Growing tractor pull clubs fuel lasting friendships


At one point, only one tractor pull club — Wabash Valley — existed in Indiana.

Hoosiers interested in the sport joined the club and participated in pulls around the state.

In March 1980, the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers was established in Salem and gave people another option.

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Since then, a couple of other clubs have formed in the southern part of the state, allowing enthusiasts to get their fill of tractor pulls.

Greg Hackman of Seymour used to travel up north for the Wabash Valley events, so he was glad when a club started closer to home.

His son, Tyler Hackman, also is a part of the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers along with a handful of other Jackson County residents. They compete in about a dozen outdoor pulls before taking it indoors for National Quarter Scale events from the fall to early spring.

“I just went to a couple of the pulls and became very interested and just started building one myself,” Greg said of beginning in tractor pulls about 40 years ago as a teenager.

“Through the years, we just kept going to the pulls and started working on them and selling parts and got to know a lot of people,” he said. “There are a lot of good people that pull, and it became like a second family.”

Tyler became interested in tractor pulls when he was 7 after watching his father. He’s now 25 and still is involved.

“It’s addicting,” he said, smiling. “I think for one, it is the family, and you get used to seeing everybody as friends, and you hang out. When we go states away, you stay in hotels with everybody and get to know a bunch of people, so you’ve got that aspect of it.

“Other than that, it’s just the thrill, I guess you could say,” he said. “Everybody likes competition on different levels.”

While they are all competing against each other, it’s typically friendly competition, Tyler said.

“We’re all there for the competition, but it seems like if anybody needs any help, they’ll drop and help,” he said. “With us, it was always addicting because we’re so involved in building motors and different components, so we had a lot of drive when you do good.”

Greg said it takes a lot of work to get the tractors ready to compete, and they run right most of the time.

“We have those days,” Tyler said, smiling.

“But it’s fun,” Greg said.

The Hackmans, Alex Naffe of Seymour and Dan, Barb and Jarred Leffler of Freetown were among the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers members involved in the opening night of the 51st annual Grassy Fork Volunteer Fire Department Truck and Tractor Pull on Thursday night in Tampico.

Dan Leffler, who serves as president of the club, said he likes competing at the local event, which ran through Saturday.

“You can always guarantee they put a lot of work into it to have a good tractor run at Tampico,” he said, noting there is plenty of parking, free admission and good food to eat at the fire department’s annual fish fry fundraiser.

“It’s good, cheap entertainment for the whole community,” he said. “It doesn’t cost anything to watch, and you don’t find anything like that around anymore.”

Naffe said as a National Quarter Scale member, he has competed in a variety of venues from Missouri to Pennsylvania, and none compare to Tampico.

“To me, it’s the best atmosphere,” he said. “You just know that you’ve got a lot of friends and family that are there to watch you.”

Tyler Hackman said the national events have a lot more tractors, but he likes Tampico because it’s close to home.

“Most of the pulling we do is states away, so (Tampico) was always nice for us to just kind of load up and you don’t have to really worry about time so much because we’re just five miles down the road,” he said.

Dan Leffler said the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers has averaged 100 members from several counties.

Before he joined the club, he was a part of a group in Crothersville. Some of the new club’s members were at the same event, and he learned more about it and became involved.

On and off over the years, he has been president at least 10 years, while Barb has been secretary and treasurer for about a dozen years.

It costs $30 annually to be a part of the club. Points are awarded to members throughout the season, and the top performers receive awards during an annual banquet.

“The best thing about it, Barb and I both have met a lot of good people through tractor pulling,” Dan said. “It’s a good bunch of people. It makes for a good time.”

Barb said it’s a great family activity.

“I have tractor pulling in my blood, you could say,” she said. “I grew up with my dad pulling tractors. It was something you could do together as a family. When I met Dan, he also was tractor pulling.”

Barb said she has liked building friendships within the local club.

“We have several friends all over the state,” she said. “We are a family-friendly club. We have several kids that are pulling with us now. These are our future pullers. I have seen several kids grow up in our club, starting at a small age and are grown up and still pulling with us.”

That would include Naffe, who started around age 5 after watching his father, Dana.

Alex had a stroke on the left side of his brain after he was born, so that has affected the right side of his body and held him back from participating in some activities.

Fortunately, he found his niche in tractor pulling.

“Tractor pulling has been like his sport all of his life,” said Alex’s mother, Vicki. “His dad got him started in pulling, and he has done fantastic with that. Even when he was just real little, you’re competing with the men. It goes by the size of your tractor or the group your tractor is in, so the age doesn’t matter. He has gotten tons of trophies, and he has always done really, really well.”

Alex and his father spent a lot of time doing tractor pulls together until Dana died in April 2016.

Alex said every time he competes, he thinks about his father.

“It has meant everything to him, especially because it’s something that he got to do with his dad all of the time,” Vicki said. “They went together every weekend. If they weren’t at the tractor pull, they were at a race if his dad wasn’t in the field farming.”

Other members of the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers have been a big help to Alex since he lost his father, Vicki said.

“The group has been really supportive helping him,” she said. “It’s really like a big family.”

As far as how much longer he wants to continue with the sport, Alex smiled big and said, “Forever.”

The Hackmans feel the same way.

“I will do it probably until I can’t do it anymore,” Greg said. “It’s a really good motorsport that is good for a family-based thing, and you can actually have a lot of fun. It’s very competitive, and you don’t have to spend nearly as much as you would at say a bigger level of tractor. You’ve still got to spend some money, there’s no question about it.”

Tyler said some people start with the sport and may leave, but they always come back.

“I think it’s one of those things that once it gets in your blood, you can’t really just quit it,” he said.

The Lefflers both said they encourage all ages to get involved with the sport.

“It’s good, clean family fun,” Dan said. “It’s good to get the family all together. With Jarred, I try to show him what he needs to do to get the tractor down the track. It has been a bit of a learning thing for him, too. We’re trying to keep the sport going with the younger generations.”

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For information about the Southern Indiana Tractor Pullers, call President Dan Leffler at 812-525-7166 or find the group on Facebook.


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