The rooster hadn’t crowed this morning as Karlton Skubal, one of the Washington FFA’s newest members, got ready to participate in the longstanding tradition that he had always wanted to be part of.
At 3:30 a.m., Skubal was up and getting his father’s International Harvester 5088 turbo diesel fired up and ready to make the 13-mile haul into town to celebrate Tractor Day at Washington High School. Growing up on a farm and being involved with 4-H while growing up, Skubal said that he had always been familiar with the tradition of FFA members driving tractors to the high school and parking them in a line in front of the main entrance. He said that he always wanted to be part of the line of tractors coming into the school’s parking lot.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I want to be part of that someday. It is just cool to be able to drive tractors in town.”
A freshman at Washington High School this year, Skubal got his opportunity. Unfortunately, the event was delayed for about two weeks due to unforeseen events. Washington FFA adviser Duane Van Winkle said that Tractor Day was not held during FFA week, about two weeks ago, because many of the FFA officers were at the state wrestling meet. It was rescheduled for Feb. 28, but sub-zero temperatures had also delayed the event. He explained that cold temperatures could cause the diesel fuel in tractors to freeze into slush — a situation called ‘gelling up.’
A friendly rivalry exists in the Washington FFA of red tractors (International Harvester) vs. green tractors (John Deere). The different colored tractors all line up together facing off against the rival colored tractors. This year a blue New Holland tractor sat in the center between the rival sides. Skubal said that he is happy to be representing the red side, as he believes International Harvester is the superior tractor. He said he is certain that people who drive John Deere tractors feel the same about their chosen brand.
“I think red is way better than green,” Skubal said. “It runs better and performs better. It doesn’t break down as much.”
Skubal said that his father was not part of the FFA, but his grandfather, Joe Skubal, had been. He said that he did know if his grandfather had participated in Tractor Day.
A freshman at Washington High School this year, Skubal quickly joined FFA. When Tractor Day rolled around, he asked his father, Dave Skubal, to allow him the opportunity to drive the tractor to town. His father didn’t hesitate to tell his son to ‘go for it.’ Skubal said that as a farm boy, he has ridden in a tractor from a young age.
“The tractors and the plants are definitely getting more developed,” he said.
With the sky still dark and the roads still icy, Skubal started down the road at about 4:30 a.m. With the tractor being geared for power rather than speed, he said that he only got about 20 mph on the road. With the tractor not going very fast, Skubal said it was a wonderful vehicle for icy conditions, as the driver doesn’t have to worry about making sharp movements.
Arriving in Washington at about 5:30 a.m. he met the other members of his club in the parking lot of the Washington Community Center. The group then goes to breakfast. After eating, the club holds an impromptu parade, driving their tractors around town before arriving at the high school.
“It felt good,” he said. “It was fun to drive around town. It was a fun experience. ”
With some of the tractors in the high school parking lot coming in with north of a $200,000 sticker price, Van Winkle said that the event shows the maturity of the FFA Club members.
“There are a lot of dollars sitting in the parking lot, and I think it says a lot about their level of responsibility and using good judgment that the people who own those tractors let them come to town with them and support FFA,” he said. “It is a good agricultural community and it is nice to get a little positive publicity for the farmers in the area.”
Van Winkle said he doesn’t know how long Tractor Day has been part of the FFA’s regular celebration of FFA Week. He said that it has been going on for at least 30 years. He regularly hears students talk about how their parents had participated in Tractor Day when they were in high school.
Since joining the FFA, Skubal said that the club has given him several opportunities that he feels would not have been available otherwise. He has gone to contests and pitted his skills of such things as parliamentary procedure against other FFA members from all over the state.
“It is pretty cool,” he said. “You get all these different opportunities and you just go for it.”