Exposing kids to different lifestyles | What the Heckle? | Theribune

ORDWAY, Colo. • Although they’ve experienced world travel and mountain living in Colorado, I hadn’t realized how my kids have not been exposed to “country” living until recently.

My wife and I have always made it a point to expose our children, starting at an early age, to as many different places, cultures and lifestyles as we could. As a result, our three kids have gotten opportunities to swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, been to Mexico, Italy, Switzerland and have gotten a taste of “big city” living with a couple trips to New York City. They’ve spent days camping in the mountains and mountain cabin living, learning to fish and survive without a King Soopers five minutes away.

However, it wasn’t until recently when I took them to the lower Arkansas Valley in southeast Colorado that I realized they haven’t been exposed to true “country” living. I found this particularly surprising since their mother mostly tells the house’s Amazon Alexa to play country music which speaks about that kind of lifestyle in detail.

With examples like that of female country artist Ashton Shepherd’s song “Sounds So Good” in which she describes how there is “Nothing like the sound of a cooler slushing on the bed of your truck,” or the sights of fireflies at dusk and the sound of “crickets out in the woods,” I would’ve thought the kids had a grasp of country living. But as we were driving to Ordway, Colo., on a Saturday morning on our way to see a friend of mine compete in a figure-eight dirt track car racing event, I realized I was being presumptive.

As the kids rode somewhat quietly in the back seat of my pickup, they started to notice a change of landscape as we were exiting Pueblo eastbound on US 50. They started to comment on the lengthy distances we drove without seeing a single building, then soon Noticed how trees were suddenly scarce in that region of Colorado. They commented on the large cattle yards on both the east and west side of Rocky Ford and the smell which came with it.

The race itself was in Ordway, just north of the Crowley County Fairgrounds. If you haven’t seen the fairgrounds in Crowley County, it consists of a small grandstand and dirt. That’s about it. The dirt track for the races consisted of the figure eight with bumps established on both sides of the eight’s intersection where many vehicles took damage to their front ends going over them. The track was lined with large tires and the grandstand was protected by a wire fence beyond the wall of tires.

And of course, there was dirt. A lot of dirt. A local construction company did what it could to spray water on the track to keep the dirt from blowing across the event, but given how notorious that region is for being so dry, the track soaked up the water in a matter of minutes. In addition, the wind across the area was harrowing and because of it, even in mid-afternoon, the air was cold like an overnight low.

As the kids and I were walking into the event, they commented on how people are able to live in that area. I told them a lot of people choose to live like this because it’s simpler living and less congested. They found it interesting but a little confusing as well.

We made our way to the pits to find my friend, whom the kids know as Mr. Joe, so we could say hello and see the car he and others had modified to compete in the race, a small four-door sedan which his 21-year old son owns and allowed Mr. Joe to use for race day. Having a long time history with Mr. Joe, being friends since before high school, I knew right away that was a mistake and the car was doomed.

The kids took an immediate interest in the car. By regulation for the race, it had all its windows smashed out, the doors unable to open because they had been reinforced with steel as well as the roof for safety reasons. The kids climbed through it like it was at a children’s museum and were more perplexed by why the radio didn’t work rather than why the car had been spray painted a horrendous color of yellow and had a large truck shock welded to the front end where the car’s fender was once installed.

A humorous moment came when Mr. Joe, a resident of Las Animas, noted to the kids they were improperly dressed for such an event. The kids asked how they were supposed to dress, to which Mr. Joe’s answer was, “You have to dress redneck like us.” Apparently, my kids don’t know the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy because all they could ask was, “What’s a redneck?”

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting us to stay for the entire event. Between the wind whipping dirt in our faces and given how cold it was, I was certain the kids would be “over it” and want to leave. However, after the first heat of the races, one SUV was flipped over onto its roof, and after that the kids were hooked.

Although Mr. Joe didn’t have much success in his first heat, he was the fan favorite of his consultation heat. Joe’s yellow sedan with the phrase “Sleepy Joe is the way to go” spray painted across the roof was able to knock out two vehicles around corners and force a spin out from the vehicle that was in the first place ahead of him. However, after that, the sedan hit the intersection bumps a little hard and the strut-made-into-a-fender came loose and swung out like an arm. At the same time, the hood of the car flipped up and covered the windshield, blinding Mr. Joe’s from seeing the track.

Luckily, Mr. Joe had a co-pilot, his son’s friend named Brett, who would stretch out and kick the car’s hood back down for Joe to see. Spectators loved it, especially when the little yellow sedan which had so much trouble, but caused even more trouble for others, won the heat. There was laughter and applause, and my kids loved every minute.

I even asked if they would like to leave because of the wind and cold conditions, but they were anxious about staying to see the rest of the races.

After the event was over and we were headed to La Junta to check into our hotel, planning to leave the next morning, my kids mentioned they understood why people were interested in those races. They understood living in that area didn’t pose a lot of events they would consider fun like in El Paso County, Denver and other areas surrounding which my kids were used to spending their time.

When we came back to Monument and they saw their family for Easter the following day, the races, Mr. Joe’s exciting heat and their trip to experience a piece of country living was all they could talk about. I feel they truly enjoyed themselves and understood the culture of that area a little more than before.

Maybe now, they’ll be able to relate to the lyrics of their mother’s music and remember the little yellow sedan that could.

Benn Farrell is a Monument-based freelance writer and playwright.

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