Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

May 19, 2014

Cathie Shaffer: Lettin' it all out: 5/20/14

ASHLAND — So we — as my daughter, youngest grandgirl, a friend of my daughter’s and me — went to a demolition derby over the weekend to let our inner rednecks out. This girls’ night out gave us a chance to whoop, holler and eat junk food as the dirt flew.

Mud, actually. In case you’ve never been to a demolition derby, here it is in a nutshell: Drivers smash their cars into each other’s until only one is still moving.

To make it even more exciting, the field is watered until it has a fine sheen of mud. Between the hits and spins, the guy — or girl in some cases — behind the wheel shifts from forward to reverse and guns toward whoever is near.

The first heat was a figure eight which is one crazy way of doing things. Drivers follow a figure eight path with the intent to plowing into each other when their paths cross. The bigger the slam, the louder the audience cheers.

We arrived early enough to get front row seats in the grandstand. Not only did we get great access to all the actions, we were able to test our flexibility as those big clots of mud came whirling at us.

And we were close to the concession area, another plus as they cleared the field for the next heat. There’s nothing like a freshly battered and fried corn dog to revive me as I watched the backhoes and giant lifts pick up the then-dead cars and haul them back to the pit area.

Hard as it is to believe looking at them, most of the cars will have their metal bodies pounded back into some sort of auto-like shape, get their engines and transmissions repaired well enough and go back on the field another time.

Saturday afternoon was pretty chilly, even with the sun still shining when the derby began at 4 p.m. Yet nobody left. Everyone huddled into their jackets or hoodies or pulled blankets tighter as shadow overtook the grandstand. This was excitement, folks, sheer adrenaline-inducing excitement.

In the very best heat, a long silver sedan was tipped sideways onto two wheels right by our end of the grandstand. We watched with bated breath as the driver held onto the wheel and battled to keep from falling over, turtle-like. Cheers rang out above the crash and boom when it flopped back onto four tires and he was on the move again.

Naturally, on this all-girl jaunt, we cheered hard for the long-haired blond woman who fought hard for the title in her class. She didn’t win, but we didn’t care. By golly, she gave those men a run for their money.

We also privately cheered when the local fire chief went out to direct the crew manning the big hoses that sprayed the field down after each heat. We liked seeing a woman in charge out there.

I’m coming off a few high-stress weeks, so I’d planned to spend Saturday night quietly at home. My daughter’s insistence that I join them showed me that for once, Mama doesn’t know best.

That demo derby was exactly what I needed — a chance to hoot and holler and let it all out.

CATHIE SHAFFER, executive editor of the Greenup News-Times, can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net or (606) 473-9851.

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