All Girls Team Present Tractor Restoration at Ag Mechanics Show
Some 108 Texas schools sent 364 contestants to the Spur Arena Wednesday, where individual students and small groups presented handmade projects, ranging from trailers to tractors to bar-b-que pits and more. The Arena was packed full of students from all over the state, some of which traveled up to eight hours to present their wares on Wednesday.
While the vast majority of groups were boys or mixed gender, a trio of teenage girls from Utopia were on site with a fully-restored 1948 tractor. The girls, seniors in high school, said that when they started the project it was their first year in Ag class.
“This all sort of fell into our laps,” explains 18-year-od Jeneva Noah, who worked alongside 17-year-old Elizabeth Espey and 18-year-old Chase Jones to restore the red tractor. “We’re all seniors and before this year we hadn’t done FFA. Basically, in the last school year the Ag teacher came up to us and asked, ‘Hey, y’all want to do a tractor project, an all girls tractor project?’ Pretty much, we were all in, and from that point, it just kind of took its course.”
Noah, Espey and Jones all cite different reasons for their interest in taking on the project. Noah was taking journalism and had written stories about the boys’ tractor projects for the past two years when she was approached. “I was like, ‘Yeah! Are you kidding?! I wanted to do it the whole time the boys were doing it!” she exclaimed.
Jones said she thought it might be useful knowledge. “I actually grew up on a ranch, so I was around all of this all the time. I’ve never taken apart a tractor or anything like that, so I was like, ‘you know, this could be very helpful if I’m ever in the middle of a field broken down.’ I thought it would be very cool to see.”
Espey had been taking as many electives as possible when she was approached, and she just so happened to have a gap in her schedule. She said she had run out of extra college courses and decided she’d restore a tractor.
In the Spur Arena, the girls show a picture of the tractor’s drive train that illustrates the starting point of the restoration. Per rules for the project, the girls must fully restore the machine on their own, seeking guidance from the service manual and advisors who oversee the project. Chase Jones points to the service manual and explains, “We got that a lot, ‘go look at the book’. That was our bible.”
Restoration on the tractor began end of August/beginning of September last year, Noah said. “We have approximately 285 hours into the project. By beginning of January, there wasn’t too much left to do.” The girls managed their time well, beginning by removing the original tires from the wheels and other small stuff so that it wouldn’t be in the way when time came to bear down and work hard.
Regulations for the project require that students complete their work within one school year, making for a significant time crunch if time isn’t properly allocated. The tractor must also start up and run, and functionality is tested by the judges.
All three posing in red shirts with “Rosie the Riveter” emblazoned on the front, Noah says. “This is actually a 1948 tractor…it’s very possible it was originally made by women.” After a brief pause, she concluded, “We’re grateful to be here and we’re very grateful to our advisors. They spent so much time with us, not only teaching us about the tractor and stuff, but helping us find our way in a man’s world, so to say.” It’s intimidating in the beginning, but it’s ultimately empowering, she said.
Following graduation, Espey intends to study Marine Biology at A&M Galveston. Her ultimate goal is to work in Sea World. Jones says she will spend the summer in San Antonio, then likely attend cosmetology school like her mother. Eventually, she says, she’ll move back to Utopia. Noah is currently undecided on what the future will bring, but intends to spend a while after graduation discovering herself. She says she will likely attend bartending school and do some traveling; possibly a mission trip to Guatamala this summer.
The Ag Mechanics Show is divided into seven different categories, or divisions. The winners will be revealed at 9:00 a.m. Thursday in the Spur Arena.
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