by bj max
Back in 1836, when Davy Crockett kissed his wife goodbye, grabbed ol’ Betsy and headed for Texas; Rutherford, Tennessee was where Davy called home. The folks in Rutherford are right proud of that fact too, but much more importantly, Rutherford is also the home of Meadows Bike and Trike Shop.
My old riding buddy, Paul, triked his Harley last fall. Yep, bought himself a Champion kit from the aforementioned Meadows Bikes and Trike and, being a master mechanic, he decided to do the conversion himself. And he did a first rate job of it, too. He said the reverse kit kicked his butt, but otherwise it was pretty much a straightforward job.
Needless to say, Paul was right proud of his creation and decided to ride it to Rutherford and show it off. To keep him company, he invited a few burned out heathens from his past along. And that’s where Steve, Charlie and myself come in. Paul’s friend, Linda, was along, too and naturally, in an attempt to impress her, the lies and stories flew.
The trike shop was closed when we arrived. Seemed the owner had to make a parts run. The note on the door said he would return around one. So, to kill time we decided to backtrack about six miles to a little run down eatery we had spied on the ride up called the “Toot and Tell It” Cafe and have lunch.
The “Toot and Tell It” looked a lot better on the inside than it did on the outside. In fact it was downright nice. And best of all, it was cool. We shoved a couple of tables together so we would have plenty of elbow room, then this nice waitress came over and took our order. She was as sweet as soda pop and full of “yes sirs” and “no sirs” and did everything but curtsey. We loved it.
Now I’m used to riding with a group where everybody has a two-way radio and we keep up a running conversation as we ride. But these guys didn’t have a two way between ‘em, so we rode in total silence. As a result, everybody had been storing up lies and when we stopped, all them lies, musta’ been a million of ‘em, came tumbling out. They were coming so fast I couldn’t get a word in edgewise so I just bided my time and when one of the guys hesitated while getting his lie straight, I jumped in with both feet and left him wondering what happened. When you’re swapping lies, you don’t mess with me. I’m the mouth of the south, the fastest snake oil salesman in town.
Back in the sixties when gas was thirty cents a gallon and cigarettes were a quarter a pack, I built a motorcycle out of spare parts. Honest. The whole thing was concocted from junk. We called it a bob job. No front fender and the rear fender was chopped in half. That old bike looked pretty good, too. At least I thought so. But I didn’t have a seat for it, I didn’t have the money to buy one, and I didn’t have a job either. So, I was just kinda’ waiting around, you know, ‘til one maybe fell out of the sky or something.
Well, the day inevitably came when all my no account friends got all their bikes running at the same time and they wanted to ride. They decided to mosey over to the other side of the Hatchie River to one of our favorite destinations, the Ashport river bottoms. Ashport was famous for its bountiful supply of honky-tonks and it was also a fine place to get neutered, too, if you so desired. But we loved it over there and made the trip at every opportunity.
Well, I wanted to ride with ‘em, but as I mentioned above, I didn’t have a seat. So Gordon, one of the geniuses in this crowd, held up a big, thick sponge and suggested that if it were wrapped in a shop towel, it would make a pretty good seat. Hey, that’s a good idea. So I wrapped a greasy shop towel around the sponge and with the help of a pair of hog ringers, I stapled it in place, slapped it on the bike and danged if it didn’t sit pretty well.
The bike was a hard tail and the sponge was placed on the frame tubes that also enclosed the battery. The battery was supposed to have a cover, but this was another part that I hadn’t yet managed to round up so the sponge would be all there was between my backside and the battery. But even though it might be a rough ride, I was sure it would work. After all, it was only thirty miles to Ashport and at the ripe old age of twenty-two, I wouldn’t notice the damage to my spine for another forty years so I didn’t worry about it.
The Bluff View Inn gets its name because it’s the last bluff before you fall off into the Mississippi River delta. It was a great destination with an all the catfish you can eat for fifty cents menu and ice cold beer. As we neared the place, I was riding lead with my feet stretched out, hair blowing in the wind and man I was lookin’ good. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed our number one hooligan, E.P., on my right and closing in on his custom XLCH Sportster. He pulled alongside and gestured wildly towards the back of my bike…He wants to race I thought. I shook my head and continued to cruise. I didn’t want any part of that Sportster. E.P. backed off a little, then pulled back up and frantically pointed to the rear of my bike again. Irritated, I snapped my head around to look and was dumbfounded to see smoke roiling out from behind me for two hundred feet or more. I couldn’t believe it. I was on fire.
We rounded a bend and roared down a hill, passing an elderly gent mowing a lawn. Me on my burning bike, trailing smoke, and E.P. chasing me with that roaring Sportster. The old gardener grabbed his fire extinguisher, jumped in his pickup and tore out after us. He had been a gunner on a B-17 in WW-II and would later describe the sight as that of a wounded ME-109 chased by a Mustang he witnessed over Darmstadt, Germany in 1943.
I headed for the shoulder, slid to a halt, and jumped off the burning bike. That’s when I realized that I was burning, too. I began to dance and run around while E.P. chased me, trying to put my britches out. There was water in the roadside ditch so I jumped in. About this time, the WWII vet arrived with his fire extinguisher and went to work saving the bike.
Everybody at the Toot and Tell was glad to hear that I wasn’t seriously burned that day. And the bike, well it was junk anyway. We tipped the waitress, took a last sip of iced tea, then headed back to Meadows trike shop, once again in total silence. How do they get by without a two-way radio I wondered? With a two-way you can spread your lies the whole trip, not just at rest stops…Ah well, takes all kinds.
Ride to Work