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See trucks in the mud bog and ‘feel it in your heart’

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William Armstrong of Stafford County started playing in the mud as soon as he could walk, so it was only natural that he enjoyed an equally dirty hobby as an adult.

Armstrong used to drive a souped-up Toyota in mud bogs from West Virginia to South Carolina.

Like others who lived for the thrill of getting down and dirty, he’d push the horsepower under the hood to the limit, trying to get his Toyota through a mud pit specially designed for the occasion.

Fourteen years ago, he started Mountain View Mudders and pulled together a crew to keep mud bog races running smoothly and haul out mud-caked trucks that couldn’t go the distance.

Once a year, as he did on Saturday, he helps put on the popular mud bog at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair, which ends today. He partners with Sonny Pippen of Sonny’s Truck, Tractor and Equipment of Stafford.

About 30 of their friends and relatives, all wearing neon-green shirts, wave orange or red flags and run the track as trucks of all types face off against the man-made mud.

“I would love to be out there driving, but my wallet won’t let me,” Armstrong said.

The Mountain View Mudders also build the pit. It was about 140 feet long with a dip that goes down about 2 feet. Saturday’s event drew more than 130 vehicles in eight different classes, based on tire size, weight and modifications made.

Some of the entrants were Broncos, Blazers and Jeeps their owners drive to and from work. Many have been modified to dig deeper and are as loud as a pack of motorcycles being revved up.

Still, they can’t compare to the sound generated by jacked-up trucks tweaked to the tune of more than $100,000 per vehicle. They haul around more horsepower than is legal for the street.

“Oh, the sound, I love it when the trucks rumble up,” said Terri Martin of Inwood, W.Va.

“You can feel it in your heart,” added her friend, Vivian Jarvis of Sterling. “It’s a Southern girl thing.”

For sure, the sport of mud-bogging draws a distinct audience. There weren’t enough bleachers to seat all the Mountain Dew-drinkin’, tobacco-spittin’ and camouflage-wearin’ people.

Sydnee Sirry, 16, from Strasburg, was one of many girls wearing cowboy boots and shorts. Hers weren’t nearly as skimpy as some around her, or as short as what Daisy Duke used to wear on “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show.

Sydnee’s shirt read: “Most girls play with dolls. Southern girls play with trucks.”

She and her sister, Grace, also 16, have been brought up on mud and big tires.

“It’s in my blood,” Grace said.

Their father, Daniel, races a Ford. He doesn’t care so much about how he finishes, but he does worry about how “Hilda” the F–100 performs each go-round.

“It depends on what mood she’s in, whether she wants to do good or not,” Grace said.

Hilda is one of the milder names drivers give their trucks. Others include Swamp Donkey, Mudweiser and the ever-popular Hell on Heels. That’s driven by Tanya Ricks of Mudiva Racing near Petersburg.

Drivers and spectators say the key to faster vehicles and better pulls through the mud is more horsepower.

Adding more muscle means drivers have to boost other systems as well, said Darin Stoltz of Stafford. Sometimes one component on a modified truck breaks down because it can’t keep up with the other changes that have been made.

“It can be a vicious cycle,” Stoltz said.

The modifications bring the possibility of breakdowns and goof-ups, and those also lure spectators to mud bogs.

“I’ve seen ’em roll, I’ve seen ’em flip, I’ve seen ’em come up on the bank,” Jarvis said.

James Johnson of Burr Hill in Orange County said what he likes best is “watching them tear it up. They blow motors and everything up in there.”

Katie Bowman of Stafford said it’s the same kind of thrill she gets when she sees cars smash into each other during another popular fair event, the demolition derby.

“They do things the rest of us wish we could,” she said.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425;