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Smokin' Iron thunder just around the corner

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It really wasn't that long ago that I was sitting here at my computer listening to the steady drip, drip, drip from a stalactite-like icicle hanging from a corner of our snow-laden roof. It reminded me of a clock ticking away the seconds and the minutes of what has been a long hard and cold winter. Winter was waning and the days ahead of us were promising; spring was just around the corner.

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Then the April rains came, and the glorious expectation of the brighter days ahead of us were quashed by big black burgeoning clouds; dark, gloomy, gray, and dismal. Looking out through a rain splattered window, it was hard to imagine that in a couple of months, Ottertail would be a bustling community preparing for the annual Smokin' Iron Tractor Pull.

Now, less than a month away from the thunder and roar of mechanical monsters being heard around the lake, the weather has turned warmer and those dreams of a sultry summer are coming to fruition. Last year, the weather played an important role in the reduction in attendance.

Also, it seemed every community in the county was having their annual celebration on the same weekend. Turtle Fest in Perham was siphoning off some of the folks who normally would be attending Ottertail's mega event. Thanks to some farsighted folks, scheduling for many summer events will not have the conflicts that last year's calendar did.

Before I go any further, it has come to my attention that there are a good many people who have never been to, or even heard of, Ottertail's claim to fame: Smokin' Iron. The annual truck and tractor pull, this year marking eight years running, is a member of the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA).

The track where all this happens is considered the best in this region. We're not talking about Sven and Ole pulling stumps out of a muddy field. The machines that pull the weighted sled are tractor versions of dragsters and exhibitors of massive power.

What makes this event so popular and a proven crowd pleaser is that there is not a bad seat in the place. If you choose to sit in the grandstands, you may. You can bring your own folding chair or attend the festivities in the VIP tent.

Trucks rigged for heavy pulling adorn the field of competition, with each entry being unique unto itself. There is the brief blast of raw power and the charge down the track to obtain a "full pull"-300 feet of groomed dirt that is constantly being attended. Then, they pull the mechanical monsters off the track (with the more conventional tractor) and they do it again and again until the classes of pullers have finished.

There also is a great appeal for folks who want to bring their children to this wonderful display of mechanical craftsmanship. This year, Ottertail kicks off the week of Turtle Fest (in Perham) with a bang. In the past, there were too many things to do at the same time. They seemed to all be happening at once. Bringing the two communities together is a brilliant way to make sure the proverbial piece of the economic pie is shared in harmony.

For the first time at this remarkable event, the Otter Tail County Humane Society will have a food stand, selling brats from Amor Pork. If you have never had one, it alone is worth the drive just to sample Bob and Lucy Robert's culinary delight.

The fundraising booth will be selling brats, Coke products, Barrel O' Fun chips, and buns from Dean's in Perham. The price will only be $3. Yours truly will be there grilling those brats, in fact. Also, there will be copies of my book, "Tales From the Bark Side," for sale. They sell for $15 normally, but if you donate $5 to the Humane Society, you can buy a copy for $5. I hear the author signs them too. This is a one-time price for this special occasion.

Why is the Humane Society having a fundraiser way out here in Ottertail? The shelter is in Fergus Falls, and that is where all rescued animals end up. There are too many abandoned cats and dogs being dumped in East Otter Tail County. The fundraiser is to help establish a satellite office or shelter out here where it is sorely needed.

Terry Wagenman has been very helpful (as he always is) in helping make this vision of ours a reality. There will be an animal or two (who knows, maybe more) nearby; and people can get a good look at why the society does what is does. It will be a good weekend and a terrific week to follow.

One of the things I feel is important to acknowledge is that these events are mainly put on by dedicated volunteers. It is the lifeblood of any charitable endeavor. The camaraderie between the hard working folks who put on these events and the competitors who come back every year is compelling. From some of my conversations in the past with people who climb into those trucks and tractors, it has been crystal clear to me that they love coming to our neck of the woods. They feel more than welcome here, and it is that type of gratitude that ensures better events in the future.

Come to Ottertail this June 18 and 19 as the summer gets a terrific sendoff with the Smokin' Iron Tractor Pull leading the way, followed by a week of festivities via the traditional days of Turtle Fest.

On June 24, from noon to 4 p.m., in the area near the Perham Dean's Country Market, the Humane Society is having a Pet Expo that is targeting the adoption and care of cats and dogs. For more information on that event, call 218-495-3011. Jeanne Cannady or Gary Ruehman will answer any questions concerning that event.

From the days where the wicked winds of winter blew hard and cold, to the time where you can luxuriate and bask in the sweltering summer sun, the days of thunder will soon be upon us. It's a time to relax for awhile, take in the day, and celebrate 10 days of fun and frolic.

The cities of Ottertail and Perham come together in a unified spirit, and that means a great deal these days. Good causes cause good people to do good things. See you there.

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