A quick scan of iconic Norman Rockwell images of grandfathers and grandsons sharing special time includes traditions like fishing, ice-skating, raking leaves and just plain relaxing. Surely there are many more.
The classic painter of traditional Americana died in November 1978 so his work never reflected the birth of monster trucks.
But even had he lived to see their emergence in the early 1980s it’s likely his canvasses would never have depicted a young lad and a granddad peering up in wonderment at the sheer size of those massive tires on the Captain USA, Grave Digger or Batman trucks.
And that’s probably a good thing. It could have skewed forever any appreciation we may have fostered over time for any of his 4,000-plus works of art, including “American Gothic,” the stoic farmer with pitchfork in hand and his equally serious wife alongside.
Last weekend’s Monsterjam at the Spokane Veterans’ Memorial Arena gave my grandson Logan, his dad, Joe, and “Papa” a chance for another guys day to go hang out. It broke the mold for our boys’ breakfasts that had taken place the past few months at the Skyway Café at Felts Field in the Spokane Valley.
Would monster trucks really hold the same excitement as a plate of pancakes and watching airplanes take off and land?
At 4, Logan’s dad and I – with full blessings from mom and grandma of course – thought he was just old enough to see the real live versions of some of the trucks he has in his toy box.
Armed with a good set of noise canceling ear muffs, his miniature Batman monster truck and second-deck, third-row tickets, we successfully ran the gauntlet of vendors peddling all things monster truck from cotton candy, mugs, sippers and shirts.
The high energy, high decibel announcer on the floor not only did due diligence to a long list of sponsors, but got the crowd engaged with a patriotic intro on the big screen. First, and hardly unexpected with this crowd, came Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American,” followed by tributes to our armed forces and a to-the-point singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
As a light haze of dust hung over the Arena floor following the first round of the competition – Chicago-style racing that put two trucks on opposite ends of the dirt track in a 1-lap crazy sprint back to the start – I wondered what was going through my grandson’s mind.
Was he taking it all into the memory banks like everything else he does on a daily basis? Would he, in another dozen years, remind us when we watched Grave Digger outperform Hot Wheels, Captain USA and Metal Mulisha.
Or how we had to quash his exuberant waving of his checkered flag after he accidently bopped the guy sitting in front of us in the head?
That moment brought back memories of my first grandfather-grandson bonding moment, likely sometime about Logan’s age, but back in late 1950-something.
After “Gramps” got off work from being the treasurer for Okanogan County, we hopped in the old two-tone green Plymouth and headed up Highway 97 to Penticton, British Columbia to watch some hockey. My grandfather played hockey as a young man just a little east in Rossland, back at the beginning of the 20th Century so the interest never left and it was worth the 90-mile one-way drive.
While I have no recollection of the game itself, images that etched themselves into my mind to this day included me being hip-high to men in long overcoats and wearing the classic ‘50s fedoras.
And there were the clouds over the arena there too.
That haze, not from dust kicked up by racing trucks, came from cigarette smoke. Remember, this was an era when some doctors actually touted the benefits of cigarettes, well before the addition of the Surgeon General’s warning.
Logan was in good company at Monsterjam. Of the 6,000 or 7,000 who attended the Sunday matinee, probably half were between ages 3 and 10. Did the parents know the $5 seat in the second deck meant they would easily spend the $20 they saved – and probably more on “stuff.”
Amazing how someone can turn 15-cents worth of plastic into trinkets people line up to pay upwards of $15 to take home as their souvenir of their day with the monster trucks.
We survived the event and the last minute attempts to pry more money from our wallets on the way to the exits.
While the day would never warrant a one-of-a-kind classic painting, it did end up being a one-of-a-kind memory.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.