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California Mule makes 2,020-mile trip to win Showdown in Curdtown

Donnie Reeve's California Mule, which he used to win the 2,050-pound mini tractor class at the Showdown in Curdtown Saturday, June 10. Photo courtesy of Donnie Reeve

ELLSWORTH -- Imagine driving 2,020 miles for a championship.

Donnie Reeve traveled from Stockton, Calif., to Ellsworth for the Showdown in Curdtown hosted by the Ellsworth FFA Alumni Saturday, June 10.


“I love truck pulling and this gentleman (Doug Borth) told me how fun this pull was, so I’m here,” Reeves said. Borth said he didn't deserve all of the credit for getting Reeve to Ellsworth. “A friend of mine came here last year and said this was one of the funnest pulls he’s ever been to, so I had to see if he was lying or not.”

Robby Fagundas, who is also from California, told Reeve the Pierce County Fairgrounds in Ellsworth was a great setting for truck pulling.

A quality track is critical for the event. The Ellsworth track is as good as they get, according to Borth, who is a main promoter of the event.

The type of dirt and the layout of the fairgrounds makes for a perfect setup.

But still, is making a 32-hour drive worth it for a hobby?

“I’m a trucker, so I love trucking,” Reeves said. “There’s no better reason to go driving trucks, if you already love driving trucks, than to go to a truck pull.

“It’s a double winner.”

Reeves said he didn’t know the first thing about cheese curds. He added sarcastically that he thought he should tell people he made the trip to Ellsworth to find out what cheese curds were.

“I drove 2,020 miles to become more intelligent about cheese,” Reeve said with a smile on his face.

After he unloaded his two trailers -- his wife, Lori, drove a second trailer full of “toys” along with him -- and undoubtedly learned more than he needed to know about cheese, Reeve went and won his 2,050-pound modified mini tractors division with a full pull of 306 feet, 1 inch.

His truck is called the California Mule.

“There’s no better feeling than having thousands of horse power and something trying to stop it,” Reeve said. “But if you really want to feel good, you gotta get lucky and win.”

Reeve has made a hobby of the mini tractors in the last year thanks, again, to Fagundas.

“Now my son and I have three four-wheel drive trucks and two mini tractors,” Reeve said.

Reeve got hooked on the mini tractors because of the extra power of the class.

“That’s the biggest horsepower to weight ratio in the sport of pulling,” Borth said. “They weigh 2,000 pounds and are 3,000 horses.

“Things can go bad in a hurry with those, though.”

Added Reeve: “I was watching videos that the NPTA puts together about safety and wrecks and I said, ‘Why did I get one of those?’”

To compete, that’s why. Reeve enjoys the competition on the track and trying to figure out the different tracks to win events.

“Once you build a good engine for your machine, understanding the track is the most important part,” Reeve said. “Historical time on a track is the best way, but having some experience on how well the track hooks so that you know what final-drive gear ratio to run and where on the track to run. There’s a whole list of things to try to get right.

“Whoever gets the most of it right, wins. Nobody gets it all right.”

But when you do it’s all worth it. And it makes the drive home even more enjoyable.

“The driving is easy. It’s nothing but beautiful country and I love Eric Church,” Reeve said. “What could be better than sitting in a truck with air conditioning on, looking at beautiful country and listening to some good music?”