The summer I learned to mow marked the end of my freedom. I found myself working every spare moment to make a couple of extra dollars. I have no idea where all that money went but I sure remember all the hours spent behind that mower.
The summer before I learned to mow was my last toss at the simplicity of childhood. That was the summer my aunt Cricket and uncle Wayne moved to Hurst from Tyler. Their baby boy, Bruce, was Glenn's age and we rode our bikes over to visit every time we could sneak off. It wasn't so much the fact that Bruce was all that entertaining. The really fun person was aunt Cricket.
Cricket liked to get out and explore the countryside in her shiny new Pontiac. We felt it prudent to accompany her on her wanderings because a stop at the Dairy Queen for a nickel ice cream cone was nearly always included. One day she decided it would be a good idea for each of us boys to build a soapbox derby race car. Their house was at the foot of a steep hill which would be perfect for racing as long as we didn't get run over by a real car in the process. That might have spoiled the fun somewhat.
We drove to the city dump that morning because Cricket figured we could find everything we needed to build these cars for free....as long as we didn't mind digging through the city's trash. Of course we didn't mind...good grief!! We found so many wheels off old lawnmowers and toys we wondered who could possibly have thrown away this perfectly good stuff. We also found pieces of 2 x 4 boards, plywood, and enough old nails to straighten that we were in business in no time.
Later in the day, after minutes and minutes of meticulous production, the three cars were ready for the race of the century. Unfortunately, it was about five in the afternoon so Cricket decided it would be best to let all those crazy working people get home without having to dodge us. The race was rescheduled for nine the next morning.
It was a beautiful race day at the corner of Irwin Drive and West Cheryl Avenue that morning. The sun was shining bright, Cricket had fed us donuts and chocolate milk until we shook, and Mama, Cindy, Julie, and Debbie Sue were sitting in the grandstands, aka the curb, in eager anticipation of the race.
The three of us towed our racers to the top of the hill. The air was filled with the electric thrill of competition. We lined up on Cheryl Ave. We glared at each other as we waited for Cricket to drop the checkered table napkin she held in her hand. The napkin dropped, we released our brakes (lifted our feet off the pavement), and plummeted to the bottom of the hill with a speed that would have made lesser men cry. We were moving so fast it scared us. It evidently scared Cricket too because she began to run for the safety of her front yard, well behind the race fan filled grandstand. What we didn't see from our perspective, but obvious from Cricket's view was the flimsy rope we were using as steerage snap off of Glenn's car. Because of her ability to see pretty well for an elderly lady, she was able to avoid the pile up. Glenn plowed into the side of my car which immediately lost the front 2 x 4...I mean axle. I hit Bruce and sent him into a spin. With the nose of my car grinding into the asphalt and Glenn's broken machine coming apart next to me, we both became airborne. Glenn didn't fly far. He landed on the back of my car bringing it to an immediate stop. I completely cleared the front of my car and finished the race on my chin. It doesn't hurt often now unless the weather changes abruptly. Old Bruce sailed through the intersection like a blur with three wheels still attached. An unfortunate participant was a door to door insurance salesman who happened into the intersection at the same time as Bruce. That salesman had reflexes to write home about let me tell you! Both he and Bruce had to go home and change their underwear but it was all worth it to see the jubilation in Bruce's freaky winner's dance.
I guess...and I hope life is still that simple in some places of these United States. The neighborhood of the great race is now too congested to safely walk along the side of the street. An unofficial derby race on that stretch would be suicide. Hurst has turned into a terribly traffic congested thoroughfare between Fort Worth and Dallas. Growing up there was so simple and peaceful. I miss the days.