Despite the recent rain, the sun was shining on Seymour High School’s parking lot when Trevor Alberring took his seat atop a tractor nearly five times his size.
Trevor, however, had more to worry about than the weather.
“Just pull straight ahead. If you mess up this part, I’ll let you try again,” Bill Baute told the youngster.
Trevor nodded in response before he started moving the tractor forward, pulling the wagon behind it.
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The Seymour youth was competing in his first Jackson County 4-H tractor contest, which is conducted a couple of weeks before the fair each year. This year’s event went off July 14 without any more hitches than were needed for the wagons.
The competition is organized and judged by Baute, who has been the leader of the county’s 4-H Tractor Club and in charge of the competition for 38 years.
He said there’s one main focus of the group, which meets often, especially in the months leading up to the competition and fair.
“Safety training is a big priority,” Baute said. “I don’t want to see any of these kids get hurt or worse.”
Baute said he felt safety training was even more important this year because of the number of new participants.
Hunter Heckman was one of the novices.
“I practiced at home and for a few minutes before we started,” he said.
Trevor Wiesehan also was a newcomer.
“I just learned from my grandmother teaching me how to mow grass,” the Seymour fifth-grader said.
Baute said he was impressed with everyone’s driving this year, even the newcomers.
The competition is divided into two age groups — junior and senior divisions. Participants could compete in one class or several different classes, including garden tractor, zero-turn radius tractor and tractor with trailer.
Participants drive the tractors through a set series of maneuvers in an obstacle course. Judges evaluate their driving, with penalties for touching or knocking over cones and leaving designated areas. The drivers’ overall time is recorded for results.
Besides the obstacle course, the competition included a written test covering farm operation, safety and identifying the parts of a tractor.
“The kids relish the driving portion,” Baute said. “But the quiz often determines the winner for the competition.”
Baute drove this point home when he compared the senior participants with their times and scores, demonstrating that the test score made up a large portion of the overall results.
“The questions about loads for trailers on the quiz was probably the hardest,” Hunter said.
Trevor Wiesehan said he believed the figure-8 maneuver with the tractor was the hardest part of the competition.
Trevor Alberring, a fifth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour, said he believed driving the tractor with the trailer was the most challenging. However, he fared well overall and placed second in junior garden tractor and junior tractor with trailer.
Hunter finished first in junior garden tractor, and Trevor Wiesehan placed third in the junior zero-turn radius divisions.