There was a guy stuck axle deep about 75 yards to the north of where I was standing. He was yelling for me to come help him. I wanted to, and would've, but right now there were more pressing matters. Five guys just burst out of the brush about 20 yards behind me, obviously not on the course. The leader was screaming " where's the track ?! ". I point at the guy stuck in the "hunerd yard mud hole". It was useless to send them back. Who knows how long they'd been following that guy. I was busy trying to clear another path through the dense underbrush that ended this woods section. The original trail, and all alternates, had long ago become unserviceable. About 2 feet away there was a big guy on a bigger four stroke both feet down & paddling through a case deep rut, that was, ten minutes ago, an alternate line...to an alternate line. As he motored through at walkin' speed, the whole woods echoed the thunderous rumble of his 650 Honda at full cackle. Roosted muck shot up into the trees behind him. I knew this would be the last rider to be able to use this line. I held a branch out of his way as he slowly inched by. He and I were both imploring the mud gods not to let him loose the small amount of forward speed he had. He didn't wanna get stuck, and I certainly didn't have the energy to pull this big fella outta the mud. Moments later he was free. I pointed, with my machete, at the next trail marker, and he waved over his shoulder...and covered me with about six cubic yards of roost. I didn't care so much, it helped to slow the flow of blood from the many cuts & scratches brought on from cutting alternate lines through the jungle. I could hear several more racers coming down the trail, & knew that I only had a minute to clear out the few remaining thorn vines, & branches, lest we have many stuck bikes on our hands. The guy in the "hunerd yard mud hole" was still yellin' for help. It was starting to drizzle. With a mighty "thwack" from my machete, I dispatched a small evergreen at ground level, then grabbing a handful of those thorny vines, I drew back my long knife for one final blow to clear out this new path...
...as I let loose the blow that would give an escape route to the fast approaching riders ...my arm jerked wildly...and I woke up.
I looked at the clock, it was 11:30 Sunday night. Only ten minutes since the last time I had fallen asleep, dreamt I was still at the track, & woke myself up with a violent twitch, as my body tried to follow my dream. I am Patman, one of the track officials for the Texas Cross Country Racing Association.
Bonita is really a pretty good track. In fact, I would say that Ban Burch, has one of the best cross country tracks on the circuit. It's wide. It's a long loop as XC tracks go, and the variety of terrain is excellent. Much sand. Trees. Fifth gear straight-aways. Jumps. Some rolling hills, and plenty of room for racing. Which is what we do here. Race. To see who's the fastest.
This day traction over 90% of the track was perfect. The week of rain had eliminated the dust, and the sandy soil was in perfect shape...that is in the areas where the soil was in fact sandy.
The black dirt in the low lying areas was a whole 'nuther ballgame. The day before, on Saturday, I took a practice lap on my new YZM replica, and found the course to be blisterin' fast. Perfect. Except for those low lying areas I was talkin' about.
After my practice lap, I put on the bright orange track official shirt & hat, and went off to supervise the Saturday afternoon Pee-Wee race. Those guys ( & girls ) had a great track laid out for them, and crashes were few, at least in the woods section that I monitored. Oh I untangled a couple of overzealous Pee-Wee experts riders once or twice. I examined a smashed finger, started several stalled mini-bikes, spoke many words of encouragement, and shoved lots of tykes down the trail to glory. I guess it's fun enough, & I like to help, & all, but it just breaks my heart to see a little kid run into a tree ( at 4 mph ), & get up cryin' their little eyes out. They all want their mommy. And I feel totally helpless, trying to calm him or her down, determine if they're injured, if I should pull 'em out of the race or not, and at the same time trying to keep 'em off the track & out of harms way. One dad came up after the race & thanked me for takin' care of his girl, another screamed at me for lettin' his boy run into a gopher hole, that I should've marked off. I've got a seven year old who's not interested in racing...I'm kinda glad.
After the Pee-Wee race all of the track officials headed out into the evening to re-route the track around some of the bigger mud pits. We cut track with chainsaw, clipper, & machete, until well after dark, but were successful at skirting two really large bog-type muddy areas.
I woke up pretty early Sunday, after a fairly good nights sleep. After I unfolded my big butt outta the Patman Racing van, I decided to run a lap on the four wheeler, to make sure the track was ready for the days racing. So, I put on the "Orange" and headed out onto the track, with my good friend Mike "Monkeybutt" Taylor. Also on a four wheeler. Before leaving, I packed up my radio, machete, branch cutters, shovel, ribbon, a tow strap, two bottles of water, camera, and a wrinkled up Power Bar still in my pack from the event two weeks ago. It was probably about 6:30 and the sun wasn't quite up yet.
As we rode the trail in the early morning light, it quickly became apparent that this was gonna be a fast race! The ground seemed to be perfect! We rode along cutting out drooping tree limbs, cutting out hanging vines, & hangin' an occasional trail marker ribbon. Eventually we came up to another track official, who had curtailed his own practice, and was trying to direct the practicing riders toward one of the alternates we cut the night before. So Monkeybutt, & I spent a half hour there re-marking, & clearing a little more of the underbrush. We continued on riding, cutting, & marking, until I heard a siren off in the distance, that signaled five minutes 'till the first race of the day. Mike jumped on his Polaris, & took a shortcut back to camp, & I stayed to clear some trees from this one small muddy area. Only a mile or so from the end of the loop, I figured I'd just stay on the track till the end, since it would take the racers about 20 minutes to reach me anyway. So I picked up the pace a little, and in just a minute or two, I had finished the loop...except for one thing. As I came out of some dense woods, I came to an area that was about 50 yards wide, & about 200 yard long...all black soupy mud...with little pools of water on top. There was somehow about one half of a mile of mud bog between me and the finish line.
I was just about to call Marty ( the head cheese ) on the Walkie-Talkie, to ask if he realized that this place was still part of the track, when I looked around, & realized, that the brush, & vines were so thick in this area, that there was no other way from the back of the course to the finish except through this quagmire. Aw, and It was such a nice course too. Too bad this had to be in it. Oh well, this is where I would station myself...as it turned out, for the duration.
As the first wave of racers came through, it was evident that the trail wouldn't hold up for too long. The ground seemed firm enough, but it was only about two inches to the water table below. It only took a few well motivated knobbies to render a trail unusable. Or worse yet, was to have a single rider get stuck, and make the whole line impassable. The key was ( through proper Line Management ) to keep everybody movin' so they wouldn't get stuck, & roost a hole in the ground tryin to get out. There were several spectators around, & with their help, we'd direct some riders to the left, until that line gave out, then direct them to the right, 'till that line gave out. In the meantime I'd be in the woods trying to hack out a new trail as the race progressed, and the lines got used up.
Eventually the race leaders came to the finish, & I headed back to get some more ribbon, & watch the start of the ladies & minis race. As soon as I hit the campground, I yelled at a girl on a speeding four wheeler to slow down. It was a friend of mine, LJ Boyer. It seems that she was hurrying to find a paramedic, or someone with a radio, to report an injured rider. She told me where the injured rider was located, & I relayed the info via radio to the medics. And of course as always, they responded as quickly as they could from the far side of the camp to render aid. Gotta like those guys.
At noon I watched the start of the ladies / mini race, then headed over to "my" mud hole. When I got there it was already a mess. There were several track officials there trying to figure a way around the "hunert yard mud hole". But there was none. It was the only way. So after a few minutes they left to go assist in other areas, or to get ready for the afternoon race, in which some of the officials would be racing. Normally I would be racing the expert race as well, but it didn't work out that way today...
I started to pull a fallen tree from the right hand side of the course, to prepare to make a line out there, I looked at Marty for his approval of the deed, & he nodded his blessing before taking off to check on another area..
The ladies & minis were starting to come around now, & all the track guys had dispersed, with the exception of myself. So having moved the tree, I quickly started hanging ribbon to mark the new line out of the woods & around the right side of the "hunert yard mud hole". Before long I had moved the line several times, pulled out several riders, and run out of marking tape. So I took off my orange officers jacket, & hung it over a tree marking the start of a new path around the mess. Then I stood at the edge of the woods & directed the riders ( with the help of some ever eager spectators ) at the orange jacket.
I saw all kinds of stuff that afternoon. I saw bikes stuck up to the seat in muck. I saw a guy nearly get his head ripped off from an encounter with a non-yielding vine, he did loose his helmet visor to it. One girl came through without a spec of dirt on her. She wasn't exactly moving at the speed of light, so I ask if she was alright, & she very merrily proclaimed she was. So I pointed her at the jacket, & assured her that if she stayed to the right, it wasn't as bad as it looked. Off she went...merrily. And about 30 seconds later she was down. Exactly in the middle of the center of the "hunert yard...well, you know. Worse than that, was that the bike had fallen on her leg & she was trapped there in the mud. And looking directly at me... Dammit! Well what would you do? So I ran out into the center of the "hunert yard mud hole", to assist. When I got there she admonished me ( merrily ) for causing her soiled condition. We got her up, & on her way...muddy backside & all.
As I got back to "my mud hole" , another group of girls was coming through in single file. All were moving along OK, but one of them in particular, caught my attention. She wasn't wearing her goggles, and was kinda pretty, as best as I could tell. But the thing that caught my attention was the bright red line of blood running down her cheek, from a cut just under her right eye. It was apparently a fresh cut as there was no dirt, or dried blood around it. She looked right at me as I directed the line of riders around the corner toward the HYMH ( hunert yard mud hole ). Suddenly I felt incredibly sorry for her. She didn't seem hurt, and wasn't crying or nuthin'. She just seemed out of place somehow. I dunno.
Well, the task of making sure the racers have a good track is sometimes a never ending one.
When the mid day sweeper came through, he stopped & visited for a second, & then I directed him to the best line through the HYMH, & off he went. I hurried over to cut one last line before my race started. But I got kinda involved in it, & before I was finished, Clay was speeding through in his normal fashion. Of course the pros & experts do a little more damage than the ladies, so the track deteriorated at a rapid fire pace, & at times I couldn't cut new trail, direct traffic, and pull out stalled bikes fast enough. I was exhausted. So I was extremely happy to see the points officer John West, pull up & offer to direct the racers to a new line if I'd clear it. And so John & I stayed at the HYMH for the duration of the day, directing & clearing, clearing & directing. As things began to wind down, I took some pictures, & John headed back in to the scoring area. After a bit, the afternoon sweeper appeared, & said that there was a guy walkin' around kinda 'out of it', and in need of help about 200 yards back.
So as the sweeper took off to finish the lap, I ran for my four wheeler, so I could go get the guy before the sun went down, or before he got lost or somethin'. While I was starting the four wheeler, I heard a yell from the HYMH, & sure enough there was a guy stuck there, yellin' for me to come help him out. I rode over through the muck & told him I had to go find this other guy in the woods & couldn't leave the guy in the woods in order to dig this fella out of the mud. He understood, but before I took off, being the softie that I am, I jumped off the four wheeler & gave a quick tug to the front wheel of his Kawasaki. Slowly it broke free & we quickly got it out of the rut, but then we found that the guy was out of gas as well! I told him I was sorry to have to leave him, & left to find the walker in the woods. Well I found him, & he was indeed kinda 'out of it', so I gave him my last bottle of water, & a ride to his camp. I then went back for the other guy that I had to leave in the HYMH, but I saw that another official had rendered aid already ( thankfully ) .
By the time I got back to my own camp, the daylight was fading. It had been a long day. Once again, I hadn't eaten all day, didn't race, my hands were blistered from the machete, I was covered in mud from top to bottom, and so tired I could hardly stand. It was a hard race. Who won you ask?