Remembering “Bean,” the fearless friend of all
On Oct. 14, Hobbs lost a local legend, international celebrity, fearless daredevil and a good friend.
Donny “Bean” Huerta was an icon of the drag strips and car shows with his famed wheelstander car The Mexican Jump N’ Bean.
He took to showing the car and racing it following the passing of his father Gonzalo “Mexican Pete” Huerta in 1983 — the originator of the two-wheeling dragster, who built the first one in 1969 after seeing the “Little Red Wagon” wheelstander dragster in action.
When Donny’s father passed, News-Sun editor Manny Marquez wrote a touching farewell to Pete titled “Adios Amigo” — a tribute to a first generation legend. Donny would pick up the mantle and carry it on taking the Bean to drag shows across the United States and Mexico.
Steering by tapping on individual brake calipers for each rear wheel when the car was on two wheels, Donny used the sun, a lamp or a star as a guide.
“He couldn’t see the track when it was up in the air,” said his wife, Carla. “He had to use the horizon or the sun to know he was going straight.”
The car would throw showers of sparks caused by titanium disks on the wheelie bars that would grind against the asphalt.
Many mistakenly believe Donny’s nickname “Bean” came from the car, but it actually was a childhood moniker his father gave him when his parents found a pinto bean stuck up his nose that had been there so long it had sprouted.
In his later years, Donny traded in the 1963 Chevrolet Corvair pick-up for an electric golf cart and he buzzed the neighborhood streets, mowing lawns, checking on his neighbors and making sure porch pirates didn’t get anyone’s packages.
Despite a long battle with illness, Donny was still mowing lawns the day he passed and he never once let anyone worry about him, always saying; “Y’all worry too much,” and never failing to flash his beaming smile that mirrored his father’s and showed his zest for life.
“Everything in life was head-on, full force,” Carla said.
In 2005, Donny received a commendation from the Hobbs Police Department when he followed an officer pursuing a suspect on foot down an alley, arriving just in time to tackle the suspect who had wrestled the officer’s firearm away from him and was about to shoot the lawman.
“Donny was not an average man. He had no fear,” Carla said. “He would get in that truck and nail it. He would say; “If you are ever afraid of something, don’t do it.’ He wasn’t afraid.”
Considering the danger of driving the Mexican Jump N’ Bean, that’s saying something. When the car came down at the end of the drag strip, that was when it was most dangerous.
As the car bounced down onto its front tires, the slightest misalignment of the steering could jerk the car into a rollover, something that happened in March 1994 when the original car was totaled in a wreck in San Antonio.
Donny walked away unscathed and still fearless, building a new car and popping it in the air to the delight of children and adults alike until last year when the Jump N’ Bean made it’s last hoorah.
“He ran it June of last year,” Carla said of an event at the Hobbs Motorsports strip. “I just found out about it the night before last. They had to help him climb in the truck. He said he had to do it. ‘It’s my last ride’ he said.”
Carla can’t help but be a little put-out with Donny, that ride was the only one since their marriage in 1985 that she wasn’t there to bless the car and pray for Donny.
“Everyone was telling me the other night. I had tears running down my face. It was the only race I never attended, but he had to do it for him,” she said.
Carla hopes to donate the Jump N’ Bean to a museum in Florida along with Donny’s American Flag fire suit.
Donny’s nieces and nephews said he was a man with “drip” — a unique and decided sense of style. He outfits were ensembles and he liked flames, checkered flags and the American Flag with a passion.
“He was very passionate about the US flag,” Carla said. “He knew what it meant, what it stood for and he was passionate about what our country did. He was a commander for the Sons of the American Legion for many years. He never missed a service, never missed placing flags and poppies out on the tombstones. He still made every effort to be out there, even when he struggled with his own health.”
His friends in the racing world knew him to be not only fearless but giving, going out of his way to share his love of the car and racing with children.
“Every picture I have ever seen of him, he had someone’s kid in his lap,” Carla said. “He absolutely adored children. He had a special passion for children with disabilities.”
Children would line up dozens at a time in front of the couple’s home on summer afternoons awaiting Donny to come home from work.
“He kept the freezer stocked with popsicles. I’d come home and all 32 kids from the block would be lined up on the sidewalk waiting for him to come home,” Carla said.
His neighbors knew him as a great friend.
“Mr. Bean was neighborhood watch,” Carla said. “He knew every house, what cars should be there, their relatives, what shouldn’t be there, when the kids went to school and came home.”
Donny passed away on a Saturday while Carla and their son Cameron were out of town. When they returned home at the news of his passing — he was found by concerned neighbors — neighbors from two and three streets away lined the road to the family home to offer condolences.
“It was just an overwhelming sight to see the love these people had for him. I hope he felt it,” Carla said.
Carla knew him as a great father, husband and the love of her life, even though she didn’t want much to do with him when they first met. He insinuated his way into her life, first at her place of work and then at her home, taking to mowing her parents’ lawn and waxing her dad’s boat just to see her and get in good with the family.
His son was his “hot rod” and he loved him without end, Carla said. Cameron only got to watch his father drive the Jump N’ Bean twice. The first time as a small child he turned to his mother and said, “Daddy kissed the sky.”
“He had a unique style and he taught our son, who had been getting made fun of at school: ‘Don’t let people change you. Who you are is a gift and you share that.’ He lived by that,” she said. “He was my first and only true love.”
But did anyone know the real Donny? Not likely. He was boisterous and fun in public, but reserved and withdrawn about the real parts of his soul.
Donny was the first born of three sons and the last to pass. Although he was the only one to follow in his father’s racing footsteps, he and his brothers were The Three Amigos — Donny instigating trouble and the trio taking any punishment together.
“They had a vow of silence. They would never give it up. So his dad was very strict with them and kept them in line. They would all get punished for whatever they did,” Carla said.
Donny was just 20 years old when his father died and in secret kept the Jump N’ Bean alive going against his mother’s demands he never drive it.
“He never got over losing his daddy,” Carla said. “You’d never know he felt very alone inside.”
The loss of his brothers hurt him even more deeply, Carla said. But he suffered in silence, always keeping a smile in public and being the consummate entertainer, doing the cooking for 40 neighbors at a cookout earlier this year.
Donny was a devout Catholic and always “got into a zone,” bowing his head and praying in silence before every performance in his dragster.
“He would bow his head over his steering wheel and pray. That was his routine. His good luck charm,” Carla said.
A celebration of life will be held at Chapel of Hope Funeral home from 1-4 p.m. Monday with a pass-the-microphone to share their stories of Donny.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Helena Catholic Church with burial at Prairie Haven Cemetery and a reception at the Bob Moran Building at St. Helena Church.
Donny never liked to say “goodbye.” He only said, “See you later,” while throwing his trademark V-fingered peace sign.
In the J.M. Barrie literary classic “Peter Pan,” Peter tells Wendy, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
Pop that Bean, kiss the sky, take the second star to the right and head straight on ‘til morning, Donny. See you there later.