Over 250 makes and models of automobiles came from the
factories and shops in and near this one city. That city was so
enamored of its auto industry that the owner of its leading
newspaper and two other prominent businessmen, partnered to build
the world's largest speedway there in 1906 to provide a test track
for local auto manufacturers.
Less than 30 feet away, they found Clarence's son, still
screaming, laying at the bottom of a bunker. The leg-hold trap,
securely staked down by an attached and taut chain, had a fierce
grip on Johnny's bare foot. Running as he stepped into it, the jaws
of the trap had snapped closed. As he fell forward, the
taut chain had pulled the closed jaws down the length of his foot,
stripping bare skin down to tendons and bone.
He lay there, screaming his head off.
"Boy, shut up," Clarence commanded him. "If we gets caught out
here by the Sheriff, we prob'ly gonna' get lynched."
"The Sheriff wouldn't do that," Herschel interjected.
"The hell he wouldn't," Clarence replied.
Johnny knew that resistance would be futile but he was not
going to be captured. He gripped his wrench so hard, it seemed as if
his fingerprints would be permanently embedded in the hardened
steel. His mind was made up as the enemy was now less than 200 yards
away; he would go down swinging; he would do whatever he could, with
the tools available to him, to stop them.
But he didn't have to: suddenly the sound of their gunfire was
stopped and replaced by another sound, different and alien. At first
this new sound was like a calm, distant drone, slowly rising in
frequency until it became a banshee scream.
The precise and controlled movement of the advancing Germans
was suddenly replaced by pandemonium...
The seasonal warming and the
April showers really had given way to the flowers of May. Yellow
daffodils swayed gently in the light breeze. The sun was shining,
the birds were singing...or at least, one had to assume they were;
you couldn't hear them.
The bucolic, early morning
tranquility of the farm near Brownsburg was mercilessly shattered by
the thunderous roar of 10,000 un-muffled gasoline explosions per
minute as Herschel slid his race car around the loose dirt turns of
the improvised 1/2 mile practice track that formed the perimeter of
Wendell Wattle's corn field.
“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” Sheriff replied, “in case
you haven’t heard. It’s like I said, some of the members at the club
build cars and some of them are pretty well connected politically.
Them that’s well connected politically have an image problem.”
“That’s hard to believe,” Herschel said sarcastically. “Just
because they’re in the Klan?”
Sheriff chose not to reply. “In any event,” he continued, “they
come to the conclusion that they could overcome some of their image
problem if they was to sponsor a Negro racer.”
“Then why didn’t they sponsor a race car driver? That guy you’re
with ain’t never drove at any races I’ve seen. According to my
partner, he’s a collector for whoever’s runnin’ the numbers racket
down on the Avenue.”
“Yes, well (ahem)," Sheriff began, “some of them are pretty well
As they were nearing Sheriff’s car’s parking area, Sheriff said
no more; He simply turned, thanked Herschel for the Cokes and
rejoined his team. Herschel continued walking back towards his own
parking area, surprised to see Johnny walking in the same direction
about 20 paces in front of him. When he arrived beside their car,
Johnny was already there, waiting for him.
Herschel handed Johnny a Coke and Johnny asked him, a vitriolic
tone in his voice, “So what’d that son of a bitch have to say?”
Herschel remembered back to the first night he and Johnny had met
as boys and Johnny’s dad’s accusation that Sheriff was in the Klan.
The old accusation was accurate, he now knew. “Well, he said some of
his politically-connected friends were sponsoring that car and a
Negro driver as a public relations effort.”
“Bullshit,” Johnny replied. “First off, his politically connected
friends ain’t necessarily Democrats or Republicans; they’s Klansmen,
pure and simple.”
“How do you know that?”
“While you was talkin’ to the Sheriff, I was talkin’ to Phinneas,
their “driver.” That public relations thing is nothin’ but bullshit
so their sponsors don’t look as bad as normal. He tol’ me what he’s
really ‘sposed to be doin’ at the wheel of their race car; just like
always, he’s ‘sposed to be bustin’ some heads.”
With a grim expression on his face, Johnny gave Herschel a
one-word answer: “Yours.”
...Herschel nailed the throttle.
eating up the distance
between the two cars, but sending the rear of the Gulley Special
Counter-steering and playing the gas pedal, Herschel had
already pre-mapped his pass in his mind; he would fake passing on
the outside and--when Phinneas attempted to block him--he would
reposition himself to the inside of the track and sail past.
Phinneas, however, had already mapped out his plan for