A Memory                                                                                          546 words
Copyright May 20
Howard R Music

I never was a big John Mellencamp fan but one of his songs from the early 80s triggers a memory every time I hear it.

Several of my biker buddies and I (some packing their girlfriends) had taken a midnight ride out to the local lake. It was a rural area usually devoid of people at that late hour except for teenagers seeking a clandestine tryst. A few of us went skinning-dipping off the boat dock and then we stood around sipping beer and listening to the radio with a car-load of people we knew from town who had shown up. It was a quiet, warm and starry summer night with puffs of transient white clouds. Icy winters, tornadic springs, and 110-degree drought prone summers lend appreciation of a perfect Texas night that allows running around in a t-shirt in total comfort.

I remember a half-moon reflecting off the water, chrome, and five-gallon fat-bob gas tanks; the distinctive smell of motorcycle oil and fuel in the air; a slender Mexican girl with a bright smile contrasting her brown skin and dark hair as some of the men took turns giving her first rides on a big Harley Davidson v-twin.

About that time the song Jack and Diane with its distinctive acoustic guitar riff started up on the car radio. It's a goofy song about teenage lovers that had nothing at all to do with the people I was with at the lake who were mostly in their mid-twenties, a few like me had served a military tour, some had been married and had kids, and worked local construction, oilfield or trucking. Not exactly wise old men but hardly starring-eyed youths, either. Yet, after all these years, when that song plays, the sounds and smells and the breeze off the water return as if it were yesterday.

There was really nothing special about taking a night-ride in the country with a few friends, I'd done it countless times and, am in the dark about why that particular memory stands out. It was an end of an era, though we didn't realize it. A few of us had been laid-off which didn't bother me at the time. I was a single construction worker and a gap between the completion of one project and the start of another was common. I'd spend the off-time riding my motorcycle and return to work as finances dictated or opportunities arose. However, it was a harbinger of things to come.

The Texas oilfield was collapsing and taking with it anything related economically which, was almost everything in the state. Savings and loan banks were being looted, the Mexican Peso was devalued which sent an army of illegals north and, in their wisdom, our esteemed congress granted an amnesty. The results were several hard-scrabble years for blue-collar workers in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. It was a pivotal era in many ways, the changes abrupt, and permanent.

Perhaps it's just a bit of nostalgia that lingers within an over-the-hill biker, a remnant of innocence, the longing for a pre-arthritic youth that will never return

Then again, maybe I'm just an old letch who digs watching naked girls dive in the water.

Memories. 'Gotta love 'em.

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