Every year, I make a road trip back to rural Iowa to attend the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. Knoxville has been home to this event since 1961, and it is billed as the most prestigious sprint car race of the year, with over 100 teams making the trip to compete on a half-mile dirt track.
The track announcer starts the race off with his classic line, “You wanted the best, you got ’em four abreast; often imitated, but never duplicated, the greatest show on dirt.” Every year my father-in-law, Dwayne Bonser, handles the tickets and all the logistics, and we get the pleasure of enjoying the “Greatest Show on Dirt” with him and family. I am a Donny Schatz fan, and I also pull for Rico Abreu, but this year, Kyle Larson won the main event and took the title.
Knoxville, Iowa, is a 9-hour drive from Little Rock, so I get plenty of windshield time, with lots of scenery and lots of time to reflect. Driving down the highway watching miles and miles of corn and soybeans took me back to memories of growing up on the farm and life viewed through the eyes of a simple farm kid.
I also got a lot of time listening to the radio, and I heard advertisements for people to sign a petition to save AM radio, since some car manufacturers have dropped AM radios from their vehicles. This, too, took me back to my childhood and memories of my dad sitting in our kitchen, drinking coffee, smoking Pall Malls and listening to the local station, KOKX 1310 AM. I am not sure my dad even knew that FM radio existed.
An episode of “The Waltons” contains this line read by John-Boy Walton as the narrator: “It is always a special moment when you find something that you thought was lost,” and this childhood memory is about just that. The main characters of this story are my dog, Foxy, and my mom’s favorite sheep, Heidi.
Foxy was the perfect mutt, and she was the dog we grew up with on the farm. Foxy was always around the house, but one day she went missing and didn’t come home that night. We drove the gravel roads and walked the pasture but never found her. However, several days later, she came home dragging a hind leg; she had been caught in a trap somewhere and needed an immediate trip to the veterinarian. Unable to save Foxy’s leg, he amputated it, and from that day on, Foxy was a threelegged dog. Foxy recovered fine and was as fast as ever, but she lost the ability to cut and turn fast.
Heidi was a black-faced Suffolk ewe that was my mother’s pride and joy. My mom had other sheep, but none compared to Heidi, and my mom even put a purple collar on her. Foxy became our sheep dog, and she would stay in the pasture and watch the sheep until my dad came home at night and gave her permission to leave the pasture.
One night, a pack of dogs got into the sheep pen and tore up some of our sheep and created chaos. When the dust settled, we realized that Foxy and Heidi were both missing. The next cold and snowy morning, we all set out to find them, searching our farm and some neighboring farms. When I came up over a hill, I was sure I saw them, and I ran to catch them — only I didn’t make it. I had failed to notice that I was running straight for a neighboring hog farm’s lagoon. The heavy snow had covered the lagoon, and it wasn’t until I fell in, covered in muck up to my neck, that I realized what had happened. Cold and smelling ripe, I gave up the search and headed home. Insult to injury was having to wash off outside in the cold before I could come into the house.
Foxy and Heidi were nowhere to be found. The entire family gave up the search at dark and decided that the best thing to do was to see if they came home in the morning. They did not come home. We had about given up hope after a few days, but thankfully the story doesn’t end there. This is where the story comes full circle and connects AM radio, three-legged dogs and purple-collared sheep.
“It is always a special moment when you find something that you thought was lost.”
We were eating breakfast, and dad was listening to KOKX 1310 AM in the kitchen when the local DJ broke in with a rather unusual announcement: “Hey folks, if anyone out there is missing a three-legged dog and a sheep with a purple collar, they are walking down the middle of Highway 218 out by the drive-in theater.” My dad jumped up out of his chair and said, “Get your shoes, let’s go.” We fired up the farm truck with stock racks on it and drove to town as fast as we could. Sure enough, there was Foxy and Heidi wandering down the road, about 5 miles away on the outskirts of town. We were able to get them off the highway, loaded in the truck and safely home.
As the corn and lines on the highway continued to go by, I smiled and thought that John-Boy was right — that was a special moment to have found what we thought was lost. Lots of things can be lost, and hopefully, if you have something that was lost, you too get to experience the joy of finding it. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to have patience and wait for the right moment to find it.
This memory also motivated me to sign that petition to save AM radio.