The need for speed is genetic

By: Azalea R. Bolton - Storyteller

My Dad could do a lot of things well. He was a great mechanic, and welder and would attempt almost any project and be able to do it. He also had a need for speed every once in a while and I’ve seen that gene handed down from him to his children and grandchildren.

Back in my early childhood, when we lived at Lumberton, Dad built the engines for two midget race cars. If I remember correctly, he built one for himself and then later, he built one for his employer, Robert Currie. I still remember seeing my older brother, Richard, and our Mom drive them in the big parking lot at the shop where Dad was the manager. Mom and Richard both acted like they enjoyed seeing how fast they could go. Then another time, Richard and Robert’s son, Bob, took the cars down a long dirt road from the shop. It ended up looking like they were racing one another and, of course, we were all jumping up and down, yelling for them to go faster and faster. I was too young and too small to get to drive one of those midget racers, but I wanted to so bad I could almost taste it.

There was a race track outside of Lumberton where we took the cars on Saturday afternoon. Dad really wanted to drive his midget racer, but Mom talked him out of it by saying stuff like: “What would we do if you wrecked and couldn’t work anymore?” So, he lined up someone else to race his instead. When we first got there with the car, the driver had not yet arrived. Dad wanted someone to drive his car for a few laps so he could see how it was running against the others practicing out on the track. Since my oldest brother Richard had driven it back in the parking lot at the shop, Dad decided to let him get out on the track. He told him just to run a few laps and then bring the car back in so he could make any adjustments that were needed to the engine.

Richard got out on the track and went around and around and around and around and around and around — but didn’t seem to remember that part about bringing the car in. We were all yelling and waving and waving when Richard came by, but Richard just didn’t seem to see us. Finally, Dad practically jumped in front of the speeding car to get Richard’s attention and he finally pulled off the track. When Dad asked him why he didn’t bring the car in sooner, Richard said he was having so much fun he just lost track of time.

There’s a story I remember hearing about my Dad and his love for speed. He had bought a used car which turned out to be an old Highway Patrol car. It was a 1946 Ford and he said that car would really fly. One night when he was out by himself, he was driving a little too fast and another patrol car fell in behind him. Dad just sped his car up and left that newer patrol car in the dust. I don’t remember ever asking the question as to whether or not that patrolman actually turned on his blue light. I just really didn’t want to know for sure if my beloved dad might have really broken the law!

As I said before, I think that gene that causes a person to like to drive fast might — just might — be an inherited gene. I know that Richard wrecked a car when he about 16 years old when he was out driving on a dirt road a few miles from our house. The only reason we could see why he wrecked that car was because he tried to take a curve way too fast. A few years later, when Richard was in the Navy, he did some drag racing when he was stationed in California. Like I said — the need for speed continues.

After our family moved back to Richmond County, Dad built some go-cart frames and engines for Robert Currie. One of those go-carts won the state championship race. Like I said before, Dad was a good welder and a good engine builder as well.

Thinking about go-carts causes me to remember the go-cart racing that went on in Rockingham back many years ago. My husband as well as my two older brothers all competed in the races there at one time or another. When we would first get to the track, and before the time trails began, I loved to take our go-cart out on the track and make a few laps. You see, evidently, I inherited that need-for-speed gene as well. It really made my day if I passed some of the guys out on the track as they tried out their carts.

I only got to compete in one actual go-cart race. Back then, women didn’t race against the men, so the track planned a Powder Puff Race for women only. I was so excited to finally get to race. When we had the time trials, I qualified for the outside on the front row. When that flag dropped to begin the race, I ended up in second place right behind the pole sitter. I followed her around and around and just couldn’t get by her, no matter how hard I tried. Finally, I tried pulling a Dale Earnhardt move to just gently tap her on the back bumper so I could get by. I’m afraid that move didn’t work out for me like it always did for Dale. Instead of moving the cart in front of me out of the way, somehow my front bumper got hooked onto her back bumper and we both ended up losing out. Then there was another wreck over on the other side of the track and somebody got hurt in that one. That ended the Powder Puff races at that track, so I never got to race again. If I had gotten the chance to race again, maybe I would have had a little more patience trying to get into the lead. Then again, maybe not. Patience can’t be bought, it just has to be learned, and sometimes we just never learn from our mistakes.

That need-for-speed gene I mentioned will probably live on for generations to come in my family. The thing is – young or old – we just have to learn to control it. So nowadays, if I feel like putting the pedal to the metal, all I have to do is remember the cost of a speeding ticket and just let off that gas pedal instead!

Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, and member of the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies.

Azalea R. Bolton