LISBON - They had never seen anything like it.
On Monday, under the lights of the county fair grandstands, 4-year-old Jayden Barber took to the wheel of an Oliver tractor and rode it all the way through for a full pull. It was a breath-taking, high-energy, one-of-a-kind moment, and the fulfillment of Jayden's dream.
Before the pull, Fair Board President Don Humphrey introduced Jayden to the crowd. He told them Jayden has been battling leukemia since last fall and that only recently the family was notified his condition is terminal.
Special to the Journal/Doug Greathouse
Four-year-old Jayden Barber of Youngstown participated in his first-ever tractor pull at the county fair Monday as Mike Palmer helped. Barber was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 2 years old and later diagnosed with leukemia. Participating in the pull was a fulfillment of one of his dreams. His other dream is to meet Batman.
"Jayden loves tractors and tonight is his opportunity to compete in a tractor pull," he said.
Seated on the lap of family friend Mike Palmer, who rode the tractor with him, Jayden's anticipation was high despite his body being sore from numerous cancer treatments.
Shortly after the pull, his mother Charlene "Charlie" Barber rubbing his sore legs, Jayden said, "Mom, I'm really glad I won that race."
The Barbers live in Youngstown and have attended past Columbiana County fairs. Charlie Barber said Jayden watched tractor pulls and spoke of his desire to be in one someday.
"It was amazing, absolutely amazing," she said of watching Jayden participate this week.
Jayden's love for tractors - mostly John Deere - stems from his visits to his grandparent's home in Rogers.
"My mom and dad have a small riding tractor, and as soon we get there he always asks to get on the tractor," Charlie Barber said.
In fact, before the fair, Jayden spent nearly four hours riding on tractors with Mike Palmer at Palmer's farm. It was there that Palmer got the idea to see if Jayden could participate in the pull at the fair.
"Just as they were about to leave he spotted the garage with the pulling tractors and boy did he light up. It didn't take long for him to ask to drive one of them at a tractor pull," Palmer said.
Watching Jayden reach the 300-foot mark on the Oliver tractor and hearing the shouts of the crowd while "Full Pull!" was announced over the loudspeaker was a moment like no other, he said.
"I have been to countless pulls in my lifetime, and I have never seen a sight like that .... the moment was incredible for anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing it," he said.
After the pull Jayden was presented with a trophy donated by Trophy Works.
Despite his health issues-including an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant and t-cell transfusions- Jayden has remained positive.
"You would have no idea he is in a battle for his life. He always has a smile on his face and is as happy as can be ... I spent only a few hours with Jayden but I can tell you they were life-changing hours at that," Palmer said.
"He always has a smile on his face, that's just Jayden," his mother said. "I have said from the beginning you can't know Jayden and not know God because He shines through him. He just has a great spirit. He has really affected a lot of people."
The family attends the Old North Church in Canfield.
Palmer and the family wish to thank everyone who helped make the tractor pull a reality, including Reesman Farm Supply, who donated the Oliver tractor retrofitted with a special seat, fenders, and safety belt for Jayden.