“There is no time to think or savor the thrill of speed. And as you go down that strip, you don’t see anything. It is a no-man’s land.” – Don Garlits
Did it? Did it? Didn’t it? It did! By God, it did. Don Daddy did it. Big Daddy broke hot rodding’s barrier with a bam and a bale of smoke, barreling down the straightaway. Cheers from the bleachers. The rocket speed shock of the year we’d all been waiting for.
Did The Greek do it earlier in Illinois? All’s I can say is today the Chrondek clocks called it. In Great Meadows, at the Island Dragway, Big Daddy Don Garlits did it.
But it happened so fast—couldn’t see a damned thing. A shroud of fumes. Let’s pause. Take it back. Slowly now, back up the quarter-mile belt of tarmac. The Swamp Rat back across the starting line. The amber bulbs blaring again.
Now our rare hour—clear the area!—Daredevil Don, engine revving, raring to tear track. Slower, now, watch how the slick-wedge car’s back tires stir a whir of smoke, burning rubber. How, like an arrow, this 2000 horsepower nightmare dragster blasts down the blacktop, shatters the barrier, buries its challenger in vapor and exhaust.
Watch the parachute burst from the back. Watch the car break to a halt. Watch Don Garlits turn the wheel, drive back, rattling down the strip, his parachute dangling limply behind, his white glove waving from the glittering mist, already clearing it.
Sydney Doyle grew up in the Great Meadows mucklands near the Delaware Water Gap. She received her MFA from Johns Hopkins University and is currently a Doctoral Fellow in English/Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Her poems appear in The American Journal of Poetry, Canary, Waccamaw, and elsewhere.