How Do You Wear Your Helmet? – December 2012
Two days ago I made the drive up Nestucca River Road from Beaver to Blaine and the memories of my childhood flooded my mind. I passed at least 10 former dairy farms and remember the names of each family who labored tirelessly every day, dawn-to-dusk, milking their herd, because dairy cows must be attended to twice each day 365 days per year. I remembered and am still glad that I chose not to follow the path of my parents, trying to make a living from dairy cows. I made this drive on a Sunday in December and I stopped to attend service at the church where dad had been pastor prior to his stroke and subsequent passing in 1985. What a neat surprise to see two former Woodburn Dragstrip Track Champions in attendance at that same service. I even heard a story about a racer’s wife who made a pass in competition at Woodburn Dragstrip with her helmet strapped on backwards. I am told that the starter (who shall remain nameless) made radio contact with the race director (also nameless) for instructions when he noticed the positioning of the helmet as the car approached the starting line. Incidentally, if you were race director and some racer at your track was ready to make a pass in competition with the helmet on backwards, I am wondering how you would respond. As the story was told to me, both drivers staged up, the tree counted down, with both drivers getting a green light and racing to the finish line where the racer with the backwards helmet took the win. I do not suggest that procedure for any future racers who might happen to read this.
Back in the day, nothing was more fun that to go for a drive on the beach. It was legal to use the beach access at Tierra del Mar, Cape Kiawanda, and Pacific City to drive down onto the hard sand and cruise up and down the beach. Of course, we never “cut cookies” or anything outrageous. If you were there at the right time, you could watch the fisherman launch their dories from the beach or return to the beach at Cape Kiawanda. On this particular day, beach access was not allowed so I did not get the pleasure of reliving that memory. However, as I approached the ramp leading down to the beach, Lorraine (my wife) told me in no uncertain terms, “If you are planning to go down there, you can let me out right here!” I figured this was probably a good time to have lunch at the Pelican Bay Pub.
It has been very rainy these past few days and the drive along the Nestucca River showed the effects of all that rain. As we approached the town of Pacific City, we noted how that the river was up to the top of its banks. With the storm pouring down rain at full fury and the river approximately one car-lane to our right, our attention was drawn to the Tillamook County Sheriff’s car with flashing lights just ahead in our lane. As we drove past, I noted a Tillamook County Sheriff boat anchored to the shore at that same location. Reading the news the next day, I discovered that divers were exploring the riverbed at that very time. They had discovered a car upside-down under water. Unfortunately, the deceased driver was still inside. The story continued to state that speed, heavy rain and slick roads may all have contributed to this incident.
At the drag strip, we are all about speed. But, aren’t you glad that we do not race in the event of rain or slick roads. With three more months of winter staring me in the face, I eagerly anticipate the change of weather to spring when we can once again make quick and safe passes down the track no matter how we are wearing our helmets.
Elvon Kauffman has been drag racing since 1975. He has been a NHRA Northwest Division Bracket Champion twice – first in 1978 when he defeated fellow Woodburn racer, Joe DiFillipi at Seattle International Raceway and secondly, in 1980 when he again defeated a Woodburn racer, Ron Burch at Woodburn Dragstrip. He was the first and only World Champion in Heavy Bracket, winning with his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 4-speed at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in October, 1980.
Elvon’s variety of life experiences become the basis for the stories he shares in Straight Talk, a monthly column produced by Woodburn Dragstrip.