Auto racing is boring except when a car goes at least 172  miles per hour upside down.”



     Daddy traveled several hundred miles to watch races.


Every year, Daddy took Ma to see the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Once, they even saw a driver get killed during one of the races

Sometimes, riding mechanics or track people could be killed in practice. A few

spectators even lost their lives. Racing sounded dangerous to me.

But it never killed Daddy’s love for the sport. He shared a love of the races with

some of his drinking buddies. “Hey, Lyle,” one of his friends had asked, “I’m taking

the wife and kids to the races tonight. How about you bring your family and come along with us?”


     So that’s how Daddy, Ma, my two brothers, my sister, and I ended up sitting at the top of the bleachers, waiting for the races to begin.


We were so high up that it made me dizzy to look over the edge. And if anyone dropped something through the cracks, it was gone. The price of admission was lower for kids up to twelve years old. So I was still twelve, even after my thirteenth birthday, when Daddy took us to the races. That night, although I couldn’t admit it, I was fifteen.


     I wouldn’t say I liked watching cars crash like my brothers did.


I enjoyed hot dogs with all the fixings, washed down with ice-cold Coke. I also

liked to watch the people with their cameras and gigantic lenses. At the end of

the race, they took pictures of the happy winners signing autographs. Watching people get so excited over winning was the best part. Penny thought being around a crowd of people was the most fun. Daddy and his friend busied themselves by passing around and guzzling cold beers. For different reasons, we all enjoyed our nights at Auto City or sometimes at Dixie Motor Speedway.


     They handed each of us a ticket when we came in the gate, with a chance at winning the prize.


I gripped a ticket in my sweaty palm, hoping against hope that I held a winner.

Then I could run through the crowd, as I’d watched many do before, and accept the prize.

Daddy didn’t care about the drawing. He liked cars, motorcycles, noise, racing, demolishing; it didn’t matter. He loved everything about speed. Ma said it was just his way to escape life, along with the drinking. Sometimes, I Wish I had a way to escape.



     People all around were boozing it up, some of them loudly cussing. 


Time trials were over. Everyone stood when they played the National Anthem. The flag

went down, and cars took off. The noise was deafening. Fans yelled and screamed.

“Punch it to the floor!” Daddy yelled, “The inside track.”

“Slam him out-of-place,” his friend said. “Plenty of guts.”

“Lots of hotheads out there,” came from somewhere in the crowd. 

Ma stood up once and spilled beer all over the guy before her. He jumped up, shocked at first. Then he laughed and brushed beer off his clothes. I just endured it all and clung to the ticket in my hand, waiting…


     Finally, it was time for the drawing.

Cars had stopped, and we were right in the middle of half-time. They were about to draw the winning ticket. Everyone got silent as numbers blared from the loud-speaker, 234167.


     Penny screamed!


 My sister won, even though I didn’t, I was happy for her. She was SO excited. That was the first time she’d ever won anything. She hurried down to claim her prize.

Her red ponytails flopped from side to side as she bounced down the bleachers.

Her freckled face showed signs of being too long in the sun. She accepted her gift amidst cheers from the crowd. She climbed back up that enormous set of stairs holding a little Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Camera.


     I was more excited than she was. 


 I longed for a camera. Anyone listening to us talk would have thought we were on a debate team. “I’m five years older than you,” I said, “I have a job, and I’m the only one who can afford to buy film. You know how bad I’ve always wanted to take pictures.”


     And then Penny, with her soft heart, turned the camera over to me. 


 I tore open the box, loaded the camera, and stood before them to take my first picture. I tried to center Penny, Rodney, and Ronnie in the middle, with the race track in the background. They looked at me. “Smile,” I said, then click.


     A new love was born for me.


My way of escape. I had thoughts of being able to capture tons of memories. I had visions of getting older and graduating with bigger and better cameras. I would take so many pictures that when we all grew up and had our own homes, I’d visit and see my best photos on their walls. Whenever I’d hear the words “wedding,” “new house,” “baby,” or even someone’s “black eye,” I could be right there with my camera in hand. My heart filled with joy just thinking about the possibilities. And, maybe, someday, I’d have grandkids to take pictures of. They’d probably get tired of hearing me say the word “smile” so often. But what would life be without pictures to capture all the best times?

On that one special night at the races, I had a lot of big dreams. I felt like such a grown-up. Maybe, I remember thinking, I would even be able to start dating soon; after all, I Had my very own camera, and I wasn’t a kid anymore. 


     My sister, Penny, started it all.


Now, several years and thousands of pictures later, I am searching garage sales, flea markets, and even auctions, trying to find another little Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Camera like the one she gave me. I will wrap that little camera with a big red bow and return it to Penny. 



      “Thanks, sis,” I’ll say, “for helping me with my love for pictures and giving me a

      Way To Escape. I love ya tons.”


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