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A first for me: an X-ray via e-mail

Duane Miller's broken ankle.

I have gotten a variety of e-mails over the years, but the one that came in Feb. 24 marked a first for me. It included a black-and-white photo of an X-ray of a broken leg showing the cracked bone held together with a plate and half a dozen screws.

The owner of the leg is well-known Eldridge resident Duane Miller, who has been hobbling around with a walker since falling on some ice Feb. 15.

He explained the fall in a Feb. 17 e-mail: When he assessed the situation after the fall, he said, “I discovered that my right foot was pointing skyward as it should, but my left foot was pointing north. That is when I realized I was in deep doodoo.”

He’s doing better now. The bone is healing, and a walking cast will replace Duane’s walker and crutches before long. We wish him well.

He offers some great advice for those venturing outdoors in winter weather: Take your cell phone with you and make sure it is charged up.

Luckily, Duane did.

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I’ve long said there truly is free speech in America, and you can make most any public statement you wish, even if it is controversial, inflammatory, false, stupid, in poor taste, racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic. You can make it that is, if you don’t mind suffering the consequences.

Troubled TV star Charlie Sheen is finding that out the hard way. CBS is canceling the remaining shows this season of “Two and a Half Men,” its biggest hit comedy series of the past decade. The decision is “based on the totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct and condition,” the network said in a written statement.

Sheen, who has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol, recently was highly critical of the show’s producers when he called a radio station and spoke live on the air.

He made anti-Semitic remarks about “Two and a Half Men’s” creator and lead writer, Chuck Lorre, whose real name is Charles Levine. He called Lorre a “stupid little man” among other things.

Sheen’s tirade and the subsequent cancellation of the remaining four “Two and a Half Men” episodes will cause Sheen, America’s highest paid TV actor, to lose some $14 million in earnings.

Days before his latest comments, Sheen had offered advice to actress Lindsay Lohan on impulse control.

“I’ve got some things I would recommend she consider,” he said. “Work on your impulse control. Just try to think things through a little bit before you do them.”

Now that is good advice.

Sheen, whose free speech is costing him millions and who seems bent on public self-destruction, should be following that advice himself.

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All of us who work in media are guilty of poor writing now and then. We can blame it on deadline pressure. But poor writing is still poor writing no matter the reason.

This line caught my ear recently: A local TV news anchor said Borders is going bankrupt, and one of the reasons is “online book sales.”

At first I thought she meant that Borders’ online book sales had decreased, causing corporate red ink. But someone suggested that she probably meant that increased online book sales by places like Amazon, or people’s downloading of electronic books, had cut into Borders’ retail business.

The bottom line is, it should have been spelled out in the story. The news consumer shouldn’t have to wonder what a newspaper reporter or TV anchor meant to write or say. It should be clear.

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So far, I’m not much impressed with digital television, at least in the condition in which it often arrives at my house via Mediacom cable.
I don’t know if it’s a problem with the local TV stations or Mediacom, but the digital picture is often momentarily scrambled. Sometimes the words heard and the movement of the mouths saying them don’t match. And the audio often drops out completely for a few seconds or a few minutes.

I never experienced this problem with an analog TV signal.
Now often I find myself switching from the digital signal of a local station back to its analog signal just to avoid the distraction.
When it comes to digital television, “new and improved” aren’t words I’d use to describe it.

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The opening race of the 2011 Sprint Cup season, the Daytona 500, has always been my favorite NASCAR race.

These days I often take a ho-hum attitude toward the rest of the season. Much of it has to do with my unhappiness over some of the decisions and changes that have taken place at the race-sanctioning body in recent years.

But the Daytona 500 is special, and this year it was really a neat sporting event to behold.

A genuinely nice young man, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, won this year. He was the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever.

He displayed the nerves of steel of a veteran driver during the race but, in reality, it was only his second Sprint Cup event; he’s so new to the sport he had trouble finding Victory Lane after the checkered flag fell.

How refreshing.

Ironically Bayne, who turned 20 the day before the race, was driving a car prepared by one of the oldest teams in NASCAR racing, the Wood Brothers, a family operation.

“Surely, it seemed the family had been trampled down and passed by in NASCAR,” wrote Ed Hinton on ESPN.com. “The only amazing thing about them was that they kept on going as a struggling one-car team in a league overwhelmed by multi-car teams with corporate structures and the funds to dominate.”

Bayne’s win provided the team’s first Daytona 500 victory since 1976, when David Pearson was behind the wheel.

A new T-shirt now proudly proclaims: “Wood Brothers, Seven decades of winning.”

Copyright 2011 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This appeared as an “Everyday People” column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Terry Ryan: Still turning laps at age 71

Terry Ryan at Daytona International Speedway. Photo courtesy of Doug Haack's Vintage Racing Photos.

Terry Ryan at Daytona International Speedway. Photo courtesy of Doug Haack's Vintage Racing Photos.

Jan Montgomery, myself and Terry Ryan just before the Hall of Fame ceremony in September of 2008 at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill. Jan's late husband, Dean Montgomery, and Ryan were among those inducted. I was the emcee. Sherry Roberts photo.

Jan Montgomery, myself and Terry Ryan just before the Hall of Fame ceremony in September of 2008 at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill. Jan's late husband, Dean Montgomery, and Ryan were among those inducted. I was the emcee. Sherry Roberts photo.

He advanced from the Midwest’s dirt tracks to NASCAR’s superspeedways more than three decades ago. And now, at age 71, Terry Ryan is still going in circles.

These days Ryan, of Davenport, Iowa, is racing a vintage Late Model at dirt tracks throughout Iowa in Mississippi Valley Vintage Race Car Association events.

MVVRCA boasts more than 50 race cars in a variety of classes, according to Ryan. The cars must be at least 20 years old and the drivers at least age 55.

“They just want you to have fun” and not go out and “beat on your buddy,” Ryan says. “It doesn’t pay anything. Bragging rights is the best you can come out of it with.”

Some of the race cars are reproductions, but Ryan’s No. 81 is authentic. Constructed by Hutcherson-Pagan Enterprises, the 1979 Chevrolet Camaro was built for USAC short tracks. Ryan says he raced it in competition 15 or 16 times.

“At the end of the 1980 season, there were so many rule changes it didn’t fit anything, and it never got sold.”

So Ryan threw a tarp on the Camaro, and it sat in a corner of the machine shed at his father’s farm until Ryan dug it out and he and some former crew members refurbished it.

Oddly enough, Ryan’s racing career had its start in the 1950s at a roller-skating rink in Davenport, where local stock car driver Harold Schroeder was the floor manager.

Ryan, who was raised on a farm north of Dewitt, Iowa, met Schroeder and got interested in racing when he accompanied a school chum to the rink.

Ryan and Bob Runge, another friend who in later years would become Ryan’s crew chief, began going to the races with Schroeder and his young pit crewman, Mel Kenyon. Kenyon, of course, would eventually become famous as a driver of midget cars and Indycars.

“We were the gophers,” Ryan says of the work he and Runge did in Schroeder’s pit. “We’d clean the windshield and maybe they’d let us change a tire.”

After serving on several pit crews, Ryan and another buddy, Jim Hanford, built Ryan’s first car in time for the 1967 racing season.

The 1957 Chevrolet hardtop, sponsored by local Roto Rooter owner Don Hobbs, carried No. 61Jr. and ran in the Sportsman Division.
Ryan says paying for his own car was the only way he was going to get a shot at driving.

“Nobody was going to say, ‘Here, go drive my car’ if you didn’t have any experience.”

Ryan drove 61Jr. for two years. He proved he had potential by winning championships in 1968 at speedways in Davenport and Maquoketa, Iowa, and East Moline, Ill.

But that accomplishment was a mixed blessing.

A rule back then mandated that Sportsman Division champions had to move up to Late Models if they wanted to race the next year. That was a prospect Ryan couldn’t afford.

But the no. 11 Late Model ride owned by Gary Schomberg became available when, sadly, his driver, Jack Henson of Stronghurst, Ill., was killed in an industrial accident.

Ryan credits Late Model drivers Jim Gerber and Ronnie Weedon with urging Schomberg to give Ryan a chance behind the wheel, and he did.

It was a good move on Schomberg’s part. Ryan finished in the top 10 in points at Davenport Speedway in 1969 and was runner-up to the legendary Weedon at East Moline’s Quad City Raceway in 1970.

In 1971, Ryan’s sponsor, Don Hobbs, bought him a USAC car, a ’69 Chevelle carrying No. 54, from Whitey Gerken of Elmhurst, Ill.
Ryan drove that car from 1971 to 1973 both locally and in some IMCA and USAC races, but he admits he “didn’t set the world on fire.”

That’s also the ride Ryan was in when he made his first superspeedway start, in 1972 at Michigan.

“Man, those are awfully big tracks if you haven’t been around them,” Ryan remembers.

By 1974, Ryan says the team needed a new car. That spring restaurant executive and car buff Bill Monaghan, who lived in Davenport at the time, bought a “Banjo” Matthews-built 1974 Chevelle from A.J. Foyt. He also bought a second car, a brand new 1975 Chevrolet Laguna, from Matthews in February 1975.

It was those cars that allowed Ryan to race competitively in USAC and take a shot at NASCAR.

Ryan, who drove for Monaghan through the 1980 season, was among the top 10 in USAC points in five years of competition with the division. His best effort came in 1978, when he was in the top 10 for 10 of his 13 starts and finished second to A.J. Foyt in the final point standings.

Driving Monaghan car’s in NASCAR, Ryan competed in 12 Cup races in 1976 and 1977, earning four top-10 finishes.

He dove into NASCAR with quite a splash. In 1976, driving the Matthews-built ’75 Laguna, he started on the outside front row of the Daytona 500 with fellow Iowa USAC driver Ramo Stott of Keokuk on the pole.

How did that happen?

“First of all, I had a very, very good race car,” says Ryan of the Matthews car. “By that I mean you could turn a screw on that thing, and it would react to it. Some cars don’t.”

In addition, the top three qualifiers on the first day of qualifications for the 500 failed their post-qualifying inspections.

“A.J.’s, Darrell Waltrip’s and Dave Marcis’ times were disallowed — not disqualified — but disallowed,” Ryan says. “They could requalify the second day. They had something aerodynamic that they did.

“Ramo had fourth-quick time, and I had fifth-quick. Well, when they disallowed those first three times, it put me on the outside of the front row.”

The NASCAR rookie had a sixth-place finish in that race.
“Then we went to Talladega, qualified ninth and finished fifth to back it up.”

Things didn’t go so well at the team’s next race, in Charlotte. “I wrecked the car there,” Ryan says.

In all, despite two straight DNFs, Ryan earned four top 10s in Cup races that season, including a ninth-place at Ontario.

Terry Ryan’s other seven Cup races were in 1977, where he finished 40th in points. His season began at Daytona, but he finished a disappointing 18th after his engine failed.

Engine issues also knocked him out of the next two races, and he dropped out at Charlotte with axle problems.

But when things held together, Ryan sailed, finishing no worse than 17th in his final three races, including ninth-place at Michigan, his final NASCAR race.

Ryan, a retired truck driver, left racing after competing at the Springfield, Ill., mile in October of 1980.

“We had a lot of good races throughout the years,” Ryan says, looking back on his career. “A lot of good times.”

Ryan, who was inducted into the Quad City Raceway Hall of Fame last fall, says he’s particularly proud of his team’s accomplishments in NASCAR.

“I just drove the car. Like they say in every interview, ‘Thanks to my crew.’ You cannot do that alone. You can’t make a pitstop, get out and change four tires, put gas in it, get back in and go. It takes six good guys over that wall.

“I’m very proud of that. We did very well. You can call it beginner’s luck. We had some good runs.”

And now he’s now back at it.

His return to racing, vintage style, began in 1996 when Ryan and Runge dragged the ’79 Camaro out of storage and created R&R Vintage Racing.

He has nothing to prove.

“It’s fun, but Old Father Time has taken his toll on me. The reflexes aren’t there, but I like to think the desire is.”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This article appeared in the Sept. 2009 issue of Late Model Illustrated.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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