Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why I do What I Do....

For my initial entry on this blog, I figured I’d give everyone an idea as to why I do what I do, the why and the how about becoming the Editor and Publisher of The HOOK Magazine.

It began 34 or so years ago at the Hardin County Fair in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  I grew up in my early childhood in Elizabethtown, and my father was involved for many years in the farm equipment business.  My first toy it seems was one of those 1/12th scale Ford tractors and a Big Blue wagon (some of you remember these, some of you don’t).  Somewhere there’s a picture floating around of me in that wagon as a newborn. 

So, at that fair I witnessed my first tractor pull.  While I have just a few memories of it, they are certainly vivid.  I remember a 190 Allis that was pulling with mag rims on the front, and a 1206 IH that broke away from the sled, which was a weight transfer sled as I remember it. 

Flash forward a few months to the National Farm Machinery Show.  This time, it is a 4020 John Deere that broke from the sled that I remember, funny how that stuff sticks with you.  Those were my earliest memories.  I spent the next 10 years or so going to local county fair pulls and the Farm Machinery Show.   Friends of my family were pullers, from antiques up through Super Stock. 

Once I was old enough to drive, I was able to feed my need to go pulling a little easier.  Once the chores were done on Friday or Saturday afternoon, I was gone if there was a pull within reasonable distance of my home. 

I have always been a devoted follower of NTPA level tractor classes.  The changes in the Super Stock classes in the early nineties were amazing to me, as the alcohol-fueled tractors began their rise in the sport.   Along that same time, at a pulling event held at the Western Kentucky University Ag Expo Center I found a renewed interest in another sector of the sport, antique pulling.  My most vivid memory is that of the Olivers in attendance and their 6-cylinder song as it bounced of the ceiling and the walls of the arena.  For me, it was music and beautiful music to my ears.

Somehow life gets in the way though.  School and ultimately work pushed pulling to the back burner for me for a few years.  I kept a decent tab on what was going on, but in no way would I have considered myself a well-rounded fan.  The odd pull here and there were on my docket, just enough to get me by.  Then along came the internet. 

The internet became for me, like many of us, a means to close in the distance between us to see and hear about events.  With the internet came the message board, and I was ablaze on them early on.  Admittedly early on my comments were not very well crafted but I soon remembered how well I liked writing from when I was in High School and College.  Someone else noticed too, a gentleman by the name of Tom McConnell. 

I met Tom at a pull in Henry Illinois in 2003 and I approached him about doing some writing.  He  said sure, but you’ll have to learn how to use a camera too if you want to work for me.  The next week I found myself alongside a track in Danville, Kentucky with a borrowed camera.  The rest they say, is history.

Those first couple of years led to work on all kinds of tracks, be it “hot” stuff or antiques.  After Tom’s organization disbanded, I moved on to working with Dana Marlin with The HOOK and The Puller magazine. I did this along with being a teacher and FFA advisor. 

In late 2009, I began to become concerned about what  had become my passion, writing for The HOOK.  Having had several heart-to-heart conversations with Dana and Roger, it became apparent that their ability to serve the readership wasn’t what they wanted and I stepped in to help.  To this day I am amazed as to how it all got done with the demands they had on their lives.  Shortly thereafter a transition of ownership plan began to emerge, and that was the moment I stepped into the YTMag website Tractor Pulling Message Board and said, “What can I do to make it better?”

What I heard was a variety of things.  I knew though that if I listened and took note of those concerns that happened to be running themes, it would get better, and it began to.  By June, I believed I could make a go of it, and I knew that I couldn’t teach and run a magazine at the same time.  I owed the kids I taught everything I could give, and if I had continued on as I had, my contribution to them would have suffered.  Therefore, I submitted my resignation to my school principal and haven’t looked back. 

If I had any obstacles that I faced early on, it was the fact I couldn’t make as many antique hooks as I had wished, even with a significant number of clubs nearby.  I had committed myself  to other groups and when I tell someone I’m going to do it, I do it. 

Once Fall settled in, things began to change and emerge.  I took over control of The HOOK on October 4th of 2010 in full, and a van full of back issues and supplies were brought back home to Bowling Green, Kentucky.

That brings us to now.  All in all, I feel very blessed to be where I am now.  I am blessed to have a supportive family and tight knit group of friends.   I look forward to attending pulls of all kinds, and the friends I have made along the way have been fantastic. Ultimately I do everything I do because I am devoted to the sport and look at the magazine from the eyes of the subscriber, not as the editor.  In reality, I may sign the checks, but you all, the subscribers, own the magazine, not me.   I am committed to keeping The HOOK as an antique and classic-focused magazine with coverage of “hot stuff” as an addition to the magazine, not taking away from the roots of what the magazine is.  I hold the history of the magazine and what it has been to a number of readers in reverence and pledge to make the magazine better than it ever has been.  As I write this the 19th edition of the magazine is about to get put together, and I look forward to many more editions. 

Thank you to everyone for your time and support.  I hope to use this blog as one more means to promote the sport and generate discussion about issues that the sport faces today and tomorrow, on any number of levels.  Please join me on the journey, it won’t always be smooth, but it will always be interesting.  Lets go pulling!

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