Selected Published Stories

by Chuck Klein, © 2016



THE VETTE, Oct/Nov 2000

TRAIN RUN, Aug/Sep 2000

THE HERO, Jun/Jul 2000

THE ANNOUNCER, Dec 2000/Jan 2001







 As it got closer his suspicions were confirmed - it was a vintage Corvette. Too bad he wasn't driving his old Vette. It could be a fun run over these delightfully twisty and hilly country roads in the outback of the great state of Indiana. Within minutes, on a long straight stretch, the silver, with white inset, fifty-nine/sixty two-seater made its bid to pass.
 The familiar rumble of the twin-pipes only made the longing, the recollections, even stronger. What surprised him was that the driver was a lady, a smart looking young lady with long, flame-red hair that trailed out over the rear deck of her open roadster.

 Memories of another redhead in a Corvette, back when the Vette was new, quickened his pulse and flooded his mind. She gave a quick look and a smile at midpoint, just as she smacked third gear and dumped a set of quads. And with a chirp of rubber she was gone.

 A glance at his speedometer told him that the little excitement had caused him to push his seventy-two El Camino to well above the legal limit. Ah, there was a time when he would have relished a high speed run, but at fifty-three years of age and driving a "stocker," Jack Cambry knew better.

 Twenty miles on down the road he still couldn't shake the memory of Natalie. It came back in a rush overwhelming his mind - everything from her in-bred sophistication, to the time in the back seat of her fifty-five Bel-Air; strains of "their song," the Crew Cuts, Angels in the Sky, playing softly over the radio. He hadn't thought of her in a long time and was confused as to why her familiarity - the longing - was so strong. Perhaps it was the guilt that ground the spider gears of his mind.

 She had a long pony tail the first time they met. He had just transferred to a new school and she had come over to him during that first recess. He was lonely and scared but she flipped her pony tail and just said, "Hi, I'm Natalie and I hope you like it here," or something to that effect. Her hair was a soothing deep auburn not the fire red of a Rita Hayworth. They were standing under the pavilion watching the sixth graders in a game of kickball.

 She was nice and very pretty but he never let on that he thought so...must have been afraid of getting teased or just too young or something. Funny how some recollections are crystal clear and others are hazy. Their first date hadn't been for four more years until they were sixteen and he had wheels. Now that he thought about it she was his first real date. Oh, he'd met girls at the Saturday matinee and even kissed a few at games of post office or spin the bottle. But Natalie was the first real date. He couldn't remember how they came to go out; maybe it was when a gang of kids were all standing around the soda fountain at Richter's Pharmacy talking about the up-coming sock hop. Yeah, that was it. She said to nobody in particular, but she was looking at him, that she wanted to go but didn't have a ride.

 He laughed to himself remembering that first date. Why she ever went out with him again after he made a total fool of himself was a mystery. He had tried to ace some cat in a '52 Olds at a stop light, but stalled by dumping the clutch on an under revved engine. Not very cool on a first date. But, the car was cool, as only a Corvette could be.

In conversations oblivious to others
twice his hand she did touch.
That caused a quickened heart
which he liked very much.

 She was some dish. Not only was she tom-boyish good-looking, but she had a `55 Chev. She had removed the hood and trunk ornaments in preparation for a nose and deck job on this Power-pack stick and had installed spinner hubcaps and a chrome air cleaner herself. She knew more about cars than most guys. She was perfect. Even at sixteen and until they parted at eighteen they fit together, like a valve to a keeper or a connecting rod to a wrist pin.

 They had such fun together, he, Natalie and the Vette. They almost never missed a Sunday at the drag strip. He'd be stuck in "B" Sports Car against a lot of usually faster machines and she'd run his Corvette in the Powder Puff class and pull trophy most every time.


 How'd it happen? They'd dated - gone steady actually - broken up, then got back together just before his car club's annual dance.  Yeah, it was the evening of the Knights' big dance when he got pulled by Herb's '57 Fury that everyone had said was a dog. It was no stocker. To this day he was sure Herb had an Isky Five-Cycle cam and maybe more cubes than came from the factory.

 He was angry all evening and when they all stopped at Spooner's drive-in for an after-dance Coke he had tried to put the make on Herb's date. That was also the night Natalie had picked to tell him her Dad had been transferred out of state. He had only meant to get back at Herb for goading him into a race that was a set-up in the first place.

 Though they saw each other a few more times before he left for college and she for Chicago, he never really got a chance to apologize or anything. The next year was a little hazy. He had gotten involved with some chick at OSU, rushed a fraternity and flunked out of school. Next thing he knew he was in the Navy.

 Wow, the parade of memories from just seeing an old car - an old Corvette - driven by a red headed honey! Oh, he'd thought about her, especially when the loneliness of military life had almost consumed him and again when he committed himself to marriage.

 He believed he had really been in love with Sue Ellen, but, Natalie was always somewhere deep in the reserve fuel tank of his mind. When Sue Ellen left him (maybe he never was completely committed to her) he had hunted for Natalie. The search only lasted until he learned she was married.


 The yellow diamond shaped sign indicated a right followed by a left, both with a suggested safe speed of forty. He knew he wasn't in a Corvette and he wasn't a teen-ager, but the urge was too great as he set the classic pick-up into the first bend at a little over 70. He rode it through on rails pretending it was a four wheel drift, getting hard on the gas at the apex of each turn. It felt good; engine, speed, noise and...memories.

 Daydreaming sure does help while the miles away. Already he was over halfway to Chicago. It had been such a beautiful day that he had driven the old way through the countryside of farm belt America, the route before the Interstate.

 Slowing for a small burg he noticed the silver and white Vette parked at the side of a Shell station. Well, he needed gas anyway, and Shell was one of the cards he carried. It sure wouldn't hurt to take a few minutes to look at the vehicle of the past hour's recollections.

 A cursory exam of the sports car yielded the knowledge that it was a 1959 model and had a 6500 RPM red line on the tach which indicated it came with a factory 270 or 290 horsepower engine. Absorbed in a world of automobilia he didn't see her until she was standing right next to him.

  "Excuse me, sir. I'd like to get into my car."

 She couldn't have been much more than twenty-five and could have passed as Natalie's twin if it were thirty plus years ago.

 "I'm sorry. I was just admiring your Vette. Had it long?"

 "Well, we've owned it for about five years but it was only in the last six months that we've had the time and money to get it into running shape," she said with a smile that showed a slight over bite.

 "You are a credit to Corvette owners of old by the way you handled it back there on the open road. Drove like a pro or your daddy owns the road," he joked, trying to expand the moment.

 "Wrong on both counts, mister. I'm not a professional and my daddy died last year. So if you'll excuse me...."

 "I'm sorry for intruding. It's just that this car stirred thoughts of another Corvette and another red head too many years ago. The car got traded and the red head...I guess she's lost forever."

 She reached for the door handle, stopped, turned toward him and said, "No, I'm the one who should be sorry. I'm not in a good mood. I just broke up with my boyfriend. I know you old timers get all twisted out of shape at the sight of machines like this. Uh, the car has the original two-eighty-three engine, bored sixty thousandths over, twin four barrels and an oh-two-seven, solid-lifter, Duntov cam powered through a four-speed transmission and three-seventy rear axle.

 "Say, you do know your stuff. Learn it from your dad?  He asked, trying not to sound conciliatory.

 "I learned mostly from my mom. It's her car and we made a project of rebuilding it. We had the mechanical work done at a shop in Louisville, that's where my mom's from. We did the interior and all the body work ourselves, except the final paint," the red haired beauty stated proudly.

 At the mention of Louisville and a widow who knew cars, a chill with the speed of a small-block Chevy, swept over him. An intense smile exposed a face full of age lines as his clear hazel eyes studied her features - red hair, the slightly up-turned nose, the high cheek bones and that slight overbite with very small teeth....

 "Why are you looking at me like that? Are you going to hit on me, pal? Come on, let me get into my car I've got places to go," she scolded, brushing past him to vault into the driver’s seat.

 "I'm, I'm sorry," he stammered. " you mother's name, Wilson?"

 "No, Her name's Minderman. Now please let me go." She twisted the key firing up all eight cylinders with the unmistakably familiar throaty roar of the short-stroke Chevy.

 With a rap of the accelerator that sent the little engine revving past three grand she lifted the "T" handle and slapped the lever into reverse. He stepped back, smarting from the false and brash accusation, still overwhelmed by the memories and similarities. He looked at his shoes waiting for her to back away.

 The Vette, engine loping at seven-fifty RPM, didn't move. He snuck a glance. Maybe he was still in her way. Boy was he embarrassed. The girl with Rita Hayworth hair and the features of a teenage lost love was staring at him, mouth agape.
 Barely audible, over the rumble of the two-seventy, he heard her say, "Yes. You mean my mother's maiden name? Yeah, it was Wilson. Did you know her?" She turned her head as if checking the rear view mirror then turned back again, eyes wide. "Oh wow! If your name's Jack then my mom's been looking for you."




He drove a hot rod Ford
That could lay a fat black patch.
That punk was a fool
Whose daring had no match.

 Bonnie Sue knew, deep down, that he wasn't a "bad kid," but some of her friends and especially her mom didn't see it that way. Tommy, she felt, was just frustrated, though she wasn't sure what it was that he was so antsy about. He didn't do well in school, but he was very smart. He had, after all, figured out, without any help, how to take his car motor all apart and put it back together again. Besides, he had said he loved her. True, it was only once and in a fit of passion. It was on a Friday night, last month, at the drive-in. It was one of those Francis the Talking Mule flicks. The movie was boring so they just made out. Tommy kept trying to touch her where she didn't think he should. They fought, she cried, and Tommy said, "I really love you, Bonnie Sue, I mean it."

 Bonnie Sue was sure that if only they could both finish school, get married (and Tommy in a good job) she'd be able to change his fast driving ways and other things that might need adjustments. Right now all she wanted was for her man to be here.

 Tommy, at 16 and a half, was one of the more dedicated and speed crazed hot rodders in his sophomore class. Though he had never applied to one of the hot rod clubs for membership he was always thinking about joining - if they would take him. That was the rub. He'd already had two tickets for speeding and he had a reputation for fast driving on city streets. Hot rod clubs frowned on "squirrels," as they called them. He had never shied away from a traffic light race even when Bonnie Sue pouted about his high speed drags. Trouble was, he couldn't figure her out. She was pretty enough but she was always talking about love and all that mushy stuff and she only sometimes seemed to enjoy the drag racing - legal or otherwise. On their first few dates she had been all excited about his races even going so far as to taunt one of her girlfriends because this friend's steady drove a stocker.

 But he was really burned up that she had so little regard for the fact that he held the record for the Train Run and now must defend that honor. Johnny Medford, with his daddy's brand new '55 Olds 88, had bested Tommy's record by at least 50 yards. For Tommy to let this go unchallenged would be like wearing your sister's bloomers or something equally unthinkable.

 The troubles with Bonnie Sue culminated last night as they sat sipping Cokes in the lot of the West Chester Pike Bun Boy. Removing his arm from her shoulders to light a Lucky, Tommy asked, while trying to make it sound like a casual mention, "You want to ride with me when I go for the Train Run record tomorrow night?"

 "Oh, Tommy, you're not going to do that again are you?" Not waiting for an answer she continued while tossing her pony tailed head in a dignified affront, "Tommy, I swear you're going to kill yourself one of these days with all this crazy...."

 "Come on Baby I just have ta do it, ya dig. I'm not gonna to be no chicken hearted punk. I'll be the coolest cat in town if I beat that harry-high-schooler in his daddy's stocker."

 "Oh Tommy, it's so dangerous I just worry that you'll be killed and I won't have you. I think you're the coolest guy at North Anderson anyway. Winning The Run can't make you any better in my eyes. Please, just for me don't do it," Bonnie Sue pleaded, all pouty faced.

 "Aw, don't cry honey. I know you dig me and all, but this is something I just have to do. Besides it should be a snap. The last time I ended up backing off before the tracks, I had so much reserve power. And since then I've added dual points.  And, hey, I'll put in new plugs in the morning to be extra safe! Don't worry," Tommy boasted, flicking his butt out the window of his faded black-topped '51 Ford with custom wheel covers.

 The object of his non-romantic desires, the '51, sported two-deuces with chrome racing air cleaners and glass-packed dual exhaust. It was not only fast but it sounded cool. In addition to the Mallory distributor he had recently added, he was planning to install Offenhauser high compression heads and maybe a Clay-Smith cam. His after school job at Wylie's Pure Oil Station didn't allow for many luxuries even though he was the highest paid of all the part-timers at $1.10 per hour.

  The rest of the evening was like, no-wheres-ville. They ended up, as they always did after a date, parked at the old abandoned army base down near the feed mill. Every time he tried to put the move on Bonnie Sue she'd scrunch up closer to her door and whimper about how she just wasn't in the mood. Chicks! Who could understand them? What kind of mood could she be in parked in a lover's lane? He took her straight home, not even walking her to the door. Then he pealed out because he knew it would make her angry.

 Saturday, Train Run day, was chilly for September in Texas. Tommy had managed to install the new plugs between pumping gas and oil changes at Wylie's service station. The powerful flathead was running cherry and sounding very sweet. The soon-to-be nosed and decked rod had even gotten a wax job, compliments of the kids who hung out at the station. Kids, of course, meant anyone who wasn't old enough to have a driver’s license. These youngsters, in hopes of being able to get a ride to the race area, would do almost anything for the privilege of seeing one of their idols in a run against death.

 Just before quitting time, Johnny, riding in Delbert's straight eight Pontiac because his dad had stripped him of his driving rights upon finding out about the Train Run, stopped in at Wylie's.

 "Hey Mr. Cool, I hear tell that you're gonna try to beat my record tonight?" Johnny sneered.

 "Yeah, that's right sonny and I'll do it in a rod I built myself, not in my daddy’s stocker," Tommy shot right back in a menacing tone.

 "Why, I ought to climb out of here and...."

 "Okay, Okay, punks. Enough of this tough-guy talk. Do you guys wanna belly-ache or race," Delbert demanded, taking control of the pre-race details. "Now listen up: me and Harry as witnesses, plus about a dozen kids, watched Johnny here, beat the train from the no passing sign through the intersection. Now if you want to beat this record you must start at the end of the guard rail. Ya dig, Tommy?"

 "Well, I was thinking about starting halfway between the sign and the rail and...."

 "No, no that won't do. You have to use a permanent fixture, dig. Otherwise cats would be claiming to have started at all kinds of locations and the record would be muddied. We talked about it and that's the way it has to be. So, unless you're yellow we'll see ya five minutes before the eight-three-eight," Delbert stated.

 Curling his lip, Tommy spat, "I ain't yella - I'll be there."

 He didn't have time to be nervous only time to shower, change clothes and chow down with his mom and sister before heading for Bonnie Sue's.

 She wouldn't get into the car unless Tommy promised not to race the train, almost tearfully pleading - promising anything if he wouldn't make The Run. Too late. Even the thought of anything with Bonnie Sue didn't change his mind, though for a moment or two he had his doubts.

Tires squealing and defiance in his eyes
With his girl he had a fight
he cut out for the showdown as she cried,
"I know I'll grieve if you race this race tonight"

 They were waiting for him, a dozen or so classmates, buddies and kids all lined up on the grass strip that lay between the road and the tracks of the mainline. Some of the kids, seeing the empty passenger seat, offered or begged to ride shotgun for this run for the record.

 By 8:47 no sound akin to a train had been heard - the eight-three-eight was late! However, all was well and tension was relieved within a few minutes as the sound of number eight-three-eight, out of Wichita Falls, pierced the cool evening air. Without any discussion two of the spectator cars pulled onto the concrete blocking the highway so that no other vehicles could get in the way. Tommy moved the '51 to the point adjacent with the end of the guard rail, rapped the accelerator a few times and stared down the straight-away.

 A little over a mile away the slightly curving tracks met and crossed the highway. All he had to do was beat the train to this point and he would again be top rodder at North Anderson High and surely Bonnie Sue's faith in his abilities would be returned.

 The plume of thick gray smoke could be seen superimposed on the clear twilight sky from over a mile away and long before the west bound express itself was visible. Tommy raced the engine again and again wishing he had a tach to more accurately gauge the speed of his mill. Some of the kids were jumping up and down with excitement. Delbert stood slack jawed and Johnny sat, wide eyed, glad it wasn't him this time.

 The importance of the lateness of the eight-three-eight didn't register with Tommy as he readied himself for a good clean start. Glancing over his shoulder to the tracks he timed the dumping of the clutch to the exact moment the locomotive was even with him and the guard rail. The huge 4-6-4 iron monster, oblivious to its place in the destiny of that night, overshadowed the gathering of children playing with their toys.

 Tires spinning, the little flathead strained in first gear, as the train roared by. A speed shift to second brought a chirp of rubber and Tommy felt a twinge of pride as the force of acceleration pushed him into the seat back. Just when it seemed that the engine was about to explode he power shifted into third. Now topping 70 miles per hour he dared a glance at the rushing sound to his right - the sound of a death knell?

 Tommy was horrified to see that he was just now beginning to pass the speeding train. He was sure he should have been equal to the engine by now, but he was at least one car plus the tender behind. He pushed harder on the gas pedal and strained to hear if his engine had a miss or something. Ninety, 95, the needle swept past the 100 MPH mark and still he was not in front. The convergence, the intersection of death, was dead ahead. Where was the miscalculation? Did someone move the guard rail? Was the train running faster than its usual 60 MPH? Yeah! that's it. The train was late so they're running faster to make up for lost time. Flashing through his jumbled mind were thoughts of clamping on the binders and turning into the double barbed wire fence to his left - taunts of chicken - yellow - Bonnie Sue....

He slammed the massive locomotive
that was doin' better than 70 per
and when they pulled him from the carnage
his last thoughts were of her.




 He hadn't been back to his old home town in over twenty years and then it was only for a funeral. The rolling hills of the asphalt interstate looked like the flat side of a giant blower belt cut and thrown casually across the beautiful south central Ohio farm land. He laughed to himself at his unintentional play on words; a blower belt draped around the "farm belt" of the nation. Crossing the county line, his county line, brought a flood of memories. Memories of fun, simpler times and the race; the race for life. Where was it - the spot where the old road had been sliced by this modern highway?

 Daydreaming was brought to a rapid halt by the sound of a siren attached to blue and red flashing lights. A quick glance at the speedometer confirmed his suspicions that it was he, for whom the sirens tolled. Swell. Welcome home hero. That's what you get for getting all melancholy while piloting a high powered sports car.
 Down shifting his fully restored seventy-four, 454 Corvette he pulled to the side of the road adjacent to what appeared to be the remnants of an old two lane highway. The narrow strip of weed-sprouting black-top was now nothing more than a very long driveway for what looked like the south field to the Mulhouser farm. He wondered if any of the same family farmed it now.

 "I've stopped you for exceeding the posted speed limit, sir. May I please see your operator's license," the Deputy Sheriff monotoned.

 "I'm sorry officer. I guess I wasn't paying attention," he stated truthfully while searching his wallet - hoping that the license hadn't expired. "Is that the Mulhouser farm over there?" Nodding toward the fields of soybean, the Vette driver asked.

 "Used to be. Fellah by the name of Krantz, from up around Columbus, owns it along with about three other farms around here. Absentee owner. Has a family by the name of,'ll come to me in a minute, tenant farming it now."
 Handing the license to the officer he noted a slight pot belly contained by a sharply creased and neat shirt. This smart looking uniform was embellished with the standard polished brass accompaniments plus gold sergeant stripes. The deputy looked to be in his thirties though his graying hair could place him closer to forty. The neatly lettered name tag, Sgt. Vogt, jarred him. Might be, but Vogt was a common name in this area.

 "You from these parts, Mr. Sampson?"

 "I was born and raised not far from the old Mulhouser place. Lived here till I went away to college. First time I've been back in twenty years," the Corvette man said. Remembrances of a young, dying mother bounced around in the combustion chambers of his mind like a broken connecting rod in a V8 engine - jagged edges tearing away pieces of the past.

 He had been called a hero by some and a crazy fool by others. The county newspaper covered the incident with only a one quarter column saying they were afraid that publicity of that kind would only encourage others to ignore proper procedures.

 After graduating from high school he had worked that summer, the summer of fifty-seven, on the Keaton farm. He, and the rest of the farm hands, had just taken a lunch break when the young and very pregnant kitchen helper, white as a sheet and holding a towel under her tummy, stumbled into the mud room.

 Returning the driver's license, the deputy asked, "Sampson. Seems I should know that name. You have any kin here?"
 Blinking his eyes to snap back to the present he responded slowly, "Not any more. I was an only child, my mother died in seventy-two. My father lives with me."

 "I'm not going to cite you, but I am going to run your VIN number through our computer," the officer said in his official tone as he copied the VIN on his note pad. It'll only take a second or two if the system's up.

 As the deputy turned toward his cruiser, Kent Sampson turned to the old stretch of blacktop and back four decades. "Help, please! I fell. I think I'm hemorrhaging!" The mother-to-be gasped as she surged into the kitchen. It only took Mr. Keaton a few seconds to sum up the situation. Knowing that the volunteer ambulance was at least 20 minutes away and the ride to the nearest hospital was over half an hour farther he looked to his young summer helper, "Son, will that hot rod of yours make it to the County Hospital over to Skeetersville any faster than ma old wagon?" The calmness of his employer strengthened him as he shook his head up and down stammering, "Yes sir, Yes sir."

 "Well, bring it up here to the back door while the missus and I carry her out. The "missus", blood up to her elbows, was stuffing another towel between the neighbor's wife's legs all the while cooing a soothing message of all's well.
 He remembered running to his rod with the only thought in his mind, did he have enough gas for a mercy run to the county seat in the next county over. He'd spent the past year building his pride and joy - a 1935 Ford, three-window coupe. He had, with the help of various hot rod magazine articles, chopped the top, channeled the body, dropped the front axle, installed a LaSalle transmission and hopped up a swapped engine.

 He'd done his work well. The full race flat-head fired on the first crank of the starter. Twin pipes, grumbling through Glass-pacs, boosted his confidence as he slipped the tires gently across the gravel barn yard.

 There was barely enough room for two, much less a pregnant woman in the altered coupe's tiny interior. As the missus packed towels, Mr. Keaton gripped his arm and in a low steady voice intoned, "Son, she may not pull through, but there's a chance you can save the baby. But you've got to step on it. I'll call over to the hospital and tell 'em you're ah comin'."

 He spun gravel all the way to the blacktop, turned east and got on it hard barely getting into third gear before having to shut down for the first set of 'S' bends. Today, he realized, would be the test of his handiwork as he set the little coupe into the first sweeping turn. At the apex, inside front tire on the dirt berm, he poured the coal to the mighty Mercury flathead. The rear tires howled in protest as the power curve of the Clay-Smith cam let in all the fuel the over-sized pistons could suck through the polished ports.

 There was no traffic and he used all the roadway he dared. For the next few minutes his concentration was so intense that he hadn't had time to check his gauges much less the condition of his passenger. Just ahead loomed the narrow chicane, the right followed by a hard left at the Mulhouser farm, that led to the only section of completed interstate in Spartan County. There he would have a chance to check everything.

 Tires baying in dissent, young Kent brought his primer-red rod down to just under thirty-five from well above seventy for the first bend. He powered out of the final curve, tires squealing and engine screaming, to catch a glimpse of old mister Mulhouser out of the corner of his eye. The third generation farmer displayed his disgust at the speeding hot rod by shaking his fist at Kent from atop his John Deere.

 Within minutes he was slamming the gear shift into high for the longest straight stretch of the run. Pleased at the sound of the three Stromberg ninety-sevens whooshing air through wide open butterflies he took the time to check the gauges. Oil: eighty pounds; temp: almost 200; fuel: cresting the empty mark; tach: 4200 and climbing slowly; speedometer mounting steadily at 105. He looked to the little lady. Clutching her blood soaked towels, she forced a cringing smile that mocked her vacant stare.

 One hundred and fifteen - one-twenty - one-twenty-two. The steering felt light and there was a pronounced vibration. He backed down to just under 120 and the vibration slackened. Water temp hovering at 210, he passed the new green sign: Skeetersville Exit - 5 miles. He was over half way there but, even at 120 miles per hour it felt extremely slow - time wise. Every attempt to go above 122 the vibration increased alarmingly. It must be those old wire wheels. He'd hand tightened each spoke and wire brushed them down to bare metal but still, true run-out was difficult to attain on those old wheels. He wished he'd had the money to buy new chrome-plated Dayton Wires or polished mags.

 Drivers of the few cars he passed, at over twice their speed, stared wide-eyed and slack jawed at him. None dared to race him.

 Slowing for the end of the divided highway gave him a final chance to study the interior. All okay except the temperature gauge. Maybe he had blown a head gasket which could, at these speeds, seize his perfectly rebuilt engine in short order. No question though, he would have to keep it floored.

  After the zig-zag he ran a short straight tight in second gear and then had to double clutch down into first for the hairpin leading to the final set of 'S' bends. A quick glance at his passenger brought terror to his already over excited mind. Her head was listing at an unnatural angle, tongue visible and eyes half closed. He dared to take his hand from the wheel to shake her. "Lady. Lady," he screamed over the din of the high revving engine as he shook her near wrist. The entire arm flopped like an old heater hose. They were now down to minutes. He pushed the little copper wheeled coupe to its limit at each turn heading into the final straight. Here he'd have to open her up all the way, damn the temperature! Damn the vibration!

 The newspaper reported that from the time the call was logged at the hospital to the minute the fender-less hot rod, smoke pouring from its hoodless engine, screeched to a halt at the back door of the emergency room only seventeen minutes had lapsed. The reporter believed it to be a mistake but, young tow-headed Kent Sampson, knew better. The account further noted that Mrs. Vogt died in surgery but the premature baby boy was saved. The Vogt family called him a hero and named the boy James Kent in his honor. The doctor unequivocally stated that had they arrived only a few minutes later the child would not have survived. Contrarily, the police chief admonished his deed threatening to take him to jail if he ever did it again.


 Sergeant Vogt jarred him into the present with the news that his Vette wasn't on the NCIC hot list. He had broken into a damp sweat, not for fear of the car being stolen, but from reliving the old memories.

 Clearing his throat, "Say...ah, Sergeant, is your name, by any chance, James Kent Vogt?"

 "Why no, but my little brother was James Kent. How could you know him?"

 "Well, ah, I sort of met him once. Knew his mother too, but it was a long time ago. Whatever became of him?"

 The officer stroked his chin while eyeing this stranger who was inquiring about his brother and a mother he never knew. "James Kent was a volunteer firefighter. He died a little over two years ago, saving a child from a burning building. Now how could you possibly know my mothe...OH MAN! The name didn't register until just now. Why, why, you're the kid...the hero, who drove a hot rod Ford from the old Keaton place to Skeetersville in seventeen minutes to save his life. Let me shake your hand Mr. KENT Sampson and say thanks, thanks very much."

 Uncomfortable as it was, Kent twisted in his seat extending his hand for the obligatory grasp. "I'm sorry to learn of your brother's death...." After the brief awkward silence that imprisoned the grown men in their own revelations, Kent continued, "Whatever happened to the Keaton's, and that police chief and do you know what became of my coupe?"

 "The last I saw of your car...say, it's almost my quitting time. Why don't you come on over to the house and we can catch you up on all these things. I'm sure my brother's family would like to meet you.




Atop the control tower
at any drag race
runs the announcer's mouth
at a constant and fever pace.

 "Hey, is this thing on? Hello... Hello.... Allllright we got the power. How 'bout it race fans. Are all you cats and chicks having a good time? Sure 'nuff, this the Ol' Isky  comin' at ya from atop the control tower. Crazy man.

 "Welcome to the Beechmont Dragway a project of SOTA, the Southern Ohio Timing Association, and all the affiliated clubs in the area. This is a National Hot Rod Association sanctioned strip, sure 'nuff, and we will be going by their rules. Do ya dig, man.

 "N.H.R.A. strips mean only one person will be allowed in any car during any run - qualifying, grudge or elimination. All open bodied cars must have safety belts and roll bars. No snap on hub caps on any cars. With the exception of stock and gas classes all cars must be equipped with flywheel shields. Open or altered class drivers must wear a safety approved helmet and goggles. If you have any questions see the Strip Marshal in the staging area.

 "First off we have a few announcements. The ice man hasn't made the scene yet so if you're in need of a cold Coke or somethin' you're gonna have to wait. He is expected within the hour. Next all you cats who plan on racing today please use gate "B" as in baby, baby, baby. And, for you squirrels and shot-rodders, no pealing out on the return strip. No trophies will be awarded in classes with fewer than two cars and for the first time trophies will be awarded for the new classifications of "A" through "E" Stock AUTOMATIC. Powder Puffs will be run after top eliminator.

 "Attention all you good lookin' chicks. We're going to have a short-shorts contest a little later on. Don't sweat it, just mosey on down to the control tower so as ol' Isky can rest his eyes on fine lookin' chicks, sure 'nuff. The winner of the contest will get to hand out the trophies to the winners in each class. Oh yeah, the Times-Star is expected to be here for the top eliminator run and trophy presentation. So ya might get your picture in the newspaper. Crazy man.

 "Well, lookie here. There's a cat with a chick on each arm. There must be some dragstrip rule against that. Sure 'nuff, I'll look it up. My the red head is...yeah I'm talking about you - Hi baby come up and see ol' Isky if he doesn't pay enough attention to ya, ya dig?

 "From now until two o'clock we will have tune-up runs and grudge matches. If you want to run a grudge match please be sure and let the flagman know before approaching the line.

 "I've just been informed that Bob 'Cookie' Cook and his Red Monster has arrived at the inspection station. This is going to be a swell day. The Red Monster, in case some of you clods don't know, is a jet engine powered "A" Dragster that was one of the first machines to break one-fifty-five for the standing quarter mile. Rumor has it he's set to try one-six-oh today!

 "Well, look what just burned rubber all the way to the starting line: Tiny's "B" Altered Coupe. Sounds good, but then all Chevy's sound good to a GMC man. Whoa...he almost let it get away from him. Better try feathering the gas if you can't get slicks on that thing. We don't have a back-up flagman today so try to take it easy, okay guys! Besides, Marty is a little hung over and really isn't in the mood to make an ambulance run, sure 'nuff. Tiny's run was one-oh-two point six.

 "Big Bart's "D" Gas '49 Ford is coming into the staging area now. Ol' Isky was there when BB christened her on Reading Road a few days ago. That flathead's sporting eight-deuces, and a poked and stroked Merc engine, sure 'nuff. Ah...the sound of a flathead is still sweet music even to this die hard Chevy man. Uh, oh. Looks like somethin' broke. I don't see any smoke so it must be in the drive train. Put back in the mud, or put a Chevy in it, sure 'nuff.

 "I don't know how many of you cats can see over to the south end of the pit area, but there's this chick that's been just chewin' some cat out, for what seems like the longest time. He better listen up real good 'cuz she's one good lookin' little lady. Got a long pony tail that just keeps bouncin' up and down as she shakes her finger at him. I don't know what she's sayin' or what he did. He's just standin' there with his head hung down, a wrench in one hand and leaning up against a "B" Altered Coupe. Man, she's really giving it to him, sure 'nuff.

 "All right it's time for the contest. All you chicks in short-short attire come on down to just under the control tower. Oh, I see we've already got a bevy of beauties here now, sure 'nuff. My, oh my, we do have some lovelies here today. Now, if I was the judge, I'd pick the first one who climbs up into this tower with me, sure 'nuff.

 "Sorry for the distraction. While my attention was on more pleasant things the "B" Altered Coupe of the cat from Middletown, the one who was getting chewed out by that cute little blond, turned a one-oh-nine, three. That will make quite an interesting race against Tiny's rod in the trophy run. It appears that they are the only two in that class today. Now, wait a minute. I don't know what's goin' on but the chick who was ballin' out the Middletown cat in the pits a little while ago is now holding hands with Tiny! This has all the makings of the race of the day. Altered Coupe against Altered Coupe and maybe the winner gets the girl, sure 'nuff.

 "Allllright! They have selected the trophy girl and is she a honey. Ol' Isky's gonna have a personal interview with her a little later. I'll tell ya all about it...tomorrow.

 "If you cats and chicks will turn your attention to the staging area there's one cherry "B" Street Roadster revvin' up. Man, he must have a thousand hand rubbed coats of candy apple red lacquer on that machine. We'll know in a minute if it runs as good as it looks. Sounds good, here's the flag. He got off the line okay. It appears to have three-two's on an overhead valve something - got a little rubber in second gear - hold your horses, times coming in up...see ya later alligator, ninety-six point three! Not bad. Bet it'll run the pants off anything Harry High-school can borrow from his daddy, sure 'nuff.

 "They have just informed me that the elimination runs begin in thirty minutes. The ice man has arrived - cold Cokes and Pepsi's now available at the concession stand. So, ol' Isky, sure 'nuff, is gonna take a break. Gonna make like a tree and leaf, put an egg in my shoe and beat it, if ya dig what I mean. Crazy man.


 "Ol' Isky's back and ready for the final elimination runs of the day. Looks like same old same fifty-seven Chev verses fifty-seven Chev for Super Stock. We've got two fuelies. The near lane, a two-door One-Fifty and the other a convertible that's had a nose and deck job. Man, they sure can burn those tires. Looks like the convertible got half a car on the start but here comes the two-door. Ninety-two point seven to the far lane, crazy man.

 "The trophies will be presented by the winner of our short-shorts contest, Miss Shirley Cravens of Hartwell. Shirley's a Junior at Woodward High. She's also jail bait fellahs, so don't even think about it, sure 'nuff!

 "We're now set for the Altered Coupe trophy run and I don't know about you cats, but I want to know who gets the chick with the pony tail. I wonder if one cat knows that the other cat is trying to cut his time or who the chick came with in the first place. Crazy man.

 "Hold everything. Paul, Marty, fellow Knights, any available members of the day crew. Please head for the staging area. The two Altered Coupe drivers know of each other, sure 'nuff, sure 'nuff. They're out of their cars and, for the moment, just shouting back and forth. We don't want any fisticuffs here so if you guys can hear me; knock it off, ya dig.

 "You guys in the staging area just hold your horses 'till things get settled down. This isn't 'Rebel Without A Cause' - we don't want any rumbles.

 "Alright the Strip Marshal is there and all is okay. This run is going to be one hot race. I'd give next week's pay to know who Pony Tail is rooting for.

 "Tiny's machine is a '41 Willy's that's been chopped and sectioned. The red primer leaves a lot to be desired - beauty wise. But, knowing Tiny, the paint job, if he ever gets around to it, will be as good as his engine work. The mill is a two-eighty-three Chevy with Lathum Supercharger, Iskenderian five-cycle cam and Mallory ignition.

 "This info just in on the hep cat from Middletown. He's piloting a three-window '32 Ford that's been chopped, channeled and finished with a beautiful orange and red flame job over royal blue lacquer. Twin four barrel carbs power his naturally aspired fifty-six Caddy engine. Word is he did all the work, including the paint, except the flame job, himself. The transmission....

  'They're at the starting line. Look at the flames shooting from the collector pipes on the near lane Chevy powered Willy's. The noise from that little Chevy is sure 'nuff deafening. Pony tail is motionless on the sideline, hands pressing against her ears like everyone else.

 "It's a fair start! The Caddy powered rod shoots to a early lead - the far lane coupe over spins, billows of smoke coming from his tires as he fights for traction - mid-point the blown two-eighty-three rockets ahead but the torque of the big caddy pulls him even - at the line it's, it's...the near lane at one, one, two, six a new track record for "B" Altered Coupe. Sure 'nuff, folks.

 "Hang tight now. Top Eliminator contenders, the Red Monster and a Chrysler powered "A" Dragster, are lining up in the staging area now.

 "Hey you guys, clear the return lane for the two altered coupes. How 'bout a big hand for them. That was some race, record and all. Maybe Shirley will give each of them a kiss along with the trophy - if pony tail doesn't mind, sure 'nuff. Say what happened to her? The two coupe drivers are standing side by side and she's no where to be found.

 "If you can hear me over the dragster's roar, the far lane holds Bob Cook's Allis Chalmers powered set of rails. He's going for the track record of one-fifty-nine while trying to stave off the challenge for Top Eliminator from Billy Anders' blown and injected Chrysler Hemi... they're off - Anders has the lead but here comes the jet powered Red Monster - it's the near lane, but, the Red Monster has cracked the one-sixty limit. Anders beat the Monster to the finish line but Cookie has a new track record of one-sixty-one point eight. Crazy man.

 "While we wait for the trophy winner and the track record holder to come by the control tower for their awards I have a few final announcements to make. The Southern Ohio Timing Association wishes to thank...."