Wet weather makes good mud ridin#039; for older kids

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 1999

The other day, during the rain that we've had since what seems like Memorial Day, flashbacks from another time when rain was much more of an entertainment than a hindrance, began to run through my mind. For little boys, especially, rain signals some sort of genetic imbalance that causes us to run forth to cavort in the falling joy, like some sort of caveman ritual (which is probably closer to the truth than we want to know). Rain also signals something special to bigger boys too, especially those who have vehicles with a bed and a tailgate and mudgrip tires: the advent of mud ridin'.

I had one of the few mud ridin' cars in existence: a dirt brown, slant-six, mud-grip equipped 1966 Dodge Dart. Give me a day when the rain was falling so hard the birds wouldn't fly and you'd find Marvin, Newton, Elton Bainbridge III, and yours truly, usually along with several other unsuspecting souls, packed into the Dart. We would then head out into the country and the panacea of dirt roads gleaming lightly with a sheen of water…and mud.

There are several thoughts about mud ridin'. One, and the most prevalent by parents and other folks with good sense, is "Why?" For those of you who have never experienced the feel of tires spinning, mud slinging, sliding sideways good clean fun on a Saturday afternoon in an overloaded vehicle filled with "yeehaws" and "wahoos": folks, you just haven't lived. I can hear the naysayers going, "yeah, but you could kill yourselves." Since the top speed of the Dart downhill on pavement was barely 60 miles per hour, most dogs and several cats in Butler County could approximate the speed with which we crept over the mud. Secondly, the kind of trouble that we did get into could be fixed with a hose pipe and a shower, not with Betty Ford and psychoanalysis.

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Did we have fun? You betcha! We would pile into any vehicle that looked like it would run and see if we could find the slimiest, gooiest mud that existed. We were particularly entranced by the blue marl that seemed to crop up around Friendship and Industry, and the really slick red stuff that made up the hill on the Wildfork to Bolling cut-through. It really didn't matter where or what type of soil it was, as long as you could slide and slip and cut didoes to your heart's content in the goo.

We even came up with a uniform of sorts for mud ridin', especially when we were in the back of a truck or a jeep. Shorts and tennis shoes (Converse Dick Taylor All-Stars, not those $200 designer things that come with an instruction manual), some old worn-out Tshirt with holes to let the mud drain out, and a head covering of some sort (we found those pith helmets like you see in the Tarzan movies to be pretty cool, if you tied them to your head). Personally, I felt that style was important, so my ususal attire consisted of the above mentioned items, but with the addition of a calf-length trench coat and one of those aviator caps that make the ears stick out at the sides. As Marvin put it the time I fell of fthe back of the truck going up a steep incline, "we better go back and get him, cause nobody's picking up anybody who looks like some flasher that fell out of an airplane and's been lost for a while".

I think we'll finish this visit next week. There are so many happenings I want to share, but there's a big old mud puddle somewhere in the woods….and I need to see if the Jimmy'll get through it.