It seems that almost every time I turn on the TV
I see a program about building motorcycles. In the
old days I never would have believed that a television
network would ever support such programming. The
only references television made to biking were negative,
except for the series “Then Came Bronson”
in the 60’s and that was relatively shortlived.
Now there’s a bunch of ‘em on almost
every channel! Who woulda thunk? We must be part
of the “In Crowd”! Ain’t THAT
I was visiting a friend named Pappy at the retirement
home he’s living in and as we played a game
of chess in the group room, one of those build-a-chopper
shows came on the tube and he started commenting
“Hell! Anybody can build a damned bike if
ya give ’em a fancy shop and an unending budget!!
Now, give these yoho’s a set of hand tools,
curb their spending money and then see what they
can do! THAT would be a show worth watchin’!”
“Yer right Pappy. We could call it Reality
Chopper, or maybe Bikes for the Common Man!”
“I remember a time when a chopper was something
ya built with used parts or ya made ’em yerself!
If ya did use a store bought "custom"
aftermarket part it was just something for show
and ya probably bought it out of a catalogue and
it wasn’t very expensive.
“The main idea of building a chopper was to
take stuff OFF a stock bike. Sometimes we’d
just chop out a hunk of the frame behind the neck
with a torch and bounce the bike up and down while
the metal was hot until we got the angle we wanted.
Then we’d extend the forks. That’s why
we called ’em choppers. We chopped off the
fenders, bobbed the tanks, the handlebars....hell,
we even chopped the seats!
“Nowadays rich folk just walk into a fancy
shop and say, ‘Build me a motorcycle!’
and tell ‘em what they want. The shop sends
away for the pre-fabricated frame and they usually
use an assembled motor. It just don’t seem
right! The WHEELS on these things cost more than
most bikes I‘ve had!”
“Now Pappy, ya can’t fault people for
“I don’t Bum, I guess I’m just
gettin’ cranky in my old age.”
“Pappy, you’ve probably been cranky
all yer life.”
[For those of you that have never heard of Pappy,
he was a motorcycle dispatch rider in WWII, been
around since motorcycles were built in bicycle shops
and says he invented the kickstand. From personal
experience I DO know he’s got a lot of priceless
bull**** that just thrills the Hell outta me!]
“By the way, did ya bring me any sippin’
“I HEARD THAT PAPPY!” [this from a passing
“I think we oughta just wait and go paint
the town one of these nights Pappy.”
I ignored him and concentrated on my next move.
After a few minutes he started blabbin’. Every
time he does this he ends up beatin’ the crap
outta me. It’s a ploy, but I’d rather
listen to him than play chess anyway.
“I remember back in the early 30’s most
of the country was hurtin’ real bad ‘cause
of the Great Depression. Seems like everyone was
either rich or poor....mostly poor. No in between.
A fella named Burnett owned a big farm up the road
from me and asked if I wanted to work for him for
the Summer and Fall. I just got outta high school
and was needin’ something to do. All the factories
in the area were closed down.” I sat back
“I had this old motorsickle that I bought
from a fella I knew with a few bucks I had saved
up that year. The bike I had before that was homemade
and didn’t run worth crap. Spent more time
tryin’ to get it to start than actually riding
the damned thing. The bike I bought was a Harley
Flathead that had seen better days, but I thought
that bike was the cat’s pajamas.
“I was real sweet on a girl from the next
town called Betty. I called her ‘Betty Boop’
like the cartoon character. She always smelled like
At this point the old man stared off into space
obviously savoring the memory. I just stared at
the chessboard waiting, not wanting to pull him
out of his reverie. Eventually he coughed and looked
over to me, probably wondering if I noticed.
“We used to ride all over. Every chance we
got we’d hop on that scooter and go.
“I remember one day we were headed to her
aunt’s house about 100 miles away. We had
been riding an hour or so when it started to rain
and the bike started couging and backfiring. I pulled
over in the middle of nowhere and shut ‘er
“About a half mile down the road was a farm,
so we pushed the bike there and I asked the farmer
if I could use his barn and tools. It turned out
that the distributor had a crack in it, so I just
dried it out, taped ’er up real good, and
the darn thing fired right up! That’s the
thing about the old bikes. They were made to be
worked on! Ya didn’t need a degree in diagnostics
or be a computer whiz to fix ‘em!”
“What ever happened to Betty?”
“She got married.”
“OH! So she was yer first wife huh?”
“Yup. We married and had some good times.
I enlisted in the army and things were fine ’til
a few years later when the war started and I shipped
out. We never had any kids and I guess she just
couldn’t wait all that time alone. She was
a frisky woman! I got my ‘Dear John’
letter in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge
from a mail drop. It was right after that I earned
some citations. Guess I went kinda nuts!”
“Pappy, you ready for your meds?“ asked
a pretty short skirted nurse.
“Sure thing sweetie.” he said as he
knocked a chesspiece over onto the floor, obviously
just so he could watch her as she bent down to pick
it up. I wanna be just like him when I grow up [in
fact, I think I already am in some ways....nasty
ain‘t always a bad thing, is it?].
For some time all we did was finish up the game,
and like I predicted he slammed me. After he knocked
over the king he continued on with his story.
"When I came home from Europe everything seemed
differrent. The country's financial situation was
the exact opposite from when I enlisted. EVERYBODY
was working! All ya had to do was walk into a factory
or store and tell 'em ya wanted a job and you were
hired. If ya didn't like yer job, you just quit
and found another ya DID like."
"What did you end up doing?"
"I got a job selling ladies lingerie."
"Hey....don't knock it 'til ya tried it! I
met the MOST women, had the MOST fun and made real
good money helping the little darlings pick out
and try on sexy undergarments. Me and a buddy formed
a moonlight buisness hiring models for private parties.
I got a commission from the store and used their
stock, so it was a win-win situation. Everything
was fine until I screwed up and started dating one
of our models, a woman who said I had to get out
of that. I ended up working in a garage as a mechanic.
"Hey you two, visiting hours are just about
over." I used to dislike this nurse, but learned
that she was just kinda forcefull, which I guess
ya gotta be when yer dealing with people like Pappy.
"Bummer says he's gonna take me out on the
town. Wanna come?"
"I see enough of you in here! Do you think
I want to see you when I'm NOT getting paid for
I said my goodbyes and watched as he was led away.
The nurse had made a motion that she wanted to talk
to me alone. When she returned she stepped outside
with me and lit up a smoke.
"You DO know he's not doing so good?"
"I've noticed he seems to fade away every now
and then...that's all."
"Well, he has a lot of problems. I just thought
you should know that he might not be with us much
longer." then she listed a bunch of things
I never knew.
"How MUCH longer?"
"Who knows? Just be prepared for it."
"Ain't no such thing. Never heard of anyone
who could be prepared for such a thing. The only
thing I CAN prepare for is another night out on
the town with Pappy." The nurse just smiled
and finished her cigarette in silence as I climbed
on the bike and left.
All this was months ago and the old fart is still
kickin' and causin' trouble. He'll probably outlast
all of us. If not, I'm sure he's ok with that too.
I've never met an older person who didn't have lots
to tell if you'd just listen to 'em. Ya might say
it's one of my pet peeves about our society. In
past cultures elders were respected and used as
a valuable resource. Now we forget about 'em, when
we're not actually complaining about or ridiculing
'em. It's no wonder some of 'em are so damned cranky.
Anyhoo, be happy y'all and I'll be yappin' at ya