Filthy four-wheeled fun

Pig-Digger fills the need for unclean


Max Miller

Don Kearns in the Modified Stock Division churns sludge on his way through the trenches. Kearns was the first to complete the 150-foot run Saturday.

They came from Washington state and Nebraska, as well as Colorado, Idaho and Utah. Their vehicles ranged from $700 junkers to $50,000 monuments to backyard engineering and gear head fantasies brought to life. There was even a snowmobile.

Color, variety and a distinctive brand of manic fun were evident in every direction at the seventh annual Pig Digger Mud Rally May 28-29 at the Whistle Pig Saloon. The event has grown steadily in popularity since its inception in 2009, and this year 50 trucks made 100 runs through the mud Saturday and Sunday. So many drivers showed up, in fact, that race organizers (and owners of the Whistle Pig) Chuck and Tammy Davidson had to print out extra liability waivers Saturday afternoon before the fun could start.

Thankfully, those forms were never needed – and an ambulance crew that was also on-hand in case of accident also didn't see any action.

The format of the race was fairly simple: Wait for the flag, gun your engine and do your best to make it to the end of 150 foot-long trough of mud-porridge as fast as possible.

Days earlier, heavy equipment had been used to excavate a three to four foot deep trench behind the saloon. Organizers then filled the trench with water, set up laser-triggered timers on either end of the 150 foot run and essentially told drivers "good luck."

Nobody said it would be easy. The first two trucks to venture into the pit couldn't muscle their way to the other side, and their drivers had to get towed out by a bulldozer on hand for such eventualities. The third time turned out to be a charm though, with a flame-emblazoned black pickup drawing "first mud," by making it to the other side. Though there were plenty of tows in between, most vehicles eventually managed to churn their way to the opposite shore, drawing appreciative cheers from the onlooking crowd of hundreds.

Vehicles were placed into six different categories of competition based on tire size and vehicle restrictions. For the mechanically adventurous, an "Open Class" was basically a no-holds-barred division where participants were instructed to, simply, "Run what ya brung," on the entry form. Helmets and seatbelts were mandatory, but otherwise things got a little crazy with souped-up 1800 horsepower engines and all different manners of modifications to suspensions prevalent. One driver even asked if his dog could ride in the cab with him, to which a wiseacre replied, "As long as he wears a helmet!"

If the workmanship and preparation was competitive, though, the atmosphere at the rally was more congenial. T. Davidson estimated that more than 20 groups RV-camped next to the race site over the weekend, and the makeshift campground enhanced the event's sense of community. Though there was plenty of drinking going on among rally-goers, there were also families with young children present and the two groups seemed to coexist fairly comfortably among the revving engines and flying mud clods.

At night, a pair of bands kept the party going in the bar, and campfires blazed late into the night outside.

Though she couldn't give an estimate of how much had been raised, T. Davidson said a percentage of gate proceeds and all the money raised from a charity breakfast would be going to the Sportsmen's Foundation for Military Families. That charity provides funds for military veterans and their families to enjoy outdoor recreation activities together.

Max Miller

Driver Tonya Hartman, right, and her friend Arlene Zimmerschied pose in front of Hartman's jeep "Daisy" prior to the rally Saturday.


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