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Tractors, cow poop, nunchucks, and cider donuts

The Great Outdoors
By MATTHEW LAWRENCE  |  October 15, 2014

FARM-READY Vintage John Deeres.

The cow poop has everyone excited.

People know when it will happen — shortly after 2 pm on a sunny Sunday, October 12, at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Richmond — but they don’t know where. Everyone hopes that the cow will do her business on their miniature plot of land, temporarily deeded for $5 by the Chariho Rotary Club. A field is marked off with plot numbers, and spectators will sit in bleachers, waiting and watching the cow until nature calls. If she plops on their plot, they win $500.

“The cows keep us going,” says Rotarian Sherilyn Reed of Richmond. It’s her job this year to sell deeds, but last year she was right up close for the action. “Last year they let two young bulls out on the field together, and they were both so excited that it was over as soon as it started. And then we went out with measuring tapes to determine the winner.” There are also smaller prizes for the second and third droppings.

Regulars agree that it’s a slow year for Swamp Yankee Days, a festival now in its third decade. Some blame Saturday’s rainy weather; others think there are just too many competing events on Columbus Day weekend. The Rotary Club used to host Swamp Yankee Days in September, but it moved to October when the Carolina Volunteer Fire Department took over the festival a couple of years ago. This year, Saturday was a washout — too swampy, not enough Yankees — and Sunday was a little slow, too, despite the sunny, early fall weather.

The diehard Swamp Yankees — “swampahs,” they call themselves — are out in full force, though. About 60 spectators, men and women of all ages, watch a tractor pull, where one young woman waited her turn alongside a group of men mostly old enough to be her grandfather. Two of the tractors were painted pink and covered with slogans about breast cancer.

There are classic cars and a large display of tractors on the field, too — the latter group put together by the Rhode Island Antique Tractor Club. The club boasts about 140 members, and despite the name, members come from Massachusetts and Connecticut as well, including club president John Anderson, a serious tractor enthusiast sporting denim overalls and a gray handlebar moustache.

“He’s a wooden nutmegger,” says Glenn Gough, one of the group’s founding members, about Anderson’s Connecticut roots. Gough, who lives in Charlestown, founded the club in 1990 with two friends. (Gough’s wife Janice was the club’s first secretary, and she still attends every event. She’s wearing a baseball hat with a brim autographed by South County cartoonist Don Bousquet.)

There are dozens of farm tractors and garden tractors, most of which are over a half-century old. “Some of the newer garden tractors are from the ’60s, but most of them are older than that,” Anderson says. “The oldest is Sherman’s 1934 John Deere Unstyled A, one of three Unstyled As in a row, all painted the trademark John Deere green.

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