Long, long ago, just one month after the start of the First World War, the small quaint town of De Leon, Texas decided to celebrate the local farmer’s harvest (cotton was the primary crop back then). August 9th 1914, De Leon had their first Free Fall Fair.
Over the years, the fair has grown and eventually changed its name to the Peach and Melon Festival. The festival is a week-long celebration that not only includes De Leon, but most of the surrounding communities today. “We would really like to grow this into a county celebration,” said Rosa Segura who has been a volunteer for eight years.
“The festival is put on by an all-volunteer committee,” continued Segura. According to Eric Royal, one of the fun contests they hold each year is a watermelon seed spitting contest. In 1973, a local man entered the Guinness Book Of World Records with the furthest spit watermelon seed at 75.3-feet .
A year later, they worked with the local tractor pulling association and held a three day tractor pull. According to the people we talked to during the first day (Thursday), farmers brought their tractors straight from the fields, but by Saturday (the third day) they were messing with the pumps and moving weights around trying to out pull their neighbors.
Well, forty years later, they sure aren’t pulling their regular farm tractors now! There are two pulling associations during the night with an open pull afterwards for anyone that wants to hook up. With the track that was debuted a few years ago, they are able to run two sleds simultaneously and the action is fast and furious.
One lane was dedicated to the Texas Truck and Tractor Pulling Association (TTTPA) while the other track had the TTTPA’s Super Street Diesel class and all of the Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association vehicles. While we are only covering the diesel classes of the two associations, there were a number of pullers and classes. Most nights the pulling action started at 7:30 p.m. and the two associations didn’t stop pulling until 11:00 p.m. Then, the open pulling started and continued until well into the early morning hours.
Over the years, the horsepower of these classes has continued to climb, but Super Diesel, specifically, has made a tremendous jump. Just a few years ago, the top trucks were running about 700 to 800 horsepower and today, they are running north of 1,200. As a result of this brisk pace, the drivelines are taking a lot abuse and if the track has a lot of bite; breakage is sure to occur.
Well, the guys at De Leon sure know how to prep a track and it had a lot of bite. In addition to the track the Super Street Diesel class had to pull the heavier Ironman sled, which loads the trucks down a little faster then what they normally see.
Super Street Diesel – Friday
Friday night Nasty Hooker broke an axle shaft, Uncommon lost a transfer case and Save The Racks blew a charger, and quite a few trucks couldn’t stay on top of their chargers. By the time the last truck backed up to unhook from the sled, the leader board looked a little different than normal, but nothing really shocking. Chris Ryan’s Mutt took home first place with a 323.66 foot pull to Buck Hyndman’s Ready To Rumble’s 308.73. Dan Vallance’s Farm Truck took home third with a pull of 298.23 and Darvin Bradley just missed the podium with a pull of 298.08 in Half Breed.
With how tight knit the pulling community is, Vanessa Hyndman was able to get Uncommon back up and running with the help of Shafer and Jeremiah Peek. Nasty Hooker was able to source a front axle shaft and get everything fixed as well. Bradley, wanting more out of his truck, ended up spending most of the day with his tuner trying to get some new tuning done via phone and e-mail, but everyone else was prepping for another stealer pull.
Paying Respect To A Fallen Puller
As the sun began to set on another 100 degree Texas summer day, the trucks lined up and the national anthem was sung. Then a heartfelt tribute pull was done for a fallen puller. Michael McLearen was 18 years old and had been working on building his own pulling truck (he helped with quite a few of them at the track) when he was in a fatal accident as the passenger. The last pull he watched was the Peach and Melon Festival pull in 2013. As a tribute to him, his family members pulled his truck.
Super Street Diesel – Saturday
With the fans ready for some serious pulling action, the sleds lined up and Dan Vallance hooked his Farm Truck up. After a little more than a 120 feet both rear axle shafts broke. Then fellow De Leon resident and longtime puller Lynn Chupp with The Natural hooked. Chupp finished putting his pulling truck back together after completely going through it last year and has been fighting issues. His 262.20 foot pull was a good showing for where the truck is at. Next up was Ryan who put on a heck of a show with a screaming pull of 322.96 (1 foot short of the previous nights). Shawn Braun’s Bad Asset followed Mutt before Bradley’s Half Breed took to the track. It was time to see what the new tuning could do. Bradley’s truck has the potential to land on the top at any given pull. So, when he hooked, he was hoping for something spectacular. He got just that, unfortunately, it was from catastrophic failure as his adapter housing between the transmission and the transfer case blew apart, the rear driveshaft wadded up, and tore a bunch of wiring and cabling out of the truck.
With 30 percent of the pullers having breakage, it looked like it was going to be quite a tough night for everyone. Nasty Hooker and Uncommon were able to make their pulls without any issues. Then it was Mason Hodges turn with The Outsider. This was Hodge’s first year competition and he was learning the ropes. At the 235 foot mark, he blew an oil line and the truck caught on fire. Luckily, the TTTPA staff was there with fire extinguishers and put the fire out within seconds of it starting.
About 10 minutes later, the remaining pullers were starting to worry about breaking something. Having this many trucks break parts over two nights is pretty rough. The five remaining pullers managed to make their pulls without any issues and Hyndman in Ready To Rumble, had the stars align. He had tremendous ground speed by the time the sled weight finally hit him and he ended up with a 330.64 foot pull, landing him on top by almost 8 feet!
Hot Farm – Friday
The Hot Farm class of the TTTPA was the next diesel class to pull. With the rules, all of these tractors are making close to the same power range. The differences really come down to the drivers themselves. On Friday, it was Jacob Link in Revvelation who lead the group with the first hook. After pulling 327.07 feet, the bar was set. Randall Brockman in the Red Warrior Express was up next and came up a few feet short with a pull of 325.11. Clint Metting, the points leader, took Bull Frogg 326.08 feet, just a foot short of taking first place. Bryant Beazley just couldn’t put everything together and only ended up moving the sled 211.06 feet. Herman Glueck with Popeye missed the podium as well with a pull of 319.03 feet and Metting’s other tractor Bull Dozen Deere finally seemed to have the bugs worked out and it drug the sled 326 feet on the dot.
Hot Farm – Saturday
Beazley worked on his tractor Saturday during the day and was ready to put Friday’s performance behind him. Lucky for him, he was first up and had the opportunity to set the bar for everyone else. Unfortunately, the bad luck continued as he had a bad case of the hops, bouncing most of the way down the track. The sled stopped 292.1 feet down the track, but Beazley didn’t accept that pull as he knew there was more left in her. So, it was Link again, to set the bar with a pull of 328 feet on the dot. This once again stood as the top spot as Bull Frogg pulled 323.08, Red Warrior Express 322, Bull Dozen Deere 343.03, Popeye 319.05 and Feral Farmall ended the night with a nothing hoping performance with a pull of 304.05.
Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association’s Pro Stock – Friday
Closing the night out on Friday was the Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association’s Pro Stock class of high horsepower smoker tractors! These seven tractors put on quite a show. Bo Elienstine with Old School set the bar extremely high with a 354.99 foot pull which electrified the crowd. Then as each of the remaining tractors pulled, the crowd just got louder! Joshua Parker with Out For Justice followed Old School with a 324.7 foot pull and Cody Yarick in Gone was able to muster 326.42 feet. It was Jim Brackett in Hillbilly Express that rounded out the podium with a third place pull of 339.95 feet. Jeff Ummel in The Bad picked the wrong line and only mustard 313.41 feet. Wampuscat came close to Old School but in the end, Rick Behrendt came up 5 feet short with a pull of 349 feet. The last puller of the night before the open class was Travis Townsend with Road Gear Plus. He too picked the wrong line and was stopped by the sled at 299.26 feet.
Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association’s Pro Stock – Saturday
Now with everyone knowing what to expect, there were a lot of people tweaking their fueling and working on the tractors Saturday. Adding to that, the sled was heavier for the Pro Stock class. Even so, every puller still crossed the 300 foot line!
Hillbilly Express started the night off with a 310.73 foot pull followed up by Road Gear Plus with a 300 foot pull. Then, The Bad hooked up and rolled a ton of coal as Ummell moved the sled 305.89 feet. As the night went on, the pullers started to realize that the right side of the track had more bite than the left side and Out For Justice started the trend of moving over and took the lead with a 319.43 foot pull. But, then, Gone upped the ante with a 333.15 foot pull followed closely by Old School at 332.27. Closing the night and event was Wampuscat dragging the sled 314.55 feet before finally digging a huge hole.
With the TTTPA and Outlaw pulling over, De Leon Peach and Melon Festival holds an open pull afterwards. Both nights the pulling went on early into the morning. A few years ago, when they were only running one sled, the pulling could easily go well into sunrise and breakfast hours, but now with two sleds pulling, the pulling went until the alcohol stopped being served (not that one had anything to do with the other).
If you have never been to this Festival and live in Texas, you need to come. If you like pulling, this should be one of your “wish list” pulls.