|Ken Freeman Sr., 81, shown at his home just east of Cedar City, Utah, remains one of SNORE’s all-time greats.
This is the second in a series of SNORE old-timers.
Today: Ken Freeman, Sr.
By Mike Henle
Ken Freeman may be the best-ever example of a desert rat who for decades not only lived in the open spaces, but raced in them, too.
While the 81 year-old native of Riggs, Ida. is now living more than 200 miles away from his old stomping grounds in Las Vegas, his home on State Route 14 east of Cedar City is filled with memories of the old days of SNORE.
When the man ran in off-road races, no one was more determined to win. One photo shows him flying high over a Highway 93 road crossing north of Apex. Yesteryear can be seen throughout the house and a garden in front of the home is flush with every conceivable vegetable.
Only a few miles south of his home is a Southern Utah cabin that is utilized with friends and family during the spring, summer and fall before the cold winters send the man down the hill for State Route 14. Freeman bought his house in 2003 before the boom and the bust and he’s undoubtedly one of the happiest men on earth.
The man doesn’t want anything to do with computers and while he has a cell phone, you’re going to have a tough time getting him to answer it. He loves the quiet life and doesn’t miss Vegas although he will attend an occasional off-road race in the area.
While serving as a fan of off-road racing back in the 1960s, the energetic Freeman caught the bug. The next thing he knew, he had left the sidelines and jumped behind the wheel of a Class 9 entry in a sport that may look easy, but is very difficult to master.
All of Freeman’s competitors remember him as a fierce competitor and a good-hearted man, too. From the early days of SNORE when the club was founded in 1969, the man was part of a dedicated group that also included Denny Selleck, Don Dayton, Bert Vaughan, Charlie Crunden, Walt Lott, Ray Potter, Bob and Ruthe Jensen and Bob MacCachren, among others.
In fact, one of his favorite stories revolves around the time he escaped to the desert in his dune buggy; only to be seen by the local law enforcement which never caught him. One of the founders of SNORE, Freeman may not attend each of the races nowadays, but he still reigns as one of the toughest-ever drivers who has a houseful of stories.
“They never caught me,” laughed Freeman of law enforcement officer. His own story might be the off-road version of “Smokey and the Bandit.”
If Freeman wasn’t foot-to-the-floor in his off-road car, he was telling anyone and everyone about the sport and its benefits. He’d work hard to beat his competition before joining those same people at SNORE meetings to keep the club alive.
The old Mint 400 used to run near his home in Vegas and Freeman couldn’t wait for the race. The legendary Parnelli Jones ran out of water in his race truck near the Freeman home and Ken responded by providing the badly-needed water.
“He was really thankful for helping him out,” Freeman recalled. “He had someone fly us a case of beer to our house.”
MacCachren, who has lived in Las Vegas since 1961, still operates Nevada Off Road Buggy, a 33-year-old business with endless stories about the sport of off-road racing. Once he jumped into an off-road buggy, he didn’t want anyone beating him, especially the young kids.
“Ken was a very competitive gentleman,” said MacCachren, whose son, Rob, is now one of the nation’s top Trophy Truck drivers. “He was very aggressive and he didn’t take very well to losing.
“The entire Freeman family was very tight knit. They were a terrific family.”
Indeed, the Freeman family has been one of the reasons for SNORE’s long existence dating back to the club’s formation in 1969. While many others living in the desert escape to other parts of the country, the Freeman family has been either competing in the sport or volunteering to run hundreds of race events for more than 40 years.
“My dad is really something,” said Freeman’s son, Kenny, who gave up the sport for the past two years to become race steward for the club. “He’s a wonderful inspiration and Lord knows, he’s also one of the toughest men on earth.
SNORE has survived its share of ups and downs over the years and it has most definitely created memories that won’t soon be forgotten.
“Those of us now involved with SNORE now are really thankful to our parents who paved the way for us to be involved,” said the younger Freeman. “We all have jobs and responsibilities and I know that every one of us is thankful for our parents who combined to start SNORE more than 40 years ago.”