I have been reading my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher’s journal for a while now, and every time I pick it up I find something new. She started her journal by talking about how any writer can become famous in time, simply by observing the events around them and writing about those events, how they made people feel, and what happened because of those events. As a writer myself, I began to think about what she said, because there really is a vast difference, I think, between a writer and a reporter. A reporter simply tells the events as they happened, but a writer elaborates on the events, the people involved, and their feelings. There are reporters who are writers, obviously, but I think it would be very hard for a writer not to interject their thoughts and feelings into a report.
Aunt Bertie wanted to tell a little bit about the things that were going on in their time. Still, she could not help but put into words how she felt about the events of the day. She mentioned that the first Kindergarten was formed in 1873. At that time there were only about 200 high schools in the entire country, but by 1900 there were 6000, along with colleges that were heavily endowed by the Rockefeller, Stanford, and Vanderbilt families. Fisk College for “blacks” came into being. Women were coming to the foreground. Football became a part of college life. You could become a doctor in four months…later it took three years, and we all know it takes much longer now. At that time, 98% of children were in the grades. Aunt Bertie mentions that it was thought that education was a cure all. Authors like Emily Dickinson, Bret Hart, and Mark Twain tried to enrich the world. There were streetcar and yacht races, P.T Barnum Circus, Dwight Moody held mass revivals, and McGuffy’s Reader taught moral lessons. And then she tells about the thing that bothers her the most, when she said, “But all this did not abolish CHILD LABOR!” It seemed to Aunt Bertie that there were so many changes that the nation was seeing, but the one thing that appalled her the most at the time, was still there, and still endangering the lives of children. It was so hard for her to imagine that with everything else moving with such monumental steps toward a more modern civilization, that was so much more educated, that no one could stop child labor. In fact it seemed to her that no one noticed it, or even cared at all.
Her writings picture disasters, such as the panic in 1873, at the height of the reconstruction of the 1870’s…widespread unemployment, bankruptcy of many people, and failure of businesses, the Great Chicago fire and fires in Wisconsin, Boston, and other places that caused the failure of Insurance Companies who did not have enough Reserves to cover all of these disasters, railroad strikes and violence. Then she mentions what she terms “the sins of society”, one million people living in New York slums…ten to fifteen people in three rooms. The thought of so many people being forced to live in such appalling conditions tore at Aunt Bertie’s heart. Somehow, these things just should not be, and yet this was the world we were living in at that time.
Aunt Bertie wanted to tell about the things that were changing in our world, and how many improvements those changes were making to the world, but her tender heart just couldn’t get past the horrible injustices she could still see. There are lessons to be learned from her writings. Lessons of compassion, kindness, charity, and love for our fellow man. All too often we are so busy working on the improvements we want to make in our lives, society, and our world in general, that we forget about how those things could affect the lives of others. The greed of the factory owners could not see past the profit to what their child laborers were suffering. Many changes have come from the horrors of the past. Child labor laws now protect our children, and as an insurance agent, I know that companies must hold enough in reserve to cover disastrous losses, and that while no insurance company is completely safe from failure, there is far less chance of it these days because of those reserves. While those days and events tore at Aunt Bertie’s tender heart, maybe society wasn’t totally deaf to the plight of the people after all.
There are people out there, and we all know them, who simply love the mud. They have a bit of an obsession with the thought of conquering it…usually with their truck. And if we didn’t all like the idea, there wouldn’t be anything like the mud races, but we do and that is why there are mud races. We pay good money to go out and see if someone can run their truck through a mud pit, secretly hoping that most of them get stuck, because we want our favorite to win. For a while, my favorite was my son-in-law, Kevin. He got into mud racing, and bought a special truck for it, and competed in quite a few races. It was fun watching his races.
Now, getting down and dirty in the mud isn’t my thing, but I don’t mind watching other people do it. And many people don’t mind doing it. Maybe it’s the adrenalin rush or the screaming crowd, but whatever it is, people flock to see the next guy do his best to conquer the mud pit. And the adrenalin rush isn’t limited to the racers. Everyone in the crowd is filled with excitement and anticipation as each truck begins his run. Then, mud flying, they are off. Sometimes the mud is tough, and very few racers get through. Then it is a matter of who got the farthest. Other times it’s a little easier, and then it is a matter of who got through the fastest. Either way, it is always a challenge, and a definite crowd pleaser.
During the time that Kevin was mud racing, his boys, Chris and Josh had a chance to feel special too. They could tell people that this truck was their dad’s and that racer was their dad. It was a wonderful way for them to share a guy thing together. And of course, Corrie didn’t mind the whole thing either. Each race is unique, with it’s own set of problems. From trucks breaking down, to being damaged in the race, it was a work in progress, and not a cheap one. But in the end, it was a family thing that brought them closer together.
Kevin decided that mud racing was a little to much money to continue with a few years ago, and the truck was sold. They have since moved on to other interests, such as the boys’ sports, but they will always have the memory of the nights spent door deep in the mud, and the days spent washing that same mud off of the truck to prepare for the next event. I’m sure Kevin misses those days a little bit now and then, but the memory lives on and the pictures will always tell the tale of those days…in the mud.
From the time they were old enough to walk, my nephews, JD and Eric were around motorcycles. Their dad loves motorcycles, and motorcycle races. They were in motocross, and learned all the jumping skills that we see at the shows these days. They started out on these little teeny motorcycles, and the bikes grew as the boys did. Since I’m not a motorcycle person, I have to say their races made me nervous, but the boys thrived on it.
After a while, you didn’t expect to see JD or Eric, unless you saw them on a motorcycle, or at the very least, in a motorcycle suit. They had these great little motorcycle racing suits, and they wore them as much as they could. The boys were so proud of the suits and the bikes. When they raced, they poured their heart and soul into it. They worked very hard to learn all the little tricks that added speed to their race and cut seconds off their time or put them out ahead of the guy in front of them. It was all about the race.
They have participated in many events in Casper, as well as in other states. While their sport made me nervous, I was also very proud to hear their names as their ran their various races at the monster truck races and such. Whenever they raced, we screamed louder than anyone around us. We were very loyal fans, and they were our favorite racers. It made us feel special to know two of the racers personally.
The years have gone by, and the little boys have been replaced with men, but their love of motorcycles has never changed. They may not race much anymore, but they love to ride and Eric even incorporated a motorcycle into his wedding recently, as he came charging into the outdoor ceremony on his motorcycle to claim Ashley, his lovely bride. I expect motorcycles and even racing will be a part of their lives for many years to come…as they fulfill the need for speed.