May 18, 2022
It was just past 9:30 in the evening as I flipped the right blinker escaping hiway 65 heading east on South street in Ozark Missouri. I was driving my Crimson red Mustang with a black Convertible top that I bought new in 1987. I had procured this snazzy sports car with a high performance engine in lieu of a full blown mid-life crisis on the year the car was born. I was at the age to realize my fading youth but since I still loved my wife and kids more than illusions of virility, I chose to salve this ego abrasion with a fast car. It must have been a good business decision because 33 years later I still have the Stang and no regrets of leaving my family.
Ozark Missouri is a berg that used to be a small town of its own. Now Due to economic growth it is a suburb for its big sister Springfield Missouri. Ozark is best known for Lamberts restaurant. The home of the “throwed rolls.” Lamberts serves tasty home cooking to please the pallet while increasing cholesterol. All of the fried food is served family style for sharin’. Hearty young servers gallivant through the restaurant tossing delicious dinner rolls to the eater’s delight. If you can catch one and slather it with butter and honey you have a recipe for taste bud delight.
No more than a mile east of the highway the suburban décor switches back 30 years to small town country and the only evidence of progress it the newly added lanes to South street making it a 4 car road. The left lane still the old pavement while the right lane is fresh asphalt. As I am responsibly cruising my old but mint condition Ford eastward, I hear the deep voice of a souped up black pickup in the right lane.
I look to the right and see a young lad in his late teens with his ball cap on backwards staring down at my red car and revving his engine. Grandpa was being challenged by a whipper snapper! I could tell you that I demonstrated my good judgement by looking up at the young man, smiling with a polite wave as he goes by. I could say that, but it would be a lie. Instead I found myself traveling back in time 50 years!
No longer was I grandpa. I was 17 again! My heart was racing with each roar of the black’s engine.
Now to appreciate this scene I have to give you the background of where I was at 17. I had just met my first girlfriend. Her name was Sandra. She had dishwater blond hair, pretty blue eyes and full pouty lips that delivered a first kiss that would never be forgotten. Her 5 foot 3 ½ inch near barbie doll figure and pretty face made a guy really proud to wrap fingers walking through the school parking lot. Sandy had a pretty smile with one crooked tooth on the bottom row that you could only see with a chuckle. I found that unique appendage very enticing as it gave her smile character and made it even prettier in my opinion. We were both young at love and delighted in even the intimacy of trading chewing gum in the middle of a smooch.
I met her the in May between my junior and senior year of high school. Everything was perfect about this summer romance but my car. My car was a 1960 Ford Falcon with 90 horsepower. It had a 3-speed manual transmission with a stick shift on the column. Those were the days when spinning your tires was a misguided sign of manhood. I had friends with cars that would screech a tire in second, some even third gear. The only gear this poor excuse for transportation would make a sound in was reverse. Can you imagine a drag race in reverse? Humiliating. Dear Sandra had great character and generosity to be willing to swap spit with this poor Oak Park Northman driving an old Falcon.
Ok back to South Street in Ozark. As I listen to the black’s throttle raise and lower in challenge I came to the realization that I have no choice. I either have to race this menace or get myself an electric mobie to peruse the halls of a nursing home. It was time for grandpa to in the words of my marine grandson Ryan, “Carpe Diam” seize the day! It was like being 17 again only instead of an old Falcon I was driving a Red Mustang GT! God LOVES me!
I knew this combat was not going to be a sin as there was practically no traffic and I am sure the Good Lord instructed an angel to change the next light to red just as we were approaching to give us the perfect starter. I sat there at the light with the pickup beside me. Both revving our engines and glancing over at each other in a threatenly yet gentlemanly manner. His hat turned back for style, my toupee holding on for dear life!
I am sure my testosterone level was rising with each rev of the engine. We waited as the cross light turned yellow, yet honor kept both chariots waiting for green. At the color change adrenaline pumped through my right ankle as I put the petal to the metal with force the old mustang had never felt before. The screeching tires from both gladiators pelted the air! I had him by a half a car length at the start! I looked over and could see his eyes widen in surprise. My foot was already on the floor but I pushed harder as if the pressure would help. I was still leading by a half when he brandished a confident smile and slammed his truck into second gear! His tires screeched again and my lead faded as he pulled even and gave me a “Too bad grandpa” look. Just as he started to pass the Mustang’s automatic transmission feloniously shifted into second gear. Unlike the Falcon, the “Stang” broke the tires in a victorious scream and I again jumped to the lead but now a full car length! The noisy black truck never saw more than my taillights for the next mile till we again found ourselves alone together at a stoplight.
At the flash of his blinker the race was over and he turned on a side street. As he left the path we locked eyes and he gave me a respectful smile and an honoring nod. I returned the tribute.
I had made a long 3 hour drive that night from Kansas City to Ozark Missouri but instead of fatigue I was invigorated. My youthful dreams had miraculously collided with my senior reality to create a time travel that left me euphoric. In the movies the pouty lips and crooked tooth would have been in the passenger seat to reward my victory.