We gathered together to say goodbye to Allan "Hawkeye" Pierce today. The word came this summer at the track
when he stopped coming around, and the word around the campfire was that Hawkeye was sick, and hopefully would be getting better soon.
Thing is, Hawkeye had pancreatic cancer, and nobody gets better from that. He was a profane man, who cussed like a sailor, but kind, funny and unflappable. I wasn't there but i know what he said when the doctor told him the diagnosis. He would have shook his head and said, "I guess I'm fucked now."
The unflappable part of Hawkeye's character was important. He was a corner worker, one of Lake Erie Communications best. He'd grown up a farmer a few miles from Watkins Glen back in the days wen the formula 1 teams would rent out the local garages and you could walk through town and perhaps run into Jim Clark or Graham Hill. For twenty-five years he had worked tracks everywhere. Four years he had served as corner captain at the United States Grand Prix. He had worked the 24 hours of LeMans.
I'm a good corner worker, but i get excited when a couple formula fords decided to do a June Taylor Dancers routine right in front of my corner. I'll make the calls, get the flags up, and take care of business. But on the net you can hear the excitement in my voice, and the moment where I gather myself and make the call.
Not Hawkeye. You could have half of the champ car field doing endos right in front of his face and all you'd get would be a quiet "oh shit" and drag from his cigarette. He'd make the call, and when a rookie made a mistake he lost the profanity and became like Dad.
Hawkeye had a great sense of humor and it showed at the funeral. He and his brother had madea contest of giving loud toys to each other's children. HIs brother claimed to win it by virtue of giving Hawkeye's son a chain saw. I don't want to know how old the boy was then. And bro pulled out a buzzing ray gun to let everyone know that the contest would continue with their grandchildren.
Hawk was a guy who wouldn't say much until you tried to leave. Even as he was dying, he'd watch TV when you came visitng. But when you tried to leave he would get up and follow you down the hall, IV in tow. He just wanted you there.
A lot of us from the road racing fraternity were there to say goodbye. The service was perfect. Hawkeye wasn't a churchgoer, so the minister didn't know him, but he knew enough to admit it and let the family handle the eulogies. The words weren't sad, but rather humorous reminders of a man who brought more into life than he took.
Death is an inevitable part of life, a time of passing. As you grow older, it becomes more and more a part of your life. My father once told me that not a month goes by where he and my stepmother aren't attending some kind of viewing. Lately it has started becoming a regular part of my life, one I can do without, even though i know one day Death will come for me.
But i do believe in an afterlife, though i know of no scientific evidence which supports that belief. And I have a favorite idea of heaven, though I know of no theological texts supporting my intepretation.
My heaven is place of wide, tree lined boulevards and lots of cafes, where Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne share a glass of wine, and read the latest texts from Balzac and Socrates. On Wednesdays Jimi and Byrd jam with Mozart. And when you catch the 'A' train out of town, you get to wooded race course in the rolling hills.
if my version is correct, when my time comes and i've stood before St. Peter, I'll get there and find my way to this track. And there will be Hawkeye. We go out to our corner, unroll the flags, check the firebottles and take our positions, while Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Juan Manuel Fangio dice it out on track.
That will be heaven.