I’ve already told the story of my first car … It was a 1955 Chevrolet that I bought across the border from a gentleman named Jesus. During his ownership, he had his name engraved on the back glass and most of the gold anodized finishes.
Rather than spending money on the car’s aesthetics, I spent all I had on the engine: a heated SBC measuring over 388 inches backed by a Rock Crusher from Jesus. When I turned 16 and could legally drive, the old car made 13-second passes quite consistently. The announcer at Penwell Raceway called me “Flying Jesus”.
But on my 16th birthday, I was driving down Wadley Street in Midland, TX with my good friend Chris in tow. We were greeted at the Midkiff intersection by a red light and a late model white Ford truck. As I put the 4-speed into neutral and shook the gearbox to confirm, the man driving the Ford truck cranked the engine and flashed the stinking eye.
“Do you want to run?” Chris asked.
I wasn’t going to ask. Instead, I just cranked up the revs and let go of the clutch as soon as I saw the green. The old Chevy was gone in a puff of smoke and I didn’t see the Ford truck again until I stopped at the next light. It was then that the driver rolled down the window and showed the badge.
“You stupid kids stop acting like stupid kids, understand?” Then he turned on the lights, rolled the red and walked away …
I was petrified and couldn’t wait to go home and tell my dad what had happened. I guess most of the kids would have kept the experience from their parents, but Dad and I were a little different. Car cheating was something we shared together.
I expected my old man to find the comic experience, but instead … he went red in the face, took the keys and left the house in a hurry. A few hours later, he returned home followed by a white Ford F150.
This is probably a good time to say that my dad was the Texas Rangers staff doctor and knew every cop within a 500-mile radius or so. It’s also a good time to say that my dad took birthdays VERY seriously, especially license-issuing birthdays.
“Hey Ryan,” the young cop said shyly. “I apologize for calling you a stupid kid on your birthday.”
Then he had a long diatribe about the dangers of entrapment that I didn’t really understand. In fact, the whole experience was really confusing for me at the time. My dad was pissed off in a way I had never seen before.
Now I’m also a parent … and my daughter turns 16 today. He’s at the DMV right now with my wife. And suddenly, I completely understand.