Big Dean was one of my favorite AJ fans and friend during the bulk of my AHRA and Mid America Pro Stock Circuit days of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Big Dean was big, 6'5" and 325 pounds. He wore a Billy Jack hat to add to his awesome appearance. Dean was a Native American with a German last name. It began with a W, but I cannot recall it accurately. I never knew for sure if Big Dean also had "Hun" blood like mine running through his veins. He looked pure American Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas Indian to me.
Sadly for some reason, why I do not know, I only have one picture of Dean and it’s not a good one. It was taken at Tulsa in ‘82 at the AHRA Spring Nationals. The photo shows me launching Zeke. You can barely make out Dean in the background. Look for the Billy Jack hat! Perhaps someone reading this can come up with more pictures of Big Dean and, hopefully, of Big Dean and I together. Dean was probably 10 years or so younger than me.
Big Dean in background with Billy Jack hat
When I first met Dean, it was not a happy occasion. It was at the 1977 AHRA Tulsa Spring Nationals. Dean was with Harry Myer's Pro Stock effort. I had been racing my Pinto Pro Stocker for a about a year and a half. Harry and I were paired up for the first qualifying session. Warren Johnson was ahead of me. A rain storm was rolling in and as Warren left the starting line, I noticed a couple rain drops on my windshield. Warren did get a decent run.
I was pulling into the burn box with directions from my crew chief, Rick Davis, and noticed a couple more rain drops on my windshield. Harry Myers, in the left lane, was starting his burnout. I was about to start mine when low and behold a security guard (deputy Sherriff) got in my windshield and signals for me to shut off. I figured he’s the law, so I shut off. I was confused, Harry was starting to stage, the rain was still only a few occasional drops, so I figured they were running Harry and me as singles to play it safe.
Not so! The AHRA official water box wrangler looks at me and shrugs, then motions for me to start back up and do a burnout and stage with Harry. So now I’m in a rush. I fire, quickly zip my tires with a half assed burn out. (Harry is already staged) I stage as quickly as possible and get a lousy run. The damn rain never did come down enough to shut down the track.
Back at the trailer Rick and I were pretty disgusted so we went right up to the starting line and had it out with the AHRA officials, wanting to know why a security guard had shut me off! The official agreed it was wrong and apologized, telling us they would reprimanded the security guards and tell them to leave running the cars to AHRA officials.
The starting line official did confirm that the Deputy Sherriff/security guard had no business or authority to shut me off. He said the guy was on a hero trip about working at the races. They had problems with him over-stepping his job before.
Rick and I went back to our pit and were getting the Pinto ready for another run when out of the corner of my eye I see Harry Myers and his team heading our way led by a huge Indian wearing a Billy Jack hat. Oh! Oh! They did not look happy!
The last thing I want to do is get in a fight, especially at a drag strip (or anywhere else for that matter). That was one reason I gave up on stock car racing. I loved stock cars, still do, but lot of fights happened, especially at the small dirt tracks back then. That situation is much better now.
So anyway, it looks bad for Rick and me. First words yelled out by the big Indian were, "Why did you burn Harry down!" We try to explain what happened, but we were losing ground. Luckily an AHRA official showed up and backed up our story. Before the weekend was over, Harry Myer's team and Rick and I all became fast friends, (no pun intended) and were drinking beers together after the track closed for the night.
After that weekend at Tulsa, Big Dean, the huge American Native, would call me occasionally. I would answer the phone and he would say, in his Dan Blocker/Hoss deep voice, "Hey Animal, what the f---- is going on?" He would say that EVERY time he called me. LOL!! It’s been 30 years but I can still hear him.
Dean loved Pro Stock. When he called we would spend an hour or more solving the problems of the world of pro stock drag racing. Of course, Harry Myers was Dean’s old friend and main man, but Dean and I really hit it off.
Besides AHRA and match races I ran in the Mid America Pro Stock Circuit and UDRA. I crashed my new Zephyr in 1980 at a Mid America event and Harry Myers crashed in ‘81 at a Mid America event with wild air-born flips. Big Dean's nickname for our Mid America Pro Stock Circuit was the "Flying Circus!"
AHRA 83 Award
Big Dean and I were usually on the same channel. Plus, when not racing, we both liked to drink beer and bench race.