Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Irvin King

We’ve had some interesting characters show up at our doorstep over the years:

The man who showed up in the middle of the night begging for diesel for his mustang, offering me Monopoly money.

The girl, not in her right mind, who rolled her car and was more worried about the suspended license she was driving on than the baby in the back seat.

And how could we forget about Spanky, the trucker passing through from Kansas, who as fate would have it, worked on Cody’s grandparent’s ranch 30 years ago.

Most recently there was Irvin King.

It was about the best Friday night we’d had this summer. The humidity was low, the sun was setting, the weekend agenda wasn’t full. The kids and I had just gotten done choring while Cody was at a south pasture checking cattle and fences along the river.

The kids played in the backyard while I put clothes away upstairs. As I carried the laundry basket up the stairwell, I stopped at the window to enjoy the view. How long have I waited to be able to look out a window and see our kids enjoy the property?

Except, there weren’t only kids. A man had made his way up the sidewalk and was talking to the children. At first glance I thought it was my dad, in work pants and worn belt, t-shirt tucked in. But after a few seconds I realized the person visiting with the kids was a stranger. I dropped the clothes basket and raced downstairs.

Instantly, he reminded me of my grandpa Bowman, who died in 1989 when I was just 4 years old. Gentle nature and soft spoken.

The man told me his Cummins motorcoach had broken down on the side of US-35 and he asked if he could simply pull it off the highway into the access drive into our hayfield. This sounded fine, except we don’t own the land across the road. I called the neighbor to the north and he didn’t hesitate; he permitted that they park there overnight, no problem.

Of course, I couldn’t just let this stranger that had walked onto our property leave without some questions. Nothing out of ordinary Lindsay protocol: Name? Home state? Reason why you’d drive through Economy, Indiana?

The man I was visiting with was Irvin King. He is in his eighties, still farming row crops and cattle in West Virginia. He was passing through our area because of a more important detail: He used to race. In fact, Irvin is also known as the Flying Farmer.

He revealed to me that he and his wife were on their way to a race when they broke down. Irvin is a name in sprint car racing, though you wouldn’t know it by visiting with him. He was more interested in our cattle and kids than he was talking about his history. But there is nothing a little light internet stalking can’t uncover.

Irvin King is a Sprint Car legend. People today are still commenting on race websites about watching him race and dominate the sprint car world in the 1960’s and 70’s. You can buy photos of Irvin off eBay, Amazon and collector sites, all of him in the winner’s circle, standing proudly next to racing machines he built and won with.

The kids stayed close while we visited briefly. I asked if he and his wife would stay for dinner; he declined. As the sun sat, Irvin walked back down the side ditch and loaded back into his motorcoach.

I regressed 30 years and began acting like 8-year-old Lindsay. I felt as though a celebrity, maybe Reba McEntire, was camping in our yard and I just wanted her to befriend me. All evening, all night, and for the next 48 hours I looked out the window waiting for him to reappear. He never came out of the coach.

The next morning I asked Cody if we should take him coffee.


That afternoon I asked Cody if we should take him towels.


That evening I asked Cody if we should take him a meat and cheese tray. WHO DOESN’T LOVE A MEAT AND CHEESE TRAY? 


The next day I asked Cody if we should invite him to the kid’s birthday party we were hosting in 36 hours. I bet you can guess Cody’s answer.

Mr. and Mrs. King were parked across from our farm for two days. We never visited again.

But the kids sure ask about him. Because they hang on legs while adults visit, they picked up on his racing story. We’ve Googled “Irvin King race” time and time again to look at his successes and his story. Quite remarkable that such a character ended up broken down (of all things) in front of our farm.

That was July. More than a month later, I went to the mailbox to find two autographed photos of Irvin King himself. He had traveled back through the area and was kind enough to leave these keepsakes for our children. An interesting character we won’t soon forget.

I don’t love living on a highway, but I do love the opportunities if affords our family. Our puppy Sadie likely wouldn’t say the same.