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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

Friday, August 05, 2005

Dirt Track Diary

The RRR tells it as it was as a deputy providing security at the race track. The races went on and on. Over a hundred cars, each of which got the chance to be in a heat race. So many cars they had to be numbered off, odd and even, and each race repeated for each group. The dirt track dried out under the pounding and became rougher and slipperier. By the the last features, all six of them; the dust was beginning to grow thick and choking. Tempers flared. Careless rage caused accidents. Cars entangled flipping end over end at better than 100 miles an hour, shedding scrap aluminum and driver's dreams. Only three deputies in the pits. They positioned themselves by the furious, ready to fight drivers. In the next to last feature, a dozen accidents, 55 minutes to run 20 laps that should each take 16 seconds. Now the crowd is becoming ugly. Many have been guzzling beer since 6 p.m. By the end of the last feature (only two major accidents) it's 10 minutes past midnight. They have watched their favorites eliminated, sometimes by accidents that seemed deliberately caused.

The deputy in charge of the pits asks for back up as soon as the race is over. The three of us gather at the little gate under the flag stand. We're surrounded by beauty queens. The young women who will get to kiss each driver and hand him is trophy. All blond. All dressed in tight black. The gate is open, we hustle through with the ladies. The track security official slams the gate shut behind us in the faces of the growling mob that's gathering before they can push through behind us.

On the track the winning car is being pushed back to the middle of the track to hand out trophies. V.I.P.s are gathering. Our deputy is charge hurries to the scale area to help defuse the problem growing there. My friend Bill changes places with him and joins the two of us still on the track. The beauty queens slip on their high heels and totter towards the award ceremony. A group of drivers comes around the end of the scale trailer and moves toward the ceremony. I take position between the winning car and them, watching the non- V.I.P.s who are infiltrating that group. The third deputy backs toward the outside track fence to cover both groups. Bill slides into the knot of drivers and stands with them. The drivers are looking silently at each other. I don't like it. “No talk – a fight, some talk – maybe a fight, lots of talk – no fight.” Bill starts chatting easily with the drivers, they visibly relax and a few words are spoken. The angry people in my group are infected by the joy of the winning driver and their crew. The little crowd loosens up.

A new group forms by the the third deputy. The lesser winners from Bill's gang, the champion and his crew and the media. Now we have to help them run the gauntlet of the mob outside to get to the press conference. The V.I.P.s and the models and hangers-on move into the pits to join the lesser beings in the party that's shaping up. Into the crowd, duck under the gate edge to the side of the gaggle. Try to look each person pressing towards us in the eye. Stare hard, but keep eyes moving. Don't jump when someone screams at the driver beside me. Glare holes through him. Keep moving. Track officials waiting at the press room, holding the door open. Urge every one forward. Slam the door shut. Stand shoulder to shoulder backs to the door faces to the crowd. It thins and melts away. Argue with friends and relatives of the drivers, let a few in. Calming, pulse rate slowing, joking with the track officials.

Now the boss calls on the radio, everyone gets to leave but me. He and I set up the escort of the gate and concession receipts to the bank. Another drive through the dark streets, got to keep changing the route. I can't give the details, but in it's own may more nerve wracking than the previous hour.

Then walking to the Green Hornet, all alone in the back of the parking lot. Toss my big flashlight into the car and stand listening for a minute to the thumping beat of the music at the bar across the street. Take off my duty belt and lay it in. I wonder how many people at the bar are bragging about what they would have done if those #*^&%$ cops hadn't gotten in the way. Maybe they've forgotten already. Drive back to the cabin. It's past 0130. Tip toe into the bedroom listening to Mrs. RRR's soft breathing. Wake her up for a sleepy greeting and a warm hug. Home. Safe. Loved. Thank you God.


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