Plowing Action Photos! For 121 Years Big Rock, Illinois Has Hosted A Plowing Competition – We Were There

Plowing Action Photos! For 121 Years Big Rock, Illinois Has Hosted A Plowing Competition – We Were There

(Words and photos by Greg Rourke) – Indy. Pomona. Bonneville. Daytona.  Big Rock. All hotbeds of motorsports. What’s that you say, Big Rock? Allow me to clue you in.

Big Rock, Illinois has hosted a plowing competition for 121 years, which is even longer than I’ve been alive. It started with horses and mules, and moved on to tractors. There’s still a class for horses and mules, but no one has entered one in a few years. While plowing matches were once common, Big Rock is one of the few left.

There are various classes, including for plowmen under age 15, farmers open, and expert plowmen classes. Rubber or steel wheels are given their own classes.  If you win two consecutive years you get kicked up a class. The aforementioned mules and horses. Garden tractors run in Novelty class.

Plowmen are scored on various criteria, including straightness of furrows, covering of trash, uniform depth, general neatness, and of course the swimsuit competition.
These folks take this very seriously. Many tractors had chains hanging off the side as guides. Prep of the field starts with driving poles into the ground along the course for the first pass. They drive straight at them, with a helper removing them as the tractor approaches. On the first pass a helper is allowed. Imagine Tony Schumacher making a pass with Mike Green walking along side, keeping Tony in the groove, and making adjustments to the car. It’s like that. They stop to check depth and make adjustments to the tractor or plow. The first row might take 10 minutes. After that no helpers allowed on the course. A two cylinder John Deere stalled, the plowman was forced to start it by spinning the flywheel himself.
Green, red, gray and yellow tractors were represented. Plowmen ranged in age from about 8 to ancient. Watching this most basic of farm implement gives one a clear view of how important John Deere’s invention was to farming, the self cleaning steel plow.

Clear your calendar for the third weekend in September next year for the greatest spectacle in motorsports…at least in the greater Tri County area.

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3 thoughts on “Plowing Action Photos! For 121 Years Big Rock, Illinois Has Hosted A Plowing Competition – We Were There

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Ploughing is one of those things that to a casual onlooker seem quite routine and easy. I’ve worked on farms and can appreciate the skill and experience that goes into it. I love the idea of ploughing competitions where an everyday activity is turned into an art form but can you imagine speed ploughing where the ploughs are drawn by unlimited pulling tractors and the furrows are quarter mile in length……

  2. Matt Cramer

    Looks like it’s almost all vintage equipment – I was wondering if they had separate classes for vintage and modern tractors. Are modern tractors not allowed?

    1. Greg Rourke post author

      I saw a copy of the rules. They had pre and post 1939, but I don’t recall anything about not using modern tractors. Probably a matter of pride.

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