When I was 11 or 12 years old my family made a trip one summer from Virginia to Texas to visit and stay with my Dad’s brother – Douglas Rutherford. This was about a 1500 mile trip in the family car and dad was doing about 500 miles a day – back then with a lot of the traveling on 2 and 3 lane roads, you didn’t make time like you do today on a clean interstate system. During one stop we made I found a car magazine and asked my dad to buy it for me. I can’t remember the name of the magazine anymore but I looked through that book so many times that I guess I was wearing the ink off of the pages.
While staying at my uncle’s house, I slept on a cot in the front room. Television was limited to a couple of fuzzy channels so I continued to look through that car magazine. My uncle noticed and asked if I liked cars – saying yes he went off for a few minutes and then returned with a large stack of car magazines, mostly high performance ones and told me I could keep them. I went to work going through those books and even though I hardly understood anything in them, I didn’t let that slow me down too much.
The first Sunday we were there, my uncle had arranged a family reunion of sorts. Various tables and chairs were put out in the backyard, meat was cooked and it appeared that a lot of Lone Star Beer was consumed. Playing cards was also one of the big activities and I finally got to meet my Great Uncle Charlie – the man that took care of my father when his mom passed away and the man that I am named after. Uncle Charlie spent most of his life as a “mustanger”, rounding up wild Mustang horses and doing the work of a cowboy. When he sat down to play cards, the first things he did was to put his money sack on the table along with his .44 Colt. I leaned over and asked my Uncle Doug if it was loaded – and he said you bet it is. He also told me that unlike the movies, when cowboys played cards you put your money and your gun on the table.
We stayed for about a week with my Uncle Doug and on the way home I continued to dig through that pile of magazines he gave me. Again, I don’t remember the name of the book but there was one that had an article about how anybody could go drag racing – all you needed was a car. I had no idea of this and re-read this article a number of times gleaming every piece of information I could out of it. When I got back home, I started asking my friends about this and some had older brothers that actually raced at the local dragstrip. This was the very beginning of my drag racing life and I owe a big part of it to one man – Thanks Uncle Doug!