Build a wagon. Win a welder.
Welcome to the world of the Junior Agricultural Mechanics Projects Show, a relatively new competition continuing Sunday at the Fort Worth Stock Show that invites young agriculturalists to put their best rebuilt tractor, flatbed utility trailer or barbeque smoker forward in hopes of winning cash ($100 for class winners and $1,000 for division winners) and prizes such as welding equipment and certificates for the purchase of steel.
Approximately 500 students created more than 200 projects for the competition, which was held at the Stock Show for the first time last year, according to Ted Ford, one of the nine superintendents overseeing the show. The entries, on display in the Equestrian Multi-Purpose Building at the east end of the Will Rogers Memorial Center, include a wide range of machines and objects associated with rural life — from livestock chutes to picnic tables.
“It went really well last year in every way, from student involvement to teacher satisfaction. We were ecstatic,” said Ford, an agriculture professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.
So this year, the competition will include a new element that will give students a chance to win scholarships. The Texas MADE (Mechanics, Agriculture, Development and Education) competition requires contestants who competed in this year’s and last year’s event to take a written test on general knowledge of ag mechanics and be interviewed about their specific projects in hopes of receiving a $12,000 scholarship for a first-place finish or $8,000 for second, Ford said.
“It is modeled on the beef heifer challenge,” said Ford, explaining the scholarship competition. “They take a test and answer questions like ‘What type of welding electrode is best for welding your trailer hitch? What weight hydraulic fluid do you need for your gear box? What type of screw should you use with treated wood?’”
Ford said about 18 students were expected to compete Saturday in the MADE part of the event.
Ty Robertson, 18, of Granbury, won’t be among them because he did not compete at the Stock Show in 2013. But he does have high hopes for the fire wagon he refurbished to enter in this year’s show.
“I started working on it in late July,” said Robertson, a senior at Granbury High School, “and I finished it yesterday morning.”
The gleaming white wagon, with Fort Worth Fire Department emblazoned across its side, shows the long hours of work Robertson put into it.
“It is based a 1905 hose wagon,” said Robertson, who did six months of research before traveling to South Dakota to purchase the more than 100-year-old wagon he used for the project.
Robertson explained that a hose wagon was used to carry firemen, hoses, other firefighting equipment and even coal for the “steamers” that pumped the water.
He has an interest in such arcane history because his father, Homer Robertson, is a Fort Worth Fire Department captain with more than 30 years of service. And Ty also gets a lot of his general wagon knowledge from his dad, who is an award-winning chuck wagon cook.
“I guess I’ve got wagons in my blood,” said the younger Robertson.
Robertson, who plans to attend Texas Tech or Texas A&M and study agricultural communications or agricultural economics, put some of that blood, along with plenty of sweat, into his entry.
“The most tedious part was the sanding,” said Robertson, whose wagon required extensive renovation and a substantial investment.
Finding parts for his vintage wagon — such as a “floor gong” (a clanging device under the seat of the wagon Robertson described as “like a siren”) — also proved difficult and expensive.
“I took out a $10,000 loan to do it,” said Robertson, pointing out that the old wagon alone cost $7,000. “In the end, I think we went a little over that.”
But Robertson, who joined 4H when he was 8 and is now a regional officer in FFA, appears to feel no price is too great to pay for a life in agriculture.
When asked what he liked to do when he is not working with his sheep on the family spread or doing something else ranch-related, Robertson had a revealing reply:
“I find that when I’m not doing ag stuff, there’s more ag stuff to do.”