“A WHALE OF A GOOD TIME”
Jim Jack has been a chaplain for Racers For Christ for… let’s just say… a long time. He writes a monthly column and we’re honored to now publish it on our website. For more info on Racers For Christ, visit their website – www.teamrfc.org.
In July 1967, Linda and I went to our very first drag boat race at Ski Land in Perris, CA where we met a man and his wife and their baby girl. At that time we did not know the friendship with the man would span five and a half decades, as this relationship became a special bonding of two guys who loved drag racing.
During the next two decades, we had many incredible times together. As I’ve written in the past, when I became a Christian in February1988, many of our close friends shied away from us because we were no longer drinking, getting high, and doing pharmaceuticals.
Those friendships separated, kind of like a divorce. But the one guy, who we met in Perris that day at the drag boat races, stayed in touch, as we called each other on our birthdays every year. These talks were ordinary, but we stayed in touch and the conversations mostly centered on drag racing which was central to both of us.
We went to quite a few drag races in the late ‘60s, lots of drag races in the 70’s, played slow pitch softball in 1969-1970, and attended tons drag races in the ‘80s right up until February 1988 when I accepted Christ as my Savior. The radical change in my life, leading me to RFC and becoming a chaplain in April 1991, an RFC employee in January 1994, and eventually an ordained minister on January 11, 2001 completely changed my life’s game plan. I made the proverbial u-turn in life.
We went camping together all over California during those twenty years. We went to tons of concerts during those years. We went out to our little cabin on five acres in Lucerne Valley, CA often to ride dirt bikes, ride in his dune buggy, check out petroglyphs, take in the meteor showers, summer Monsoon lightening shows, and even late-night hikes. These times were also filled with partying, bench racing, playing horseshoes, and overall we had a whale of a good time just like friends should do: Enjoying each other to the fullest wherever you may be.
Drag racing was the topic of our conversations most of the time, and we rocked-out to Rock & Roll blasting from our stereos. At many of the drag races we went to, the pharmaceuticals were pretty intense and we saw things the rest of the spectators and participants didn’t. We were enjoying ourselves and having a whale of a good time.
Oh Yeah, this friend’s name was Pat Marrs. When we first met, he was a little over weight and we started calling him Namu (the killer whale). Eventually we just called him Whale. The softball team we played on was cool and we all had nick names. There was Deacon, Bambi, I was Buddha (with a Buddha belly), and of course we had Whale as our catcher. Our team was the “Red Mountain Boys” named after that fine imported French wine, Red Mountain!
Sometime in 1970, we started crewing for front-engine top fuel racer Giant Jim Moore (Jim was 6’ 10” tall). We raced at Lions Drag Strip one Saturday night and didn’t qualify. That night we decided to drive all night to Fremont, CA for their Sunday race. Whale’s station wagon started having electrical issues, so he went into a parking lot and stole a distributor and plug wires from another Falcon wagon and we were off on the all night journey.
We made it to Fremont Raceway Sunday morning, but didn’t qualify again. Giant Jim’s tow vehicle started having mechanical issues so we hooked up the open trailer to Whale’s Falcon wagon and we started the long haul back to Southern California that night, a long drive towing the race car, and for some reason, we chose the coast highway…the long way home.
Near Santa Barbara it was dark and foggy and Giant, asleep in the passenger seat had his long legs over in front of Whale, so couldn’t touch the brake. A wrong way driver almost hit us on PCH as Whale was unable to slow down, but managed to steer out of the way. Fortunately for us we made it home in time to take a shower and go to work at 8:00 am Monday morning. I remember somewhere in the Los Angeles area close to Pomona we were in the slow lane on the freeway only going 25 mph. We were blessed we were not pulled over by the CHP’s. Thank God we made it home safely after a sleepless and crazy weekend.
Let it be known in drag racing, we actually did the first ever fire burnout—in Jim’s car—at Lions Drag Strip. It was planned, but the only photographer we told missed the shot. Then everyone started doing them. The top fuel car was The James Gang, as three guys were named James. And in all honesty, most everything we did for those twenty years involved racing.
Drag racing was our primary language and drag racing was what we lived for. No matter where we were, mountains, desert, beach, concert arena, or at home, we had a whale of a good time. I have hundreds of stories about our escapades. When Whale lived in Orange County, CA in 1977, our good friend and Top Fuel Dragster racer, Jim Plummer stayed at Whale’s house along with Linda and me for the drag races. I didn’t have the heart to tell Jim and his crew when they showered in the spare bathroom they were using Whales’ dog soap to take their showers.
Whale was a VW mechanic and he worked on cars the whole time we knew him except for the last few years up in Victorville, CA where he had his own pool service business. Again, back in the mid 70’s when we were staying at his place for the drag races again; Whale’s brother brought his VW Bug to Whale’s house for a tune-up. Well Whale tuned it up so good that when his brother Bobby was ready to leave, the only way the car would start was to push it, jump and pop the clutch. Whale then got another name, the “Butcher.”
Many of you know, I worked at Quaker Chemical during that era and another good friend Andy Rathfon was a cabinet maker. Years later, we jokingly referred to us three as “the Butcher, the Quaker, and the Cabinet Maker.” Yes we always had a whale of a good time.
Going drag racing with Whale was always a whale of a good time. Going to concerts with Whale was always a whale of a good time. Camping and going to the desert with Whale was always a whale of a good time. Our friend Whale was a one of a kind guy…hard to say goodbye…but with a deep sigh…and with some encouraging words I’ll try…I tried to encourage and comfort him in December and January as he was preparing to die…thankfully Whale knew Christ as his Savior as he prepared for heaven because he heeded God’s call to comply!
In 2016 Whale was facing some surgery and he called me and we talked racing for an hour, but I could sense in his tone he was afraid of the upcoming surgery and really wanted to make sure if he didn’t survive the surgery he would go to heaven. I realized it was time to stop talking drag racing and get on with some serious spiritual stuff. I asked Whale if he wanted to pray to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. He said yes. We prayed the prayer of salvation together and it was a relief for both of us. Knowing a long time friend would be in heaven, and Whale was reassured eternal life for him would be in heaven … and not hell.
On Easter weekend of 2017, we were at the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series race at Blue Water Resort in Parker, AZ. We had a great race that weekend. On Friday, Eddie Baugher gave a wonderful Good Friday message at the driver’s meeting, and then on Saturday morning I held a chapel service. There was no racing on Easter Sunday, but some of the racers stayed around so I held another chapel service on Easter Sunday morning. We had a great turnout of 55 people at church on Easter with racers and spectators on a beautiful Sunday morning.
After chapel, the Baugher’s and Jack’s had a great Easter Sunday brunch in the resort and it was time for everyone to head home, but Linda and I decided to stay one more day in Parker and go golfing. Later that afternoon I received a phone call from Whale. It was a distressing yet exciting call to explain everything that happened to him in the past two days.
Whale had been doing good, going to church, and serving at his church helping the seniors group, but a confrontation with a lady friend really upset him, and he was ready on Saturday to end his life. But on that Easter morning he went to church and they were having an Easter baptism, so he decided to get baptized. He was brought to new life again that day by the power of the Holy Spirit. The baptism knocked his socks off!
Whale and I still talked often and the conversations were of course about racing, but these were always highlighted with godly conversation and thanksgiving to God. I was proud of Whale for becoming a faithful brother in Christ. God blessed our relationship. Our friendship stood the test of time and I’m blessed to know we had a whale of a good time during our lives together.
Having a Whale of a good time is okay in God’s eyes…racing and life always has its lows and highs…Whale and I were true allies…Whale overcame the enemy’s tries…we were long done with pharmaceutical buys…following the Lord was clearly wise…during the past fifty four years time sure flies…on February third it was only Whale’s physical body that dies…the Bible’s truth of everlasting life neither one of us denies…This Straightline is dedicated to Whale and all these stories are not lies…on earth we had a Whale of a good time eating burgers and fries…just a couple of former hippie type guys…as we both accepted God’s coveted prize…and with Whale’s salvation millions of angels in heaven let out with eternal victory cries.