Be Ready When You Pass Your Hero
By the early 1970's my dad, Neil Fergus had quit racing desert and switched to riding enduro's. Our family belonged to California Enduro Association (C.E.A.), which put on the "Last Chance Enduro" every year in December. It was the last district enduro of the year, and the "last chance" to get points. In 1973, we were at a CEA fun weekend or 'field meet' as I think it was called. There were the usual activities, such as: ride holding an egg with a spoon and try not to drop it; and the slow race, where the first person across the line is the loser.
The highlight of the weekend was what was called, the "Fun Race" It was meant to be just for fun, but you guys know that when you get a group of riders together and tell them to start here, and follow the course and finish there, it becomes "serious fun". CEA had two former desert racing #1 plate holders: Steve Hurd, 1967 heavyweight champion and Neil Fergus, 1964 lightweight champion. Also in the club were some future hot shoes, J.C. Ray, Kem Park and Cory Timms.
The race was an abbreviated European Scrambles type, a 1/2 hour around a 5 mile course. The race started and a big crowd stood to wait as the riders came around the start/finish area each lap. At the end of the first lap, a stone stock 1973 Bultaco 250 Pursang was in the lead. Who was that? Some flat track guy, a friend of one of the members; never did find out his name. Steve Hurd was 2nd on a Husky, scaring the hell out of the spectators as he bounced and careened across the dez. Later my dad told me that Steve ran upwards of 75 psi in his tires to try to prevent flats. It sure caused a hell of a bumpy ride, I think I'd rather have a flat. Third place was Neil Fergus on his Ducati 450. Every lap the order stayed the same and they finished that way.
After the finish, word came down that someone had crashed hard. Miraculously the rider was only shaken, no injuries more serious than a few scrapes. The bike was bashed up good and wouldn't run, but it would roll and needed to be towed in. I was selected to pilot the bike back to the pits as it was being towed. It was a DKW 125. The front wheel was egg shaped. The forks were bent in so far that the tire was nearly scraping the engine. The bars and front end were twisted so bad that it had to be in a full lock turn to the right to keep the front wheel straight. One rear shock was bent in and scraping against the tire. There was a half dollar sized puncture hole in the tank from where the bike slammed into a rock outcropping. The silencer was bent up towards the sky and was jam packed with dirt.
Keep in mind it was 1973 -- only 5 years since Steve Hurd had been #1 and only 8 years since Neil Fergus' held his championship plate. They were considered legends by some desert racing fans.
As I ended my tow ride at the pits, Kem Park walked up to me and said he was the one who had crashed. He was, I would guess, about 16-17 years old. I was 12 at the time. As he described the race and the part of the course where he crashed, his voice was full of enthusiasm, like he couldn't wait to get out there & race again. At that moment, he didn't know who I was; that I was Neilís son. His voice suddenly changing to a tone one might use to describe a truly awesome event, like "I walked up and touched one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt!" or... "I opened my eyes and there we were flying over the Grand Canyon!" etc. And then he said, "I was about to pass Neil Fergus when I moved off the trail and hit a huge rock!"