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June 21, 2013 at 8:46 PM

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Northwest Wanderings: Combine demolition derby


ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Waiting for a tow, a disabled combine without its rear wheels can no longer compete at the combine demolition derby. Deep ruts score the arena ground where others had been dragged to the pits.

If there is a headbanger's ball for the agrarian set, this is it. This combine demolition derby in Lind is one metal-to-metal mashup.

The Adams County town of 564 grows 10-fold once a year when these machines smash into each other until there's one survivor. Even at 7 mph, 10,000-pound combines pack plenty of punch.

Former champ Grant Miller says he uses a "rope-a-dope strategy. Be smart and stay out of a sandwich" -- getting squeezed between two others.



ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

It's a squeeze play when a combine gets sandwiched between two competitors and is likely to suffer damage.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

It's standing room only at the derby with Lind's population growing ten-fold for the annual demolition derby.

Wheat farmer Josh Knodel, whose JAWS team owns seven top trophies, began driving the family combine when he was 12.

"In the arena I hammer on it, totally opposite than babying it in the fields," he says.

That's because these antiques are not the $500,000 machines used for today's harvest. To compete in the demolition derby, a combine must be at least a quarter-century old. One strategy is to take out the rear steering wheels of competitors.

"They're the Achilles' heel," says Miller.



ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Pit crew and friends use these small, motorized vehicles to get around the grounds behind the derby arena in Lind.

There are hazards aplenty. Metal fragments torn from machines can puncture the large front-drive wheels. Machines unable to leave the arena under their own power are dragged away.

Between heats, crews fueled by adrenaline and country music make quick repairs. There's no Motorhead or MegaDeath to be heard.

Put on by the Lind Lions Club, the event funds all their yearly activities. Miller calls the it "the best carnival ride in America."



ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

At intermission, grain trucks line up to race and entertain the crowd during a break in the combine demolition heats. Dick Hemore is the well-dressed race official.

This player was created in September 2012 to update the design of the embed player with chromeless buttons. It is used in all embedded video on The Seattle Times as well as outside sites.


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