Off to the Races

Posted: Friday, October 5, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I know where I get my love for cars..from my dad.
 
After retiring from a career in construction, dad shocked a lot of us when he started scouring shelterbelts and attending auctions to find parts for Model T Fords.
Then in our tiny garage, he spent hours and hours restoring and reassembling them.
Everybody knew Dad was a wiz at woodworking but nobody, including me, realized he was so mechanically inclined.
He eventually built two cars from scratch and had the greatest fun driving them around town and in parades all over the Midwest.
It was Dad who got me hooked on auto racing too.
There was a little dirt track near Estelline where we’d watch local guys in their home-made jalopies roar around in circles..banging into each other.
The races were also a must-see on our annual trips to the state fair in Huron where professional drivers like Ramo Stott and Ernie Derr..the hot shots from Keokuk, Iowa, carried out their rivalry at breakneck speeds in late model stock cars.
 That’s Ramo Stott number 0, on the left. Ernie Derr right on his bumper..as usual
While living in Pierre during the late 60’s, I never missed a Sunday night in the stands at  Oahe Speedway.
But I wanted to do more than watch the races; I wanted to drive in the races.
I could see myself,  Parnelli Lund, climbing out of my winning machine  being kissed by the Riggs High School homecoming queen serving as that evening’s trophy girl.
 
I actually did get a chance to live out that fantasy when Doyle, a guy I worked with, and fellow racing enthusiast, told me about a 1949 Ford race car that was for sale.
It had done okay in its day but was outdated by the newer cars with bigger engines now racing at the speedway.
Well, we bought the thing for 70 dollars, brush-painted it white and hauled it to the track.
I had even painted our names in black above the doors just like Petty and Pearson.
I was to drive the heat race and he’d get behind the wheel for the feature.
 
As soon as I buckled-up and cautiously inched on to the track with all the other cars for warm-up laps,  I knew I was in trouble.
The noise coming through the ear holes of my borrowed helmet was deafening.
When I shifted into second gear and headed for the first turn I was flying..or so I thought.
 “Shoooom..shoooom..shooom.
The other cars sped by me so fast I thought mine had quit running.
“Oh my God, I thought, what have I gotten myself in to?”
I was scared spitless and hadn’t raced anybody yet.
 
Back then at Oahe Speedway..to create a little excitement for the fans and challenge the racers, the faster cars started at the rear of the field and had to work their way to the front.
But apparently some official saw me struggling during the practice session and for my own safety and apparently crowd amusement, mercifully put our old Ford at the back of the pack for the heat race.
“Oh, Lord, I have to go out there again!”
I remember the track champion rumbling along beside me in the back row as we headed toward the green flag and five laps of terror.
He looked at me..smiled and shook his head.
That was the last I saw of him..or any of the other cars for that matter.
Although I mashed the accelerator to the floor, the whole bunch of them with their souped-up overhead cam high-power motors were gone faster than a pack of wild dogs on a three-legged cat.
By the time we reached the second turn, they were gone and I was all alone.
I finally started getting the hang of it, though, and eventually managed to pick up enough straightaway speed to do a sort of feeble slide around the corners. But I’d lost all track of time..and still couldn’t see any of the other cars.
Then it dawned on me.
What if the race is over and I’m out here running around all by myself while the crowd roars with laughter?!
“Oh Lord, how embarrassing!”
As I pulled into the pits, my partner says, “What’s wrong? There are two laps to go!”
“She’s gettin’ hot,” I said, lying through my teeth afraid to admit the truth.
Later that evening, he got cured of the racing bug himself when he barrel-rolled in turn two during the feature and wound up with a broken arm.
 
The “Doug & Doyle” special never ran again.
 
Don’t tell Linda, but every once in a while.. I still dream about being kissed by that pretty young girl as she hands me the winning trophy in victory lane.

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