Buddy Ray Earl Buddy Ray Earl
Author and Humble Observer of the Human Condition

Where Jesus Flang It: An Ozarkian's World

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Where Jesus Flang It: An Ozarkian's World

Under the rusted out motor home, I got busy scraping rust, patching and filling holes, and gluing and clamping things. In a few months, when I was finally finished, I’d patched and coated the whole rusty undercarriage with grease, and actually had fun doing it. The axle grease stunk. It was graphite loaded, and black. Each time I crawled out from under, I was blacker than the motor home’s grease coating. I told myself I was doing this, not for me, but for my Lady-Love. Sir Lancelot would have done no less, even if it did make him look like he was made up for a minstrel show, and his Lady-Love held her nose whenever he came by. In my car racing days, the folks at work had presented me with a trophy. On it they had; “Sir Bud”, and below that; “Lancelot Bud’s Hardest Charge”. Why not? I had my Lady-Love. All I needed was my “Charge”.

They had very formally presented me with this trophy, after what was probably the pinnacle of my abortive racing career, a Demo Derby. This fine trophy featured a big can of “Bud” beer with a vertical rod glued on it’s back. On top of the rod was a nifty plastic car, painted weirdly and somewhat beat up. In the car was a nifty plastic Knight, lance and all. His lance was a fireplace lighting match, symbolizing the fire. There was a chain, dangling from the back.

My friend Chuck had given me his mother-in-law’s old luxury Chrysler, a nice big heavy car. The only thing wrong with it was it’s rusted out driveshaft tunnel. At some speeds, it’s multiple jointed driveshaft thrashed around, and made noises like it might come through the floor. It ran good, though. It sat out back for a year before I gave up on fixing it. A big Demolition Derby was coming up. I’d enter it. I’d not been in one before, I was a “serious” racer, Demolition Derbies were beneath my dignity.

My kids got busy with red, white, yellow, and blue paint, painting kid slogans, and their names, and “Kilroy Was Here”, all over it. It was a sight. I took a Polaroid snap to work. One look and a whole gang decided to go see this fiasco. What’s better than a picnic lunch, a six-pack of beer, and watching your boss get his butt whooped on a summer evening, under the lights? A lot of them showed up, too, boosting that little track’s attendance, which set a new record that night.

I drove the Demo-Derby Chrysler, while my wife followed, down the Freeway to the track. I filled up it’s 30 gallon gas tank, just in case. We got a lot of notice on the road, and horn tooting. I tooted back.

This was in the days before profitable lawsuits and safety precautions. The whole track was used, you could easily go fast enough to roll people over. If you got hurt it was your own look-out. But they did come around to tell me I had to get rid of the windows, and get a seatbelt in it. And wear a helmet. I’d not brought mine. I borrowed one. Good thing I did. Afterwards it was scrapped and beat up from crashing into the steering wheel. That might have been my head. The glass was no problem. This thing was only going to be dragged to the free parts junkyard out back, anyway. I took a hammer to the windows that wouldn’t roll down, which filled the floor with glass pebbles. During the event I found out how much these pebbles bounce around during crashes. Likewise, the fire extinguisher, which I’d laid on the front seat, just in case. It flew past me several times, during the mayhem.

I took the seat belts out of my wife’s car, but had nothing to hook them to. The only thing I found was my tow chain, a very long, 50 foot chain, in my trunk. With a fire ax, we knocked two holes in the back floor, fed the chain down through one, and up through the other, and hooked it. We bolted the seat belts to that. It created a bit of head scratching by the guy who checked the cars, but, after all, it was a seat belt, and nothing said how they should be tied down. I cranked up the idle screw as high as possible, very high on this Chrysler, with the transmission still able to jam shift from reverse to drive. With 50 foot of extra chain piled in the back floor, I was all set.

The big gorilla with the car next to me came strutting over, to explain his situation. He’d come all the way from Detroit, and spent a lot of money on his car. I could see that he had, all right. It was downright professional looking, artfully air-bush decorated, with gang symbols. It even had a protected small inside gas tank, and I-beam bumpers. He explained that he intended to win this event. In fact, it was very important to him, a fact I’d do well to consider. He only wanted to help me out, with a suggestion for my welfare. If I didn’t promise to not so much as touch his car, here and now, he was going to beat the crap out of me. If I made and broke that promise, he’d tend to me later.

I wasn’t much worried about racing fights. They were common, but not all that dangerous. There were always plenty of big guys to jump in and stop them. The only real problem was the ducking and stalling until they got there. The worst I’d seen was a couple bloody noses, and a guy who got clobbered with a giant crescent wrench. Even that wasn’t too bad. No bone was broken, and they got the bleeding stopped right away.

But, no help was around, and he looked interested in punching me out immediately. So I said; “No problem, I can’t win this thing anyway”. Taking that as a sufficient promise, he looked at my car, sneered, and wandered off to threaten someone else. Not everyone, though, I bet. There were a couple guys here who looked able to ring even his bells.

Everyone started to line up, nose to the wall, in front of the stands, for the start. I waited for the track to clear. I was a race driver after all! I went all the way around the track, at high speed, with the rear end breaking loose in the berm, spraying dirt. This had the crowd standing and cheering, before the thing even started. I slid sideways to a stop, right in front of my chosen spot. A small spot, but big enough, right next to the guy who had threatened me.

They were taking too much time getting cars lined up at the other end. I lit up a smoke while I waited. They said I was the only one smoking during this event, at least until the cigarette escaped my clenched teeth and went flying, who knows where.

At the start, Big Bruiser the Gorilla, went down the banked track first, and made an unwise decision. He stopped at the bottom. With the track’s banking, that I-beam front bumper was nearly on the ground. I had him in my sights. When my Chrysler’s nice big chrome bumper hit the front of his car, with the gas pedal hard to the floor, it went neatly over that I-beam. It destroyed the entire front of his car, wrapping it’s radiator around the engine. The impact was so great that I figured my car was a goner, but as I pulled away, I was pleased to find that Chrysler had done a fine job and there was plenty left. Looking back, I saw his mighty Demolition Special make one pitiful little shake and quiver, before he gave up. With no radiator, he’d not have gone far anyway, but somehow, his front wheels were also wasted. He was out of it before he even got started.

People were taking each other out, here and there, but, one after another, I was wiping out plenty of them. This old luxury Chrysler, with it’s slam-bang transmission, and super power steering, able to bend crumpled fenders out of the way, had plenty of spunk. Then, an even louder roar went up from the crowd, and the loud-speaker was blaring about “that crazy Chrysler”. A little later, an immense, inexorable force tried to pull me through the crack in the seat. Before I could do anything about it, it happened again. This time, something in the seat broke with a bang, and the seat began slopping around. I popped the seat belt and it shot from my hands.

It’s no wonder they had been cheering. My chain had fallen through the floor. I’d been dragging that long flapping chain around, and cars were running over it, in some danger of being hooked, like trolling for fish. People were finding this trolling a hilarious addition to the proceedings. Eventually, it ripped out the whole car floor, and I had become it’s only anchor. I retrieved my chain and seat belts afterward, but never found the fire extinguisher, which probably dropped out the same hole, if it didn’t bounce out a window.

There were probably less than forty cars to start, and the number was diminishing. I was chasing these well prepared demolition cars around and they were all running from me. Every other word blasting from the loudspeaker, was “Chrysler”. I was also dragging a loose 30 gallon gas tank around, slopping gas all over the track.

Finally there was just two of us left, him running, me chasing. I was going to win, it was just a matter of time. I had him in my sights. Suddenly, flames erupted from under my hood. By the time they got there with fire extinguishers, some of the track had started to burn, and that seemed to worry them. They got the fire out, and were waving their arms and yelling NO, as I tried to restart it. It cranked good, but sadly, it wouldn’t fire. The plug wires may have burned off.

Giving up, with the door jammed, I started climbing out the driver’s side window. The winner, not noticing me in the window, was hoping to administer the final coup. The back of his car slammed into that door, and I was squirted out onto his trunk. He paused a second, still not seeing me there. Then he pulled forward, setting up for another lick. Every racing fan in the stands was on his feet, screaming mightily. This spectacle was better than their fondest hopes. When the winner looked back to aim his next blow, he found me grinning from ear to ear, at his rear window, looking right into his eyes. He decided he’d better stop, and did, while I stood on his trunk and gave the crowd Nixon’s double-V waves, to sustained cheers. The song; “This Is Our Shining Hour” comes to mind.

Afterward, people assured me that this had to be the finest Demo-Derby in history. I was nearly mobbed. This was a cheepo event. I didn’t get the trophy. I think I only got 25 or 30 bucks for second place, maybe 40. I didn’t care. I already knew that racing was about as much fun as a man can have. I’d never had such a triumph, racing. In fact, none at all is closer to the truth. I never raced in the “main”. I never even won a single heat race. I just had a great time trying. Darned if this didn’t beat that. Only racing is close to as much fun as making people happy is, even if you have to be a fool to do it. This Demo-Derby was both. I had the fun, and the entire place was happy. I once heard a man say; “Racing is as much fun as a man can have, with his clothes on”. For me, this event would make that a very close call, dressed or not.

The next day, the technicians and production workers called me from my office. They wanted me out back. They presented me with my Bud Beer, chain dragging, Knight-on-fire Trophy. I’m not a man who has many awards to display. I’d not saved my anonymous Budrys picture from Esquire magazine. I had the cover page of my sensor patent displayed, behind my computer, for a while, and that’s all. I think my wife replaced it with my kid’s picture.

With kids playing with it, that ticky-tacky trophy didn’t last long. If I still had it, it would be proudly displayed, behind my computer desk, where I’d see it often. No matter, I’ll never lose the memory. As it is, I enjoy this memory at least a couple times a year, like my own private little movie. If, on my death bed, I’m grinning too much, this is one of the many movies that may be showing, in my private theatre.

Sometimes I change the ending, but I can’t tell it that way, without violating family story telling traditions. However, I have watched this with the whole track going up in flames, and cars burning everywhere, while the guy who threatened me scrambles madly to the creek, with the seat of his pants smoldering, and sparks shooting out.

Ah, well, it was almost perfect.

Back under the motor home, this demo-derby was one of many things that came to mind, as I considered how much fun it would be to drive this old RV in one. At the same time, cracks and crevices, and places impossible to reach to grease, got repeatedly drenched in WD-40. So did I.

It worked. Even two years later, it was still greasy, and the rust had been stopped dead in it’s tracks.

Reader Comments

The book is a real joy to read. Outstandingly honest and most definitely enjoyable. Would definitely recommend it to anyone. Wonderful read! Thanks for writing it just as it was lived. The honesty is just one of the things that makes it wonderful. This is a wonderful book - couldn't put it down... extremely honest and engaging... would recommend its reading to everyone. I truly enjoyed every minute and will definitely read it again!!!!!
  - Maxine Harrison

Great book! One of the best I've ever read, and I've read a lot of books. It is very well written. This is easy reading, both interesting and heart warming. This book certainly shows what a great author Buddy Ray Earl is. I highly recommend this book for all readers... .
  - Valeria Webb

Buddy’s writing is a rare cure for cynicism ... Frank, honest, and uplifting. . .
  - Mike Rosenberg

I think it's a Great Book...
  - Sherry Dilley

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