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I believe that children are our future and that our future will include a great deal of Grave Digger, to judge by the multitude of preadolescent fans waving souvenir foam-rubber tombstones recently at the sold-out Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago.
During a break in monster action, there was four-wheel motorcycle racing between Team Illinois and Team Wisconsin, regional rivals so bitter that they engaged in an ugly scat-clearing brawl after the race. "I thought about quitting because it's so dangerous," said John Peters, a Team Wisconsin member from...upstate New York. "But I couldn't. To six-year-old kids and 60-year-old ladies, I am a god."
While there were plenty of ladies in this crowd of 14,000—and each one of 'em as adept with a dipstick as she was with her lipstick—there were, truth be told, no 60-year-old ladies in sight. "Spectators max out in their early 40's," says Bargo. "You don't see seniors because the trucks would blow their ears out."
Monster trucking is the loudest sport in Christendom. At the Horizon children not larger than plankton wore the kind of massive ear-protection headsets favored by runway personnel at O'Hare. In addition, powerful monster fumes may constrict the throat and set the nostrils aflame, which is why one man wore a surgical mask and several others held hankies across their noses and mouths, as if awaiting rescue in a hotel fire.
Also in the stands was a boy sitting in a wheelchair. It was decorated to look like a...well, I guess you would call it a...monster chair.
I know what you've been thinking, so let's get something straight before we go any further, Bub. "This is a sport," says Grave Digger's Anderson, who broke his left knee crashing into a concrete wall at the Horizon in 1991. "It's a real serious motor sport. A lot of people think we're some kind of damn circus act."
To be sure, the man responsible for it all is no P.T. Barnum but a thoughtful and intelligent antihuckster whose soft-spokenness hardly squares with those hyper-hyperbolic monster truck commercials: Six monsters synonymous with destruction! The baddest, meanest, most outrageous trucks ever assembled under one roof!! We'll sell ya the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge!!!
"I hate those commercials," says Chandler softly. "Don't you?"
Sometime in 1974 Chandler created the monster truck. An exact date is difficult to fix, because Chandler's first Big-foot grew gradually, tire and engine dimensions and whatnot escalating portentously over 18 months or so. And even when that first primitive monster had arisen from the primordial mud, its tires were a now-laughable 44 inches tall. Chandler was opening an auto-supply store in suburban St. Louis, and what better way to advertise the merchandise than to tool around town in the latest automotive accessories? At no point did he pull a Frankenstein and declare to the heavens that he had created a monster. "But," says Chandler, who is now 51 and leaves the driving to others, "I have thought exactly that several times since."
He owns 14 Bigfoots around the world, including one in New Zealand and one in England, where all monster trucks are known as Bigfoots. The sun never sets on the Bigfoot empire. The name is licensed to Mattel, Ertl and Power Wheels.