SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA — It’s funny how reaching for a prize can start with simply reaching for a stray bolt or a strand a dangling wire. Steve Mullican knows all about reaching and all about stretching too.
His garage building in downtown Shawnee is filled with projects in various stages of completion. Against a side wall lies a Mustang Fastback on hold. In another corner, a motorcycle, a jet ski, a couple of old pickups. All remain on hold while he works at getting his drag boat ready for the first big race of the season. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” says Mullican. “You fit in one piece at a time.”
Fortunately, Steve isn’t alone in the shop. His daughter Brandy helps out. His wife Kelley is there too. Even Steve’s grandson, 5-year-old Kai, knows his way around a drag boat. He shows a visitor the numbers on the side of the drag boat, “351.” He then shows off the boat propeller and where it fits.
The Mullicans represent a majority of the teams racing on any given weekend across the United States, small, family operations on a tight budget who happen to love boats, but who also know how to spell BOAT the hard way. “People always said, ‘you know what boat stands for don’t you’,” laughs Steve. “I said, ‘no. what’s that? They said it stands for ‘Break Out Another Thousand.”
A week before the race and there is still much to do. The Mullicans wil spend long evenings in their workshop to make sure the engine is ready for the green starting light. “There’s only a 3 month window that you do this in.” says Steve. The Mullicans have friends who think they’re crazy, especially since Steve can’t swim, but when you’re reaching high enough for something you always have an answer ready for the skeptics. “Okay,” he argues. “Maybe you want to be a pilot but you can’t fly.”
Steve and family might be in deep water but as they skim fast over the top sinking is the last thing on their minds.