By Jim • 

Sheridan Mud Drags a nice weekend event

Saturday, June 8 was a great day for a picnic, bike ride, hike or dip in the pool. Temperatures were in the mid- to high-70s, and the skies were as blue as blue could be. It was a great day for a top-down drive over a windy, country road, too.

But, at 10 a.m. that morning, Molly and I were at the end of Monroe Street in Sheridan, looking for a vantage point from which to watch the 14th Annual Sheridan Rotary Mud Drags, the local Rotary club’s biggest fundraiser. Already in the paddock, dozens of entries in a number of classes were lined up in preparation for their two-by-two runs in the double-elimination competition. While most of the entrants were local, a few came from locations outside Yamhill County to vie for trophies and bragging rights on the pair of side-by-side tracks, muddied by fire hoses into swamp-like conditions.

When the first two competitors left the line, clumps of mud kicked back to the plywood panels just behind the starting area. Molly and I both collected a few samples of the Sheridan mud on our hands, then decided maybe that perch wasn’t the best location for two newcomers to the Sheridan Mud Drags. Most patrons, we noticed, were sitting on the knoll on the north side of the race track, away from any kick-back from the oversized off-road tires that many of the truck and SUVs were shod with to get a little extra grip.

First to battle for honors were the four-cylinder trucks, many of which were the smaller Toyotas. A few were quick through the mud, and lane two seemed to be the faster track early-on. But later in the morning, when the big trucks hit the track, lane one had its moments, too. It just depended on getting a fast jump when the starter raised his white flag, getting traction on the shift from first to second gear and pointing the machine in the right direction.

And, getting on the brakes right after the checkered flag as there’s not much run-off at the end of the track — although a berm twenty or thirty yards past the finish line is designed to slow rigs down if the brakes refuse to work properly.

Surveying the crowd, which was short of the 1,000 that Sheridan Rotary president Gary Hampton was hoping for by the time Molly and I left to explore downtown Sheridan at 1 p.m., I noted that they were all enjoying the show, and often a local driver would draw cheers, especially if he or she won in a really close finish. It also appeared that the fundraiser had plenty of volunteers, both from the Rotary club and other organizations.

All in all, it was fun watching trucks and SUVs that were once street machines, slipping and sliding — and sometimes blasting — through the mud.

Looking back on the event, I felt the Sheridan Mud Drags, for $10 admission fee and $5 parking (some parking spaces were going for $3), provided a good value for patrons, and the money is going for community projects that will benefit everyone. As I closed my eyes and visualized the fast-paced event that night, I imagined myself in a nice four-wheel drive Toyota Tacoma next June, stomping on the gas, hammering the truck into second gear halfway down the trough and blasting through the mud in front of the entire field.

Only one hang-up, though: I’m not sure if I want to get that dirty, and with all that mud flying around out there, there’s no avoiding looking like Pigpen after even the first run.

I did notice, however, that the local fire department was hosing off machines afterwards. Just not the drivers.

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