I'm not sure why I became so obsessed with following the career of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, but I did.
There was no ESPN, no ESPN2, no ESPNU, and, even if there were, my parents' house didn't get cable until long after I had moved out.
So I never saw a drag race on television and certainly never saw one live.
But my elementary-school library had one book about drag racing, and The Snake was featured prominently. I remember returning that book the day before it was due, just so I could check it out again. And again. And again.
No one seemed to mind.
But I memorized the few words in that book, ogled the pictures, oohed and aahed over the fire-breathing mechanized monsters that flew down the quarter-mile strip - and idolized the men who drove them.
The Snake mostly drove a funny car - a yellow, Plymouth Barracuda - and his big rival was Tom "Mongoose" McEwen in his Plymouth Duster. (Get it? Mongoose vs. The Snake?).
I never cared much for Mr. Mongoose, but I did covet the Hot Wheels set that featured the two.
And more than once my banana-yellow Schwinn became The Snake's Barracuda as I thundered down my parents' street.
My obsession with The Snake - and with drag racing - was as short-lived as it was intense, a distant memory long before I could drive.
Much later still, I finally saw my first live drag-racing event.
The excitement was much more palpable in my youth.
But I have to admit, I felt it again when my son and I were picking through some of the Hot Wheels he recently inherited after my parents cleaned house.
There, amid some of my other rusted favorites, sat a yellow Plymouth Barracuda, its stickers long gone. But I know it was The Snake's.