BOYS AND THEIR TOYS
By Milton Cust
As my son and I stepped into the old warehouse I almost tripped over a bright red Ford Mustang and then a shiny, black 1967 Chevy Camero ran over my toes. It careened crazily on two wheels for a ways before crashing. I jumped back, startled as a green and white 1954 Ford Fairlane came right at me and then t the last minute darted between my legs before racing away.
Al the while my son was trying to get my attention by yelling at me and pulling on my shirt sleeve. I ignored him for a minute, savoring the taste of nostalgia as I tried to get a look at some of the other classic cars that raced by me.
Dad,” my son yelled louder. “I think we’re in the way of something here. Maybe we had better step back.”
I turned to look at Gregory, my 13 year old son with a tall, ungainly body and a wild mop of hair that almost covered his eyes.
“What,” I replied impatiently as he tugged at my sleeve again.
“Isn’t it great to see all these classic cars here? They don’t make them like this anymore.”
Just then the angry yells of other teenage boys caught my attention.
“Get off the track, you idiot, you are going to wreck our cars.”
I turned towards the voices, feeling angry about the lack of respect to elders the boys were showing. I was about to give them a piece of my mind when a gentleman about my age ran up, grabbed my arm and began pulling me backwards.
“You have to get out of here now, you’re right in the middle of the track,” the man sternly told me
He pointed down to the cement floor and I noticed for the first time that lines had been
painted on it.
“You can walk around all you like but stay between the lines,” he instructed me.
“You cross these lines you wreck the barricades the kids have set up for their practice runs.” The man then bent down and put several of the barricades back together.
I had been so excited about seeing all the vintage cars that I stumbled my way through them. That is why the remote controlled car had been running all over me.
I hastily obeyed the man’s commands. This time standing squarely between the painted lines as I watched the cars for a few more minutes.
There were a dozen or so racing around the homemade track. They were remote controlled cars run by a bunch of enthusiasts who had gathered for their weekly races.
This was my first visit to the event which was held in an old vacant warehouse every Saturday afternoon.
The place was huge, probably five or six thousand square feet. Everything had been cleaned out so the race organizers had acres of fairly smooth concrete to use
Gregory was trying to talk to me and tugging on my sleeve again to get my attention.
“Over here dad, I can see some desks. Let’s go and register so we can have a few practice runs before the races start.”
Feeling subdued after the problems I caused with the barricades, I meekly followed my son over to the desks. The box containing my car was tucked securely under my arm. Gregory was also carrying his remote controlled car as we both intended to race today.
In fact, the race would be a grudge match between us because we had been arguing for months over who had the fastest car and who was the best driver.
He had gotten his model car months ago and at first I was a bit concerned about him spending his paper route money on such a frivolous thing but my wife however, disagreed and suggested I let him do what he wanted to do with his money.
“It’s his money, let him spend at least some of it on what he wants. He has to learn money management someday,” was her view of the matter I reluctantly agreed with her and Gregory began to spend hours tinkering away with his purchase in our basement. He first put the kit together and then taught himself how to operate the remote controls.
It was several weeks later when he took me into the basement to show off his car and his driving skills. The car was a black Dodge Demon, one of the original American muscle cars. I watched half heartily as he put the model through its paces. He soon had it tearing around the basement at a rather high rate of speed with only the odd crash.
This caught my interest and my fascination grew as I watched him perform and when my son handed me the remote I was hooked. The first few times I tried driving the car it ended up stuck between some cushions Gregory had placed along the cement walls to avoid wrecking his Demon when it crashed at a high rate of speed. More practice and I was able to handle the car a little better.
Even better than my son, I boasted to myself after a little more practice. That is how the feud between us began and it grew even worse after a particular bitter argument with Gregory over who was the better driver and therefore entitled to greater use of the car. After that I decided to buy one of my own.
The first free Saturday I had I went out and bought one of my own. It was a 1957 Chevrolet Belair and as I proudly showed it to my wife and son, I informed them that it was much faster than the Demon and with my superior driving skills I would run circles around it.
My son starred stone-faced at me as I explained that the Demon, with its dual tail pipes, over- sized pipes, very loud muffler and its huge drag slick tires was a pansy little stock car compared to my more conventionally equipped street car.
“Take a lesson from me son,” as I carefully placed my blue and white two door hardtop on the basement floor and explained to him what a street car is.
“Just your normal family mobile with a few extras to give it some extra boost and it doesn’t need any fancy paint job,” I added.
These condescending words were obviously a clear slur against the Demon and the beautiful paint job my son had done on it. It was painted a shiny black with red and yellow flames shooting up along its sides.
“But stock is faster. It has to be because it has been modified for racing,” my son angrily retorted and with those words the battle escalated to such a degree that my son and I spent every spare moment working on our cars in an effort to get a little more speed out of them.
We also began improving our driving skills by continuously racing against each other. At times it got so bad that we both developed an all or nothing attitude, risking crashes that might have destroyed our cars rather than lose.
Sometimes my wife found herself refereeing our disputes and arguments but mostly she wisely kept herself out of it
“I don’t know which one of you is the biggest kid,” she laughed at us. “Maybe you should have one big grudge match and then let bygones be bygones.”
It was then we learned about the Saturday races in the old warehouse and Gregory and I agreed to settle our differences on the track. After registering we found a vacant corner, unwrapped our cars and began our practice runs.
Gregory had a huge smile on his face as he set the Demon down and began revving it up. Then it suddenly screamed down the length of the floor so fast that I thought I could actually smell the odor of scorched rubber. He turned it around and it tore back towards us a like a multi-colored streak.
“See that dad. It means your Chevy is toast.”
I only nodded grimly and continued to fiddle around my car for a few more minutes before I set it down, revved it up and had it shoot forward with skillfully holding it in a straight line.
Not bad I thought, although it looked to be nowhere near as fast as Gregory’s. But then since I always bragged that I was the better driver, I figured I could make it up when my son crashed.
I knew he was good, but he always tended to be a bit reckless.
Oh, the rashness of youth, I smirked to myself.
“Now for the real thing. Let’s see how you do on a real track,” I told my son.
We both picked up our cars and made our way over to where organizers had set up the official race track. The tension between us grew tight as a barbed wire fence. We didn’t talk to each other, we didn’t even look at each other.
The official track was built just like a NASCAR track. It was about 250 feet long, 30 feet wide and it consisted of a series of figure eights. Some curves looked so tight I knew immediately it would test the skills of anyone, especially one brash young teenager who thinks high speed is everything.
Still not speaking or looking at each other, Gregory and I showed our registration papers to the race officials. The gentleman quickly looked them over and then asked what category we were in.
When we shrugged our shoulders in confusion, he impatiently asked us if we had ever raced at an organized event.
I told him no and then explained that we actually just wanted to race against each other to see who had the fastest car.
“Sorry but you can’t do that,” the official said.
He waved his hand around at all the contestants waiting for a turn at the track and added, “if we allow people to just race in groups of twos and threes we would never be able to give everybody a turn at the track. That’s why we race in groups of eight and since you two have never been to an organized event before I am going to put you both with novices.”
. I looked around at the group waiting to race with us and saw that it was full of kids even younger than Gregory so I protested but to no avail. The organizer even had the gall to suggest that maybe I was a little old to be participating.
“Like I said, we conduct each race with eight cars competing. Positions are determined by picking numbers out of a hat. Sorry but these are the rules,” the official explained.
Left with no recourse Gregory and I lined up and pulled numbers out of a hat amongst the ten and eleven year olds. I drew a four and my son picked a six. “Tough luck son,” I teased him as we set our cars on the track.
“Now all you will see is my dust,” I added with a laugh.
“We’ll see who eats whose dust,” my son retorted.
A few minutes later all cars were in position and as the starting light flashed from red to green, the race was on.
It was then my son and I discovered just how good these little kids were.
It was a complete disaster and total humiliation for us. We didn’t even have a chance.
My 57 Chevy was lapped three times by the ten year olds who continuously buzzed around me like angry hornets.
“Out of my way old man,” some of them whooped contemptuously as they roared around like I was standing still.
Gregory and his Demon didn’t even finish the race because true to his nature, he crashed on the third lap after trying to take a curve away too fast, but then he was taking every chance he could in an attempt to keep up with these speed demons.
“Dad these little kids were much too good for us. I have never been so embarrassed in all my life,” my son fumed as we began putting our cars back in their boxes
“We’ll be back son,” I vowed, “and next time we’ll teach these kids a lesson in racing. Just wait until next time.”