Brandon - Saw your tweet yesterday, and glad to see you posted today. I've long had the same question about Ski-King. Was it a sponsor? An early Petty nickname? After digging it into it a bit more over night, I THINK I may have found something that may make sense.
Hank Schoolfield was the long-time publisher of the bi-weekly Southern MotoRacing paper. In 1959, he was sports editor for the Winston-Salem newspaper. In July 1959, he penned a comical story - and allegedly a true one - of two buffoons out for a day of skiing on a NC lake. The two characters? Ski-King and Daddy-O. On August 16, 1959 the Asheville Citizen Times ran a story that referenced Schoolfield's story.
ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES. ASHEVILLE, NC Sunday, August 16, 1959
By now, virtually everyone who water skies and practically everyone else has heard varying accounts of "Ski King," the novice skier who, despite valiant efforts, failed to make it up on his first try. "Ski King" overnight has become a legendary figure in the boating world. The tale of his classic attempt at water skiing is being told throughout the Southeast.
At lakes everywhere, it is now possible to hear boat drivers asking their skier: "Is you ready, Ski King?" The answer is invariably: "Let 'er go, Daddy-O." All of this is true because of "Ski King," the champion of water skiers everywhere.
However, "Ski King" may never have come to light had it not been for Hank Schoolfield, sports director of the Winston-Salem Journal-Sentinel. His account of the incident, reprinted here by permission, is practical a classic itself. The story appeared in the Winston-Salem newspaper July 12.
The regulations make it necessary for the boat operator to report all accidents involving injury or death to persons or property damage over $100. Motorboat operators must stop and render assistance if involved in a boating accident.
Good morning, sports fans, and hark to the story of a real spoat. That's right, spoat. A spoat, in case you didn't know, is a spoat who becomes a goat with a boat. This particular spoat is the subject of one of those rare "true stories" which apparently is truly true. It is a yarn with such qualities of drama and narrative that it has become in the short span of a week, a classic. It occurred last Sunday at High Rock Lake, according to the witnesses who have described it.
The spoat was a cat who can be identified only as Ski King. He is not to be confused with Sky King, the aerial hero of a cracker mill's Saturday morning television series. This is Ski King, a man whose fame is somewhat aerial, but who is above all a spoat.
Here is how the story goes: They arrived at lakeside in a Cadillac, towing a shiny new boat equipped with one of those monstrous outboard engines which you're strictly from Hunger if you haven't got. All this equipment was strictly spoaty, of course. And with it was a set of water skis and a skein of tow rope.
They slid the boat off the trailer into the water; Ski King got into his skis, and was standing on the sand a foot or two from the water's edge. In the boat, the other spoat, and his name is Daddy-O, cranked the engine and throttled her to a throaty growl with the transmission in neutral.
Just to make sure there would be no slippage, Ski King wrapped the tow line around his arm a few times. There were 50 to 100 feet of the line coiled at his feet.
Ski King Was Really Ready
The obviously spoaty actions of two such spoats had attracted by this time, quite naturally, the attention of most of the crowd on the beach.
From the boat came the dramatic notice that action was about to get under way:
"IS YOU READY, SKI KING?"
And from the beach, with a nonchalance which denoted confidence and willingness, came the answer:
"LET 'ER GO, DADDY-O!"
Whereupon, with the roar of internal combustion splitting the tension which hung heavy over the gallery, Daddy-O proceeded to let 'er go. Wide open, man, wide open.
The exact details of what happened after that have been told with slight variations. Some witnesses have said the boat readied a speed of about 20 miles per hour before it took the slack out of the tow line. Others estimated it as high as 35 miles per hour. Estimates of the length of the tow line varied from 50 to 100 feet.
Those trivialities aside, the remainder of the story has the distinction of having been told many times without variance. Just like Cape Canaveral, Ski King left the beach with a ballistic arch which would have aroused envy at Cape Canaveral. He traveled some 50 feet through the air and made his first skiing attempt a rather sensational exhibition of involuntary diving. Ski King was separated from his skis by that initial impact. But he had done an excellent job of wrapping the tow line around his arm, and the ride was just beginning.
Daddy-O, meanwhile, wasn't looking back. His hand was on the throttle and his mind was up ahead. Ski King made several trips, alternately by air and by water, in what was described as the best imitation of a porpoise ever seen in fresh water. Daddy-O finally caught on and stopped the boat and another craft in the area converged on the scene. Ski King was fished out of the water and rushed to a hospital. He had a broken arm, fairly serious as broken bones go, but probably not as painful as the injury to the dignity of a spoat. There was not a word available on whether Sid King plans to try to make a comeback.
The moral to this story, of course, is that when you buy a high-powered boat and a set of water skis you should ask for an instruction booklet.
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I also learned songwriter E.C. Beatty cut a song that fall based on the epic fail of Ski-King and Daddy-O.
The supposed actual event, Schoolfield's column, and the song all were the buzz in the summer and fall of 1959. Perhaps Richard was tagged with the Ski-King nickname vs his previous Squirrel Jr one. If so, here is perhaps a fresh question: Did Lee run Daddy-O on his #42 Plymouth?
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
updated by @tmc-chase: 05/20/18 04:57:21PM