The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
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    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
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    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Lyman Russell: Table-top racers pull their own weight

Written by David Green.


Lyman Russell remembers the very day it all began. He was a 10-year-old student at Sand Creek when he saw a poster on the wall advertising a tractor pull.

The local FFA group organized the event but it wasn’t for big tractors. Motorized farm toys would do the pulling in this contest.

“I told my dad, ‘You like tractor pulls. We can do this cheap!’”

mini1 Father and son did get together on the project and it continued for several years. The pair built tractors and competed until Lyman graduated from high school, but eventually, bigger motors caught his attention. He turned to souping up garden tractors and building dune buggies, leaving the Tonka truck size models behind.

He didn’t leave them behind forever. A few months ago he started thinking small again. He’s come back to table-top racing, and he’s in deep. Lyman Russell is now the Michigan representative for the National Micro-Mini Tractor Pulling Association.

The Wisconsin-based organization sets the standards for the miniature pullers and organizes competitions throughout the country. There are 67 sanctioned pulls scheduled this year, and the next one is Saturday afternoon in downtown Lyons.

How it’s done

“You start with a basic Ertl farm toy, 1/16 scale, and you go from there,” Lyman said.

But there are choices to make.

“Back in the day when I was doing it, we made everything,” Lyman recalls.

That’s not quite the approach he’s taking in his quest to attract a new, younger generation of pullers. It’s hard to compete with the instant gratification of the internet or even a ready-to-play radio-controlled vehicle, so he’s using some parts from the hobby store.

“I’m using stuff out of radio-controlled units because the kids can go out and buy it off the shelf.”

Still, it’s easy to drop $500 on a basic micro—one that’s going to do some serious pulling on the track. You’ll pay $30 to $50 for the toy tractor, then you’ll spend a couple hundred paying someone to do the machining work. Rails, gear box, motor mount—all of these are fabricated from a bar of aluminum. Lyman turns to the Constables on Elliott Highway or Dan Kovar in Lyons for his needs.

“The engine, gears and tires make up the balance,” Lyman said.

A basic nitro methane engine costs $45, but he also has an Italian model that sells for $600.

Tires start at around $40. The extra wide hot rod style costs about $100 and four-wheel drive truck models use tires that can cost twice as much.

“You can buy tractors for as little as $100 off the internet,” Lyman said, “but you’re limited with what you can do.”

The micro-mini tractors do their work on a 16-foot wooden track. The super stock and truck classes are faster and have a higher horsepower. A 24-foot track is used for those models.

Weights, gearing, drawbar height, clutch setup, carburetor—there are several variables that can determine a successful pull. It looks simple at first, Lyman says, but it’s not. A six-pound toy tractor can end up lugging 900 pounds down the track.

Attracting youngsters

Lyman Russell’s ambition is to get kids interested in building micro-minis.

Pulls were once popular among 4-H clubs and FFA groups. There were competitions in several area towns in the late 1970s and early 1980s—before the days of the personal computer. That was back when kids worked on cars, he said. Now they don’t even change the oil.

It just seems to Lyman that younger people today don’t have the experience that kids did 20 or 30 years ago.

“I think kids need some kind of skill,” he says. “Anybody can go to a hobby store and buy a radio controlled truck, but there’s a lot of skill that goes into building your own.”

In Lyman’s mind, his approach is going to make the endeavor attractive to youngsters.

“Somehow I want to make it easier for them to get started,” he said. “My goal is to build five tractors for kids to use. If they have fun with it and learn something, that’s great. Hopefully we can sell the idea to some skeptical parents.”

He’ll furnish the tractor and fuel. Maybe he can attract some business sponsors to help pay the way. It’s good to attract adults to the competition, Lyman said, but it’s even better to hook the kids. That’s where the future lies.

Of course he’s liberal with his definition of childhood. Many years have passed since he was a 10-year-old boy with a fascination for a toy tractor that could pull a heavy weight, but the allure is still there today.

“I tell everybody it’s for the kids, but we don’t put any age limit on how old the kids can be.”

National Organization 

The National Micro-Mini Tractor Pulling Association was founded in 1976 to serve as the sanctioning body for table-top pulls. State associations exist from New Jersey to California, plus Ontario, Canada.

mini-2 The June calendar of events includes pulls as far east as Pennsylvania and west into Iowa. Right in the center is Lyons, Ohio, where a pull gets underway Saturday at 3 p.m. The event is part of the Lyons’ celebration of Ohio’s bicentennial. Practice pulls are scheduled to begin at 2:30 on Adrian Street—shut off from traffic for the afternoon.

Lyman Russell of rural Sand Creek, head of the Southern Michigan Micro-Mini Tractor Pullers Club, expects representatives from all six of the NMMTPA sanctioned classes: three-pound and five-pound stock tractors; two-wheel drive road vehicles; super stock tractors; 4x4 trucks; open modified “hot rod” tractors, with no limit on engine size.

Pullers from New Jersey, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio and Ontario have registered for the event, Russell said, and he expects to see some from other Midwest states.

Although this is the only sanctioned pull in the area, club pulls are scheduled at the Lenawee and Fulton county fairs and at Harrison Lake, Ohio. Russell hopes to organize some indoor pulls this winter.

    - June 11, 2003 

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