Three generations of the farming Lamoureux family of the Ladja Farm in Whiting have enjoyed the fun and thrills of competition at the annual Addison County Fair and Field Days tractor pull event at the New Haven fairgrounds.
Patriarch Leo Lamoureux began the tradition in 1971 with a 105 hp Ford 8000 tractor-the same year Leo and his wife Arlene purchased the farm. Now daughter Lee Lamoureux and grandson Tyler continue the tradition of driving the very same tractor Leo introduced at the 1972 fair-"Here's the Beef", a 130 hp 1972 Ford 9000, named in honor of an old Wendy's Restaurant T.V. commercial.
"The old man got tired," said Leo with a big smile. "This young fellow, my grandson, wants to keep it going. Being able to do this thing together, as a family, is wonderful. But I think Tyler's going to be paying for tractor fuel this year."
Leo's wife Arlene approves of the family fun and acts as de facto "promoter" for the tractor team. And when he's not doing farm chores our driving "Here's the Beef", Tyler is spinning disks as D.J. at the field days karaoke happenings.
Leo, who was born in Ontario, Canada, arrived in Vermont as an infant. He performed all the tractor maintenance at the barn in Whiting to get ready for Aug. 13. Tyler repainted the tractor in preparation for last week's fair. Boxes of trophies-dating back to the early 1970s-accompany the tractor, so it has become a legendary machine on the pulling circuit. After a hiatus of 18 years, the family is back pulling together.
The Ladja 9000 tractor, purchased at Champlain Valley Equipment in Middlebury, is a stock rig and not quite an antique.
At the Aug. 13 event, all three Lamoureux family members climbed aboard the Ford 9000 and competed in various pull demonstrations. Tractors haul a specially constructed transfer-weight sled that bears an increasingly heavy load of weights that go up to 50 tons.
"Here's the Beef" performed well, especially by bearing the yoke of a multi-ton weight across a dirt track 300 feet in length.
"We really don't do much to prefer for this," said Lee. "but it starts about one week before field days. It was a rush deal. We tuned it, washed it, repainted it with traditional, original Ford Blue paint. We put tire shine on it, too. She looks real nice. Of course there's money and trophies for the competition," said Lee, "but that's not the point-it's really all about fun."
Leo pointed out that "Here's the Beef" is a working rig with over 12,000 hours on the instrument panel.
"It's not too many hours for this vintage tractor," he said. "We have several tractors on the farm but this is our workhorse-and she's still running and working hard."
After a full day of inhaling diesel fumes and enduring high decibel noise, the Lamoureux family will return to the relative quiet of the Ladja Farm and their 120 head of dairy cows.
Tyler, who started pulling with a Cub Cadet, starts up the tractor and it clears itself with a throaty roar through the stack. A dark cloud erupts and drifts off over the fairgrounds.
We wondered why the Lamoureux family would endure all the chaos, noise, dirt and diesel fumes of a tractor-pull event. Aside from a trophy and cash prize, what's the payoff?
"Having a good time is our best payoff," Leo said.