Time flies even when you aren't having fun. It's been all too common lately, the time between submissions.
It's been a busy time around this place. I haven't had the Hippo out of the Mr. Ed since I got it back home in January. I finally brought it out into the light of day several days ago. I had actually gotten enough jobs out, finding room to pull the trailer out of the warehouse. I wanted to make sure everything had survived the trip. As part of the transporting, I wrapped the nose in a shipping blanket and a pair of coveralls I had in the truck, when it was picked up from Corey Conyer's Crown Custom. It was a welcome sight to see it roll out into the sun. I gotta tell you, when Ed Wills designed these trailers, he got it right. It's designed to be loaded and unloaded without being hooked to a hitch. All you have to do is chock the wheels and crank the jack to the top limit. The dragster rolls out, no dragging, no ramps needed. Really trick and deserving of the patent he had on it. Soon enough though, I rolled it back in its cocoon for its own safety.
There was another reason I dragged it out. We lost one of the nicest human beings I ever had the pleasure and honor to meet. Noel Grise (pronounced Gri-say), was one of the many friends I had made in my annual trips to the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. We finally met in 2014, when I had set up the "Buckersfield" tent at the 1000' stands. He showed up with his brother-in-law Gary Dodd (former Pro Stock racer) early on that Friday morning. He sat down and asked if we mind them taking some shade. He proceeded to talk for the next 10 minutes or so, continuously. Suddenly, he pauses, extends his hand and says," Noel Grise. This is Gary. Glad to meet you." I shook his hand and started to say," Hi, I'm.... "Without missing a beat, he says," I know who the hell you are!" and laughed. From that moment on, throughout the whole weekend, every time we were together, we talked, told tales and had one hell of a good time. Every year afterwards, except the one I missed, Noel and Gary were fixtures at Buckersfield. I've actually known Noel a couple years longer than this though. Being members of Standard 1320, we would correspond. Let me rephrase that. I would ask a question or post something and Noel would always steer me in the right direction. He would call me and it was like he knew me my whole life. Be quick to tell me who had what, when to call them and always followed up by, "You tell them I said to call. They will take care of you." Not one person I have ever spoken to has had a bad thing to say about him. If they did, they'd get punched in the nose in short order. Our mutual friend Bob Higginson said it best. "I've only known Noel a few years," he stated," but I can't remember a time not knowing him." Once it was determined Noel was not doing well, Bob would call me every time he saw or spoke to Noel, keeping me filled in on his condition. I was able to talk to him a couple times in his last few weeks. Even when I expected to hear the pain or distress in his voice... to hell with that! I forgot who it was I was talking to! He never seemed to miss a beat. His bride, Linda, told me he talked with great fondness about "Buckersfield". Two weeks ago, on a Friday, I got a call from Bob, asking me if I had a minute. He was with Linda and Noel, and he told Noel I asked about him or something like that. He said Noel told him," Get him on the phone!"
That made my day, month... no... year. Though it was only a couple minutes, I still heard Noel in there. He had to go because he was worn out by the short conversation. I was going to say he lost his battle June 30th. No, I think it was the other way around, he determined when the battle would end. Noel was what I envisioned, as a kid dreaming of California. Pretty girls, cars, sunshine and drag strips. He personified California cool, hospitable and friendly as only a Massachusetts transplant could. He got to live the life a lot of us dreamed of, in the depths of winter. He told me stories of working for Boyd Coddington, his involvement racing his altered and how ultimately his last altered became the latest incarnation of Leon Fitzgerald's Pure Heaven IV, I believe. Few people I have met really make an impression on me, due to diverse crowd I've been exposed to over the last 40 years or so, in my business life. But Noel, he left an impression I won't forget. He was the real deal, to a lot of us. I know there were more than a few tears shed for him. He will forever be the Mayor of Buckersfield to me and my crew. So, if you were one of the fortunate ones who got to meet him, or one of the lucky ones who were able to call him friend, raise a toast to him. He was one of the good ones.
I will miss you pal. Say hello to my boy. We all love you.
That's all I got... until next time.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - By Eddie Buck