What Am I Doin' Here ?

This article was printed in the August, 1974 Gazette.  Your editor has no memories of C.O. Ward, but his comments on working Corner 6 at Ponca City are unique, to say the least.  C.O. gives insight to flagging at Ponca City.

war title

The race was on. The sun was coming up at a tremendous speed and I was struggling with my undershorts caught in my race white’s zipper.

I know where my white shirt is, but my orange socks are still a question. The sun won the race by ½ zipper length and a bottle of suntan lotion.

I toothpicked one eye open and headed to the track, hoping someone forgot to set it up. Where’re all the Oklahoma tornadoes when you want one? The track was existing, in proper race attire too.

cowardDidn’t find the shuttle into the track area, so I carried all my paraphernalia in by hand. Lucky I was only going to turn 6. Maybe if I stand by this barrel, everyone will think I’m a tree and I won’t have to work.. .Darn, I’m recognized, probably by the clay stains from Atlanta and the gravy stains from Afton. What do I have to complain about? The announcer’s bellowing is really getting to the people who over-partied last night. At least I slept under a blanket and, not a Ford Galaxie!

About the time the sun’s hinting what the temperature’s going to be like and our stomachs’ are starting to win the battle with the greasy bacon at 90c an order, the air is fractured by the thundering exhaust of numbered projectiles. On yeah, this picnic was supposed to be streaked by some kind of irreverent noise-makers left over from some 4th of July celebration.

Strangely, they act just like those little cars that just came by taking their owners to work. ‘cept all those guys (and gals) are going to be late cause they’re lost. I know cause they keep coming by and coming by, each time in a greater hurry, screeching tires trying to make the time-clock.

My heart has just started and the blood began reaching my brain (?) helping me remember that these cars are the reason I got up early.

Let’s see, I think I’m supposed to protect these water barrels from them or something like that. I’ve also been warned many of these cars run on hay and they’ll get it anyway they can. Yep! I knew it! There’s one taking a whole bale in one bite. There’s another one way out in the grass for the third time. Bet he can’t find the porta-potty.

Everybody seems to have his own fetish. One guy likes smoke coming from his right front tire, another has a certain little dance he performs with the tail of his car, another likes the dust around the bend. They all seem to have their own thing.

I just figured out what central control does. They wait until almost everyone has figured out which way the course goes, then pulls them all in before anyone can memorize it and sends another group out.

Horray! It’s lunch time. I’m having 2 aspirins, a Di-Gel, a thermos of Coke I brought from him and an Ambuc hamburger I’ll guarantee won’t mustard stain one’s race whites.

There comes that same bunch I was watching trying to get to work. I was just informed they’re trying to imitate the noisy cars, ‘cept they try to be quiet so they don’t upset any corner worker who’s still on siesta. They do a pretty good imitation too - pectoral muscles working overtime trying to stay in line with that black ribbon.

I lust picked out a couple of favorites when one went to the pits - probably had to go - and the other just disappeared. I’m told he picked on a rock bigger than he was.

datsun 51

Then came the slightly noisier Vee’s. For a few laps they played “No-you-be-first”, then someone got greedy and kept it. Made the others so mad they really went hard trying to reclaim it. Next came the cars that really awaken the crowd. Either big ones that vibrate everyone out of their loungers, or middle size ones that see how close they can run without touching each other.

These are hard times. When I’m not telling on somebody to control, pushing someone off the track or holding up some flag or other, I’m sweeping asphalt chips and collecting fiberglass bits. Maybe we can demand overtime! Or possibly go swimming with the chick who drives formula, ‘cept next time she leaves the car in the paddock. (She’s the only chick I know who doesn’t have reverse) She must not like my looks anyway - heard she went gettin’ acquainted with the group at turn 2.

The day finally ended and I went visiting some friends in the pits. As usual, I found most can drive faster in the pits than they can on the race course. All, and I do mean all, would be farther up on the grid if T&S hadn’t screwed up. Interesting note: T&S screw-ups become increasingly worse in direct proportion to the amount of beer consumed. By the time I left, if everything was correct, the pole car would be starting a lap ahead of the rest of the pack! Anyway, the T&S people are given a quota of errors and aren’t allowed to go home until it’s filled.

Normal people aren’t beset with an appreciation of racing and my hosts in Ponca are no exception. After my awakening time of 7:30 stretched to 9:00, I was afraid I’d be painted black, filled with water, and set in front of a tree. I may have missed the first three practices, but at least I caught the shuttle. Bet he doesn’t run early!

We did have one act today we hadn't seen before. One clown tried twice to come to our corner, a right hander, and turn left. Each time, our Armco deterred him, and each time he decided to follow the normal pattern. I was proud of our Armco, after two rounds, its Winkleman opponent didn't come back until race time.

After lunch, my bad day had its peak. I lost about half a dozen barrels, my coke, and our secondary phone all in one instant. It was the Katz ‘n Jammer Kids out in their Formula Henrys. One guy finds after three laps racing this he’s hot and could use a shower. Where’s the handiest source of water? My barrels, naturally. He jumps off the track, viciously attacks my far side barrels and sends an ocean of water, and the front of his car, straight up. That’s when I dropped my coke. I took off as fast as my tangled feet would allow meaning I nose plowed. (later found some ornery ant had entangled the auxiliary phone wires around my feet. I fixed them though - I tore them loose in the process) I sprinted toward the track watching to see how many cars I’d have to stop (?) to let me cross.

The driver was leisurely snoozing in his now-convertible. I figured I‘groundsd get those guys in that truck to come out and strap him to a board ‘til he apologized for the gap in the barrels. They must have been just as angry because they got there fast! I only had a few moments to beat on his helmet and shake the hell out of him trying to wake him, but he was a heavy sleeper - or he was playing possum. When he finally woke up, I told him we normally make the drivers clean up their own mess, but we were just going to fine him for littering, parking in a No Parking Zone, disrespect for public property, and causing the deletion of one Coke.

In a later race, one guy (who had previously demonstrated where not to pass) showed why as he was introduced to our Armco. I then had to push him away from the track and instruct him how to start his car (new fellow, I presume).

When it was finally over, the entire crew stowed the equipment and headed for the beer and soft drinks provided in their honor. Personally, I thought it was a good weekend. The pay wasn't to scale even with my promised bonus, but I did get my very own personal autograph of P. Grounds. I paid for my gas home by picking up baling wire and selling it to farmers along the way. But I’ll be there next year, regardless of the price of bacon.

C.O. Ward

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