Of course, it goes without saying that out here in the country—and “out here in the country” can be just about anywhere in these 50 United States—that one of the most anticipated events of the year is The Demolition Derby.

Even my Appliance Army—which consists of everything around this farm that has either wheels, or water, or gears, or, or, or—in other words everything from Allis the Chalmers Mower Tractor to Sir Nautilus the Water Heater—they too want to hear what The Demolition Derby was like.

Allis said to me: “You know I have a distant relative running in this year’s Demo Derby, don’t you?” No, matter of fact, I did not, I told her, and who would that be, I asked her.

She said: “Well, it goes back several generations to the tractors that were Massey-Fergusons.” She continued, “Mr. Ferguson went on to work for the Ford Motor Company, who made a bunch of similar Ford tractors, and one of those patents was purchased by my parents, the Allis Chalmers Company.”

Ah, I see, I said—just about kissing cousins, or something like that?

She giggled. She giggles a lot these days. I think her gasoline hoses are leaking or something. But if she’s happy, I’m happy. And mowing.

Anyway, just like the rest of Them around me here, she too wanted a first-hand report on the Demolition Derby coming up. So I had no choice but to attend, even though I skipped one year and made up a story about one, but you cannot get away with much with These Appliance Things. And if I get caught lying, I’d be without water, sewer, washing—you name it.

So I went.

Near as I could count it, there were better than 2,000 people in attendance at the one just held in concert with the East Otter Tail County Fair in Perham. 2,000! At $10 a head, no less! And as far as expenses go, every juvenile delinquent between the ages of 15 and 50 wanted to knock the windows out of the family car and join in the fray. I think each entry had to fork up a few bucks to enter, but most of this psychological bent to destruction would have come and crashed for free.

We were all seated. The northwest wind had brought in a bit of coolness with it, so we were all comfortable. In front of the stands, where we were sitting, were people standing, looking at the crash arena through cyclone fencing. These are people, I deduced, who like to be as close to the action as possible. And they were within ten feet of the action, alright. In front of the cyclone fencing were large concrete abutments, which with any luck at all would stop some maniacs from flying right over them and crushing someone.

I for one wasn’t one of them standing that close. I was a good ways back up in the stands, which I hoped would fall over backwards if that car did come flying over, which means that lots of other people would be squashed first. The first couple of full-size cars came out just to give us a taste of the madness that was coming shortly. Both of them took every opportunity to spin their wheels insanely and turn sharply and spray clods of soggy mud into the bleachers. And into the people standing between the bleachers and the stands. They seemed to love it. They jumped and hollered and dug clods out of their hair and threw them back at the cars.

After several minutes of these two fanatics roaring around—it seems that it is a tradition to try and make your vehicle louder than anyone else’s vehicle. So, in addition to the flying mud, there is some risk of associated deafness, and I did notice on the way out later, people in line for the gates were shouting at one another. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that there were several places to buy beer.)

After the roaring went by, and the clods were confiscated, it became apparent that a lot of the people standing there had come to the fair with their children, and so had come to The Derby with them. Fathers in running for father of the year had perched some of these youngsters up on their shoulders, knowing I suspect that the little monsters deserved the very best of Derby fever.

After the vehicles roared off, that engine roaring was replaced by the crying of some very unhappy children, who, unlike their parents, didn’t quite associate deafness and death by flying clods with fun. Maybe next year, mom and dad.

It perhaps takes some maturity before humans recognize true entertainment for what it is.

Without a doubt, it was the truck part of the whole evening that brought the chance of death by flying out-of-control crashes into the fun. Two powerful trucks mashing into one another at a pretty good speed threatened more than once to flip over the concrete safety barriers into the bystanders there.

Of course, I have kind of a false hope of accurately portraying the great fun of all this, and of how part of the great fun of all this is the chance of being crushed by a flying derby vehicle. Maybe after I go to some more of them, I’ll begin to understand all this better, and I too will take my position up front, with the rest of the people who are there mostly for the chance of going home and telling someone:

“Wow! I came this close I tell you to being crushed by number 28, who was tipped halfway over the concrete abutment when number 44 hit him going about a hundred miles per hour! This close!”

Maybe next year.