Need for Speed - 27 East

Need for Speed

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Ground Level

  • Publication: East Hampton Press
  • Published on: Sep 27, 2023
  • Columnist: Marilee Foster

We see lots of fancy cars in summertime, but the fall is when they really peak. Whether you like cars or not, you’ll find yourself stunned, slack-jawed, as one after the other a roaring blur of outrageous colors goes past.

Noisier, faster and more expensive than a carnival ride, these cars both incite and satisfy, for almost anyone, a childlike thrill of fear and delight. Stand near the rumble of a powerful motor and you’ll feel it consume your own heartbeat.

These cars, though many are modern, have history here. The spectacle of road racing belies the humble farming roots of little communities with either wide or narrow streets but slow-moving traffic. Home to tractors and rough pickup trucks, some of our roads until fairly recently were still dirt paths referred to protectively as Trustee roads, and somehow that seemed to mean these roads belonged to no one. Unimprovement was a virtue.

But race they did, and race they will. They come out in the fall, not just because there are events centered on them but because the cool air makes them frisky, and fewer people allows them to reach the speeds they want, if only for a very short time.

Farm kids, perhaps emulating the sporty touring class but blending it with their cultural ally, the hotrod, were more likely to revive junkers for driving. We had what we called “lotty cars,” a reference to the fields, or “lots,” that we navigated and swerved between as we learned how to drive; we learned how to race.

The cars could not take precedence over work, but keeping them running was a respectable outgrowth of understanding how machines worked. Our fathers condoned it. But only to a degree.

One time, while executing a series of rooster tails in dry dirt, my brother got too sideways and mauled a few potatoes. My father didn’t have a lotty car — but he did have a World War II Power Wagon with a winch mounted to its battering ram of a front bumper. When my father noted the damage to his crop, he climbed in his truck and drove it three times into the side of my brother’s car. He hit it so hard he pushed it off the driveway and partially across the yard.

When my father was done, we kids were all in tears, but his rage was satisfied and extinguished, now slightly amused. Plus, the car still ran — my father hadn’t stricken head-on.

I think of this, these things, as I look at the recent damage caused by an out-of-control driver. I won’t call it an out-of-control car.

There is something both choreographed and wild but ultimately intentional in the deep tire tracks they made as they set out to make a perfect circle. Riding up and around the variable terrain of a three-way intersection, mud and grass flew from the rain-softened turf. But as the driver neared the end of the off-road excursion, they got too sideways and clocked the grape trellis.

Here, tracks prove the joyride ended in a less desirable form of escape.

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