Jimbob's Journal
Chariot of Fire
by Jim Harris

It was a typical Friday night out for myself and the other "Dirtbombs" in 1965. Billy and I entered the Ridge Pike Drive-In movie in his dad's car and we met up with Dave and Ray, who had just climbed over the fence, inside. This was our normal way of getting into any event that charged admission. We always said, "It's not about the money, it's the principle of the thing." We never actually knew what the principle was, but we assumed that there had to be one. Unfortunately, on this night, security spotted us and after a brief sequence of evasive maneuvers, we were summarily evicted.

So we're cruising back down the Ridge, playing endless rounds of "What if?":  "What if cars had ejector seats? What if we could become invisible?" Although our motives behind the hypotheses were usually nefarious, I'm sure that many great ideas have begun with "what if." I hope that kids are still playing it today.

Then we remembered that we had a pack of "loads," those little explosive charges meant to be placed by merry pranksters into the cigarettes of unsuspecting smokers. We decided to put them into our own cigarettes and see if we could keep from flinching when they blew up. The next few miles were punctuated with explosions and raucous laughter.

Our fun was abruptly interrupted when we noticed smoke coming from inside of the back seat. When pounding on it didn't help, we pulled over to the shoulder and tried to remove the seat. This was difficult with four frantic teenagers pulling in four different directions at once, but eventually we pried it loose and dumped it on the ground.

The stuffing inside was not in flames, but it was glowing orange and hissing and squealing like wet logs in a fireplace. It was pretty scary. After a brief second of stunned hesitation, someone shouted, "Let's find some water" so we picked up the burning platform like Viking pall bearers and took off for parts unknown.

I still remember how quiet it seemed as we ran down the street looking for a spigot or a stream. All I could hear was the sound of our desert boots flopping against the asphalt and an occasional car whizzing by. Presently we came up alongside the Eagle Lodge Golf Course and ran in there to get away from traffic. Then we spotted something two hundred yards away - a sand trap!

Wordlessly, we turned and ran toward it. Our increased speed whipped the smoldering seat into full-fledged flame. We lifted it overhead and ran even faster. It lit the twilight with an eerie glow. I can only imagine what it must have looked like to folks driving by. We reached the sand and launched the seat into its final brief transit across the night sky. It flew like a comet, then fell to earth like a mortally wounded B-52.

We kicked sand on it until it stopped screaming. It was definitely not salvageable, so we said a few words in honor of its meteoric existence and left its final disposition to those better equipped than we to handle the remains. After all, we had done our duty. We put out the fire.

We knew in the back of our minds that there would be hell to pay when our parents found out about our fiery adventure, but for the moment we reveled in the fact that, as a team, we had faced danger and prevailed. It was like a rite of passage, and it felt pretty good. Little did we know that within eighteen months, two of us would be in Viet Nam, and several of our friends would die there. When I think about all of the intervening years since then, I can't help but wonder, what if?

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