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I am posting this post on behalf of howmet tx, who has written a whole series of short stories.

RR


Wild West Hamley

There was a definite buzz about in West Hamley in the summer of 1969. It wasn't to do with Jackie Stewart's championship bid, Hamley F.C.'s promotion to the Broken Biscuit League, or even the Mother's Union getting into the Guinness book of Records with their fifty foot Angry Raspberry Pie. It was entirely due to the arrival, as we thought, of West Hamley's own U.S. Pro Slot Racer. He just rode in, casual as you like, one bright, balmy evening. Parked his panhead Harley on its side-stand outside the Church Hall, lifted his car box out of one of the enormous chromed panniers and introduced himself by shattering the outright track record with a very shiny and gaudily painted McLaren.

It was the kind of entrance John Wayne would have been proud of. No one dared say a word to the guy. We all sort of backed off a little, gave him some space. We'd all noticed the 'Official Team Puma' decals on the frosted metal-flake cherry flanks of the car, and as it coasted to a halt we were able finally to read the white flash across the nose that spelled out 'Driven by Hiram J. Huckstetter III Jr.' The club secretary, 'Coxie' Cooper-Archer peered closely at the car, looked around at the staring eyes of the rest of the club members, and then up at the little guy on the drivers rostrum with the flat-top haircut, black rimmed specs and shiny button-collar short-sleeved shirt. Coxie walked round the track with his arm outstretched. 'Hello, sir. Welcome to the club. I hope you can stay awhile. We're always keen on new members. Especially fast ones. Mr. Huckstetter, I presume. My name's Coxie. Pleased to make your acquaintance.' The driver flipped his gum from one side of his mouth to the other, looking slowly round the clubroom. He transferred his strange looking hand throttle to his left hand, and then raised his right high in the air. 'Aww shucks, Coxie, it's a blast to be here in West Hamley' he said, bringing his hand sharply down on Coxie's own. The slap sounded round the room and Coxie drew back with a wince. 'Hey guy- my mistake. I guess you're not familiar with the old 'high five' over here.' He put his throttle down, stepped forward and grasped Coxie in a bear hug, which only added to the poor old secretary's sense of alarm. The driver released Coxie with a wide and dazzling smile. No one in West Hamley had ever seen such straight teeth. This man was an utter phenomenon. 'Anyone get me a coke?' No one moved for a while, but then Ivor piped up- 'I've got a bottle of Idris in my duffle bag. Lemon Barley it is. Will that do?' 'Sure buddy. Whatever you got. That's just fine by me. You wanna talk, or have you all got things to do?

Well, we talked. Hiram said he was a team driver for Puma Slot Cars of Dead Dog Gulch, Arizona. They'd heard about West Hamley, the leading club this side of the Atlantic, and figured it was time to increase their presence in Europe. 'Well that's most exciting, but I'm a little surprised they didn't prepare us for your arrival- it's taken us all a bit by surprise' said Coxie. 'Yeah, well, gee, we only thought of it yesterday, and I just kinda hopped on the plane.' 'Yesterday?' 'Oh, right, well it sorta feels that way. These new Boeings are pretty damn fast, though. The team said they'd, uh, call you guys while I was in the air, but I guess the call never came through, huh?' 'Well we don't actually have a phone here in the club'. 'You don't? Tarnation, guys. Which century is this?' A few of us sniffed self-consciously at this, but well, the chap was still finding his feet. Anyway, with the formalities over, we all crossed back to the track to examine the car that had, admittedly just blasted the lap record all the way back to the middle ages. 'May I?' asked Bruno, his hand hovering over the wedge shaped racer. 'Sure, buddy, help yourself. Puma want you all to get real well acquainted with our latest equipment.' Bruno grasped the car tentatively. The thin sides buckled, and as he lifted, it came away from the track in stages; first the body, rocking slightly from side to side, then the wheels reluctantly separated from the track with a slight sucking noise, and finally the guide left the slot, and hung below the chassis on a long, polished brass arm. The whole thing was subtly hinged, built in discrete parts linked so as to allow tiny flexing movements that kept all four wheels firmly planted on the road. Bruno laid it on the palm of his left hand, lifted his glasses to rest on his forehead, and stared at the thing, awestruck. The car had an aura about it. It even smelt exotic- a sort of thick, oily but perfumed smell. It was a jewel of craftsmanship. The weight of it in his hand was reassuring, and as he moved his fingers slightly, he could feel the chassis respond smoothly through it's perfectly engineered joints and hinges. The body glowed with bright colours that flowed into each other, suffused with glittering gold particles. It seemed to be made out of polished butterfly wings. Names, logos, and surreal slogans were immaculately hand-lettered or transferred on every panel. Why, he thought, would anyone spend the time with a tiny brush and an eyeglass, to painstakingly write nonsense like 'I love Lucy, but Lucy don't love me' across the rear spoiler? These Americans were strange. 'Here, fella. Give me that thing. Let me show you.' With his final coup de theatre, Hiram plucked little pins from the sides of the car, and lifted the body clear. While everyone gawped at the complex chassis of polished steel and brass, as subtle as a swiss watch, Hiram screwed the immaculately decorated McLaren shell up in his fist and threw it over his shoulder. 'Good grief man! What are you doing! Any one of us would have gladly paid you good money for that!' An anxious hubbub ensued, to which Hiram responded by slowly reaching behind him to where the bodyshell had landed, and with the practiced air of a stage magician, presented the thing back to us, unmarked and whole. 'Lexan. Latest NASA-developed material. Crash and crush proof. Look.' He twisted it into a ball again, and let it spring back to shape before our disbelieving eyes. 'Let me know how many you want, and I'll call head office asap. We're going to make the winningest team this side of the Rockies'. Despite the fact that we were already the most successful team in England, with the trophies to prove it, everyone nodded and smiled in approval, and experimented with 'High Fives' all round.

Hiram was a great hit in the village. He took to the local bitter with no problem, holding court in the Crown and Pinion after hours. He took a room there, despite the absence of what he called an 'on-sweet' shower, which seemed to irk him strangely. He took the junior members for rides up and down the high street on the pillion of his bright-chromed Harley, letting the revs throb mightily when the railway crossing gates closed. Until Old Mother Madgewick complained that the noise was putting her hens off their laying, it was the best show in town. At the club we spent hours studying the chassis, grinding steel and soldering brass until we could duplicate each hinge, each rail, each bearing. Hiram explained he didn't build the 'frames' as he called them himself- he had a specialist in High Dudgeon, Cincinnati called Doc Masterson. He was the chassis builder supreme for Team Puma, and built cars exclusively for the guys to race. Hiram was a driver, pure and simple. He had no other concerns than keeping his flat-top trimmed and his motorcycle polished. 'Don't worry though guys. Doc won't mind. This is last year's model. He's got some new tricks up his sleeve for 1970.'

Pretty soon we all had cars that to a greater or lesser extent were copies of the McLaren. They never went quite as quick, but then none of us could drive the original as fast as Hiram did. In fact, he often let others use his car for the finals, using their own himself. But he almost always managed to pull a win out of the bag anyway. It was great stuff. He didn't want to crush the life out of things by winning all the time. Even though you could see him hanging back sometimes, it was always to give someone the thrill of a few laps of close racing. He was just a great driver. 'That's what they pay me for, guys!' he'd say, pausing on the gum long enough to flash that unnatural grin at everyone. We all felt lifted, somehow, just to have this exotic being in our club, as one of us. A generous spirit, drinking tea and dunking his digestive biscuits like an ordinary human, but flashing around the slots like a superman. He even exercised an hypnotic fascination over the women of the town, who began to frequent the club in unprecedented numbers. They would do practically anything for the chance to run a hand over his velvety cropped head, or a flash of his preternaturally gleaming white teeth. 'Say something American' they would croon, coyly flicking imaginary grit off his shirt collar, and edging close enough to sniff his exotic aftershave, an unguent then unknown to the males of West Hamley, who generally gave off an aroma of soldering fluid and castrol, lightly veiled with Lifebuoy. It really was a golden period in the history of the club, a time which only came to a close, as such times tended to do, with the arrival of the Loose Chippings Challenge.

Loose Chippings liked to come round and cause trouble from time to time. The meanest club in the region, frequented by semi-simians with more interest in destruction derbies than racing, they'd been banned from the league for unsportsmanlike behaviour so many times that they simply revelled in the image. It became sort of self-sustaining. Loose Chippings didn't care. When they decided to challenge a club, they didn't hang about with the formalities, and if you tried to close the door on them, it would tend to get ripped off its hinges. The committee of the last club to reject their challenge had regained consciousness loosely strapped to the upper wing of a barrel-rolling Tiger Moth, unwitting guest performers in Wally White's Wing Walkers Aerial Display Team at the inaugural fly-past of the1963 Ben Nevis Festival. The Chippings drivers would arrive on the appointed day with their fleet of lead weighted, camouflage grey Cunningham Le Monstres, and trash everything in sight. You tended not to race your best cars against Loose Chippings.

Coxie looked pale, and spoke with a slight tremor when he told us he'd just received the call that every club secretary dreaded. `The Chippings are on their way. Next Saturday. Nail everything down folks.' 'What's up Coxie?' asked Hiram, innocently. 'I think you'd best keep out of this,' he said, and explained the situation in graphic detail. 'You don't want to get mixed up in this. Take a trip. See Britain. Visit Kew Gardens. Carnaby Street. Or Blackpool Illuminations.' 'Hell no, Coxie. A Huckstetter never walked away from a fight. If they want to destroy us, they'll have to catch us first. There ain't a team in the whole of Yoo-rope can run with West Hamley Team Puma. C'mon guys.' He stood and waved a fist. 'We're waitin' on ya.'

The appointed day dawned chilly. The clubroom was stripped bare. Women and junior members were back in their homes, the cutlery and breakables from the coffee room locked away in the vestry. West Hamley's fleet of McLarens waited on the scrutineering table, and winged insects roamed the lower organs of their anxious drivers. 'Remember the Alamo' said Hiram enigmatically, as the unmistakeable sound of the Loose Chippings army surplus Commer transport lorry thundered against the club room windows. 'Remind me, Hiram. What happened at the Ala…' Bruno's enquiry was cut short as the doors burst open, and four tattooed thugs clutching pit boxes appeared on the threshold. 'Mng. Morning. Hnnugh' grunted the biggest of them. 'C'mere.' Coxie approached, his habitually outstretched hand shaking visibly. 'Welcome to West Hamley. It's been a long aaaaargh'. The hand was grasped, squeezed, crushed, and released. 'Fnnhrrr. One down' the leading lout rasped. 'Hhcccch. We've got a surprise for ya.' The group divided in two, revealing a fifth man; taller, infinitely better groomed, and strangely familiar. 'Rrrsklac. Lets show 'em what we got' grunted the Chippings captain. All five advanced to the track, cracked open their pit boxes in unison and revealed, not the familiar battle-scarred Cunninghams, but a matched fleet of glittering M8As. Each one emblazoned with the words 'Team Puma' scored across the nose. 'Ungh. Meet our new team member. Hiram J. Huckstetter III, Hrrrrak. Junior.' There was a loud thud at the back of the clubroom.

We dragged the inert body into the kitchen. Coxie crouched low over him, gently rubbing his hands to restore the circulation. 'Eric- nip round to the vicarage and get some of Mrs. Counter's special dandelion and burdock- quick.' The aromatic brew brought immediate results, but the pale and shaking face was riven with shock. 'What's going on? Is that your brother? How many Hiram J. Huckstetter III jr.s are there?' Coxie gasped anxiously. 'Uhhhhhhhh. Hnnnnnnn. Ohhh. I'm sorry, Coxie. I never thought this could happen.' The voice had changed. The transatlantic confidence had drained away, replaced by an all too familiar limp Home Counties English accent. 'That must be him. The real Hiram. I'm an imposter.'

It took a while to get everything straight. In the clubroom, the Loose chippings team were wandering about, putting in some practice laps, and grunting. Across the ape-like noises would sometimes come the high whine of a true American voice, with a slightly puzzled air. In the coffee room, we all sat close around our man, attentive, worried. 'Give the poor fella some air lads. What's the story, Hiram, or whoever you are?'

'Adrian St.John Garsington-Smythe' came the surprising answer. 'Father's in the foreign office. He's something high up in the British Embassy in Washington D.C. Mummy and I don't see much of him. I don't even see much of Mummy these days, either. She spends her time shopping, mainly. Meeting her awful friends at Harrods. But father sends me all these things from America, trying to keep my affection I suppose. Anything I want. The Harley, the clothes, the latest records. He knows I don't have friends of my own. I've always been a disappointment to him. No interest in the diplomatic service or the family estate. No visible talent at all, you see, until I discovered slot racing. I seem to have a knack for driving. Father was so pleased when he managed to get a genuine Huckstetter car for me, and I was truly grateful. When I came here I didn't want to appear like a spoiled brat- that's happened so often to me before, I didn't think I could bear it again. But when you saw the name on the car, Coxie, and assumed it was mine, well- it gave me a way in. An escape. A new identity and a new life. Father kept me supplied with anything I needed from America, sent the latest parts across in the diplomatic bag. And you- you've all been so good to me, you've been the friends- the family- I never really had. And now I've let you all down. I never dreamed that he real Hiram Huckstetter would walk in through that door. When things like this happen in my family, the guilty party is usually left alone with a revolver and a single cartridge. To do the honourable thing, don't you know. I think it would be the best way out for me now.'

'Don't talk rot Hir- Adrian. Whatever you call yourself, you're the fastest driver we ever met, with or without the fancy chassis. You've made this season one of the best we've ever had in West Hamley, and now we've got a job to do. We're going to take on Loose Chippings on our own terms. And you're going to lead us. Come on. Take another belt of that Dandelion and Burdock, and let's race!' 'Dash it all, Coxie. You're right' said Adrian/Hiram 'But there is one thing I must do first'. He took out his car and carefully taped over the name on the nose. 'Right, chaps. Tally-ho!'

It was one of the greatest races I've ever taken part in. The Chippings drivers were a little taken aback when they saw our own McLarens, but it took a lot to dent their aggressive self-confidence. But as the heats wore on, a pattern emerged. Their old nerfing tactics didn't work so well on the new low slung machines. A tap of wheels that would have sent one of our old cars rolling into the scenery had little effect. The McLarens would slide briefly, but the guide stayed nailed to the slot, and a burts of throttle would have the car back on the straight and narrow almost immediately. And faced with a wide sliding car ahead, the low noses would simply shovel under and shoot by unscathed. Forced to race fairly, the Chippings boys were on the back foot. Although their cars were pretty much like ours, copies of the latest U.S. sleds, ours were better geared for the home track, and gradually Bruno, Coxie and myself climbed up the score sheets. But at the top, the two Hirams were locked in a titanic struggle. The new Hiram seemed puzzled by the situation, but uttered hardly a word the whole time, concentrating on racing this uncanny driver with an oddly familiar car. He too was unused to being challenged on his own terms. And even more confused by the fact that the room was filling up with local girls screaming his name, but cheering whenever his opponent got the upper hand. Back and forth went the two drivers, the result of each heat usually going with the lane advantage. Our Hiram, or Adrian as we now knew him, was driving out of his skin. Standing at the rostrum, rocking gently with the rhythm of his driving, and skimming his car round the slots with the grace of a ballet dancer.

In the end, we had raced, and we had whupped 'em, in the words of the real Hiram J. Huckstetter III jr., who'd actually been 'whupped' by his own car. When the rest of the Loose Chippings team departed in a huff- in fact the biggest huff ever seen in this part of the world, the U.S. driver stayed behind. He was fascinated by the skill and expertise of the young English guy driving his old car, and more than a little embarrassed by the behaviour of his former team mates. 'Gee whizz guys. Am I glad to see the back of them' were his first words to us. 'You guys have got a great little club here, and some damn fine drivers. Best race I ever had' he said, giving and receiving a perfectly judged High Five to Adrian St. John Garsington-Smythe, having been formerly introduced by Coxie. He thrust a thumb back over his shoulder and said 'to think my Mom's family are descended from apes like that.' He explained. Hiram's mother, Lynette Sidebottom, before she married Mr Huckstetter III snr, came from a family which had come to America from Loose Chippings on the Mayflower in 1620. Hiram had fulfilled a long-held ambition in revisiting his roots in the summer of '69. Bringing his slot-box with him, as he always did, he'd visited the local club hoping for some harmless entertainment and socialising. It turned sour immediately. When the Loose Chippings drivers saw what he had, they'd virtually held him captive. Forced to make duplicates of his cars for them, watched round the clock, Hiram's introduction to the village life of England and the culture of his ancestors had been a shock.

'I can only apologise for the behaviour of our, ahem, compatriots, Mr Huckstetter' said Coxie. 'Suffice to say that we've had an interesting introduction to America ourselves over the last few months.' 'Aww, think nothing of it, Mr Cooper-Archer. But I've a little proposition for Mr Garsington-Smythe here. You're the best driver I ever met, sir. How'd ya like to be the first official professional Puma Team factory driver in England? We pay real good.'
 

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Goodness, first a delightful rail poem by Mrs V. Whitbread, then Son of Rail Racer with "One last race" and now this master work from none other than Mr tx himself.

Is SlotForum THE most cultured slot car site on the web? I think so!

Perhaps we should add a new section for poems and literature. Maybe we should include music too as there have been so many references to vintage guitars of late!

Well done tx
(and RR for presenting
)
 

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QUOTE (JohnP @ 18 Dec 2003, 01:27 PM)...
Perhaps we should add a new section for poems and literature. Maybe we should include music too as there have been so many references to vintage guitars of late!
...
We have been thinking along this line for a while, so here it is.

History, Culture & Literature

Thanks for your kind words about the Forum.
 
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