by Eddie Buck
Buck Owens called it home. Good enough for me! It's my home for 4 days every October. I hear a lot of people bitch about California. Maybe rightfully so. I'll leave the politics out of it. I'm sure plenty of people can recite every socio-economic ill ad nauseum. I'm not fool enough to believe it is the Nirvana we all dreamt it was in our youth. I knew quite a few kids I grew up with, who hitchiked west, only to be disillusioned at what they found. Some returned home, some stayed and some are still out there moving around the country. A couple of the fellas I call friends, encourage those who have a jaundiced eye toward the Golden State to keep loathing it. Why let them bring their negativity, some still look upon it as paradise. I know I've arrived, when I step out of the airplane onto the tarmac and the air of Burbank greets my sinus cavities. This year, I flew to LAX. That's really all I can say. Noting good, nor bad, just landed there and left. Spent another 45 minutes at a rental agency getting a car. One of those forgettable deals. I was more intent on getting to Dinah's and marking the beginning of my short term residency. You read about that last issue. I still reflect on it with wide eyed wonder.
As an aside, I received what had to be a few hundred comments, compliments and one complaint. Not about my novice attempt at authoring the account. No, I was politely called a “rotten motherf#@*er” because I didn't take the complaintant with me. I shared the link to the story on my facebook page only. Some very kind and supportive friends, posted links and shared it on other sites. It's very humbling to have accolades from what I determined long ago to be the greats of our hobby/sport. One, of what I consider a “founding father”, sent me a short comment. His words were,
“ I enjoyed reading your account. We were just having fun, keeping out of trouble and living our lives. We were all broke and borrowed, lent and helped each other. Reading your account made me realize, we did do something worthwhile, but we weren't heroes. Thank you for keeping the spirit alive. You had the greatest ambassador give you a priceless tour. I felt like I was riding along and 50 years melted away.” Kids.... I was choked up when I received that. He'll remain nameless, though now that I know he reads this. I'll say, “Thank you.”
Okay. Back to this Bakersfield thing. My first visit was in 2010. It was great and miserable at the same time. I spent the first two days awestruck and the last two...sicker than a damned dog. I spent more time under the influence of any over the counter medication to keep me sleeping. When I wasn't, I wanted to be. In spite of that, I was treated to the outstanding prankster-ship of one Freddy Frey. Bibles, perfectly crafted prank letters about borrowed underwear taped to the door. My friend Freddy, I am told, during his days of touring with Jim Fox (as partner in the original Frantic Ford funny car) made it his personal mission to outprank Ivo. Which apparently was near practically impossible. He also introduced me to a lot of “name” guys. Stuff like that helped take the edge off. But here I go again, I need to steer this bus back on the highway. One more thing that has stuck with me about that first year. I was introduced to Jeff Utterback, someone whom I consider myself lucky to have become a good friend, due to that meeting. We were chatting, I believe he asked me what I thought of it and suddenly I share this epiphany I had. I'm from the midwest, in particular St. Louis. I hate to say it, but there are some folks around here, in the racing community, who like to look down their noses at others. Partly because of what they have and others don't and vice-versa. It's a vibe you get. Bakersfield was a different world. All around you, it was like they were cool, they knew it... and no one really cared. You walk onto this hallowed ground expecting … Hell, I had no idea what to expect. But it has been the one thing I look forward to every year, now.
Let's get up to speed here. 2014 CHRR . I'm not giving race results, or commenting on who was hot. Old news, but two bodies blowing off made for some excitement. The track oildowns sucked, but socializing with old and new friends made up for it.
Buckersfield. The destination, heh heh.
(L) Myke Wingett, Eddie Buck, Noel Grise, & Gary Dodd - (R) Some just couldn't handle it!
(L) Bob Higginson, King Surfite! - (R) Ralph, random furry guy, Norm
I figured this year we needed some shade and took heed of the ability to have a canopy in the stands. Smartest thing I ever did. I had to send my contribution to the auction out with Bill Lininger, since it was too fragile to trust to a shipper or baggage handler. I ordered a cheapie canopy from an ebay seller and tossed it in Bill's truck. We set it up Thursday, in less than an hour and affixed our sign. We had a steady stream of visitors through out the weekend. Made some new friends with racers from the past, such as Noel Grise and Gary Dodd. Mark Leigh showed up with the crew from Marcus Lawson's Funny car team in tow. Our friend Ralph Reiter and his son, called it home for the weekend. Ralph is seemingly the first guy I run into when I hit the grounds every year. Our fellow Surfite, Bob Higginson was there to keep everyone in check. Our own bouncer! Finally got to meet Bruce Dyda after years of online contact. Clay Zulim, new owner of the Classic Funny Car Board came by after achieving some personal milestones in his top fueler. Way to go Clayton! I actually saw Greg Reagan without a cast... or his trademark pith helmet! I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by. I know I am forgetting a bunch of people, who made it worth the effort and glad they stopped by. A lot of fun was had and made some new friends due to that silly little endeavor.
Roger Lee told me he saw Buckersfield when he climbed out of his M&R Special at Cacklefest and “laughed his ass off.”
The awards ceremony at the Doubletree is always great. We got in there about an hour early and had a few brewskis and watched some heavy hitters file in and mill about. Ed Pink was sitting ahead of us. It was like a parade of every icon of the sport stopping to pay respects. Off to the left a couple rows up is Kent Fuller.
(L) Recognize some of these cats? - (R) The contingent from the UK. Herb, Nigel & Norm.
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