Now, please, it’s going to take me a while to get into the meat of this story. I have been thinking about it all afternoon, don’t know how it is going to go. But I am going to get it, and be happy with the finished product, if it takes all night. And it probably will. Anyway, here goes. Stick around. You are cruising the net. You don’t have anything else to do.
When I was still growing up, my family lived on Whitehall Road, just about four or five rock throws from the first split in the road away from North Main Street, in Anderson.
Drivers had a choice. They could stay left, and go on out to the grain elevator, and the intersection with the Highway 28 by-pass. Should the driver go right, they would be going straight to two places not many folks wanted to go.
First was the Chain Gang camp, and just beyond that was the Poor Folks Home. This was pretty big and there were about a dozen or so of what I can best describe as ‘Tiny Houses’, just big enough for 2 people to live in abject poverty. They would sit on the little porch all day. Everyday.
Sometimes I would take my friends by, just so they could see how we may end up, and the same question was always asked: “What are they doing, just sitting there?”
I would say they were waiting. “What far?” was the next question. and I would say, “Death.” Sooner or later those folks all got their wish.
There was a swing and a rocking chair on our front porch at home, and my dad and I would sit there and watch the dump trucks headed in toward the Chain Gang Camp in the evening. My dad was bound and determined to keep me off the back of those dump trucks and having to wear the black and white stripes so favored by convicts back then.
The old man’s favorite line was probably his best shot, and actually the only one I ever remembered. Pop would say: “Boy, if you are getting ready to do something wrong, ask yourself this question. What is going to happen to me if I get caught.”
I’ve asked myself that very question through the years, and one time, in particular it really did keep me off a dump truck wearing stripes, because the other three guys I had been out with that night ended up there. Once they started serving their time, I couldn’t sit on the front porch in the evenings because they would yell at me as they went by. That drove daddy mad.
I have always had a high level of common sense and that kept me from harm lots of times. One year, up at Charlotte Motor Speedway there were four of us in the car just riding around the track, and suddenly the driver started going somewhat nuts. We were in a big line of cars, parading, and all of a sudden, he started fading back. He let a huge gap grow between us and the car ahead, and then he stood on the gas.
Thirty feet later I said, “You can let me out along here anywhere. I’ll walk back to the garage area.”
They made fun of me. Called me names. But they still stopped and I still go out.
When they got back to the pits and started running their jaws, I casually explained that I did not allow myself to run high rates of speed in a car that was basically unsafe with an idiot driver. And that if they wanted to keep mouthing off about things, we could just fall out and start fighting right then.
That was decades ago, and I had all but forgotten about it. I have since ridden around Talladega with Tiny Lund in his race car and didn’t even consider getting out. I had faith in Tiny Lund’s ability.
At lunch time yesterday, I just don’t know what I was thinking but I never even thought about getting out. Here’s the way the excitement went down.
I had been to my usual Wednesday lunch with my friend and my lawyer. After eating, he said he had a few errands to run, which suited me just fine – more time for us to swap stories. As we went by Greenville-Pickens Speedway and I mentioned that I thought that chaplain Dale (Tyre) and Fats (Haseleu) might have been off somewhere playing golf. My friend slammed on brakes, whipped into the back-gate parking lot, got out and walked over to the gate, and discovered it wasn’t locked, only hooked. He came back to the car and said he might need to check on his sign in Victory Lane. I allowed as how that was a capital idea.
So we entered the track and headed around turns 3 and 4 toward Victory Lane. Just as we came out of the fourth turn, my big-bodied, heavy-footed, overall-wearing lawyer friend stood on the throttle. I fleetingly thought of the title to one of my favorite racing books, ‘Stand On It,’ by Stroker Ace. I didn’t have a chance to look at the sign or the photo in Victory Lane before we were diving into the first turn.
Heck, I didn’t even have time to start saying, “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven,” much less get to “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” When we were once again between turns 3 and 4, and headed beneath the flag stand where Mark Turner was not waving a flag and my friend, who actually eats some internal organs of animals, was standing on the gas once again.
It went on like that, lap after lap. And I was never even mildly upset, unnerved, flustered, or anything like that but had a wonderful time. I didn’t even think about a story to tell the cops right before they put those stripes on me, handed me a shovel, and casually mentioned the need to clean ditches.
It STILL has not occurred to me to hit the pavement or start looking for my “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Nope, we got clean away with the whole thing — free and clear. I would already be hoping we could do it again next week, but he’s got lawyer-type duties next Wednesday. And besides, I’m going to be betting the gate is going to be locked for a long time to come.
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