Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Don't Box Me In

As we grow up we have no conception of how our values will change over the years as we journey through life. What we think would be the ultimate adventure when we are 17years old could in fact be a nightmare by the time we are 55. Marriage comes to mind. But seriously...... On the other hand for many of us, little did we realize that those toy race cars that we played with might just turn into the real thing someday. I suppose when Evil Knievel was a boy he was probably pretending to jump his toy motorcycles across a make believe canyon. More than likely it was much the same as when I was a boy pretending to drive my pretend formula one car around a race track made in the dirt as I made the rumbling sounds in my throat of a race car shifting up and down through the gears.

On the same topic, it's funny how growing up in the country many of us felt as if it was the city kids who had it so good and many times they felt the same about us country kids. My mother used to have an old saying that seemed to fit... "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". Since I grew up on my parent's cattle ranch I could relate and I often wondered if city kids knew what that old saying meant. It seems no matter how large a pasture is, the cattle always try to stick their necks through the fence to reach just one more clump of green grass on the other side. In my case I lay awake many nights dreaming how much fun it would be to live near the race track. Then there was my biggest dream of all.... What if I lived in some place where there was a go cart track or better yet... someplace where they held the Soap Box Derby. As a young boy who grew up in the 60's I wasn't alone with such dreams and the Soap Box Derby was a dream shared by a countless number of youngsters.

For me the dream of building a Soap Box Derby race car with my father, testing and then going on to compete against others would remain just that... a dream. I will never forget the first time in real life that I actually saw an official Soap Box Derby downhill track. I was 15 years old and even though it was empty and devoid of any racers or Soap Box cars it was as if I had found the Holy Grail it'self. I just stood there with my mouth open in awe and it was as if I could hear and see all those who had been there before me on the very moments as they each crossed the finish line. The cheering, screaming, sounds of the wheels on the black shiny pavement and even the rustle of the wind as they hit speed. (Heavy sigh.)

But back at the ranch the reality would set in and if there is one thing a country boy that lives 12 miles from town knows how to do, it's how to make due with what you got. Now there was one thing I had that most city kids didn't and that was a long paved downhill road and almost no traffic. You would be amazed how fast a soap box derby car can go when it's built out of three pieces of two by fours, a wooden apple box and some old wheel barrow or law mower wheels, a piece of rope and a few well placed nails. For 40 years I have wondered if my country boy special would in fact go faster than an official soap box derby car. After all, mine weighed one fourth of any of those full bodied cars. My mother used to scream at me for using her good wooden apple boxes and so again I used my country boy ability to make due and unloaded a wooden box of ditching powder (dynamite for you city folk) stacking it neatly on my father's workbench. This cured the problem with my mother's concern for her precious wooden apple boxes but for some reason my father had a real problem with the fact I left the ditching power stacked on his workbench. I don't think he minded me using the wooden box as much as he did me using a hammer and nails on the same work bench to build my racer next to the neatly stacked pile of dynamite. Boy was he mad at least until dinner than night when he said, "Well if it had blown up Gary never would have heard a thing but that damn racer of his would have gone like hell."

Eventually, as I grew older my biggest dream of all came to be when one afternoon I looked out the dinning room window and saw my father unloading a go-cart out of the back of his pickup. From that day on there just wasn't enough daylight and the only things that changed besides my age were the dreams. The dream of adventures of passing through a cheering crowd as I took the checkered flag at the National Soap Box Derby championships eventually changed to driving the winning car across the finish line in races like La Carrera Panamericana. In reality the dream is always with us racers but the wooden boxes just keep getting more expensive.


The Sporting Life said...

Great post Gary.


George Sullivan said...

We used to build the same cars we called them Scrammies. Baby buggies and wagons were never safe in the old neighbor hood. Your story brought back some really good memories.