Thursday, August 25, 2011

Derby Girl

What pollutes the air and the ground, exceeds the safe decibel limit and wastes gasoline but is fun, exciting, and REALLY BIG here in the Finger Lakes? The Demolition Derby, that's what!  

Drawing crowds of people and contestants from all around the area, the Trumansburg Fair's Demolition Derby is the qualifier for the NYState championships.  As I walked through the fairgrounds, I notice few people playing games, or riding rides and the carnival people all looked bored and tired. The ticket takers at the Grandstand are working up a sweat, though, because The Derby is by far the biggest draw.

When we were little, my dad took my sister and I to the Allegheny County Fair for the Demolition Derby. I can't remember if it was every year or just once, but the memory of it is burned into my brain. Seeing the cars line up, and hearing revving of the engines and the "10 to go" count, I am a little girl again, cheering, clapping, laughing, and making a fool of myself.

This year's Derby is special: I know some of the drivers. They are our neighbors from up the street, a dad and his sons. And one of them, Shawn, was driving our '93 Mercury Sable Wagon. "Be sure to tell us if you drive it in the derby next year" we said when we watched him drive it away, the transmission slipping and the back end sinking low over the wheel.  All winter, the car sat in the field with others awaiting its final fate until last week, when it appeared in front of his garage. Passing it every day I watched it become less of itself, stripped of glass, eviscerated, wire entrails leading from headlight sockets, hatch and seats removed and doors chained shut. 

A few days ago, Shawn flagged me down and pointed into the garage where it sat, reborn in a glory of blue and white zebra stripes and ready for the Derby. I got the giggles.

Back at the fair, and sitting in the third row, I watched as the old wagon fared well in competition and Shawn took a second place trophy.  The car was driven off the track (not towed as most others were) and maybe still has some life left in it. 

As I cheered for Shawn, conflicting thoughts were jostling around in my head: Who knew that car was such a tank?...OMG--this sport is so wrong on so many levels....We should never have sold that car....oh, yeah--I'm coming back next year!

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