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

Meaning of a Nickname – July 2011

I never really did have a nickname until I met Jay Livingston. I am not sure where he got it from or why he decided to use it for me. Perhaps he knows more of my life than I thought he did, but be that as it may, in my opinion, I really do not deserve the name. Oh, there was that one time in Idaho that I told you about earlier. I was just 18 years old and was ejected from a car that rolled three times. I was taken to a hospital with no pulse and no blood pressure, but that was just a once-in-a-lifetime happening. I don’t think I deserve that nickname from that one occurrence.

I grew up in a family of four boys. We lived at the coast in south Tillamook County, seven miles up the Nestucca River from the little town of Beaver. I can still recall every turn on that road. It was seven miles, seven bridges, and twenty-nine corners. We four boys and our cars were very well known by the neighbors as we covered those seven miles like we owned the road. I must say that in twenty years of travelling that stretch, I only found the ditch three times. (Now that my mother has passed, my brother tells me that one night I did not come home when she thought I should, so my mother made the drive to Beaver just to see if she could detect any place where a car might have left the road and gone over the bank into the river. Now I wish I had not caused her that amount of anxiety and worry.) But, is three little mishaps enough reason to give me that nickname?

Maybe it stems from the time when I went to see the Joey Chitwood Stunt Driving Show at the Kansas State Fair. I was amazed at the jumps and the ability to drive around the course with the car balanced on the two left wheels. However, there was one stunt that I knew that even I could do. It was a simple 180 degree slide to a stop. All it would take is a quick turn to the right, crank the wheel hard to the left, hit the emergency brake to slide the rear wheels 180 degrees and bring it to a stop. So I picked my spot where I could prove my driving prowess – a wide spot in the road with a fifty-foot wide driveway on my left in case I needed some extra room. Did I mention a ditch on each side of the driveway? Do I need to say more? But even still, do you think I really deserve that nickname from an error in driving judgment?

One of my early cars was a VW bug. It had the baja fenders and was painted metallic blue with flower decals strategically placed in the style of the sixties. Sometimes on those coastal highways, it was difficult to find a straight section long enough to pass slow moving traffic ahead of you. This was especially true when driving a VW. But I learned, that if I held back and built my speed so that I could overtake the car at just the right time, I could even pass cars on short stretches of straight roads. When I began my teaching career in 1965, we were expected to dress up for work. I would often wear a tie and sport coat. One day after leaving work, I needed to make a quick trip into Tillamook. There was a slow car ahead of me and driving my VW Bug, I picked just the right spot to make the pass. With perfect timing, I zoomed around the car, took a sharp corner to the left and then into a sweeping corner to the right. I must have cut the corner too much, because when my right front tire dropped off the pavement, the V-Dub did a little wiggle and before I could straighten it out, I was up a little embankment on my right and back onto the highway with the car laying driver-side down. I knew that the car I just passed would be coming up from behind at any moment. I had my driver’s window rolled down, and my sport jacket was pinned between the post and the highway. With a giant tug, I freed myself, opened the passenger door which was right above me and jumped up on top just in time to flag down the car as it came around the corner.

So what does this all have to do with my nickname? Baseball has “Scooter”, “PeeWee”, “Babe” and “The Big Unit”. Basketball has “Magic” and football has the “Refrigerator”. Drag racing has “The Mongoose”, The Snake”, and “Big Daddy.”

Regarding my earlier reference to Jay Livingston – he just calls me “Crash”.

Story by Elvon Kauffman.

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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