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Bummer's Monthly Musings

Bummer, who's an ABATE institution, writes one of the most widely read articles in the Outspokin' each month. Now he's also right here on the web! Welcome to the Computer Age, Bummer! ~ Enjoy!




Bummer's Shootin' the Breeze Page!

February 2005


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 a trip?
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 on it.
“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 havin’ money.”
“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’ liguor today?”
“I HEARD THAT PAPPY!” [this from a passing nurse.]
“I think we oughta just wait and go paint the town one of these nights Pappy.”
“You buyin’?”
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 and listened.
“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 baby powder.”
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 down.
“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.”
“To me.”
“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 it?"
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 next month,

That's me, dammit!~Watch here for next month's installment!

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