A Hog and Iced Tea

Riding  across Utah, headed west

About nineteen and eighty-three

Looking for a place to rest

And a glass of cold iced tea

 

I’d ridden from Denver

On a Harley that ran just fine

Listened to the motor purr

Following that yellow line

 

I was relaxed and half asleep

Steering with my throttle hand

Abruptly my Harley leaped

Heading straight for the sand

 

I’d been hugging that center line

When the wind caught me unaware

Making me a busy fellow

Dragging all the iron I dare

 

Was pushed ‘cross the white line fast

Didn’t want to go that way

But it seemed my lot was cast

To route in the sand and clay

 

Wind gave me a second chance

To straighten up that old hog

Bring her to a center line stance

With room ‘tween me and that fog

 

‘Tween my teeth was Utah sand

In my nose sweat and steel

With disaster close at hand

I stayed astride my wheel

 

 

Then I saw the West Winds place

And folks fixing ice tea

I swung into an empty space

A mighty nice place to be

The Dirty Cup

Poindexter had played with the girls too long. That resulted in his having to ride his Indian all night, cutting an eastbound path along US 78 like he’s stolen it. In spite of his effort five hundred miles still lay ahead and he was only hours short of being AWOL.

Exhausted, the morning sun had just peeked over the horizon. His blinking became a conscious effort. He mustered every ounce of his strength in order to keep his eyes from slamming shut and staying closed.

Ahead, on the right hand side he spotted a Chevron sign and beneath it a red neon flashing the word CAFE. Rolling the throttle grip back, he let his machine decelerate and when he reached the drive he wheeled to the pump closest to the service station office and cut the engine. Inside, behind the café counter stood a middle-aged man with bushy hair, a gray beard and wearing a towel that served as a makeshift apron.

Poin, as he friends called him, stayed on his Indian and waited. But the man behind the counter made no move toward the door. Poin dismounted, Without removing his leather gloves, he pushed the door open

“Is this self-service, or what?” he asked.

“Ain’t got no gas.”

Something in the man’s manner told him it wasn’t true. Poin was in no mood for games, so he let his urge to use his drill instructor voice pass. Instead, he stepped through and perched on a stool.

“Since I’ve gone to trouble to stop here, fix me a plate of ham and eggs over medium, grits, and toast.”

“Ain’t got the grill turned on yet.”

“The sign says you do,” growled Poin.

“Well, it ain’t.”

“You got any coffee?”

“I got coffee.” Returning from the kitchen he sat the heavy white mug on the counter. “Cream?”

“This coffee’s cold. Hell, the cup’s dirty. What the hell, you got something against marines?”

“I don’t like service people. You’re all a bunch of hired killers.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“I’m a marine.”

“Why are you telling me that?”

“Because I want you to remember who beat the crap out of this on this sunny Alabama morning,” Poin barked, using his drill instructor voice. Then he vaulted the counter and split the cook’s lip open with a heavy white mug. The next swing broke two teeth off at the gum.

Poin vaulted back over the counter. In one quick motion he had the Indian running. Knowing the man would send the police after him as soon as he could talk, he sped east, and then headed north. He stopped for gas and a Coke an hour north of US 78.

He wasn’t sleepy anymore. Good thing, because he’d wasted a lot of time with that bozo with the dirty cup.

Now he had one more reason to dislike service people.

My First Motorcycle

 

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I was a E-3 stationed at Charleston AFB, South Carolina in 1957. One of the fellows with whom I worked received orders to a remote air force station on the Dew Line in Alaska. His motorcycle wouldn’t go much over 45 mph. Even if it had the capability, it probably would never have made the 2,000 miles +/- to the Dew Line. So he offered me his 1949 Harley Davidson 125cc for $40.

In those days there was no need for helmets, insurance, or an endorsement. Handing over the cash I was good to go.

This machine had been ridden hard. It was run down at the heed, so to speak, and required constant tinkering to keep it running. If there wasn’t one thing wrong there were two. But it provided wind in my face on a part time basis, and for that I was grateful.

I was an aircraft navigation equipment maintainer, working nights on the flight line fixing airplanes flying troops to Europe and the Caribbean. When I got off duty the day belonged to me.

One of my favorite rides was to travel north of Charleston, following the sandy back roads into the brush. I didn’t realize the backwoods were alive with moonshiners. Had I stumbled upon one of those guys running a batch I might not be here to tell you about it today.

A Steaming Cup of Java

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The first Motel is a privately owned establishment and cheap, cheap as motel costs go. I might have done better had I searched harder. However, an all night Denny’s is located directly across the street. According to the map I might have to travel one hundred miles therefore I could find hot coffee and breakfast. Been there. Done that.

After checking in I head over to Denny’s. While having dinner I remember the time while stationed in Kansas I took a leave and headed for Colorado. The temperatures were hot in the flatlands. One forgets so quickly. And I headed into the Rockies with not enough warm clothes.

Someplace west of Denver, Georgetown, I think, after having a steak dinner, I asked the lady at the cash register about nearby free camping.

“Oh yes. You are in luck, sir. It’s still early in the season, so there are no camping fees for those motorcyclists,” she said, stepping out from behind her work place. I thought her reference to bikers was unusual, but I didn’t pursue it. Instead, I followed her to the entryway where she points out a road leading from town, climbing into what appeared to be foothills. Perhaps the words Too early should have alerted me, alerted anyone on a motorcycle. But I was tired and i saw no red flags.

After about twelve miles I recognized the free camping area she’d mentioned. Barricades were still in place. There was not enough room or a car to pass, but not a problem for folks like me.

After setting up camp and building a small, Indian-style fire, I took a seat at the table and watched the evening colors gather as the sun made its way toward the horizon. With the sun went the warmth of the day.

As the chill moved in I stoked the fire with what was available. Soon, I was uncomfortably warm on one side and chilled on the other. I moved inside my new North Face tent, stripped down to my underwear and snuggled into a sleeping bag.

The silence was overpowering. There was no sound. Not even an insect. And I must have fallen asleep. I couldn’t recall anything until awoke chilled to the bone, absolutely frozen stiff.

Jerking on my clothing, I stepped on my cold weather suit, boots, helmet, and gloves. Then I wiggled back into my sleeping bag. But I was too late with the clothing. About two o’clock I decided I needed coffee and I needed it NOW.

Hitting the starter, the Goldwing  started right off, I turned it so I could use the headlamp. In great haste I packed up and headed back toward Georgetown. I don’t recall the number of the highway. I only remember I turned the wrong way.

Eventually, I found Interstate 70 and proceeded westbound. I found nothing open for more than one-hundred miles, until I found a small cafe in Rifle, somewhere in the Glenwood Canyon.

The waitress, bless her heart, came with a cup and a coffee pot. When she how my hands trembled as I lifted the cup to my lips she left the pot.

^ ^ ^

Lessons learned from comparisons are often embedded for years. Indeed,. I’ve never found a free lunch, but many things I’ve paid for have certainly been worth their cost – the steaming cup of Java the waitress has brought me being one.

Bike-In-A-Box

Aunt Ruby is a large woman with a glossy, ebony complexion. And she doesn’t appear any too glad to see either of them, Nephew Cedric, or Tony, after she responds to their rap on the door and sees who they are.

“Ya comin’ to git that piece of junk outta my shed?” she growls, folding her arms beneath her heavy breasts.

“Well, not yet, Aunt Ruby. Tony is thinking about buying it,” Cedric replied, shifting his weight nervously.

“Then ya gonna be gittin’ it out?” she said, turning, fixing Tony under her hard gaze.

“I need to look at it first, Ma’am.”

“Well,“ she growls, “turn off the light when you’re done and be sure the door gits locked when ya leave, ya hear?”

“Yes, Aunt Ruby”

Tony follows Cedric as he cuts across the yard, through a side gate, and then follows him along a gravelled path to an unpainted shed that sets hard against the back fence. Fishing beneath a several empty flower pots, Cedric finally produces a brass key, unlocks the door, and switches on a bare light bulb that hangs from the rafters by its power cord.

“There she is, a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.”

“Wow! WOW!” Tony exclaims, stepping forward and grasping a large wooden box stuffed with motorcycle parts – wheels, cables, brakes, saddle. Toward the bottom he spots the primary chain. Below that is the secondary chain and the engine. “You weren’t lying when you told me it was in a box.”

“No sir, I wasn’t.”

You said it was running when you took it apart? And you’re sure it all here, every nut, bolt, and washer.”

“Everything.”

“So if it was running, why is it in a box and not on the street?”

Cedric dropped his gaze to the floor. “Sarg, I’m an air force cook. I work in the chow hall at the end of your barracks. I can whip you up an apple pie that will knock your socks off, but I can’t change a spark plug without getting the threads crossed.” He paused, and when Tony made no comment, he continued. “I was going to overhaul the motor. Somebody said it was easy. I was in over my head in an hour. And you can see where that went.”

“Do you have a clear title?”

“Absolutely. Notarized. It’s legal.”

“Okay, How much?”

“Seventy-five dollars, as is. Cash money.”

Tony is stunned. It’s a brother-in-law-price. But he isn’t sure he has the skills to get it together and get it running. He has his re-enlistment bonus. He can afford to take it to the shop in North Charleston, if it comes to that. After all, 1937 is his birth year. Hell, they are twins, him and this Knucklehead. During that moment of silence he feels remorse, perhaps he’s taking advantage of Cedric.

“You know, there’s an independent Harley shop between here and the base. Have you thought about taking it to him?”

“I talked to him, but he told me he didn’t work on bikes belonging to people of color. Of course he used different words.”

“I thought we were past that,” said Tony.

“Yeah,” Cedric replied, a tone of bitterness in his voice.

“Okay. It’s a deal, but there’s one condition.”

Cedric’s face tensed, and he withdrew his deal-making hand and let it drop to his side.

“Okay what’s the catch?”

“I’ll pay you twice what you‘re asking. One hundred and fifty dollars. In return you have to help keep your Aunt Ruby off my neck.”

“She’s not my aunt.”

“The hell you say. Then how the hell is she related?”

“She isn’t. She’s Tom’s aunt Ruby.”

“Who the hell is Tom and where is he?”

“Tom is her nephew. He worked the deal on keeping the bike in the shed and he was going to help me fix it. But since we made the agreement he was transferred to Germany. It’s been tough, so I call her Aunt Ruby because Tom suggested it might make her easier to deal with.”

Darkness has closed in as they drive back to the base. Tony is wondering how this is going to work out. He needs tools. He needs a way to get from the barracks to the shed and back. Maybe he’s just earned the prize as the worse impulse buyer of all time.

The Scooter

The world Tony knows has stopped in its tracks. And nobody is saying why.

It began for Tony when the CQ had shaken him awake. The clock reads 0210 hours.

“Your unit has been activated,” he said.

“What?”

“Your mobility unit has been activated. I don’t know anymore than that. Your name is one of the six I have listed as a mobility team. You are to assemble at your rendezvous point NOW. Shake a leg, airman. Something has happened.”

Tony is an aircraft maintainer. He keeps the airborne communications and navigation equipment functioning in bombers and tankers. In times past they’ve been called out at all hours of the day and night to assemble at their secret place only to find an officer with a watch. He’s shaking his head. “Too long, people. You’ve taken too long getting here. If this were the real thing the lives of your family and friends could be lost because of your delay.”

Determined not to let that happen now he speeds to a remote café parking lot, this month’s assembly point. The place is dark and vacant except for menu lights shining through the front windows and an air force bus waiting out front. A chill went up his spine. This IS the real McCoy. What is President Kennedy up to?

Leaving the keys in the ignition, Tony runs for the bus. He is number five of six to arrive. The driver starts the bus. They are on their way to load a KC-135 tanker with spare B-52G parts – a jet engine, brakes, tires, hydraulic fluid, a UHF radio – everything the powers that be can fit into a tanker. It is their duty to fly to an undisclosed location someplace in the Pacific where they will recover, refuel, rearm, and launch the B-52s that survived the first strike on a second mission.

Before they clear the parking lot the café entryway light flashes on and an Army Sergeant Major, an individual with a host of campaign ribbons and metals on his uniform exits the building and waves the driver to stop.

“Men, the White House is in process of changing plans. Standby for ten minutes while I clarify the situation,” he said, and then turned and reentered the café.

After what seemed like a very long time he tells them to return to our duty stations.

Returning to the shop, Tony learns all training missions have been recalled. As the aircraft return they are recovered, refueled, and armed with bombs and missiles. By the end of the first day the entire flight line has become an alert area. Nothing is moving. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were.

Everyone stand poised for war, but no one knows when or where, not even why.

As the situation cools to a dull roar the maintainers are advised they are free wait in several places – shop, barracks, chow hall, or library.

Tony, after being roused at such an early hour decides to return to the barracks where he turns on his radio and listens to music that takes him back to his childhood – first and second grades. He had nearly dozed off when Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys came on with and old World War II song San Antonio Rose.

It takes him back to 1940 and 1941 when his mother owned a place called the Streetcar Diner where he often heard the juke box in the dining room – the place where he grew up. One man who also enjoyed Bob Wills and that particular song was a World War I veteran who carried shrapnel in one arm and unable to serve again.

Tony remembered him for two reasons: He poked fistfuls of nickels into the juke box and played San Antonio Rose over and over. The other reason was his 1937 Knucklehead, a motorcycle that shared his birth year.

Tony had been looking for a motorcycle since the day he reenlisted. But he wasn’t happy with the Indian, BSA, Norton, AJS, Matchless, Triumph. None of them caught his fancy. What were the odds he could locate a 1937 Knucklehead?

If he survived this present situation he was certainly going to look around.

Take Me With You

Tony spotted her coming from the kitchen. Her apron was gone. He knew she was going to catch him before he reached the cashier, but there was nothing he could do about it. She was a cute thing, trim, soft brown eyes, blonde. He knew the question before she asked it. Call it intuition, call it anything you like, but knowing the question didn’t help with the answer.

“What’s your name?” she asked, grasping his shirt sleeve as he passed though area two.

“Steve. My name is Steve.”

“I’m Patty,” she said, and then after a brief pause she blurted, “Can I go to California with you?”

“Hey lady – err Patty – I’m on a motorcycle, an old hard tail. You’d be sorry you ever asked before we even got out-of-town,” Tony said, casting a look at the cashier. But the cashier only smiled.

“Oh I’m familiar with hard tails. I need to be in California.”

The first thing he knew she was ushering him to a booth where she continued to nag until she wore him down.

“Okay, get your stuff.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I really didn’t want to go,” she added, waving the cashier over to the booth.

“You owe me twenty, Bertha.”

“What’s going on here, Tony asked.

“I just lost. Sally bet me twenty dollars she could get a free ride to California within ten minutes.

Why Do I Write

I’m an air force vet, been retired from the work force for going on 18 years, which makes me 79 years old come this autumn.

I don’t know if I’m a blogger or just a writer. With no ax to grind I doubt I’m much of a blogger. I more of a spinner of tales.

Writing seems to be what I do. An inner force compels me to make words. In following this call, I’ve used the Sears portable, an old Olympic upright founf at Goodwill for $3. I also wrote with a Commodore 64 using a word processor called Easy Script. Then, like many, I graduated to the 8088 XT. And finally, today, I use a Windows 7 desk top, an iPad, and a Nexus 7. Sometimes I even stoop to pencil and paper when the writer’s block is hounding me and brain storming is required..

This business began in 1964 while I was often on alert while serving with the Strategic Air Command. I often had time. 

Overdrive Magazine, a new trucker’s journal, was casting about for articles. They asked people to send them their hands-on driving experiences. I didn’t have many yarns to share, so I spun “The Hill” on a Sears portable and sent it in to Jim Drinkwater, the editor. He published it and then sent me a crisp $10 for my trouble.

I was hooked and never stopped spinning yarns related to the people who are amateur radio operators, truck drivers, motorcycle riders, bicycle riders, airplane pilots. Whatever needs telling at the time.

This entire thing boils down to three words: It’s a hobby..

Motorcycles and Snowmobiles

 

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George and Betty were dyed-in-the-wool Harley people. With George in front and Betty behind, the two of them had toured the lower forty-eight states, Canada, and Alaska. Betty was happy to share George’s motorcycle rather than having one of her own. Her sense of direction was poor. It was easier to leave the complications up to him.  The journeys consumed nearly twenty years, fitting their excursions into vacations and extended holidays. The two of them ran and played as hard as they could, but eventually age caught up to them. With George, approaching seventy-five and Betty not far behind, they questioned the wisdom of playing so hard. Young at heart, in spite of their years, they cast about for slower, more peaceful  pastime, something midway between a motorcycle and a rocker.

 

That autumn they sold their Southern California home and Harley and then relocated in Colorado.  Once settled, they bought a pickup, a camper, a utility, and a pair of modest snowmobiles. Then they joined a Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Group populated by folks their own age.

 

The fun was waiting for them to arrive. With chili feeds, and campouts the fellowship was similar to the activities they’d enjoyed with the California  Retread Motorcycle Club. In short, they’d traded a ribbon of concrete for an extended accumulation of snow. Weeks passed. As they grew more familiar with their machines, they installed CB radios and then began venturing out on their own.

 

Ignoring a blizzard forecast, they packed some extra food, a thermal blanket for each of them, and set out for high mountains to visit a fabled plateau that jutted out over a wilderness area. It was called Bristol Head.

 

A forest service representative working the Rio Grande area provided a map and instructions that allowed them to drive their pickup within about fifteen miles of the overlook.

 

They found the route he’s shown them and then located the  parking area. After unloading their machines they set to see a breathtaking view from five-thousand feet above everything. The weather forecaster was correct with his prediction. George and Betty had hardly arrived they were engulfed in a total whiteout.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” George shouted into his CB microphone.

 

“Which way?”

 

“Follow me,” he replied, shutting off his engine in order to hear Betty’s. He heard her’s start and then the sound of her engine flared. Cupping his ears, he waiting and listened. Nothing.

 

“Where are you, Betty?” he shouted into the radio.

 

She didn’t respond. Anything could have happened, he thought to himself, as he got off his machine and began a systematic search on foot. In spite of finding nothing, he continued until the approaching darkness drove him back to the pickup where he spent the night. The snow had stopped by first light, so he resumed his grid search.

 

That evening he returned to his pickup and drove home alone, realizing what had happened to Betty.