Long-time Mount Pleasant friend, Susan Prewitt, sent a request last week searching for a column published recently in the Tribune. Seems she tossed the issue before husband Randy finished reading it.
After sending it and noting what I assumed was our common interest in that particular edition of my weekly missive, I had to smile when Susan responded with, “… unfortunately the mention of the cars is what attracted Randy’s attention. Some things never change.”
“And your point is …,” I pondered. When not sticking words together hoping for something meaningful, my other passion has always been bolting automotive iron together hoping for something fast, loud and cool looking.
One fast, loud and cool car that led from one thing to another years ago, and the common denominator in this narrative, was a high performance car built for drag racing. And race is exactly what I did with it at drag strips across Texas and Louisiana before eventually selling it to Randy Prewitt.
My sister Sylvia and Susan were buds at MPHS then, which led to Susan accepting my invitation to a race one summer night. I’d have to ask her, but that may have been the first time she went on a date and wound up working on a racecar. In any case, it certainly wasn’t the last. She later married Randy (and I guess the race car as well) and their passion ever since has been racing cars and motorcycles.
The Friday night Susan ventured off with me as a date more than a racing event, that for her turned into more of a racing event than a date, also led to her father teaching me something I’ve never forgotten.
Auto races were, and still are, unpredictable events that often become late night affairs, especially when you’re winning. This particular night in rural East Texas, we were almost an hour from home when the dust settled on the track as midnight approached.
Susan’s father, Carlton McAlister, was waiting when we pulled back into Mount Pleasant. And, Mr. McAlister was not a happy father. Our feet were hardly on the porch before he began strongly expressing his displeasure with this young man’s lack of responsibility for bringing his daughter home at that hour, and rightfully so.
The next morning, actually just a few hours later, Saturday dawned with me punching the time clock at Sandlin Chevrolet and Olds where I worked to support nagging habits like racing, college and dating. I was still trying to focus sleep-deprived eyes and sort out problems I had created for Susan when someone stepped up next to me. Sleep-deprived or not, my eyes quickly confirmed that I was face-to-face with Susan’s father—again.
I froze, my heart stopped and my first thought was, “Oh no, he forgot something last night. I’m about to hear ‘Angry Father Lecture—the sequel.’”
To my surprise, Mr. McAllister said, “I owe you an apology. Susan explained what happened.” He also added that it would be all right for me to ask her out again—something he told me in no uncertain terms just a few hours earlier that I needn’t bother attempting again.
Decades have failed to diminish the memory of that event, it’s still vivid and I can tell the story as good today as I did then, maybe better. More importantly, in later years I better understood Mr. McAlister and his actions. That clarity came once my own daughter reached the age that Susan was then.
As one thing leads to another, it was as a parent that I figured out his actions both that night and the next morning weren’t so much because he was mad at me, but more because he loved his daughter.
The old racecar is gone, although not forgotten by me or by Randy. Such is the legacy of fast, loud and cool cars among old guys who are still young at heart. But, as I told Susan recently, I’ve always fondly remembered her father and the valuable lesson I learned from him … because of a racecar, and how one thing often leads to another.
July 1, 2015
Originally published 7-1-2015 in the Mount Pleasant (Texas) Daily Tribune