself is somewhat slow, yet steady lasting from supper through the starlit sky. But it's Terry who seems to steal the show and illustrate its heritage. Here are a few of his lines:
- He's supposed to be at App State. I'd rather be at a tractor pull than at school. But you all know me.
- Get a can of beans and get in free. Can't beat that!
- We have some gun raffle tickets for sale. Five dollars. As long as you are qualified to own a handgun.
- That's tight pulling folks!
- I don't know who's going to win, but a tractor's going to win that class.
- I'd like to thank these girls here. They keep it straight...Controlled chaos here.
- My Weber looks like he's trying to get it on...all the way down the track.
(photographs taken in White Cross, NC)