Knew a guy from Perryton, TX who had a ’64 red GTO. It was a beautiful car which ran like a scalded cat. He was a great friend of mine and a heck of a nice guy. I very much wish I could remember his whole name but his first name was David.
I was working and living in Alva at the time. I had my new 1965 Plymouth Satellite. They didn’t make the Satellite many years but the ’65 was the first. I loved that car and for years afterwards I remained surprised I survived it.
Everyone in Alva tried everything for a couple of months to get Dave and I to race our cars. I guess we kinda teased them along before we finally decided to do it.
There was a long straight (though very narrow) and flat 2 lane blacktop road north of the tiny community of Avard, OK which is where we went to run our quarter. Half of Alva was out there to watch…one of those cameo moments when we were center-stage.
Dave & I dropped our dump caps (remember those?) and heated our tires. Our flag man would not stand between us because the road was so narrow. He lined us up and stood to the right side to drop his hands.
Both cars literally screamed that night. David got a slight jump off the line before I got traction. I was told smoke blew behind us so thick those at the start line lost sight of us. Between the two of us I’ll bet we pumped around a 5 gallon bucket of adrenaline.
I was an especially good speed-shifter. An automatic was likely a bit slower than I was throwing the gears. I blew through first gear and caught the GTO. I could not pull him in second as our engines shrieked past the half way mark and those headlights stayed even-up.
My right eye kept up with the blurring ragged grass & weeds along side the road; the left focused at the road center between the swarm of faces at the finish line approaching at an amazing speed; and both ears were attuned to the engine sound while I totally ignored the big tach on the dash.
Shifting my balance to the right in the seat my hand palmed the white shifter ball and I slammed it into third with no clutch and loss of only a thousand rpm’s. The headlights jumped and I could sense the GTO fading ever so slightly beside me.
The Satellite never came out of third in a quarter. It would peg the speedo in third which was much faster than it would run through this short track. But the sound of this un-muffled engine with it’s vibrations pulsing in my hands was a high not easily found otherwise.
Folks stood on the edge of the little highway at the finish line. If there had been a single thought in my head other than the race I would likely be scared to death splitting through that screaming crowd. Only after the race I realized there were cars in the grass beside the road nearly all the way. It is quite unbelievable how crazy we act when young.
That night the Satellite beat the little GTO by nearly a car length. The crowd, the smell of hot smoking tires, the speed…the lingering memory of that wild night, well it was a completely legendary evening.
Back in town Dave & I met, shook hands & enjoyed the crowd. It would likely have endured as that golden memory for me if not for a totally unexpected incident nearly 2 years later.
The first week in January, 1967 found me on a military transport aircraft lumbering slowly over west Texas on the way to El Paso for basic training. In our crowd there was a blond headed young man very muscular and with that “do not mess with me” look all over him. No one did more than nod at him.
Well, guess who I sat beside on the plane? This guy was sullen & withdrawn. I tried to open him up to talk but failed pretty bad. Then, when I asked him his hometown, he answered Perryton, TX. Of course David & his GTO popped into my mind.
When I asked him if he knew Dave this blond thunder cloud lit up. Oh, yeah, he knew him. They had been classmates and around Perryton they had called him “little Davy the giant-killer”. It seemed that Dave, not that large to start with, had fought & beaten some West Texan far larger than himself and, hence, the nickname.
It took a few minutes for him to tell the old fight story. When he ended, I asked if Dave still had his kool little GTO. The guy looked at me sadly & said that, no, Davy was dead!
Aw, that poked me hard. At that age I had not seen the death & sadness which lay over the distant Asian horizon.
Turned out that Dave had been in a car wreck while riding with someone else…not in the pretty GTO. He was killed instantly. So, our friendship & race story ends with all the components of a Greek tragedy…a great companion, a glorious race, adulation of the crowd, and, in the end, a heart-breaking ending in the dark skies over the desert that night.
Well, after we shared other stories of Dave, the blond guy & I had a shared memory and the death mutual friend; we had become friends of a special breed. Had we shared basic it would have been a singular and lasting bond.
Yet, we were split-up in basic only crossing paths a couple of times. He was hell-bound for jump school and getting into Special Forces and I never saw him again. Little Davy, a wonderful friend, a bright smile that made the hearts of girls run with abandon, the smart college student, a companion for about any adventure, a person who willingly stood his ground against the largest threats and prevailed, this kid with so much joy and fun in him…has been dead in the grave for 48 years.