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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why I do it.

The RRR makes an attempt to explain why he works the races.

Weekends in the summer I often put on a uniform and go to the local race track to serve as a sheriff's deputy. Imagine an obnoxious group of people to ride herd on. Now imagine they are drunk. Now imagine ten thousand or more in one small spot, with dirt, and loud noise. Imagine only getting a stipend for the aggravation. But there's a bright spot. At about 8 p.m., the hot laps and time trials over and the racing about to start, the announcer asks everyone to stand. The music begins. It's the Star Spangled Banner. Other people have to put their hands over their heart, but my case is special. Under cover (wearing a hat), in uniform, under arms (carrying a gun), I get to give a military salute. Right arm exactly straight, finger tip touching my right eyebrow, boots at precisely a 45 degree angle, left fingers curled with arm at my side, thumb touching the seam of my uniform trousers.

For a minute and a half I'm not a fat old man wearing a cobbled together set of duty gear and carrying an antique gun, I'm standing proud. A thousand men stand with me in my memory. Uncle Elmer who was a Marine on Saipan. Uncle Dale who flew paratroopers into battle in his C47 and brought the wounded back. Brother In Law Richard who carried a rifle in Korea. Cousin Jim who was a gunship pilot in the Nam when I was there. And the memories are more personal. Me backed up to a bamboo flag pole on a hilltop overlooking Laos. Knowing they were going to take the flag down, but swearing they would do it over my dead body and that their would be a pile of them first. And with me too, terrified young men and old veterans, waiting to die, shaking, fumbling to load their hunting rifles on a bridge at Lexington and Concord as the Brits marched closer and closer. My great uncles in the trenches in France. The brash young G.I. Looking down at Saddam Husein in his spider hole and saying... “President Bush sends his regards.” We're all there saluting the flag that has a meaning to us the civilians in the bleachers will never understand.

The song comes to an end. I snap a finish to my salute. The crowd roars and beat their shoes on the metal floor of the bleachers as the announcer shouts, “Lets go RACING!”

And engines rev up into a crescendo. The dust from the dirt track must be irritating my eyes, there seems to be something in them.


Blogger H. Jane said...

You can write, Dad!

1:53 PM  

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