It’s Off to the Races

The Cal-Ore Cutter and Chariot Racing Assn. doesn’t operate in the best of weather because it is made up of about 50 California-Oregon border area farmers, ranchers, loggers and horse trainers who do their racing when it’s too cold to work the land.

The weather is good now and there’s work to be done.

But every Sunday during the winter, “rain, snow or blow,” members gather at their track just north of Macdoel in Siskiyou County to compete in chariots pulled by two-horse teams. When the weather is very bad--too much snow on the ground for wheels--the races are run on metal sleigh runners.

Competitors sprint the quarter-mile course in wire-wheeled, 126-pound (about twice the weight of those used in world competition) chariots in about 24 seconds. “It’s my favorite thing in the world,” said Kim Crawford, 28-year-old horse trainer and housewife. “I like speed.”


Several of the contestants raise and train quarter horses. They find the chariot races a good way to keep their horses in shape during the months when county fair tracks are not open.

The excitement draws fans from surrounding farms and from the city: Klamath Falls, Ore. A loudspeaker system blasts the chilly air with the call to the colors on a set of old automobile horns. There is even an electronic camera to capture close finishes.

There is no grandstand. Spectators can sit in their cars or trucks along the raceway and keep their engines running to stay warm.

Tailgate parties frequently last until dusk, after which owners and drivers generally adjourn to a local tavern to review the day’s racing. There is always something to talk about.


Such as the time the club’s secretary-treasurer, Kent Winebarger, tried to help driver Melinda Griffith with her team and was kicked in the leg by a spooked horse. “It’s busted right in half,” he groaned as he was hauled off to the Klamath Falls hospital in an ambulance.