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Bullring Days 3 book cover

Bullring Days 3:
Banners Flying
Wes Boyd
©2009, ©2014

Chapter 11

“Tell you what,” Ray said as they headed into the shop. “If we have a meeting with Mom and Dad about the work list tonight, maybe we’d better act like we’ve been thinking about it. I’ll get you a notepad, and you can make a list of things that I think need to be done. Maybe when Bob and Lonnie get here I can go poke around a little and see what else I can add to it, but I’d really like to get this mill done so I don’t have it hanging over me.”

“I can understand that,” she said, still trying to put things into perspective. The world had changed around her again, not for the first time this week, or even this day. “Look, Ray,” she changed the subject, “don’t get me wrong, I’m coming to like you a lot too, but I don’t want you to think I’m trying to set you up or anything.”

“I didn’t think you were,” he said. “For that matter, I don’t think the folks are doing it that much, either. It’s just, well, they’d like to see me settled down a bit. They like you, and I’m guessing they’ll do what they can to grease the skids. About all you and I can do is take it easy and see what happens.”

“You know, Ray,” she grinned, “you missed a bet. Maybe you should have gone to college like your brother. I think you’d make a hell of a philosopher.”

“I’d rather be a hell of a mechanic,” he smiled. “At least I understand that, or some of it, anyway. I don’t think I’d really like a lot of that college bullshit that he goes through.”

“I doubt you would,” she nodded. “I think you’re wiser than you seem. Where should I look for a note pad?”

“I think there’s a clipboard on the desk in the office,” he told her. “You have to figure that Mom and Dad have their own list and it probably will have a lot on it that I’m going to tell you. But the odds are that we’ll come up with something they’ve missed, and our priorities may be different.”

Ginger settled down in the office chair near where Ray was working on the engine, and began to write. It proved to be a lot of writing, and soon Ginger was finding herself impressed at Ray, at what he’d noticed that needed to be done, and how well he was organizing it. It was almost as if he were taking a mental walk around both of the tracks, starting with the little one, place by place and building by building, coming up with places that needed paint, things that needed repair, and so on. “I’ve only noticed a few things in the concession buildings,” he admitted some time well into the process. “I don’t have reason to go in them much, but I’m sure that Diane has a list and the folks probably already have it.”

“Diane? Who’s she?”

“Diane Gorsline,” Ray explained. “She’s been the concessions manager clear back to the old track before the folks owned it.”

“Am I going to have to work concessions, too?” Ginger asked. “I mean, I will if I have to but I really don’t want to.”

“Not unless an emergency comes up,” Ray told her. “I mean, since you’ve got that food handler’s card you’re going to be an obvious fill-in. Diane has her own arrangement on getting people to work concessions; it works pretty well all around. I told you about Dad and the ambulance, getting cute with the city council, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, that was kind of sneaky,” she smiled.

“That was nothing on what he pulled with the concessions,” Ray laughed. “That was, hell, clear back when I was in high school, and it’s worked perfectly ever since.”

“Ray, this sounds like a story. You’re going to have to tell me.”

“Well, it is,” he said. “Back in the old days, back when the big track’s infield was grass, we didn’t have the infield concession stand, of course. We hardly ever had to have the concession stands at the big track and the little one open at the same time, so Diane could handle it, along with a few friends. But, as time went on, her help thinned out some and Diane was trying to do too much by herself, especially when we had two and later three concession stands open at the same time.”

“Couldn’t she hire someone to help?”

“Yeah, but getting someone to help every week sometimes was a problem,” Ray explained. “Remember, everything is on weekends and people have other things they want to do on their days off. Well, things struggled on for a while. Even Vern and Laney and I had to go help out at times to keep things going, and Laney must have been like fifth or sixth grade. It was all a family deal and everyone pitched in where they were needed. I don’t know for a fact, but I guess Diane must have told the folks that something was going to have to give. It was a problem for a year or more, and it didn’t get solved all at once.”

“So how did it get fixed?”

“That’s where Dad got cute.” Ray laughed. “Remember, Dad’s a teacher, and he’s pretty well plugged into what’s going on at the school. Well, at the time the band boosters had run the concessions at the football games and basketball games roughly forever. You know, as a fundraiser. The athletic boosters were kind of jealous about that, since the band got to take trips and stuff out of that money, and it wasn’t coming to them. I mean, the athletic boosters were supporting the jocks, while the band boosters were supporting all those little non-jock queers who were getting all the good stuff. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the deal, but somehow the athletic boosters got the school board to throw the band boosters out of the concessions so they could take them over for themselves.”

“I’ll bet that pissed them off pretty good,”

“Oh, yeah,” Ray grinned. “Like I said, I was only maybe a freshman at the time, but I heard all about it. Well, the band booster parents got together to have a protest meeting, not that there was anything that could be done about it but bitch. I guess the bitching was going on pretty good when Dad walked into the meeting and told everyone that if they wanted to raise money for the band by working in concession stands, he had three of ’em and needed help. They worked out a deal right on the spot for the boosters to work as volunteers and get a cut off the top for the group.”

“Oh, shit,” Ginger grinned, “and that way he doesn’t have to pay wages, let alone taxes or withholding, and he gets a tax credit for a charitable donation in the process. Yeah, your dad is sneaky, all right.”

“Dad’s always said that the best kind of deal is where everyone comes out happy,” Ray grinned. “He wound up making a little more money out of the deal with a whole lot less hassle, since neither he nor Diane has to worry about finding people to work concessions. Diane still administers it, orders the food, and so on, but the band-booster parents supply the people and set the schedule of who works and when. The band boosters are making more money than they ever did working the football and basketball games, and they got to give the athletic boosters a slap in the face over it. Of course, the athletic boosters tried to weasel their way in on the deal, but since this is a private enterprise and not the school’s, they were stuck with working the school games.”

“Yeah, you’re right, that was cute,” she grinned.

“The funny part of it is the people who caused all the trouble in the first place are pretty much gone, and have been gone a long time. Hell, that was almost ten years ago. But you still couldn’t get the band boosters out of our concession stands with dynamite. So it’ll be a real pinch when you have to work concessions.”

“That’s good to know,” she said. “I was afraid that I was going to get stuck with it.”

“Consider that load off your mind. Like I said, I know a few things that need to get done around the three concession stands, but I’d really like to see Diane’s list. I do know that . . .” He cut himself off as the phone interrupted them. He headed the few steps over to the phone on the wall and picked it up.

Ginger heard him say, “Yeah, she’s here. Let me go get her.” He put the phone on his shoulder and said, “Ginger, it’s for you.”

“Me?” Ginger said. “Who would know I’m here?”

“He said his name was Dennis Hopkins,” Ray explained. “I’m afraid I don’t know him.”

“Dennis Hopkins?” she frowned. “He owns the McDonald’s, and several other stores.”

“You better talk to him,” Ray replied. “and Ginger, keep your cool.”

“I’ll try,” she said as she put the clipboard to the side, got up and went to the phone. “Hi, Mr. Hopkins,” she said. “This is Ginger. What do you need?”

“Ginger, I need to talk to you about today. You’re going to get your paycheck, there’s no need for a lawsuit.”

Lawsuit? Ginger frowned. What lawsuit? Then it struck her – this had to be Arlene’s doing somehow. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I’ve had so many difficulties with management that I thought it would be necessary.”

“Difficulties?” she heard Hopkins say. “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Mr. Phipps said he had trouble getting you to work your assigned hours.”

“I worked the assigned hours,” Ginger told him. “What I had a problem with was working off clock when he told me to. I especially had a problem with him telling me that I had to work off clock to make up for my sick day yesterday.”

“Off clock?” Hopkins replied. “That’s not our policy. I can’t imagine he would be asking you to work off clock.”

“It’s been weeks since I’ve even been able to take a full break period without him telling me to work off clock,” Ginger replied. “I’ve hardly ever been able to get out of there when I’m scheduled without him ordering me to work off clock. If that wasn’t bad enough, when he grabbed my butt and told me I’d have to be nice to him to get my paycheck, I’d had enough. After that, I think a lawsuit to get my paycheck ought to be justified, don’t you?”

“He grabbed you?” Hopkins said, not quite as sure of himself now. “He didn’t say anything about that.”

“You’d expect him to?” she sneered. “I’d guess half the store saw it.”

“Miss Marston,” he said, clearly showing her some respect that was lacking a little earlier, “I don’t know anything about that.”

“Probably not,” she replied. “I’m not the only one he’s ordered to work off clock, either. He’s done it to a lot of people there.”

“I haven’t heard anything about that,” he replied defensively.

“Then I suggest you’d better go ask around,” she said. “I’ll expect my check to be ready on time on Friday. Is that all, Mr. Hopkins?”

“I think you’re right,” he said. “I guess I’d better do some asking around. I’ll get back with you, Miss Marston.”

She hung up the phone and turned to Ray with a broad smile on her face. “Oh, God, that was worth it,” she said with a huge grin plastered across her face. “It started out with him having an attitude of ‘Why are you bothering me with this shit?’ until he realized that he really had a problem. I don’t know what your mother did, but I’m going to be really nice to her for a while.”

“I don’t know either,” Ray grinned back, almost as broadly, “but it sounds like she managed a good one.”

“That’s really nice, you know,” she smiled. “I was just happy to be out of that damn place, but if a little of Phipps’ hide comes off in the process it would be so much nicer.”

*   *   *

The next hour or so went quickly, with Ginger in an exceptionally good mood. It was getting along in the afternoon when Ray told her, “If you’ve got some really grubby clothes, stuff you won’t mind getting messed up with paint, you ought to go put them on. Bob and Lonnie should be along shortly, and I’m going to have them get you started on the painting.”

“I think I can find something,” she told him, and headed for the house. She was barely back to the shop when she heard the roar of the old muscle car outside and looked out to see the two teenagers getting out.

“That’s the end of the engine work for now,” Ray said, wiping his hands as the two came in. “OK, you guys,” he said. “I think it’s still too soft to mow, so I guess it’s time to work on painting. Ginger, have you ever run a paint sprayer?”

“No, Ray, only spray cans,” she told him.

“Well, no big deal, you can learn,” he said. “These guys know what they’re doing. Bob, Lonnie, take her out to the barn, load the gas-powered sprayer in the back of the old Dodge pickup, take a couple five gallon cans of white paint, give them a good stirring and shaking, and get started on the track walls. We’re going to do both the inside and the outside all the way around, but you probably ought to start on the track side first because the ground outside could still be too soft for the pickup. I know that’s going to be too much to get done today, but make sure she knows how so she can work at it tomorrow.”

“Right,” Lonnie said. “How do you want to handle the lettering where it says ‘Bradford Speedway?’”

“Paint right over it, just one coat. The old black paint will show through. Once the white is dry, maybe in a day or two, you can go back over it by hand with a brush. That’s a pain in the butt, but that’s how it’s always been done because it works. Once you get going, I’ll probably come over and grab one of you guys for some other job. I’ll be around to check in on you anyway, but I’ve got some other stuff to be done out there. Oh, while I’m thinking about it, take some blocks with you in the back of the pickup to keep the sprayer level. The compressor motor isn’t real happy when you try to use it up on the banking.”

“I didn’t expect to be painting today,” Lonnie protested. “I ain’t dressed for it.”

“I told you yesterday that we’d be painting,” Ray shook his head. “Go help Bob and Ginger get started, then go over and start scraping paint on the concession stand at the little track. Do a real good job on it, we want it looking nice. Take a couple screwdrivers with you and take the signs down before you get started.”

It took a while to get going, but before long Ginger, Bob, and the old pickup were out at one of the entrances onto the track, painting the inside of the outside wall, which was about four feet high and went clear around the track, almost half a mile. It was slow going; even with two spray guns running off the large compressor it took a while to get anything done. “This is going to take days,” Bob complained. “I figured we’d be out mowing today, that’s fairly easy.”

“It’s all work that has to be done, and we can’t mow yet,” Ginger told him. “I’ll probably be working at it by myself tomorrow, and it’s just going to take even longer.”

Ray came by several times in his pickup to check on progress and seemed satisfied. “You really haven’t gotten that much done,” he commented, “but from back across the track it really looks better. You’re getting this place to looking like it’s supposed to.”

He showed up again as the sun was getting low in the sky. “Might as well wrap it up for now,” he told the two of them. “Ginger, have you learned enough about this to be able to do it yourself tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I think so,” she told him. “So long as nothing goes wrong.”

“Good enough. The two of you head back up to the barn, make sure the sprayers are cleaned out good. I’ll go rescue Lonnie and see how he’s coming.”

Ginger and Bob were just getting everything cleaned up at the barn when Ray showed up with Lonnie, whose clothes, skin, and hair were covered with flakes of dried white paint. Soon the two guys were in the old muscle car, heading back to town. “Think you can handle that all day tomorrow?” Ray asked.

“I ought to be able to,” she said. “It beats the hell out of hamburgers.”

“Good,” he said. “Lonnie didn’t get as much done as I hoped he would, so maybe I’ll have Bob work with him tomorrow afternoon. Since you’re going to be around all day, I ought to be able to get some of those things done without having to depend on them too much. Let’s go get cleaned up and see what Mom made for supper.”

*   *   *

It took Ginger a little longer to get cleaned up than she’d hoped – paint was paint, after all – but she managed to get down to the dinner table just as Arlene was getting things served. “I see Ray has been putting you to work,” she said.

“Yeah, a little,” Ginger replied. “I don’t think I’ll be able to work as fast as Bob and me when I’m working by myself, but if the weather is nice tomorrow I ought to be able to get a lot of it done. It’s kind of fun to look back and see that I’ve accomplished something.”

“You strike me as someone who works well by herself,” Arlene told her. “Ray told me that you had a call about your paycheck.”

“Yes, I did,” Ginger grinned. “I’m not sure where it will come out but at least I ought to get paid. Were you really going to file a lawsuit? I can’t see where it would have been worth the effort.”

“Well, actually, no,” Arlene smiled. “Something like that would normally go to small claims court and lawyers probably wouldn’t get involved. I just called a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer and asked him to jack things up. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. I haven’t heard back about what happened, other than what I got from Ray, of course. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Arlene, look,” Ginger said, “I know I’ve got a lot to thank you for. You’ve really made a huge difference for me the last few days. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ray, I think he’s a neat guy, but do me a favor and don’t jump to any conclusions, all right? It’ll happen if it’s going to happen, but please, for all our sakes, don’t try to force it, all right?”

“Believe it or not, I’m not trying to set you up or force things,” Arlene told her. “I’m just trying to make sure the doors stay open if something does happen. I like you too, Ginger, and I know Mel does, but we don’t know you well enough yet to tell if we like you that much. I’ll agree that the situation we have here is a little unique, and if it looks like I’m pushing too hard just tell me.”

“I will,” Ginger promised. “Uh, I don’t know if I should say this, but Ray sort of said today that he thought maybe you were sort of using me as bait to keep him around to help manage the track.”

“If it works out that way I wouldn’t object,” Arlene told her. “It is the simple solution to a lot of problems coming up in the next few years. But when you solve one problem sometimes you create another one, and I’d like to avoid that if I can. In the short range, having you here is going to solve some problems for us in the next few months. If it happens to solve some problems in the long range, so much the better. But if it comes to that, it’s a decision you and Ray have to make.”

*   *   *

Not unexpectedly, dinner more or less turned into the opening rounds of a work planning session, which picked up steam right afterwards when Diane showed up with her own list of things that needed to be done. The list that Ray and Ginger had put together in the afternoon proved to be fairly complete and added some new items, although Mel and Arlene had a few items to add as well. After combining all the lists it seemed there wasn’t much that really didn’t need to be done. The discussion was about priorities, whether an item needed to be done before the season opened, whether it could be done between the weekends throughout the summer, or whether to put it off for another year.

“I almost hate to bring this up,” Ray said, “but I went through the concession stand at the little track today while Lonnie was scraping paint. We can patch it up and have it looking fairly decent, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe we ought to just replace it.”

“It could be better,” Diane, a heavy-set woman in her late thirties replied. “It was never intended to last anything like this long, anyway. It was built down at the old track with the idea that we’d use it for a season or two, then move it out to the pits. We moved it up here, instead, and that was fifteen years ago.”

“You might have an idea with that,” Arlene agreed. “I can’t help but think that if it was bigger we might get more traffic at it, maybe have a larger menu. We use it almost as much as either of the two stands at the big track. We don’t get the crowds at the little track that we do up on the hill, but it’s open more days. Are we going to be able to get it past the health department this year?”

“Oh, yeah, no problem about that,” Diane said. “It’s just that it doesn’t look very good, and it could be bigger and better laid out.”

“Well, whatever we decide to do,” Mel pointed out, “it’s too late to do anything about replacing it before the season opener down there. What would you say to the idea of getting started on a replacement over the summer, and when we get the new one opened, we move the old one up to the back pits at the big track?”

“You run into the same problem if you do,” Diane said. “I’ve felt for a long time we need a concession stand in the back pits, even if it isn’t used every week. This one’s just not big enough, and could be in better shape.”

“How about if we didn’t try to do any heavy cooking? Just have hot dogs and pop and chips, no pizza or burgers?”

“It might work,” Diane conceded, “but you’re losing your money items if you do that.”

“Tell you what,” Ray pointed out. “We’ve got a bigger problem out in the back pits. Nobody likes the porta-potties there. We need a restroom building, and I don’t see why a reasonable concession stand couldn’t be worked into the design.”

“That means putting a septic tank and leach bed out there,” Mel protested. “Probably a well, unless we run water a hell of a long way. All that is pretty expensive. You could get by without them if we just had a small concession stand instead. I don’t think we want to try to do both projects this year, although I’ll admit that I’d love to get rid of the porta-potties. They’re expensive, and just avoiding the rental and maintenance charges would pay for a new restroom building in a few years. While I’d love to get going on the museum building this year, I think we probably ought to do one of those concession stand projects instead. I just don’t know which one.”

“Don’t forget that the concession stand at the little track is going to get a lot more use than the one in the back pits,” Diane pointed out. “You’d only be using the back pit stand for the sports car events and when you can’t fit the Saturday night show into the infield. That’s less than twenty times a year. We use the little track twice as much, and let me tell you, it gets darn cold in the concession stand at the little track when we run snowmobile races, and we blow fuses when we try using space heaters to keep our toes warm.”

“I’d like to move some of the haulers out of the infield,” Mel pointed out. “It gets darn crowded there sometimes. But I don’t see how we can do it without a concession stand and probably restrooms in the back pits.”

“Look,” Ginger piped up, “bearing in mind that I don’t know anything about anything, what would happen if you went ahead with the concession stand at the little track this year? You could move the old concession stand to the back pits with the idea of replacing it with a new building in a year or two.”

“That would deal with the immediate need first,” Arlene admitted as the phone on the wall behind her rang, “And it would at least offer a lick and a promise to the back-pit problem.” She swung around, picked up the phone and said “Hello.”

“If we got someone working on it we might have it going by midsummer,” Diane offered as Arlene talked on the phone.

“Ray, it’s for you,” Arlene spoke up. “It’s about Paul Pieplow’s old Indy car.”

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