Calgary – Neil Bertsch won the Class 5 at this year’s Calgary Stampede Vintage Tractor Pull on his 1956 John Deere 80, the same model he learned to drive when he was seven. And he’s on the lookout for that exact tractor, not just the model.
“I am looking for my original one, but I haven’t found it yet. That guy will have a jackpot if I find it,” says Bertsch, who grew up in the Drumheller area. “I have the serial number by heart. I looked back on our records from when we sold it: it’s 8000771.”
On Monday night’s second go at the Saddledome, the Drumheller, Alta., resident replicated his Class 5 win from 2016 with a massive 180-foot pull, giving him an aggregate total of 285 ft., five inches. It was the only full pull of this year’s competition.
“Once I got to where I stopped, I could have kept going right on out into the fairgrounds,” said Bertsch, who has only been competing in the sport for three years, the same length of time he’s had his vintage tractor.
Twenty-six entrants competed in the Stampede’s Vintage Tractor Pull on Sunday and Monday. Using vintage machines — built in 1960 or earlier — the competitors called on all their driving skills to demonstrate the weighted-sled-pulling power of their restored vehicles. The highest aggregate scores over two pulls determined the winners in the six weight classes at the invitational event.
Darcy Elliot can relate to Bertsch’s devotion to his tractor. The Blackie, Alta. resident was hooked the minute he saw his 1952 Co-op E5, despite its decidedly neglected appearance. He first spotted the Cockshutt-built tractor in his neighbour’s field 13 years ago.
“I’d never seen a Co-op tractor before, so we made a deal right there. It had been sitting out in the field for probably 15, 20 years, so it was pretty rough,” Elliott said of the Canadian-made equipment. “It took about six to eight months to restore it. It was the first tractor I ever restored.”
The now-shining orange beauty wasn’t the last, however. Elliot has five vintage tractors that he and his son Michael enter in area pulls. Elliot Sr. won Class 2 twice at the Stampede with the E5. He bumped up the weight of the tractor to qualify it as a Class 3 so he wouldn’t be competing against himself in Class 2 in some pulls; he achieved the weight gain by adding bigger tires and putting fluid in them. He placed second in the class this year, 19 in. behind the first-place finisher.
“When I first started pulling in Class 2, I spent at least a couple years in last place. I kept working on it, figuring out air pressure and the proper hitch for pulling, until I got it where it works,” he said. “You want to try and win at the Stampede, but it is kind of cool you are putting on a show for the people. They love the old equipment that has been brought back to life, sometimes minutes from the scrapyard.”
And the Co-op’s original owner takes great pride in its now pristine condition, which should give Bertsch hope in his search for his long-lost 1956 John Deere 80.
“The original owner was here a few years ago and he asked, ‘Can I sit on it?’ He was proud as punch sitting up there,” Elliot said. “He lives in High River and I drive it in the Little Britches parade. I will see him just waving his arm off as I go by.”
Other results from Monday’s final include:
- Featherweight Class: Robin Larson of Red Deer, Alta., 201 ft., five in., on his 1952 Minneapolis-Moline Z
- Class 1: Det Detmers of Granum, Alta., 229 ft., six in., on his 1949 Minneapolis-Moline Z
- Class 2: Ryan Corcoran of Duchess, Alta., 142 ft. on his 1949 Massey Harris 44
- Class 3: Dave Corcoran of Rosemary, Alta., 200 ft., two in., on his 1953 Minneapolis Moline G
- Class 4: Jeremy Moore of Red Deer, Alta., 243 ft., two in., on his 1948 Case LA
- Director’s Choice: Howard Hildebrand of Camrose, Alta. for his 1957 Case 351
- Show & Shine-People’s Choice: Jill Moore of Red Deer, Alta. for her 1959 Case B.
For full results from the Calgary Stampede’s Vintage Tractor Pull, please visit http://www.calgarystampede.com/stampede/western-event-and-agriculture/competition/vintage-tractor
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together, we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and celebrates our western heritage, cultures and community spirit. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
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