A roar would echo across the farming hills in the twilight. It came a distance of several miles, slipping through silhouettes of maple and oak trees, on nights when the summer air barely moved.
As a child, I would be outside catching fireflies with my hands as the first stars and planets winked at us from an ever darkening blue canopy. Then I’d hear the roar, a mechanical howl, the call of a beast made of pistons, spark plugs, and ignition switches.
It was tractor pull night in Holtwood.
When I went scouting for photographs last September as part of my essay about growing up in the “Southern End” of Lancaster County, Pa., one event I listed as a must-have was a tractor pull.
Tractor pulls, for the uninitiated, features a weighted sled on four wheels hooked to the back of a tractor. The driver then hits the throttle and tries to pull the sled down a lane of dirt between bleachers filled with cheering locals.
This often happens Friday nights at Buck Motorsports Park, a rustic shrine to the motorized past times of rural America.
Tractor pulls feature professionals who’ve poured thousands into souping up their otherwise ordinary tractors, and one I remember as a kid purportedly had a jet engine. I recall being in the stands nervous as hell when the tractor, with green paneling and a silver-colored exhaust pipe standing like the Washington Monument out of the front, pulled to the start, then fired up the high-pitch whine of its motor. I covered my ears. I feared it might explode.
The Buck is well known among local Lancasterians, so I sought a different tractor pull event. The massive Solanco Fair features a pull by classic tractors, and that proved too tempting to resist.
Here are the images from that night: