BEST OF JODY’S BOX: “WELL AT LEAST THE COTTON BALLS AIN’T ROTTEN.”

By Jody Weisel

When I’m out at Glen Helen, next to the track that I had built for both AMA Nationals and USGP, it is hard to remember where I came from. Glen Helen has a complete watering system fed by fire hose stations, several water trucks, big Cats, top loaders, graders, water tanks at the top of the major hills and a bevy of tractors. I can build whatever I want, which is a far cry from the local small town tracks I started my career at many years ago.

I don’t suppose that the tracks I first raced at were any better or any worse than any other tracks of the Golden Age. Back home in Texas, Denton to be exact, I used to go out to Chicken Licks Raceway every Sunday. I thought that it was motocross paradise—now that I know better, I realize that it was only three steps from Dante’s inferno.
Chicken Licks had a water truck, but it was always broken on Sunday morning. There was a rumor circulating the pits that it didn’t actually have an engine in it. The conspiracy theorist believed that It was just a prop to fool us into thinking that the track would be watered next weekend.

Once every rider had caught on to the promoters water truck ruse, he bought truck loads of surplus cotton seed hulls and dumped them on the track. He didn’t disc them into the ground, he just laid them six inches deep on top of the dirt as dust control. I have to admit that the dust disappeared, but so did the potholes, ruts, berms and rocks.
The upside of the cotton bolls was that when you got roosted it felt like marshmallows bouncing off your chest.

CHICKEN LICKS WAS THE ONLY TRACK I EVER SAW THAT WAS LIGHTED BY TROUBLE LIGHTS WITH 100 WATT BULBS. WHEN THE BULBS WOULD BURN OUT, THE PROMOTER WOULD JUST SHORTEN THE TRACK.

Chicken Licks Raceway — September 1971

One season the dust got so bad that the local farmers complained that it blotted out the sun over their cotton crops. The Sheriff came down and told the track that they had better do something about the dust cloud—because it was visible in the next town. And, true to his word the promoter did stop the local citizens from complaining about that blight of a dust cloud. How? He switched from racing on Sunday afternoons to Friday nights. No sun. No cloud.

I’ve raced a lot of night races over the years, but Chicken Licks was the only track I ever saw that was lighted by trouble lights with 100 watt bulbs. When the bulbs would burn out, the promoter would just shorten the track.

The checkered flag at Chicken Licks was a section of tablecloth from Gino’s Pizza Pub.

Chicken Lick’s ambulance crew was used to working the rodeo circuit. Their best medical advice was limited to ”Walk it off, podnar.” I only ever took one ride in that ambulance and it was the only time I was ever asked to sit up front because, “We just changed the sheets in the back.”

Chicken Licks didn’t have a starting gate, not even one of those newfangled forward falling gates that dominated the sport until the backwards falling gate came into vogue. Nope, Chicken Licks used a rubber band. For those of you who have never started behind a surgical rubber starting gate, you have missed one of the most technical aspects of racing. If you started close to the pin that releases the rubber band, the surgical tubing moved so fast that you couldn’t see it leave. You just sat there because the rubber band’s image was burned into your eyeballs like a TV tube that has played one too many video games. If you started at the far end of the starting line, the rubber band would often recoil back and wrap around your neck. The modern practice of looking down the gate instead of directly at it came from the days of the ubiquitous rubber band start. By looking down the line you could see the rubber band go by and duck it when it came back.

Chicken Licks didn’t have track fencing—at least not in a modern sense. It had four-by-four wooden posts with a two-by-fours nailed across the gap. When we complained about hitting a wooden fence the promoter solved the problem by nailing the two-by-four on the backside of the posts so that it would fly off when we hit it. That fence made us all better riders because you only sailed off the track with a two-by-four pressed against your chest once before you got cautious.

Bad tracks never dampened my desire to race. I learned to love dust because it meant that if I got the holeshot all I had to do was drag my feet through the silt to open up a big lead. Bad tracks made me into a better mud rider—because my subconscious associated mud with a watered track—and for the first three years of my career I never saw a watered track. But most of all, Chicken Licks Raceway guaranteed that I would never be a whiner. Whenever my buddies complain about a modern track being too one-line, too dusty, too muddy, too fast, too tight, too rutted or too slow, I always laugh and say, “Well at least the cotton balls ain’t rotten.”

BEST OF JODY'S BOXjody weiselmotocrossmxa