by Victor Wanchena
It is with a heavy heart that I find myself guest writing this month’s Redneck Files. BJ Max, the long-time writer of this column died of cancer April 30th, 2013 at the age of 69. Dang are we going to miss him.
I wasn’t sure how to memorialize BJ, so I figure I’ll do it like any good story and start at the beginning. Sometime during the winter of 2000 I was contacted by BJ asking if we would be interested in some stories. I gave a non-committal response and asked him to send a sample. Thinking back, I don’t remember how he ever found us, but he did. BJ emailed a wonderful story he had titled Half Nuts. It was a great story following the exploits of BJ in his early days, tearing around Tennessee on an old Harley 45. I enjoyed the story so much I made room for it in the March 2001 issue. BJ promised he had many more gems like this and would love to contribute on a regular basis.
I called that first column Southern Fried Riding as sort of a tip of the cap to the delicacy known as chicken fried steak. I can’t remember why, but I’m sure it made sense at the time. BJ had other ideas. He and I traded ideas back and forth and settled on the The Redneck Files, a thinly veiled rip-off of the The Rockford Files. BJ liked the working class sound of it and I think he even liked the Rockford Files.
Over the next 105 issues, BJ shared with us his stories, adventures, and wisdom from his years as a motorcyclist. His column became a cornerstone of MMM. He never missed a deadline, and he took his role seriously. His commitment to his column and to MMM speaks volumes about his character.
BJ introduced us to Ol’ Rang who saved one of BJ’s rides by cutting an axle nut in half to replace a missing one. He told us the story of Durwin Dromley and his adventures out west in 1922. And BJ gave many tales of touring throughout the country with his wife Hilda, who he loving referred to as Sugarbooger.
BJ also extolled the virtues of southern cuisine. There were tales of grits, souse, and other southern delicacies. He introduced my wife and I to okra on a visit to Memphis. But he especially loved the baloney sandwich. He went so far as to send me photos of a favorite; the 1/2’’ thick baloney sandwich from the Skullbone Store in, of course, Skullbone Tennessee.
My wife, Tammy, while editing one of BJ’s columns changed baloney to bologna. BJ stood by his southern variant of bologna and this led to a ton of teasing between the two of them, and a long distance friendship of shared pictures and stories in the years to follow. BJ loved swapping travel tales and was proud of his beautiful grandchildren. He always had great pictures to share, but his words always said more than pictures ever could.
BJ will be missed. He was without a doubt the wittiest, wisest, and most Southern gentleman to ever grace the pages of MMM. We were all better for the stories he shared.
Ya’ll ride safe now.