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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Mama, would you say the blessing?" As he inclined his head and listened to the words murmured by his attractive brunette wife Jeanne, Carroll Hall Shelby was, for a rare moment, perfectly still. The laugh wrinkles around his eyes were smoothed; his strong plainsman's face was grave. It was too early now to be concentrating on Sebring. The business at hand was breakfast—scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits. Shelby put away a bite of eggs.
"You know," he told his visitor, "when I'm driving a racing car I feel that I don't have a problem in the world. I haven't even tried to analyze why I do it. I guess there is just something there—a certain challenge."
That challenge had carried Shelby a far piece from the piny woods of east Texas, where he was born at Leesburg on January 11, 1923. Leesburg had then, as now, a population of 150. Shelby had long since left the white frame house of his Leesburg boyhood, and now he sat in his own big, comfortable brick home in the pleasant University Park section of Dallas.
He got up from the breakfast table and walked into his Texas-sized den, tossed a glance at the clutter of trophies there and stretched out on a Texas-sized couch. He picked up a cigaret lighter, flicked it, choked the flame and repeated the motions sporadically.
"I guess you could say I've always liked to go fast," he said with a grin. "My parents were pretty strict—no liquor or tobacco, church every Sunday—but my dad liked to go fast, too. He was a rural mail carrier—drove a 1928 Whippet to deliver the mail—and I started to ride along with him as soon as I was old enough, egging him on to go faster. He didn't need much urging.
"We moved to Dallas when I was 6. I still remember that trip—120 miles and the Whippet flew all the way. I sat in the front seat needling Dad to speed up. At top speed—that was 55 to 60—we passed everything on the road.
"When I was 7 I started having a leakage of the heart. After that I was in bed most of the time, except for school, until I was 14. By that time I had outgrown it."
Shelby called into the kitchen.
"Mama, would you bring some coffee?"
Jeanne Shelby poured two cups, and her husband settled back, sipping.