XXXI: Pure Country

Wow…you really are short…

I warned her. I had warned Darco several times about my dad’s side of the family, the Daugherty Clan. This was always done in a fun, whimsical sense, but compared to her experience with MC’s family there is a stark, stark contrast between the two groups. MC’s side you go to brunch with…dad’s side…you get tattoos and talk about about trucks at the local honky-tonk.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Allow me to give you a little back story on our random encounter last week that resulted in a 500 mile road trip in only a few hours. First, I need to make a confession, it’s been nearly fourteen years since I traveled into the heart of Iowa to see my family. Through those fourteen years I could be found with MC, her side of the family, and everything in between. This is something that I feel guilt about and should set to stage of allowing you to understand that it’s been a very long time since I’ve been that far north. However, last Thursday there was a unique opportunity to witness a spectacular event that had only been rumored of over the years. A “tuff truck” competition. To ease the pain of figuring out what this is, let me just come out and say that it is a dirt track, modified trucks, jumps, broken parts, and everything is timed. Sound good?

Well, as it turns out my family, specifically a cousin of mine, runs a “tuff truck” competition at the Plymouth Co. Fair in LeMars, Iowa (home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream). He’s been doing it for some time, and also competes in it. As it turns out the competition was going to be Thursday, the one day that Darco and I hadn’t had anything planned for her birthday week. It was settled, we were meeting the Daugherty Clan and watching “tuff trucks”.

The four brothers plus myself.

The four brothers plus myself.

When we arrived  in LeMars we were greeted by one of my cousins, BJ, and he escorted us to the fair grounds, slapped on the bracelets to get into the fair, and led us over to the pits. Nick, my other cousin, had lined up for the first go around on the circuit, so I would see him after the first shot on the jumps. We talked briefly about life (very briefly), and went over to watch Nick’s ’71 Ford go bouncing through the air like…a…paperweight. The roar of the engine, and sound of the snapping suspension reminded me why I had cherished these guys so much. They were dirty, down home, redneck guys who have a lot of fun building and tearing things up. Understand that compared to the four brother (Chris, Nick, Bradley, and BJ) I’m the young guy. Grandma threatened to beat them on several occasions if anything happened to me during family reunions as a child. I was the baby of our generation, and these guys were…are…completely nuts.

After his first go-around Nick went to work on his truck, and Darco and I headed over to the stands. Over there we found my aunt and uncle, who had driven up from Sioux City, Iowa to see us even though they had to be work in the morning. We also sat next to Bradley, his wife Rachel, and their kids…several of them. I witnessed one child pull a cap off his tooth with a caramel apple sucker (they are the devil) while we were sitting there. I listened about kids, and saw Uncle Kenneth chat with Darco in real life (he spoke to her frequently on Facebook), and just embraced the evening. Wearing cargo shirts, a tank-top, and a hat I blended in with the sea of country folks for the evening. I met BJ’s wife (who’s expecting soon), was surprised by Chris, and actually got a photo with all the brothers together.

This is real life.

This is real life.

Nick wound up placing third in the competition, tearing out his transmission, and having one heck of a night. An ATV flipped over halfway through, and at least one truck snapped their axle coming off a jump. Frankly, it was a night of no regrets.

As I was explaining to Darco on the way home, that’s the real, rough beauty of the Daugherty Clan. They’re just off in everything they do, but make no mistake, they’re hidden geniuses. Nick was a great example, sure he didn’t win the race, but he’s in charge of thing. That’s how this family works, they’re not always the major winners in life, but they somehow wind up becoming leaders throughout the things they do. It’s a family trait, and I have no idea why it’s that way, but I can see it in every generation. It’s an honor to be related to guys who ask for Duck Commander duck calls for their birthday, and play in the dirt after a race with their kids.

They don’t worry about politics, they aren’t concerned with the latest fashion. These families will brag all day about their amazing kids, and will crack jokes just like they did over a decade ago. They’re rough, tough, and down to the earth. They seem grateful for what they have, and they don’t waste away their existence wishing and wanting something else, and something more. It’s a lesson that I could definitely afford to learn.

I think Darco enjoyed the trip as well. The Daugherty Clan is a male dominated family. Meaning, the rarity when you have kids you’ll have a girl. Most likely though…you’ll have boys:

This was nice for Darco because she met the wives of this wild men, and I think in some strange way she was able to relate to their struggles of dealing with us. She smiled on the way home, so I’ll consider that a small victory. I suppose it’s kind of hard to fully summarize the event, as it was really special. When you don’t see family throughout years and years of life, when you finally see them again it can assist in putting puzzle pieces together of who you truly are.

Perhaps that thought was too deep…

Maybe this video will assist instead:


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