"Blue Can Fever hits home in the summertime," according to Rob Polson, who farms 2,400 acres in Springfield, NE. "When it's warm and the corn and soybeans are up and sprayed, we're ready to go tractor pulling."
What began as a project to while away the long Nebraska winters has evolved into a family passion that includes Rob, his wife Dee, a pharmaceutical technician, and school-age daughters, Jennifer and Whitney.
"Blue Can Fever" started when Rob decided to build his own blue tractor from the ground up to compete in local tractor pulls.
"We pulled our farm tractors for years, and I got to the point where I wanted to do more. And the only way was to build an actual pulling tractor of our own. We got started almost two years ago with nothing more than a transmission case out of an old Ford Model 8210 that we hauled home in our pickup," he says. "Then we found a differential for it and went on from there. A friend and I built the frame rails and we built the front end. I completely built the engine for it. We've got new 70 Series tractor tin work on it, and we narrowed up the fenders."
Rob sold 200 cases of aluminum cans to a local recycler that paid for the tractor's aluminum wheels he put on the back. "This past season was our first full pulling season," he says.
State fair sweep.
"We've had a lot of fun with our blue tractor," he says. "We predominantly pull with the Nebraska Bush Pullers Association. We pull in two weight classes, the 5,800-pound class and the 7,500-pound class. I ended up with third in one class and fourth in the other class."
Rob competed in the Missouri State Fair, the Iowa State Fair and the Nebraska State Fair, in what is called the "State Fair Sweep." The entire family, often including Rob's parents, spend July to the middle of September competing at the fairs. "We have a blast," he says. "We take along the barbecue grills and steaks and have a pit party at every pull."
Rob got a surprise recently when the Nebraska Bush Pullers Association voted him as Sportsman of the Year at a banquet in Kearney. The plaque they presented him will sit next to the one he got for "Rookie of the Year" last year. (The Nebraska Bush Pullers Association Website is www.NBPI.com.)
When he's not tractor pulling, Rob plants his 2,400 acres in corn and soybeans. Rob, who has always wanted to farm, started farming in 1978. His dad, who has retired, also helps out on the farm.
Up until about five years ago, Rob always had John Deere tractors. "But I was very dissatisfied with my last John Deere 8000 Series tractor," he says. "And my New Holland dealer, where I buy combines every year, brought down a Model 8970 for us to try. We used it and we liked it. We've had three or four of them now." He uses the Model 8970 front-wheel assist for tillage and the Model 8770 front-wheel assist for planting and cultivating.
Rob insists that his New Holland tractors burn less fuel than his prior Deere tractors. "They're very fuel-efficient," he says. "They're easy to run and they're easy to tell someone else how to operate. Mechanically, they're easy to get around and work on."
Rob is equally enthusiastic about his New Holland combines. "I've traded for a new one every year for a lot of years. I started with the TR70 combines and I've had new ones ever since."
Besides working his own farm, Rob does custom combining locally. "We run 30-foot headers for the soybeans and an 8-row or a 12-row for corn," he says. "I usually combine 5,000 to 6,000 acres every fall, including my own." He has tried out other combine brands, but he keeps coming back to New Holland. "I come back for the service I get from my dealer and for the reliability factor," Rob says. "No matter what I combine in, especially soybeans, I could never find a combine that could out-harvest my New Holland. And over many years, I've had good service from my combine and from my dealer."
Farmers from Brazil.
Even though Rob is always busy, when asked recently to host a group of 30 Brazilian farmers who wanted to tour a Nebraska grain farm, he readily agreed. After a tour of New Holland's Grand Island, Nebraska, manufacturing plant, the group arrived at Rob's place in six minivans.
"We had a buffet table set up here for them with lots of food and drink. Mom and Dad, my wife, Dee, and our daughters helped serve them," he says. "They examined all my pieces of equipment: They walked around them and got on them. Fortunately, a translator was along to help answer their multitude of questions about my tractors and my skid steer. We had a great day and we think they did, too."
What's in the future.
Rob is a farmer through and through. And he says he'll be farming for the foreseeable future. But when the wind was howling and the snow was deep this Nebraska winter, Rob was in his shop tinkering with his special tractor.
And this summer, look for Rob on the State Fair circuit pulling his new and improved version. He'll be there.