If you have been following the Hemi Hunter tales, you may have read the
story of the trip to the Gatornationals. I promised you I would tell the
tale of the drive down to Florida with Dodger and Kathy Glenn. Someone
wrote to our HH Guestbook, saying that he couldn't wait any longer --
could I PLEASE tell the story? I wrote back, telling him that I needed to
be in the right frame of mind to accomplish this task. Today's that day,
so here goes.
Now if you're old enough and went to the drags in the Northeast, you
probably will remember Dodger Glenn. Over the years, he drove many a Top
Fuel car. He was the John Force of his day, not so much in wins at the
tracks, but in personality. He would just explode with excitement at
anything that resembled or resulted in a racecar, especially on Nitro. He
was always driving and racing, even if you were out shopping and just
buying underwear. Other than that, he was always cool as a cucumber.
My wife Peggy and I picked the Glenns up at their house in Delaware for
the drive down to Florida. It was early evening on Wednesday, and it was
pouring rain. I had borrowed my mother's car to drive down. We load the
suitcases into the trunk and we're off. I start to drive down 95, but in
no time, I can see Dodger is already bored. The girls are in the back
seat, eating sandwiches that Kathy had prepared for the trip. They are
also sharing a bottle of wine. Dodger and I didn't want to drink for
obvious reasons; we new we had a long drive ahead, and didn't want to be
tired from the booze. Yes I know. Doesn't sound like a bunch of racers,
but we knew we had to get to the track and then go racing.
Dodger says, "Pull over; I'll drive." I knew he would need
to drive at some point, so I pull over and he gets behind the wheel.
We're off, and before you know it, we're cruising down 95 at ABOUT 95
in the rain. I figured there was no use in complaining. He would probably
just go faster, although I also figured my Mom's car was about rung out.
It couldn't go any faster. I try to relax, and leave our fate in the
hands of the gods of racing wizardry or something like that. Hours go by
and we never leave the passing lane. The miles are rapidly clicking away,
and we're some place in Virginia. It's still raining cats and dogs.
I had driven with Dodger before, but usually with a racecar trailer
attached to the vehicle. That would usually slow him down to about 80 or
so. I'm sitting in my seat starting to relax. I know Dodger will get
tired shortly. He always pulled a little trick when he wanted someone else
to drive. He would start to nod his head and pull onto the shoulder of the
road until stones flew. He would keep doing this until someone said,
‘You're too tired. Pull over; I'll drive." So I'm waiting for
this ritual to transpire, when all of a sudden, I see the red lights
flashing from the police car.
"Oh, no," says Dodger, "Quick. Get behind the wheel. I
can't get anymore speeding tickets." Now really, I wasn't about
to take the chance of switching seats at 80 MPH, in the rain, with a cop
watching. I'm also thinking, "I hope Mom has the owner's card in
the glove box." Dodger finally pulls over. I'm going through the
glove box, looking for the owner's card when Dodger says, "You'd
better stop it." I look up and see the cop has his gun against my
side window. He doesn't know what I'm doing. Up go my hands, and I
yell that I'm only looking for the owner's card. The cop walks around
the front of the car over to Dodger. Dodger rolls down his window.
The cop looks in and says, "I've been trying to catch you guys
for 20 minutes. Are you crazy, driving in the rain like that? Let me see
your license and owner's card." I hand Dodger the owner's card,
and he hands the cop his driver's license. The cop says, "I need
your real driver's license. This one's some kind of license for a Top
Fuel something." Dodger nonchalantly says, "I can't believe it
took you that long to catch up to us. I was only doing 80. What the heck
do they have you driving?" By this time, he's hanging out the
window to see the cop's car. Dodger says, "Why that's a new Ford;
you should have caught this Chevy in no time. I'll bet they gave you one
with a small engine in it." The cop says to Dodger, "Out of the
The girls and I are sitting in the car, and I hear Dodger talking a
mile a minute. Kathy says to me, "Gary, he doesn't have a license,
it was pulled months ago." I'm wondering if the jail cells will be
cold and dirty, like in the movies. Dodger and the cop walk back to our
car. "Gary, what size engine is in your Mother's car?" I tell
him I think it's a 327. "See," says Dodger to the cop; "I
told you they cheated you on you cruiser. Gary, come back here and tell us
what size engine's in Bobby's cruiser." I look back and see the
hood up on the cruiser car. I also notice it's only a local policeman,
not a state trooper. I walk back and say, "I think it's only a
302." Dodger says, "Bob, I told you your boss tried to save the
taxpayers some money. You have a small engine."
"You're the race car mechanic, Gary, tell Bobby what to do to
hop up his cruiser." The cop hands me back the owner's card and
says, "Get out of here, and say hello to your brother for me,
Dodger." I'm dumbfounded. I have no clue what went on during the
10-minute conversation Dodger had with the cop. Dodger says, "You
drive. I promised Bob I wouldn't drive anymore. I grabbed the wrong
license when I left the house after I heard my brother was wounded in
Nam." Dodger whispers to me, ‘Get in the car. Get in the car and
drive. He's letting us go." I'm driving down the highway and I
ask Dodger, "What the heck was that about your brother? You don't
even have one." Well, between the car comparisons, racing stories,
and the story that his brother was in a Florida hospital with war wounds,
the cop took a liking to Dodger. His personality just bubbled, which
created a kind of an admiration for him. At the time, Dodger told us the
whole story of what he had told the cop. It seemed perfectly normal, even
to us. I really didn't care; we were on our way.
The gas gauge is showing us we need to make a pit stop. I pull off the
road and go into a little gas station somewhere, I think, in South
Carolina. I get out and the attendant walks over to me. In a heavy
southern drawl, he asks me what I want. I tell him to fill it up; I'd
check my own oil. I hear Dodger get out of the car. I'm under the hood,
when I see Dodger walking over to a dog chained up by the small building.
I see the dog's ears perk up and he starts to snarl. The owner, who is
pumping the gas says, "Stay away from that dog, boy, he'll tear you
up." Dodger keeps walking towards the dog. The dog is barking and
growling like crazy. He charges at Dodger and runs out of chain.
Now Dodger is as calm as can be. He moves to within six inches of the
dog. I can now see it's a Doberman, and it's huge. The dog has totally
lost control. He's foaming at the mouth, barking with saliva flying from
his lips and fangs. The dog is just out of Dodger's reach or visa-versa.
I'm thinking again, "What the heck is Dodger doing? If he gets too
close, he'll be in the hospital and we'll miss the races anyway."
Dodger keeps talking calmly to the dog, "What's wrong boy? Don't
you like me?" The owner stops pumping gas and says to Dodger,
"If you don't stop teasing him, I'll let him loose on ya."
I look at the chain, hoping it's strong enough to hold this monster,
which by this time looks like Lon Chaney's best interpretation of a
Werewolf. The owner is also getting madder and madder. "I told you
boy, stay aware from that there hound, he'll tear your ass up."
Dodger doesn't move. I quickly close the hood and say, "Come on,
Dodger, let's go," as I hand the owner the gas money. Dodger is
still talking trash to the dog, which is even crazier than ever, if that
were possible. The owner goes walking over and stands next to Dodger. The
dog is still nuts. I figure the next move would be for the owner to push
Dodger to within range of the fangs snapping in the breeze. I better try
to get Dodger back into the car.
The owner is now about as mad as the dog. "I told you boy, I'll
let him loose in a minute. He'll chew you up." Dodger calmly looks
right at the dogs owner and says, "I'd hate to have to kill such a
fine animal, but if you let him loose, that's what will happen." I
figure, here it comes, I'd better get hold of a tire iron or something.
The owner says, "What ya got boy? A gun in them there pockets?"
Dodger says calmly, "Nope, but he only has one mouth and I have two
hands. You let him loose and he'll be dead." Dodger turns and looks
at the man, then turns around and gets back into the car. I jump in as
fast as I can and get the heck out of there. Dodger calmly looks over at
me and says. "Can you imagine that guy was going to let me kill his
dog? People sure have funny ways down south."
About an hour later, we decide to stop for breakfast. I figure if we
stop at a nice hotel, like a Howard Johnson's, we might eliminate the
dreaded grits. I pull in and we all enter the hotel. It's a nice place
and the receptionist takes us to our table. This nice young waitress comes
over and gives us our menu. At the table next to us is an older couple.
Just as the waitress is about to leave, the woman at the other table yells
at her to get a move on, they don't have all day. I also hear she has a
heavy German accent. The young girl is upset by the harshness of the older
women. I can see her from where I'm sitting. Dodger's back is to her.
I feel a little uncomfortable about the rudeness towards the young girl.
She comes back for our order and is standing by me. She says, "What
will you have?" The German woman says again, "What's wrong?
Didn't she hear me? Where is our food?" The young girl runs away to
the kitchen, I guess to see if their food is ready. Back she comes with no
food. She's at our table again, and gets more abuse from the German
woman. I can see she is visibly shaken, but she takes our order and runs
off to the kitchen again.
All through our meal, this German woman is relentless and flat out rude
to the young waitress, even after she brings them their food. The waitress
is just about in tears sometimes. The waitress starts to ignore the German
women. This really flips her out and she gets her English all mixed up
with German words. I look at Dodger, who is as calm as ever. The young
girl is once again at our table, just shaking. Dodger looks up at her,
calmly gets up and faces the German woman at her table and said, "I
always wondered what happened to Herman Goering's widow." Well, the
tension by this time was so great; we all looked at each other and busted
out laughing. The young girl is laughing so hard that tears are streaming
down her cheek. I'm doubled over with laughter. Dodger's face is as
calm as ever.
The German couple jump up and goosestep out of the restaurant. We are
all still laughing out loud. No one can stop. The young waitress says she
will probably lose her job, but we made her day. She will at least need to
pay for the German couple's food order. They left without paying. We
told her to bring us both checks; the whole episode was worth every penny.
She never did, and we left for the races. So now you have a good idea of
why I said the drive down to Florida would make a good movie.
I remember one time telling my wife that if Dodger would ever have his
own car, I'm afraid he would try so hard to be successful that he could
wind up in trouble or something even more drastic. Most know what happened
after Dodger bought the Frantic Ford Funny Car. I look back at what I said
and curse the day I said it. I remember the day Jim called me to tell me
about Dodger's crash. I was no longer with our car, and had stopped
going to the races. Jim would still call me every week to fill me in on
their results at the drags. He then told me that Dodger was gone. I said,
"Sure he is. What did he do, blow the body off of the Funny Car and
switch over to a Top Fuel for the day with just a bare chassis?"
I heard silence on the other end. Jim said, "No, you don't
understand. He is really gone." I never said another word and slowly
hung up the phone. I walked into Peg crying, and just said,
"Something terrible has happened. Dodger's gone." She just
looked at me and said, "Gone where? Why are you crying?" I
don't remember much more. I do remember Peg trying to call Dodger's
family on the phone. I had lost other friends in accidents before this
happened, but somehow I could not get myself to believe Drag Racing had
claimed Dodger. If you read the chapter in the HH story, you know what I
did with the amulet from the Jade Grenade guys with the Hemi Hunter name
inscribed on it. If you didn't grasp the meaning, here it is again.
At the funeral, I slipped it into Dodger's hand. I never said a word
to anyone until I wrote the story 30 years later. At the funeral, I was
very calm. When I thought about the amulet thing and pushing it into his
hand, I thought I would maybe feel a little pressure or squeeze on my
fingers. Not to be, my friends. I just stood there and looked at him in
his driver's suit. I kept staring at him, looking for a little smile
from the corner of his mouth. Nothing. I finally walked away and didn't
see a drag race for 20 years. I'm crying now, and probably rusting up my
keyboard, so I'll need to leave this one right where it is. Sorry. I
didn't want this story to end this way. It was supposed to be a fun
thing and help to explain the personalities that help create the history
of any sport.
Jeez, time to lighten up a bit.