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BERGQUIST AND THE SWEDE

I wrote this many years ago. Almost a lifetime ago it sometimes seems, though it’s only been about 14 years since I first put it down on paper. Even then, I never considered it finished, because it wasn’t very good and written far too quickly.

I hope you enjoy it now that it’s finally done.

Race Report by Dick Wright of "Cycle News"

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Bergquist and the Swede:

After the race, back at camp, a group of fellow Buzzards had gathered around Larry at his tailgate and they were all trying to figure out how to get his boot off. He was wincing in obvious pain, so I slipped in close to him and saw a huge hole in his boot. On the 2nd Loop, His pipe mount had broken, and he had held the pipe in place with his leg, refusing to quit. The pipe had burned right thru his boot, thru his leg almost down to the bone. The Hole was about 4" x 4". and took over 2 years to fully to heal. It was a deep, nasty wound. "It burned right thru my boot" I heard him say a couple of times, still wincing in pain as they worked on getting it off him.

A couple of days later, I was back home sitting in the kitchen watching one of the first of what would turn out to be hundreds of excruciating... change the dressing - pack the wound scenes he would have to endure in the coming months. I was sitting on the floor next to Dads leg, looking up at him. The injury was at about eye level to me. That’s when I looked up at him and in a serious, concerned voice said "geeeez... that really looks bad Dad". and he looked down at the wound and hesitated a couple seconds, as if he had no idea how to reply. Then, with a small smile on his face and in a very relieved tone of voice, he said "well....... at least I beat that damned Swede". I looked up at him and as our eyes met we started cracking up, as I reminded him "We’re Swedish too Dad" and he said "I know Eric, I know" as we finished wrapping the wound, still chuckling about his answer.

Many different times thru out the rest of his life, Dad would talk about how fast Gunnar could ride the rocks. He had a lot of respect for him. “Eric, you just wouldn’t believe how fast he went thru those rocks” he would tell me. “You’ve never seen anything like it”. I’ll never forget one time he was trying to describe what it was like seeing Gunnar pass him, and he couldn’t verbally put it into words LOL!! He tried once…then he tried again…and finally just ended up saying “Eric, let’s just say if you saw where he went by me, and saw how fast he was going, you wouldn’t have believed it”. Dad didn’t exaggerate about stuff like that, and he was no slouch in the them either, so I knew Gunnar must have been really something to see in the rocks.

Gunnar would go on that year to win the Mint 400 Overall (With JN), as well as winning the Elsinore Grand Prix Championship on his Husky.

I'll always be proud of my old man for not quitting that day. I think anyone who has ever burned their leg on a pipe would probably agree with me on that one too. Anyone who’s ever suffered a burn to this degree will tell you, there is no hiding from the pain. How much did the it bother him when he raced?

I have no idea, because there was never one word of complaint from him. Not a single word. I’d ask him, but all he’d ever say was “I’m ok Eric” But, I can tell you this. For a long, long, time afterwards, when he changed the dressing, it was excruciating for him. Face contorted, wincing in pain, every time. Close to agony for him, and I’m not exaggerating. Burns that deep are rough.

The next weekend, Dad went out and won another race Overall with that freshly burned leg. I’ve posted the results here. Again, tough stuff I think. Especially if you consider the jostling and pounding that leg took for 80 miles, so soon after the injury. Even though it was wrapped up, it had to have bothered him. But just silence from him.

Dad would go on that year to win the Stardust 7/11 Overall and the Mexican 1000 Overall with that burn in his leg, as well as a 2nd Overall in the Mint 400. (with Gary Preston) He also would have 14 wins in the Desert with that injury, 19 wins total that year, in what would end up being 1 of the greatest years in Off Road Racing History. All the while never speaking of his burn, never once mentioning to the media he was racing injured or how he won a race while receiving that wound. again, Just silence.

Now, some 50 years later, I still find myself beaming with pride not only over his refusal to quit that day, but also in the extreme modesty he displayed thru-out the entire rest of his life. In fact, I may be even prouder of him now than I was so very long ago, when I first saw The Desert Fox sitting wounded on his tailgate, surrounded by Buzzards, victorious in the 4 Aces Moose Run on a bright Red 250cc Bultaco 5 speed Pursang, in 1968.

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