As we mentioned last week, being a man of "advanced age" has changed some of my priorities and activities. For example, I never, ever considered myself any type of gardener whatsoever. The first year Ann and I were married, we plowed up a plot of our back yard to grow some veggies. As I recall, we planned cucumbers, squash, radishes (I love those), and cantaloupes (Ann loves those). I have memories of cucumbers that appeared to be aborted minions, squash so tiny it would take a thousand to make a small squash casserole (which incidentally Ann makes very well). As for the radishes, they were good, but how can you screw up a radish? As for the cantaloupes, although the color was right, the size and hardness thereof would have lent those more to the golf course than the refrigerator for consumption.
Having experienced all that disaster years ago, I have no idea what possessed me to begin working with flowers and plants in the yard. However, with the guidance of my learned wife, I began to plant and "landscape" in the back yard first, and then moved to the front yard. If I have to say so myself, my efforts have turned out pretty doggone good. It looks good, front, and back, and I am proud of what Ann and I have accomplished in our small plot of planet earth. Even so, this hot weather is causing us to have to water the plants almost every day. We have a sprinkler system in the front yard so that is handled automatically. The backyard, however, is another story. Although I sometimes set up the yard sprinkler and let it waves its drops back and forth, I often take the hose and water each plant individually. Somehow, that makes me feel like I am giving each plant a little "special attention".
This past Thursday, around 6:00 p.m., I was standing there with the hose watering the small flowerbed by the car port. It was so hot that I could feel the sweat trickling down my back, between my shoulder blades, and then being absorbed in the t-shirt I was wearing. About 15 minutes into my hose-playing, I heard either a Hemi Dodge, or one of those 5.0 Liter Mustangs getting it on over on I-20 which, by the way, in located almost in my back yard. As if in a trance caused by the rainbow reflection of the sun in the hose spray, I was transported back to other Thursday nights, the Thursday nights of my youth when such an evening would fine me in the infield at Columbia Speedway.
When my Uncle Bobby was taking me, we usually got there about 6:00 p.m. When I started driving myself, it was more like 5:00 p.m., even before the gates were opened to the public. I was there to watch the teams come in and unload their cars while the water truck circled the track very slowly making a soupy mess of the red clay surface, soon to be "ironed out" by the drivers.
I guess over all those years of Thursday night lights, I have memories few can match, certainly more memories than I can call up at any one time. Obviously, the sweat running down my back brought some of those memories flashing back as did the sound of that accelerating engine on I-20. I know I had to be smiling to myself as I remembered all those Thursday nights in the heat, sometimes in the rain, but always at the racetrack. I did not know that I would one day race on that track, but I did. I never dreamed that I would a part of the group that helped to bring back the Columbia Speedway for a Festival in 2009 which drew over 35,000 people (crowd estimate courtesy of Cayce Police Department and South Carolina Highway Patrol).
I have often said that the history of stock car racing in general is pretty much the history of my life. I guess that's one reason it is so important to me to be sure that history is preserved for generations to come. It is not for me alone I have accepted this mission, it is for Herb Thomas, The Myers Brothers, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Lee Petty, Jabe Thomas, Tim, Bob and Fonty Flock (and Ethyl). It is for all those drivers, mechanics, and crew members that gave us the sport to enjoy through their efforts. Drivers of today are actually living off the history of the drivers of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
I am proud and honored to be a part of RacersReunion. I have never banked one dime by my membership here, but the friendships I have made, the honors I have received, and the opportunities I have enjoyed are no subject to a dollar value. I am proud to be a card-carrying member of The Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society as that group seeks to preserve 100 years of racing history in an area less than an hour's drive from my home. I am an Honorary Member of The Historic Speedway Group that puts on a show each fall at Occonneechee Speedway in North Carolina and goes that extra mile to present the history of the sport, not only for that track, but also of stock car racing as a whole. I am welcomed at The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame on each visit as if I am family there. When I visit Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, I am treated like royalty although I am not The King. The Back to the Roots organization and the Living Legends of Auto Racing invited me to Daytona this past February and I was literally blown away by the reception there.
I'll stop right here with the personal references, but what I want to have you take away from what I just said is that the history of the sport of stock car racing is very important to me, and I'm guessing to most of you listening tonight or reading this later.
Let me leave you with a few thoughts.
So, as I sit here this afternoon in a relatively cool Lair (fan blowing on me), I just heard the guy on the radio say the heat index right now is 107 degrees. I'm sure I'll be out there watering those flowers later this evening, but I'm sort of looking forward to it. Maybe as the sweat runs down between my shoulder blades this evening I will be transported back to a Darlington infield in the 50s. Or maybe the Charlotte infield in the 60s. It is for certain that those memories are a part of me. I've given you some suggestions tonight how you can make some similar memories of your own. If you aren't close enough to attend any of these events, find your local track and try it out. I have to say, however, that Reb Wickersham flies all the way across the country each year for the celebration of the automobile. Happy Memories!!! Make some more!!!!