Woodburn Dragstrip
7730 Hwy. 219
Woodburn, Oregon
503-982-4461

Warning – Caution – Danger – Be Carerful – September 2012

There are many times in our lives when we have heard the words, “Be Careful.” The first time I heard those words was from my parents, but I also heard it from my boss when I was helping build a house and we were installing ceiling joists and rafters. I think we all have seen signs with the words “Caution” or “Danger” printed boldly, usually in red. Sometimes we make a mental note and heed the warning, and sometimes, as they say, “it goes in one ear and out the other.”

We usually do not ask “why” when we see or hear those words of caution. Even an idiot can understand their meaning and purpose. “Be careful”, “Warning”, and “Caution” are all intended to prevent serious injury or even death to the person to whom the words are targeted. It has been my privilege to travel the USA, sometimes for pleasure and sometimes for business. It does not take too much thought to realize that an injury which occurs away from home nearly always presents more complications than one which occurs locally. The incident I am sharing today occurred about 1200 miles away from home, family and anyone else from my home State.

I was visiting Gilbert, Arizona for a national Racers for Christ Chaplains conference. Most of you know that most of us chaplains love racing as a sport enjoy driving as well. On one afternoon, during a break in our meetings, we all went to a nearby indoor go-cart racing arena so we could make some quick laps. As we entered, I saw the sign. It said, “Caution. Racing can cause serious injury or death. Management is not responsible for injuries to drivers.” We even signed a waiver which said that we take responsibility for our driving and any injuries which may result.

Now I have driven bumper cars before. I have previously been to Pat’s Acres and driven go-carts. Yes, I do love to go fast. So, I paid my fees and jumped into the cart. The first several laps were uneventful and I increased my speed. Soon, I was driving at full throttle, sliding around the corners, passing cars ahead of me, and having a blast. Little did I know that in the middle of the next sharp corner turning left, a cart would be sideways directly in my path. I was going so fast, I could not stop. In fact, I am not sure I even had time to try to stop. It was a direct hit and my momentum threw me forward and to my right. The shoulder harness was not fastened tightly, and my body lurched forward, my ribs crashing against the curved driver’s seat which was intended to hold me safely in place.

There was instant pain. I drove to a safe stopping place, got out of the cart, and asked a fellow chaplain to take me to the emergency room. X-rays revealed three broken ribs. For the next three days, “Oxycotin” was my favorite friend, and I slept through most of the remainder of the conference. Coughing, laughing, and deep inhaling were constant reminders of my injury.

This story is a reminder that daily, we are all surrounded by circumstances which could result in accident or injury. Whether we are involved in our daily routine, or traveling down the highway, relaxing in our homes, or at our place of employment, or even enjoying our favorite recreational activity, without warning, it is possible for an incident to occur which will affect the remainder of our lives. As cars continue to go quicker and faster, one can easily see how a fraction of a second can make a vital difference. Let me encourage everyone to have fun, but by all means, “Be Careful.”

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. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading them.

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