A distant memory comes to mind about my mother this Mother’s Day. We were sitting high in the south stands of the Dayton Speedway in Dayton, Iowa. It was ~1962. The speedway was a modestly sized oval dirt track. My aunts were screaming “C’mon Ruthie! Faster!” I was five and mildly apprehensive about the whole thing. It was all so very loud.
Down on the track was a snarling pack of cars driving too closely and at speeds plainly too fast for the size of the oval. They were all trying to get ahead of one another. The cars in the lead had caught up with the cars in back so it was hard to see who was winning. They just kept grinding away around that loop.
Alarmingly, my mother was on that track driving a stock car. Our cousin, Dick, had provided the car. He was a Dodge dealer in our home town nearby and had the resources to dabble in stock car racing. This variety of racing was called a “Powder Puff Derby”. Mom was driving a robins egg blue Chevy with the pink letters PU2 painted on the doors. Mom normally drove at two speeds- fast and stop. She had the need for speed and racing was a natural impulse for her.
Later in the day we drove home with a trophy. It wasn’t first place, but it was a trophy. Mom was energized by the whole experience but quite exhausted. When we got home we did what people often did on a late summer afternoon- we cut open a watermelon out in the yard and stood there in the shade slurping the juicy melon out of the rind and spitting the seeds long distance under the swaying branches of an elm tree in the summer breeze.
If I concentrate I can still hear the clatter of the hogs lifting and dropping the metal lids of the feeder in the hog house and the earthy, organic smells of the farm. It was a long time ago in a very different world.