When I was a child I had the privilege of growing up in a community that loved racing. The local VFW sponsored Saturday night racing each week at the fairgrounds and like most boys my age; I could not wait to watch them. The VFW was made up of mostly World War II vets and their wives who sacrificed so very much for our country. They knew that we as a nation had to work together to defeat a common enemy that threatened our way of life and that of our families. This teamwork attitude was demonstrated in the racing shared by our community as well. Everyone worked together as volunteers to make this sport a reality. Not only was it a part of the men and women in our town, but the children as well.
Each Saturday in our small town we had ¼ midget racing for the kids, (girls raced as well.) Fathers, and their children were found each Saturday frenziedly running around getting their go-carts ready for the day’s events. My family was no different; we were one of those families that found joy in racing as well. My dad and uncle had a car that raced at our town’s ½ mile track on Saturday evenings while many children competed on a small racetrack downtown.
I was perhaps the youngest driver among all the children to race, being only 7 years old. I remember my first time competing on the track. I was very nervous to say the least. I looked at all the controls and thought to myself, how on earth am I going run this machine. I only knew that everyone was expecting me to do well since my father was in the “big” car racing. I remember sitting in behind the controls and I thought this is how airplanes in World War Two must have been like with all their levers and knobs. I was terrified to say the least.
After going through a crash course on what each lever and button was used for, I sat very nervously in the driver’s seat. I thought, “What am I going to do now?” I figured out if I pushed the pedal with my right foot I could go fast and that is as far as I got. I kept thinking, “All I have to do is finish the race and all will be well!” Like all the men that attempted to cross the Atlantic before Lindbergh, I knew that I would be successful. The only problem now was, “How was I going to stop this thing?” The race was coming to an end and I hadn’t the foggiest clue what to do. One lever on the side of the car was a brake, but which one? The other lever took it out of gear, but that knowledge alone did not help me. The race was coming to an end and I still didn’t know which lever to pull. The checkered flag came down signaling the end of the race and my time of decision was upon me. Then it came to me, “All I had to do was to run out of gas and that would solve the problem.” Not until 5 laps later did I realize that I had a very large gas tank and this day was taking much too long. I looked around at the other ¼ midgets and they wanted to get out on the track for the next race and I was now holding them up. What was I going to do?
The answer was about to come to me. Our Chief of Police was officiating with the flags on this day and he took it upon himself to use his authority in stopping this showoff on the track. Having his official uniform on, he walked out on the track and raised his hand to show me that I had to stop. Why wouldn’t I, it always worked on the main roads of our town when he stopped cars for various reasons? Unfortunately he didn’t realize that I was not showing off, I was terrified at this point. All I could think of was being the youngest person ever to go to jail and eat bread and water the rest of my life, because I didn’t stop for the Chief of Police.
Obviously his effort at raising his hands was not working with this rebellious young man, so he took his authority to another level. The Chief started to walk out on the track right in front of where I was frantically driving. I imagine he was thinking this would stop this young pup for defying his authority. This show of force though was going to go unheeded. I became more frightened than ever, and I couldn’t remember anything about how my ¼ midget functioned. Everything became a blur at this point. All I remember is going through the Chief of Police’s legs and watching him catapult up the hood of my ¼ midget with his arms flailing in the air and legs spread across the hood of my car. The next lap proved to be very painful for me, I knew now I was not only going to jail, I knew I was going to prison for killing the Chief of Police. Frantically I watched as the Chief grabbed on to my car hood in a desperate attempt to hold on. When approaching a full lap with him on the front of my car I could see that he was still alive and this meant that maybe I wouldn’t get a life sentence after all, just time in the local jail.
What happened next was amazing as I think back at it. The Chief, after literally getting a foothold on my car, reached down and grabbed the lever to my right. The car came to an abrupt stop, which then caused him to fly off the hood with impressive force. As he rolled over and over on the ground I thought maybe prison was in fact the only option, he must be dead for sure. I managed to just miss the Chief as my car slowly came to a stop after coasting several yards to his side. I looked in paralyzed fear at the Chief’s body as he came to a rolling stop. His gun still attached to his holster. It was either a sign that he was too injured to use it, or he was severely battered and was about to die. I watched in horror as his eyes slowly opened and I could see that he indeed was alive. He started to check his person and I watched his trigger finger closely, but as a boy of 7, I could see that I was not going to die today, and neither was he. The Chief slowly picked himself up and smiled at me. He obviously could see the fear on my face. He reached over towards me and put his hand on my shoulder and gently lifted me out of the ¼ midget and smiled and said, “Are you alright son?”
It was then that I knew that he had a deep passion for children. Over the years I won many trophies, all of which I gave to little children who had ambitions like me in wanting to race. I gave away all the trophies that is, except one trophy. It was the trophy that I got when I was 7. I still have it and I remember receiving it that day. I didn’t get it for winning any races though; I still believe they gave it to me for not killing their Chief of Police, a person that our community loved so very much.