BOBBY BENNETT: ONE DAY YOU'LL SEE THE WORLD THROUGH MY EYES
Odd stuff usually happens in this office during the early morning hours.
Early is a relative term, so let's just say in this instance that 7:30 a.m. is early.
So I'm working away, and this kid rides up to the sidewalk in front of the office where I can see from my desk. He puts the kickstand down on his black Takara 10-speed, which looks a lot like the one this writer used to have when he was a young teenager. He just sits there looking at the posters we have in the front window. So I go back to work editing the latest episode of Legends: The Series.
My train of thought is interrupted as I look up and think to myself, "What's the deal, kid? You have to have read everything on those posters at least 10 times. Then I realized, "Wow, that's how I used to do it back when I was a kid."
I used to read the same articles of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated back in the day at least 20 times to make sure I didn't miss one detail. I found myself somewhat excited because -- unlike when I was a kid -- you don't happen across young'uns who seem interested in old-school drag racing.
By this time, the kid had interrupted my train of creativity.
I motioned him to come in because he appeared pretty intimidated by the situation. The first thing I noticed was a T-shirt, light blue, and it had the logo of the 1981 Wintson Spring Nationals from Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tenn.
The first words out of my mouth were, "Where in the world did you get that cool shirt? I've been searching for one of those for a long time. Wow."
The kid just smiled and said, "At the race."
Immediately, I wanted to ask, "What race?"
However, before I could continue my investigation, he asked, "What is it that you do in here? I love those posters. Are you a drag racing fan? Do you go to the races?"
I paused and told the kid I was the editor of a drag racing magazine.
"I am the editor of ...," I said before he interrupted me.
"Super Stock & Drag Illustrated?" he abruptly interjected.
"Nah, Competitionplus.com," I said.
"I thought I had heard of every drag racing magazine out there," he responded. "Where can I buy one?"
"It's on the internet and free to read," I responded.
I could tell the kid was confused and looked bewildered.
"Where is the internet?" He asked.
Then he continued with a familiar statement that left me scratching my head.
"I want to be the editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine and drive a D/Modified Production Corvette when I get a few more years older."
I thought for a moment and said, "That's a pretty lofty goal and one that I had told anyone that would listen when I was a kid."
I had a ton of work to accomplish before hitting the road for the weekend's race, but this kid had me mesmerized. It was as if this writer was looking at a younger version of himself.
I asked him, "Does your dad drag race?"
He looked at me and said, "No, but my uncle does."
I knew, in just the short time we spent together, the kid had to be extremely connected in the sport.
I then asked, "Who is your uncle? I'm sure I know him."
"Number 243. Drives a Plymouth Horizon in Pro Stock, Roy Hill," the kid said, looking at a large photograph of Hill's 1981 car on my wall.
That response made me chuckle, and I responded, "Kid, Roy Hill is everybody's uncle."
"Yeah, but they don't have one of these," he said as he pulled a tattered time card from the Gatornationals out of his wallet. He'd told a tall tale just like I would have when I was his age, just to fit in.
There was no greater joy in hearing this kid rave about the virtues of drag racing. So I just let him ramble on as he told stories in an attempt to show me how much he was "in the know" about the sport.
He wouldn't shut up, and I didn't mind at all, just soaking in his enthusiasm which was starting to re-energize me.
"Who's your favorite drag racer?" I asked.
"I have three," he promptly responded. "Lee Shepherd, Don Prudhomme, and Gene Fulton."
"That Lee Shepherd guy, he's very good," the kid said adamantly.
I responded, "Yes, he was." I was bewildered by the kid's excellent drag racing acumen.
That drew the ire of the kid, "What do you mean he was? He IS. Glidden can't beat him, and if Glidden can't beat him, that means he's the best!"
"Prudhomme is great, probably one of the coolest drivers I've ever met," I added.
Then he responded, "You met him? I hope you didn't try to talk to him when he's lost a race, or he might want to fight you."
I couldn't help but laugh a little.
The kid continued, "Gene Fulton, everybody knows him. I love that Corvette of his, sort of an A/Modified car, but cooler."
Then it hit me. The kid was every bit of 120 pounds, soaking wet. He had neck-length brown hair.
"What's your name, kid?" I asked.
"Bobby," he responded.
I just started shaking my head, smiling.
"Who gave you the ride in the DeLorean?" I asked, referencing the movie 'Back to the Future,' where that car and a lightning strike could enable one to time travel.
He had that deer-in-the-headlights look and responded, "What's that?
"I did ride down Spartanburg Dragway in the passenger side of Bill Cummings' Chevelle last Saturday," he added
I asked the kid out of sheer curiosity, "What do your parents think of drag racing?"
"Well, my Mom died last year from cancer, and my dad only likes it because I do," the kid responded with a somewhat sad look.
Knowing I wanted to tell this kid of the joys and heartbreaks ahead of him, I refrained. Luckily I had seen the movie 'The Butterfly Effect,' in which changing one minute detail could alter the course of one's life, I limited myself to giving only sage advice.
Then the kid asked me, "What do I have to do to get to where you are at?"
I sat there leaning on my desk, pausing to carefully choose my words carefully, something that a 14-year-old kid standing there wouldn't do.
"It's like this kid," I began. "It will be a tough road."
"You will give up hours and years of your life, chasing the stories of people who sometimes have little respect for what you do. What you do will matter the most to those who dream of being where you are.
"You will see people close to you pass away, and it will hurt, but you still have to tell the story.
"You will have kids, and you will miss them growing up. You will miss ballgames and school plays, and eventually you will learn the great importance of these because you will remember how much it meant to you. Your oldest kids will suffer the most because it will hit you like a ton of bricks when the younger ones come along.
"The best thing you can have is a non-stop work ethic and the tenacity to never give up when your peers tell you that you're a stupid hillbilly hick and will never make it.
"I want you always to remember a phrase when they try to knock you down: 'The toes you step on today will be connected to the ass you'll have to kiss tomorrow.'
"The best part is that you never have to remind them because they'll know it.
A picture of the kid that walked into my office. What would you say to your 14-year old self?
"You'll know what it is like for few to give you a chance, and one day when you get in a position of power, you'll be the one giving the chances because you will know how it felt to have to fight.
"Your biggest asset will be that people will trust you, and you will provide every reason for them to do so.
"Don't be afraid to dream and look ahead; it will work well for you.
"That's all I got, kid."
Immediately he asked, "Can I work with you?"
"Sorry, kid, you can't," I responded, leaving the kid with a disappointed look.
I was taken aback by the kid's response.
"You'll regret it," the kid said. "One of these days, I'm gonna be someone big."
"Yep, kid, you will be," I responded. "But it's the road to that point that will shape you."
And with that, I bid adieu. I knew every heartbreak and success that was ahead for the kid, but at that moment, I could relate to a line in the hit television show "1883," where the mother told her headstrong daughter Elsa a fact of life.
"Just once, I'd love to see the world through your eyes," said the character played by country singer Faith Hill. "One day, you'll see 'em through mine."