Yesterday's Crossroads                                                                                 Reflection 982 words

Copyright May 2002

Howard R Music

 

 You ever see a lone biker on the highway and wonder where he's going, where he's from, or how he got into this chosen lifestyle? 

I couldn't tell you who he is or the circumstances that led him on that particular path.  I assume the reasons are as varied as the people and machines they ride.  All I can tell you is who I am.

I'm G.T., the father of a neighborhood friend when I was about 8-years old.  He put me on the front of his motorcycle on the tank and rode me around the block one night.  The throaty engine, headlight cutting through the darkness, bugs flashing in the light, the breeze on my face, the sound of the tires on the pavement, the lurch of the machine as the transmission was shifted are as vivid as if it were yesterday.  Though doubtless not outwardly apparent, I was permanently changed that night

I'm Ozie, Daryl and J.C., childhood friends who rode lightweight motorcycles that were legal for young teens.  Ozie and J.C. had Honda 90s.  Daryl had a rarer Montgomery Wards 125 cc.  J.C. could do wheel-stands on his.  Daryl rigged up a ramp to practice short jumps.

All I could do was dream about bikes.  My father was a strict control-freak, and refused to even discuss me having one.  I left home right out of high school and the first big ticket item I bought was ... you guessed it ... a motorcycle.  Even as an adult that, and other quirks of my life, caused a rift with my old man that was never repaired.  I never even saw him the last 30-years of his life.

I'm Danny, an Air Force buddy I was stationed with in the south Pacific.  He was a seasoned rider who had competed in motocross and cross-country races stateside.  He bought a lightweight Yamaha for basic transportation on the island and could ride a wheelie until he ran out of road.  I bought one as well and we spent a lot of time exploring the trails and climbing hills.  Danny could repair an ailing motorcycle on the side of the road using a stock tool kit and a rock.  He could move anything on a bike if he had enough bungy-chords.  The man taught me how to live off a motorcycle.  Skills that came in handy a few years later in civilian life.

I'm Drifter and Fluff, a couple of Iowa farm boys who came to Texas to work the oilfields in the 70s.  I was running around on an old Triumph Bonneville (the only transportation I had at the time) and happened to meet Drifter in a local diner.  It was cold and wet and the place was crowded and Drifter, a stocky man with glasses and blond hair and beard with red streaks, offered to let me join him at his table.  We hit it off immediately and, though I didn't know it at the time, it was a friendship that would last until his death in a tornado 35-years later.  I eventually stopped by his house and met his friend Fluff, a wiry, muscular man with a head topped with long, curly brown hair that gave him his nickname.  They'd both purchased basket-case Harleys and were rebuilding them inside the house.  I'd never seen such a thing.  Motorcycle parts were everywhere.  It was beautiful.  Drifter and I spent the summer riding, drinking beer and hitting what parties we could find.  Impressed with the ability to interchange parts and work on the bikes with standard tools, I caught the Harley bug and eventually bought one myself a few years later.  I'd just been laid off from an oilfield job in Mexico and used my savings on a new Harley.  Drifter and I spent another year riding and hanging out with other local riders.  Unfortunately, we were a bad influence on one another.  For whatever reasons we just could not take care of business when we were together and instead spent our time riding and depleting the local beer supply which wreaked havoc on our finances and health.  He eventually moved on to another state, but we kept in touch and occasionally would meet up for rides.  We were planning a road trip the week he was killed.

I'm Moses, a Navy aircraft mechanic during the Viet Nam War.  Could fix a Harley in his sleep.  Rode a hardtail Panhead all of his life well into his 70s until his death.

I'm Double-R.  A rough-hewn man with a quick smile.  Nostalgic, he wanted to ride my Triumph as he had once owned one.  He reciprocated by letting me take a putt on his Harley; the first one I'd ever been on.  He was killed on that bike not long afterwards.

I'm Ragtop, a tall, handsome man with flowing blond hair and gold flecked eyes.  The most fun-loving rider I've ever been around.  Rode an old school Panhead with a jock-shift and suicide-clutch and got a kick out of doing wheel-stands.  Women could not keep their hands off him.  I remember several times seeing him on the road with one girl on the back and another in his lap.

I'm Sputnik, an Oklahoma Indian, who lived on the Texas coast.  Founded the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA 2).

I'm Dad, Dino and Hotrod, and the others who started Texoma ABATE in north Texas who worked with TMRA 2 and other groups to successfully change the laws and make Texas a little more biker friendly state.  Their tactics were unorthodox and in-your-face and earned them the moniker "The Radical Bunch."

The roads are numerous and circuitous, sometimes smooth, but often rough, treacherous and dangerous.  Bikers are wind and sunburned, soaked with rain and sometimes frozen.   The ones encountered at yesterday's crossroads are who I am today.

 

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