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Combine combat

Beer the theme for this year's drivers

LIND –– The town roared to life Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10, as thousands of fans rolled in to see combines smash into each other.

The annual Lind Lions Club's Combine Demolition Derby was a smashing success, raising funds for local projects.

The weekend festivities included car, pickup and grain truck racing, parades, live music, and of course, the highlight of the event – the combine derby.

The combines competed in five heats, with the fifth marking the grand finale.

This year, several teams entered the derby. And several cars, pickups and two grain trucks entered the time trials and head-to-head races on Friday and Saturday.

Among the Lind drivers were Tryan Doyle on "The Extinguisher," Bryden Laird on "Pour Life Choices," Branden Aby on "Let's Go, Branden," Taylor Kerr on "The OSU Enticer," and Eric Labes on "Grain Digger."

William Mann of Sprague drove the Ritzville-based "Suds" and Cody Kulm of Finley drove Cheney-based "The Bandit." Alika Conley drove Tri-Cities-based "Jaws."

From Whitman County, Caleb Hannas of Hay drove "Orange Crush" and Cody Bennett of LaCrosse drove "Fubar."

The official results were not reported before press time; however, the Lion's Club is expected to post them this week.

Lind native Bryden Laird, 26, said he "grew up in Lind. It was always a dream and hope to participate. I love my little town."

"I was just drunk one year at the derby and said, 'Let's make some poor life choices,' and I have been living by it ever since," he said. "I love just smashing stuff together.

"The fact that a town of 450 people grows to over 5,000 is not seen anywhere else. It's great to be a part of something so uncommon.

This year was Laird's second as a driver, noting he made upgrades and changes to his machine this year.

He said that working on his breaks, moving the front axle a foot back, bending the header up a bit more, reinforcing some welds and tightening up his drive belts would help him in competition. His work paid off as he made it to the day's final round on his combine.

It seemed as though alcohol had a common theme for the derby as Ritzville native William Mann, 25, entered the arena driving "Suds," named, he said, for the head and bubbles found in an alcoholic beverage.

"When I asked about the name of the people that run this, they were already drunk;" he said, jokingly. "So, we just decided to go with 'Suds and Bubbles.' We put two beer flags on it and called it good."

Mann said he got his start by seeing the derby as a kid with his family. This was his second year competing in the derby.

"We figured we had nothing else better to do other than spend our money and waste some time, so we made a combine," he said. "You got to drink enough to be here. That's about it. It's good."

Mann added that riding the combine hurts.

"You feel it," he said. "It's painful. I got a couple of scars last year, and I'll find a couple from this year.

"We are going to leave with two wheels and maybe some combine."

LaCrosse's Cody Bennett, 32, is in his sixth year competing and driving "Fubar."

"I love crashing the combines," he said, noting a friend came up with the name.

"It stands for something, but it's not family appropriate," he said, noting most of his pit crew is from Whitman County.

"After its second year, we had everything figured out," he said.

In the pits, "Orange Crush," driven by Caleb Hannas, 29, also from Whitman County, sat next to "Fubar." The Hay native was ready for the day, recalling his start in 2016.

"There is some good competition. Some were just pieced together. It's hard to say how the competition will go today," Hannas said. "We have seven people on a crew, and all seven of 'em come back and help put it [the combine] back together for the final heat."

Stacking up the competition, Bennett, while nodding to "Orange Crush," said, "LaCrosse is better."

The two combines, "Orange Crush" and "Fubar," would face off in the Final 3 on the day. "Fubar" took the win.

It was the first heat of the day, which put "Orange Crush," of Hay, in the matchup against Lind's "Pour Life Choices." The combines lasted until the final horn and moved to the finale bracket together.

A tie for first place occurred in the second heat.

Tri-Cities-based "Jaws" and Lind's "The Extinguisher" battled it out against "LockJaw."

Cheney's "The Bandit" was off to a rough start in the heat and could not get going. It took one hit before the driver, Cody Kulm, pulled the flag early in the heat and sat tight as he watched his fellow drivers battle for the title.

"Fubar," of LaCrosse, became a fast favorite among the stands in the third heat as driver Cody Bennett left the arena with minor damage and in first place.

"Cornfed Cadilac" took second, with Lind's "Grain Digger" not too far behind in third.

"Last Ditch Effort" saw driver Eric Labes of Lind get a few good hits in before the machine began to stall and was eventually unable to continue.

The crowds roared and the beer garden got even louder as attendees witnessed the epic battle as "Fubar" crashed to first place on the day in the grand finale.

Six combines faced off in the small arena as dirt flew into the crowds, drivers nearly flew off of their combines, and the cheers roared through Lind.

Attractive combines were voted during the event and brought the title of "best dressed" to "Super Puncher" in third, "Last Ditch Effort" placed second and the best looking combine voted "Grain Digger."

By the end of the day, the best-dressed combines desperately needed a makeover and a cleaning, as did everyone else competing and attending.


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