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A Family With Pull

It’s National Farm Machinery Show week, and that means we’re in Louisville, Kentucky, for the show and its Championship Tractor Pull. Here’s a little Throwback Thursday to our 2011 FarmLife story on the Haney family, pullers and Massey Ferguson dealers from Alabama:

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Louis and Leon Haney remember watching the froth-flecked Stephen King thrillerCujo back in the early 1980s. Leon, a master mechanic who works with his brother Louis at Haney Equipment Company in Athens, Ala., was already running a pulling tractor nicknamed Home Brew. But there was something about that rabid dog movie and its tagline, “Now there’s a new name for terror.”

It had bite.

Ask him about it, and Leon grins. “I thought to myself, ‘If I could build a tractor as mean as that dog …’” he says.

Well, mission accomplished.

Cujo, the Allis Chalmers D21 that is the namesake of the Haney family’s pulling team, is still a terror at tractor pulls across the South three decades later. The high point, brothers Louis and Leon agree, was “winning Louisville,” the showcase tractor pull at the National Farm Machinery Show, in 1995.

Cujo is still a hometown favorite, in both its diesel version and Leon’s latest creation, an alcohol-fueled beast called Cujo Unleashed. In Tanner, Ala., just down the road from the Haneys’ Massey Ferguson® dealership, is an annual tractor pull that draws thousands from around the South each summer and helps raise big money for Tanner High School’s athletic program.

The Cujo Pulling Team is a staple of the event, and last year was no different. They even brought along a Massey Ferguson 8680 from the dealership to display and pull in the farm stock division. The whole family turns out to hang around in the pit and work to get the tractors ready for their turn on the pull track.

The first run for Cujo Unleashed doesn’t go too well. It shuts down about a third of the way down the track. Cujo Unleashed is towed behind the bleachers, where Leon quietly inspects it. An onboard computer has recorded data from the run, but that’s no help tonight. Leon does get the machine cranked for a second run, but the result is about the same.

Besides the never-ending tweaks and repairs, the off-season gives Leon and Ann time to reflect on the realities of a life in the sport. Purses in the local and state pulls are light compared to the time and expense. Haney Equipment Company sponsors Cujo, but the bigger teams in the bigger pulls have high-dollar sponsors and more money to build and rebuild.

Leon and Ann talk about this, but not with regret. Pulling is a family thing. “The kids were born into it,” says Ann. “We’d go to pulls, and I’d have my foot on the stroller and holding a camera during a run.” Ann remembers that the kids, now both in college, were often given a choice between pulling and better cars, better vacations, a different life. “They chose pulling,” she says. “And I wouldn’t change anything,” Clay echoes.

Besides, pulling makes great advertising for Haney Equipment. And even though Cujo Unleashed had a rough weekend at Tanner, Haney Equipment had the last laugh. At the end of the night, Adam, Louis’ son, hooked the MF 8680 up to the sled and took it 6 inches short of a full pull. Leon ran it next, “as fast as it would go,” he laughs, and took it all the way.

Cujo might have been tame for that one night in Tanner, but his big red brother bared its fangs.

Source: AGCO, Massey Ferguson