Antique tractor pulls, a roughneck sport, usually features tough tractor pullers steering those old Allis-Chalmers through the red clay of a South Carolina field with big bare arms sporting plenty of muscle. Those without the strength to lift a mule need not apply.
Not any more.
In the Sandhills Antique Tractor Pullers Association, the winner in the 3,200-pound category, and the second-place puller in the 3,700 pound category who was edged this season by just a single point, stands 4 feet 4 inches tall.
"I might be 53 inches tall by now," said the champ.
Never miss a local story.
The champion puller weighs about 78 pounds. The best wears braids, and earrings that say "Allis-Chalmers." The mother of the champ, Rebecca Berberich, admits that the champ likes perfume.
The great puller has freckles, and attends the fourth grade at Mount Holly Elementary School in Rock Hill, where accolades include honors choir and piano lessons
Number one in tractor pulling is 10 years old.
"And I'm a girl, and I like to beat the boys at tractor pulls," said South Carolina's newest champion antique tractor puller, Hannah Berberich.
In the season that just ended, a season that Hannah qualified to compete in because she turned 10 in September and a tractor puller has to be at least 10, Hannah took home an armful of trophies.
"She pulled like a champ," said her proud father, a tractor-puller himself and former dirt-track car racing hard-charger named Eddie Berberich, who works for Joe Gibbs Racing in Huntersville, N.C.
Ed Berberich, the grandfather, grew up with tractor pulls and the Allis-Chalmers brand. His son Eddie got into it, and Hannah started in the seat at age 7.
"I just asked if I could start driving," Hannah said. "I figured I could drive a tractor."
To compete, anyone has to be able to do basic skills, including backing up and more. That's not easy when your feet barely reach the pedals, and driving requires using a clutch and brakes requiring hands and feet.
This year was her first in competitions aboard the Allis-Chalmers W-D 38 horsepower 1950 model that her father and grandfather restored. For two weekends a month from March through November, the competitions required traveling to tractor-pulling meccas such as Rich Hill, Pageland, and Ruby, S.C.
"Our family outings were Hannah's tractor pulls," said Rebecca Berberich, the mom who grew up a city girl but has warmed to tractors. "She loves it and we do, too."
Hannah's 6-year-old sister, Lauren, wants to tractor pull, too.
"When I'm older, of course," Lauren said.
Tractor pull categories are based on the weight of the tractor and who is on it, along with added weights. Hannah competes in the lightest categories: At 3,200 pounds Hannah was tops, and came in second only at 3,700 pounds to another person from York County - Larry McConnell, Lesslie Volunteer Fire Department chief who works at the York County emergency management office.
The two competed all year. Hannah, age 10. Larry McConnell, age 63.
"I just nipped her - she's tough," McConnell said. "Hannah is a super girl - a super family of tractor pullers. She continued to improve, and I supported her any way I could."
During one event, when Hannah beat McConnell, she danced and yelled, and the happiest person besides Hannah was McConnell himself, who was thrilled.
For Hannah, tractor pulling makes her different from every kid at school and piano lessons and choir practice. But that's fine by her.
"People at school know I am a tractor puller," Hannah said.
Not just any tractor puller. One of the best. A 10-year-old girl with braids and freckles, perfume and Allis-Chalmers earrings.