When I heard of the arrest that was made in the mysterious disappearance of Tim Bosma – the Ancaster fellow who advertised his truck on Kijiji and went off for a test drive with two men last Monday night and then disappeared, apparently, from the face of the Earth – I thought of the six degrees of separation.
That’s the theory in which every body and every thing in the world can be connected one way or another in six steps or less.
The fellow under arrest is Dellen Millard, grandson of the founder of the Millard Air company, Carl Millard, and the son of the pilot Wayne Millard, who flew me to Indianapolis in 1969 so I could cover my first Indianapolis 500.
Maybe not six degrees, but a couple for sure.
Here’s the story.
I was at home on the afternoon of May 29th, a Thursday, which was the day before the 53rd annual 500-Mile International Sweepstakes, which was the official name for the race that was always held on May 30 in those days.
On my own time, I’d been at Indy two weeks previously for the first weekend of time trials – which had been rained out. There were no plans in place for me to return to cover the race for the Globe and Mail, where I was employed at the time.
Just before 3 p.m., the phone rang and it was the late Jim Vipond, the legendary sports editor of the Globe. "How would you like to go to Indianapolis tomorrow?" he asked.
I could barely contain myself.
Was he kidding? Of course I’d like to go to Indianapolis. I’d been listening to Sid Collins announce the race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network since I was a kid. I’d seen my first 500 on closed-circuit TV at the Glendale Theatre on Avenue Rd., just north of Lawrence, in 1965. I’d gone to Indy for the first time in 1967 and sat in the grandstands just before Turn Two and loved – loved – every second. Was he crazy? Wild horses couldn't keep me away.
"Sure," I replied, somewhat nonchalantly. "You’ll want me to file, right?"
"Yes, take your typewriter," he said. "Write your story and phone it in. I’ll need it no later than an hour after the race finishes. We have an early deadline Friday because the Saturday paper is a giant."
My heart was beating so quickly I was in danger of hyperventilating, but I had to ask.
"So," I said again, somewhat casually, "do you want me drive down, or what?"
"No," he said. "By 7 tomorrow morning, be at the Millard Air hangar at Malton (now Pearson International Airport). Ask for Wayne Millard. He’s going to fly you down."
Wow, I thought. This is incredible. Not only am I going to cover the Indianapolis 500 for the Globe and Mail but they’re flying me to the race!
Now, I could write another couple of thousand words about the flight to Indy, and how Frank Orr of the Toronto Star was on the same plane, and how, except for the two of us and another couple of people, there was nobody else aboard the Millard Air DC-3 and how we flew right over downtown Indianapolis on our way to land at what was then Weir Cook Municipal Airport and how the taxi we were taking to the track was pulled over for speeding before we got off the airport property and . . . but I won’t.
What I will tell you, though, is that Mario Andretti won his one and only Indy 500 that day, which made for a great story, particularly when his car owner, Andy Granatelli, got so excited that he kissed him on the cheek in Victory Lane.
Now, I was feeling top of the world, Ma, at this point. It had been a great day, a great race, the driving had been spectacular, the drivers had all been the Gods I expected them to be, I had written and phoned in my story on time, I had a girl in Montreal I was going to see the next day and – well – everything was as perfect as perfect could be.
So I went back to Weir Cook Airport, only to discover that a whole bunch of people I didn’t know, or recognize, all of whom had a couple of tons of luggage, were waiting to get onto my plane.
It turned out that those folks, most of whom were friends of Toronto department store heir George Eaton, who was also a racing driver, had been in Indianapolis all month and had chartered the plane to take them home.
Wayne Millard knew Vipond and, in conversation, mentioned he was going to Indy to pick up this mob and that he had a couple of seats open and that’s how Frank Orr and I got a free ride to cover the world’s most famous car race.
Now, the flight to Indy had been terrific. Four or five passengers, max., on a plane that could carry up to 30. Lots of space to stretch out your arms and legs. The return flight, though, was an entirely different matter.
We were packed in like sardines. Those folks had 30 days’ worth of luggage with them, some of which wouldn't fit in the hold and was sitting in the aisle (no overhead bins on DC3s). I did a quick calculation and reckoned we were probably pretty close to the limit as far as weight was concerned and I got this really strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Maybe I should take a bus back to Toronto, I thought. Or a train. Are there trains between Indianapolis and T.O.? And then I thought of that sweetheart in Montreal and realized that if I was going to keep our date the next day, Saturday, I was going to have to suck it up and stay on that plane.
So Frank Orr and I are sitting beside each other and I have the window. I’m telling him I’m not so sure the old crate is going to make it off the ground. Frank, who’s wonderful company, starts telling jokes to take my mind – and his – off the fact that the plane might crash and we might die.
So we taxi out and, after what seems like an eternity, we start lumbering along the runway and I’m looking out the window and we don’t seem to be going very fast and there is this line of trees way off in the distance and they’re coming closer, and closer, and closer, and we’re still on the ground and we’re still not going very fast and then, ever so slowly, this bucket of bolts starts to bounce off the ground and those trees are getting really close by now and this plane is kinda shuddering but I still have my eyes open and, at what seemed to be the very last second, damned if we didn’t clear the tops of those trees by that much or else I wouldn’t be here today telling you all this.
But it was close. Too close for comfort, in fact.
I turned my head to smile at my friend, the Toronto Star’s auto racing writer and my very best friend in the world at that moment, to acknowledge that we indeed were still alive and well and everything was turning out to be all right, and it was then that I realized that Frank Orr and I were holding hands.
- NORRRIS McDONALD