June 21, 2001

For Immediate Release
Contact person:  Bill Dailey (501) 315-7373
Email: purplehull@juno.com
Web site: www.purplehull.com

Garden Tillers Coming Out of Retirement for Race

   For four years it was the world’s fastest garden tiller.

   It was the first tiller to break 8 seconds tilling a 200-foot stretch of plowed soil.  It broke ground in 1994 by being one of two tillers that year to use an alcohol-burning engine, a radical advancement at the time.

   Then, after a mechanical mishap in 1997, owner Ricky Waller put it in retirement.

   But now, the garden tiller “Digger II” is back.

   The World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, now in its 12th year, has finally been around long enough for some of its great tillers of the past to come out of retirement.

   Held each year on the last Saturday of June in conjunction with the Emerson, Arkansas PurpleHull Pea Festival, the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race – the “Tiller Thriller” as some call it - is the highlight of tiller racing season.

   In fact, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, it is the tiller racing season.

   In addition to its race of souped-up, modified garden tillers, there’s also a “stock tiller” division as well as a “powder puff” category.

   When the tillers line up for this year’s event June 30, at least one, maybe two, tillers from yesterday will be pawing the dirt.  A tiller named “Bad to the Bone,” a crowd-pleaser from years past, may also make a reappearance.

   An officially sanctioned tiller track is 200 feet in length, a distance set by the World Tiller Racing Federation, a semi-autonomous entity the PurpleHull Pea Festival created in 1994 to govern and set rules for the new sport.  It also served the purpose of keeping the festival itself from being embroiled in tiller racing controversies.

   Digger II set the world mark by tilling 200 feet in 7.94 seconds in 1994.  Owner Ricky Waller gave Jimmy Baker the nod to be his tiller driver that year.  Waller says Baker will be at the helm again this time.

   “Jimmy’s ready,” says Waller.  “Jimmy stays physically fit, playing ball, basketball, softball, just about all kinds of sports.”

   Indeed, it can be argued that the athletic ability of the driver is as important as a fast tiller, if not more so.

   “You have to be in good shape to stay with it,” says world record holder Ronnie Hughey.  “If it goes straight it’s fine, but if it zigs a little bit, you got to be in control.”

   In 1998, Hughey and his tiller “Dirt Devil,” a gasoline-burning tiller with a four-wheeler engine, broke Digger II’s record by over seven-tenths of a second, tilling the track in 7.21 seconds.

   Hughey, who races his own tiller, is preparing for this year’s event by wearing ankle weights, doing pushups, and running daily.

   “You always hear the debate about whether motor sports are really sports,” says Bill Dailey, spokesman for the PurpleHull Pea Festival.  “If there was ever a motor sport where the drivers are true athletes, garden tiller racing has got to be it.”

   Meanwhile, Waller points out that out of all the modified tillers in the race, his is the only one that is a genuine garden tiller.

   “Digger II is the only true garden tiller in the modified class,” says Waller.  “The rest of them are made out of different things like three-wheelers and Hondas and all.  Mine is a Merry tiller.  It’s got a souped-up engine, and a little modification on the tines, but in 15 minutes I can plow anybody’s garden.”

   But in 1997, Digger II was getting ready for its second heat of the day when problems struck.  The alcohol-burning engine essentially flew apart.

   “Really, it was my fault,” says Waller.  “I didn’t get the flywheel nut tight enough.”

   But Waller says his tiller and driver are prepared for this year’s race.

   “It’s ready,” says Waller.  “We’re gonna win.”

   Sometimes retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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