Apparently for dad, once was sometimes enough

 “I am prepared to try anything once.
–Richard Branson, business magnate, founder of Virgin Galactic

My father saw no sense in powerful or fancy cars and certainly nothing sensible about car racing. To him, cars were a means of transportation and nothing more.

Despite that, he never gave me a hard time for my obsession with trying things in life once for which he saw “no sense.” He simply shook his head at my exploits and smiled. I’m thinking he must have had a standing chiropractor’s appointment for all of the head shaking I caused him.

That thought came to me last fall after attending the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals car show in Chicago to revisit an era of my life focusing on one car that caused dad a lot of head shaking.

Rummaging through photo albums after the show in search of “memories” of the car, I happened onto one taken in front of our house in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in 1969 depicting three cars. My two “no sense” notoriously fast muscle cars of the era, a Ford Torino Cobra Jet and an Oldsmobile “Ram Rod,” were pictured alongside my dad’s “transportation only” car: a four-door Chevy, six-cylinder with a standard-shift transmission.

69 Olds W-31 & 69 Torino Cobra 2-am
The “Ram Rod” Olds that became a race car shortly after this photo (and my sister, Leslie), my “means of transportation” Ford Torino Cobra Jet behind it contrasting with the top of dad’s ’62 Chevy six-cylinder “means of transportation” barely visible on the right. Photo at top of the page—Cessna N7804G, the aircraft in which my father took his first plane ride with me and decided once was enough.

After the Oldsmobile began its new life as my full-time race car, I asked dad if he wanted to go with me to watch. He declined a few times before he and mom showed up at Interstate 20 Raceway near Tyler, Texas, one Saturday night. Thrilled by their interest, I asked him again the next week but once was evidently enough. “No thanks, I wanted to go once to see what it was you liked about it,” he said, “But, I don’t care to go again.”

The same scenario followed a few years later when flying lessons was next on my try it once list. To my knowledge, he had never been up in an airplane and often expressed a strong fear at just the thought of flying. When I told him about my new adventure, he shook his head, smiled and said, “I don’t see any sense in doing that, but if that’s what you want, that’s your business.”

FAA check ride passed and pilot’s license in my pocket, I stopped by his house the following Sunday morning for coffee on the way to the airport. “Can I go with you,” he asked? After cleaning up the coffee I choked on, I said, “Sure, I would have asked, but never thought you would consider it.”

My logbook entry notes that flight on August 29, 1976 took exactly one hour’s time sight-seeing around Northeast Texas that morning. We flew over the current site of Lake Bob Sandlin for an aerial view of the dam under construction at the time. Then we flew south toward Pittsburg circling over the town, pointing out the house where he grew up, followed by a loop east near Omaha before turning back to Mount Pleasant. Before we landed, I pointed out Gibson’s Discount Center where he worked and our house on Delafield Street.

Through the entire flight, he never said a word. With his right hand clutching the pull strap above the passenger door the whole time, he nodded acknowledging my tour guide narration of things on the ground, but that was it.

Back at the airport and out of the plane, I asked, “How did you like it?”

“It was OK,” he said with a smile. A week or so later when headed to the airport for some more fun flying around the area, I stopped to see if he wanted to go up again. “No thanks, I wanted to go once to see what it was you liked about it,” he said, “But, I don’t care to go again.”

Guess my father was content trying something once to see what I liked about the things in which he saw “no sense.” But apparently, once was enough.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.

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