And, be prepared to talk tractors. Old tractors. Old orange tractors. And, read up on Allis-Chalmers tractors. But, if you don’t know tractors, just pull out your fork and dig into Grandma Hansen’s homemade peach pie. Sheridan will teach you the rest.
Life can’t get much better on a Friday morning, so don’t ruin it by showing up on your John Deere, no matter how cool you think it is.
Hansen was recently inducted into the National Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association Hall of Fame, an organization established to recognize those involved in the restoring of vintage tractors and the sport of tractor pulling.
And Hansen is a tractor pulling maniac aboard a maniacal tractor – a 1937 orange Allis-Chalmers tractor.
“Allis-Chalmers are the best pullers,” said Hansen, and he didn’t mean maybe. “They’ll out-pull a Deere any day.”
How does one get into this game? It’s a long story, and it starts in Cache Valley – Amalga to be exact.
Hansen’s family owned a farm there, and like all kids, he liked to play in the barn. He also liked collecting tractor replicas.
“We collected them when we were kids; little toy tractors,” Hansen said. “I’ve always been interested – in Allis-Chalmers, anyway.”
They weren’t cheap, plastic toys though. They were heavy iron replicas, and now Hansen has them on shelves, in television cabinets and on nearly every flat surface in the house.
But life goes on and Hansen grew up and married. He and Grandma Hansen – Annette – bounced around a little as his career with the BLM blossomed. His last station was for 11 years in Cedar City, and it’s where they settled when he retired.
Sheridan spent a few years with Washington County on the water board, then 11 more with Iron County doing the same thing. In 2000 he got the bug.
“I wanted a tractor to restore, and I knew just which one,” Hansen said. “Dad had two tractors that had been sitting in Amalga all those years, so I went and got the ’39 to start with.”
Hansen was no beginner when it came to restoring things with motors. Along with his son, Kip, he’d fixed up a few antique cars, so he knew the routine.
Pieces came off and were de-rusted, fixed up and painted, and soon the tractor was done.
“I wanted to show off that tractor,” Hansen said. “There’s not many left.”
Other tractors were added, and pulls and tractor shows became the destiny and destination of the Hansens. Sheridan drove that tractor over 1,000 miles to locations all across the United States and parts of Canada. In the process he made a name for himself – and the tractor – in pulls.
Trying to explain a tractor pull is a bit dangerous even for a person in the sport. One envisions a couple of tractors chained together in a Missouri soybean field trying to pull each other across a mud bog.
In actuality, it’s much different.
The tractor is hitched to a “transfer” sled, which looks like, well, a sled, but with a whole bunch of weight on board. The tractor begins to pull, and the farther it goes, the more weight is transferred from the sled to the tractor. The weight is transferred by way of tipping the weight forward so the tractor has more weight on it and less on the sled as it goes.
A “full pull” is 250 feet, and Hansen and his tractor became famous for winning whereever they went. The relationship is rather like a race horse and a jockey; an Eskimo and his dog team. One can’t win without the other.
“That ol’ ’38 Allis will out-pull every other colored tractor every time,” Hansen said.
And he would know.
Through the years Sheridan and Annette have traveled many a highway and byway with the tractor, making friends along the way. With peach pie like Grandma Hansen fixes, Sheridan has the easy job – he just has to issue the invitation and pass around the pie.
“The entire experience has been wonderful,” Hansen said. “The people we’ve met, the families. The wives take the trailers and trucks and travel together – it’s just a lot of fun and very rewarding.
“We just want to preserve the history for our children,” he added.
And now his children’s children, and soon their children.
Hansen has been the subject of documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles, and television shows. He was recently given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Color Country Antique Machinery Association, which encompasses an area of roughly a 250 mile radius of Cedar City.
Simply put, if you know antique tractors, you know Sheridan Hansen.
The Hansens believe in being a vibrant, active part of the community and do what they can to serve.
“We’ve always felt that no matter where you live, you owe the community something,” Hansen said. “We’ve just tried to get involved no matter where we’re at.”
Soon Hansen and his tractor buddies will have a tractor drive to the county fair, and a pull is in the offing. If you look closely you’ll see him proudly sporting the same Utah flag he’s flown all across the country – even if it was upside down once.
Sheridan is all about educating young people on the past, he said.
“Sure,” Kip said. “And he has fun whipping others in tractor pulls, don’t let him kid you.”