At Riverside Park Saturday morning, some of the riding lawn mowers in the Hot Rod Lawn Mower Drag Races putt-putted along the 100-foot-long drag race course, achieving a speed of a few miles per hour.
    Those were the mowers in the Stock Division of the double elimination tournament organized by Larry Carter.
    Mowers in the Modified V-Twin division were considerably faster as they moved smartly down the course with loud, high-revving engines..
    Faster still were the mowers in the Super Modified division, which rocketed down the course, powered by snarling engines of 80 or more horsepower.
    The tournament consisted of dozens of races over a grass course that was marked out with flags. While Saturday’s event was a first for Brownwood, many of the racers have competed for several years in events in other Texas communities including Hico and Waco.
    A tractor pull followed the presentation of trophies for the drag races. Trophy winners included Joe McCann of Stephenville, who finished first in the Super Modified; Robert Sharp, who finished first in the Modified V-Twin; and 8-year-old Trase Myers of Louisiana, first-place finisher in Stock.
    As the drag races were about to begin, Brownwood resident Kathy Stanford sat in a chair near the finish line. Her job was to observe the finishes and record the winners of each race.
    Stanford joked that she wouldn’t show favoritism to who her parents, Kenny and Ruth Martin of Brownwood, who were about to race in the V-Twin Modified and Stock divisions, respectively.
    And just because her mother gave her a kidney, Stanford said — all in good sport — there would be no favoritism. True story, Stanford said. Her mother ready did give her a kidney.
    “That doesn’t sound like a lawn mower, does it?” Robert Northcutt of Bangs observed as lawn mower engines revved loudly, sounding more like race cars or race motorcycles.
    “No,” Standford replied. “Not the ones that go around my yard, anyway.”
    A few minutes later, Stanford watched her mother lose a race and signaled Trase Myers, the 8-year-old who went on to win the Stock division, as the winner of that race.
    “It wouldn’t take long to mow your lawn on that,” Stanford said as Modified V-Twin mowers raced by at high speed.
    During a break in the racing, Early resident Silvester Jones, who owns Sil’s Small Engine Repair, described his Modified V-Twin, 14-horsepower mower. The mower can reach about 45 mph, although it doesn’t hit that speed on the 100-foot race course, Jones said.
    The 20-year-old mower’s performance is diminished by its age, so Jones can no longer seriously compete. He’s self-sponsored, but would like to gain sponsors so he can get a better mower and become competitive again.
    “I need more sponsors and more money for more horsepower,” Jones said, adding that his mower “kind of feels like me on a Monday night — wore out.”
    Jones said he races for “the speed. I’m a gearhead. I was born a gearhead. I was born in a town called Axle, Texas, if that tells you anything.”
    Kenny Martin, who raced a 24-horsepower mower in the Modified V-Twin division, said he races for “the throes of building it, making noise, legally, going fast, legally …”
    Johnny Minck of Stephenville said he concentrates on keeping his Super Modified mower, which is powered by a 600 cc Suzuki motorcycle engine, going straight when he races. Minck said the engine produces 90 to 100 horsepower and sometimes he doesn’t even have time to shift into second gear before a race is over.
    Back at the finish line, Stanford watched her father win a few, lose a few. “It’s kind of neat, watching their hobby,” Stanford said of her racing parents.