Their ritual included a bunch of planning and grocery shopping. And then we left home at an absolutely ridiculous hour. Even the birds were still asleep.
But in my family no one gets going around noon. If you’re gonna do something, you are gonna get there early, as in 4 o’clockish. It doesn’t matter if you are four hours early. Just get there and know that you were on time.
Since everyone else in America was asleep, my race-loving dad easily found a place to park in an empty field. And then he and my uncles unloaded all their fixings and began the ritual of preparing breakfast.
Most of the time I behaved like a sleepy snit, so I never admitted how much I loved the scent of bacon frying as the sun came up.
Believe me, a breakfast cooked over a fire is the most delicious meal you will ever enjoy.
When streaking became a fad, race day got a lot spicier.
I remember being at the track in the early 1970s with my dad and my uncles when all of a sudden the entire crowd of eyeballs in the bleachers turned their attention to a nearby pole.
“Look at that!” one of my uncles said in a disgusted voice.
“Not you,” my dad clamped his hand over my eyes. “You don’t have any business looking at that naked idiot.”
What? There’s a naked guy? A naked guy climbing a pole at the race track?
Well if I didn’t care to look before, I sure was interested in a little glimpse now.
But I missed the show. I missed watching police officers remove that naked jaybird from the pole. I missed everything about it.
All I saw was my dad’s palm over my eyes.
When I became a teenager I stopped going to the track with my dad and uncles. I had a weekend job and wanted to work instead.
Occasionally I went to the track with friends. I’m a people watcher, and I always got a lot of sun when hanging out at the track.
But I never got invested in any driver except A.J. Foyt. That was because my dad loved that guy.
A few years ago my dad and uncles stopped going to the track because seeing the race involved too much walking, too much sitting in the sun.
Now they listen to radio broadcasts while they piddle around in the barn ... or they watch the race from their recliners.
Last month our family lost one of my uncles who cooked our race day breakfast. I have thought a lot about him this week. In my mind I have seen him smiling and laughing in the sun.
Regular race fans might think my uncle’s happiness was wrapped up in the roar of the engines. But I know that the all-day activity with the guys he loved best was the reason for all of that smiling and laughing. He always treasured any time spent with “the boys,” as they will always be called, no matter their ages.
This race day one less radio will blast the starting line-up.
When that amazing moment of “ ... start your engines” arrives, I will look up at the skies and smile. My sweet uncle has an amazing seat this year on race day.