Sunday, April 27, 2008



[This is loosely based on a real event about 1955. The All Weather Riders was a club of local riders centering around the Harley Dealer on Parsons Ave. in Columbus, OH. A.D.Farrow owned this and ran it as competition to his dealership. I rode a KH (Harley Sportster) to the funeral in my suit and tie. I don't remember how 'Larry' died. I think it was the big "C". I don't remember the funeral service, but I know I was there. I do remember it was a huge funeral with most of the riders in Columbus attending.]

"Motorcycles are dangerous!" We know that and accept it. "Ride fast and live free!" But when someone wraps a car around a telephone pole and dies, no one says: "Those cars are dangerous! They ought to be banned!"

Sometimes a brother is struck down by the Grim Reaper. I remember Larry. I never did know his last name. Just Larry. But when he hit the last pothole of life, it was the "Big C" that got him.

Larry rode what we called a "dresser." A Big Twin Harley with paint so black you could almost see down deep inside it. Lots of chrome. A hundred or so lights. Leather saddle bags with lots of fringes. You know, it was beautiful!

When we "All Weather Riders" met in our clubhouse, Larry sometimes was there. I can't remember now what he worked at, but it must have paid like you wouldn't believe! He traveled all over, and when he could, it was on his "Hog" (as Harley riders affectionatly call their Bike).

But as I say, sometimes Larry was there at the club house with his beautiful dresser Harley. We all loved him. And could he tell tales! He must have known everyone across the country. He went to Daytona for the big races in the spring. He hit all the major events like Sturgis, Aspencade, you know. He had the money and he found the time. Did I mention he was about 6'4", 300 pounds? He worked out regularly and he was solid muscle. That's why we nicknamed him "Tiny."

But a time came when he started losing weight. He didn't think anything about it. But it kept on. Finally he went to the doctor. After some time and every test the doctor could think of, he was sent to the Veteran's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

It took the doctors there some time. But the word came: "Big C." Chemotherapy and radiation. Then the day of surgery. I don't know what all they removed or what they did. The head doctor said it: "Don't plan on anymore birthdays."

I wrote this poem about him.

Don't make any plans
to celebrate

Isn't that a bummer
coming from a
V.A. doctor!

February, March,
and part of April
in the hospital
at Pittsburgh.

I thought I was
healthy. But now
nausea and fatigue
lost 120 pounds.

Terminal - I don't like
the sound of that,

I want to get out!
out on the road!
go somewhere!
the wind in my face!

But here I am
riding the bed
needles in my arm
an IV bag above
my head.

I think he had a wife, but I had never seen her. He was loaded up and sent back home. Home health nurses came out and did what they could for him. I can picture the IVs and the hospital bed. What can you do???

Many of the brothers went to see him. But the time was short and I did not get there. It was too late. "Big C" had struck him down - as it does so many.

This was all years ago. I thought I would never forget, but too many years, and I cannot remember the name of the funeral home. I can picture it in my mind. Yellow bricks and a big two story house. A beautiful sunshiny day. Larry lay in the casket, looking just like he was sleeping. Back then "gestapo uniforms" were all the rage, and he was dressed that way. Black shirt and tie, black trousers with white piping, and an American Flag draped in appropriate fashion. He was a veteran and received veteran's honors.

I expected Brother Ed Beeson [a Harley mechanic who preached for a store-front church in the inner city] to conduct the funeral. But it was some "Reverend" from one of the big churches in town. I don't know who arranged that. He did say a lot of good words, but you could tell he didn't know Larry or anything about him, or about motorcycle riders.

But the real story is the brothers (and sisters) who turned out for the funeral. The parking lot was full of motorcycles. I wore my best suit and tie, and rode my Harley KH-model. (a pre-Sportster if you didn't know.)

When the service was over, there was a long procession of brothers (and wives, etc.) following the hearse to the grave yard. This was one of the biggest funerals seen around there in years! I wish I had taken pictures and written down all the details about it. I just have a dim memory.

Was he a Christian? I don't know. But I am and so are thousands of others in the Christian Motorcyclist Association. Will we have bikes to ride in heaven? We will be so happy there that we won't even think about it! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Halloween Wedding


The "All Weather Harley Riders" met for their usual Friday night party at the club house.
Francine tore open a big bag of potato chips and poured them into a large bowl. Cindy got the drinks out of the cooler and set them on the table. Judy set out the ham and cheese, buns, mustard and ketchup. Jill set up the cappuccino machine.

Everyone began helping themselves to the goodies.

After the party was well under way, Billy Bob stood up. "Hey everyone! We want you to know. Vera and I are getting married!"

Then Billy Bob handed out wedding invitations to everyone. They were printed on black paper, with ghostly white figures scattered here and there. Flaming red letters announced: "Billy Bob and Vera invite you to see them 'assemble an engine' on Halloween at Midnight in the Smith Cemetery on Woodin Road."

The women all gathered around Vera and hugged her. "You got him now" Judy said! "You'll have to hide his keys to keep him home," Cindy warned.

"He is a lover!" Francine said, and gave a big grin.

"Billy Bob! I didn't think you would do it!" said Jern-Jon.

Jim spoke up. "I surely didn't think you would ever get married, especially not to each other!"

"It took a while," Billy Bob said. "But we really do love each other. We decided it was the right thing."

"But in a cemetery at midnight! It is a wedding after all. Are you sure that's what you want to do?"

"Yeah, man, that's it, that's where it will be. Picture this: we'll all gather in the Smith Cemetery out on Woodin Road. Old Deacon Smith's grave has that big headstone that's about six feet high. It'll be a blast. And for the wedding ceremony we'll read from the Harley Davidson Service Manual."

"Is that legal?" Dave asked. "Doesn't there have to be some sort of official ceremony? How can you get away with using a Harley Service Manual?"

"Hey, man. I checked it all out. It's cool."

"Is Vera willing to go along with this?" asked Steve.

"Right," Vera spoke up. "We talked it over. I think it would be fun. It's different!"

"I think it's weird, said Jim. "It's crazy. You do need a preacher, you know. What preacher would read a wedding service from the Harley Manual?"

"Jim, I got all the bases covered. I know this preacher. He works as a mechanic at the Harley Shop during the week. He said he would do it. He thought it was cool too."

"But is he a real preacher? You got to be legal about this."

"Right again. He is a legal ordained minister. He preaches for some little storefront church down in the inner city. He has the authority, man, just like I told you. He can say those words and make it stick."

On Halloween night, the members of the 'All Weather Harley Riders' drove into the Smith Cemetery on Woodin Road. Nineteen motorcycles and one pickup truck came along the driveway and drove up to Deacon Smith's grave. They parked in a semicircle so that the headlights would illuminate the scene.

Billy Bob Hilliard and Vera Sansbury were dressed in black leathers, white shirts, black boots, and red bandana handkerchiefs tied around their necks. Vera carried a can of Harley Davidson Coffee in a string-bag, in place of flowers.

They walked up on the grave and stood with their backs against the big gravestone. Jim Howard stood beside Billy Bob as best man; Jill Strawser stood beside Vera as maid of honor.

Brother Ed Beeson, the preacher, was dressed in blue denims with a white shirt and black string tie, a faded denim jacket and black boots. He took his place facing the couple.

Jern-John Kulow was taking pictures. The flash nearly blinded them. They squinted and rubbed their eyes. There was a rustle in the bushes as some animal tried to get away from the flashes.
An owl hooted from a tree. A chilly breeze gusted through the branches and made them shiver.

At exactly midnight, Brother Ed turned and made a gesture with his hand. Everyone honked their horns.

Brother Ed faced the couple and said: "Alright. We're here to do it. Let's get with it. We've got to assemble you two into an 'engine.'"

He held up the Harley Service Manual and switched on his flashlight so he could read it.

"Billy Bob and Vera: we're here to assemble you to into an 'engine, so you can cruise the highways of life together."

He gestured and the horns blared again.

"This is the official Harley Davidson Service Manual. Shall we begin reading. 'Let the engine cool first, then loosen the special head retaining bolts a quarter-turn at a time in a crisscross pattern. Lift off the heads and head gaskets. Install new gaskets upon re-assembly. Figure 12 illustrates cylinder installation. Lubricate the pistons and cylinders. Install the piston rings carefully on the pistons. Compress the rings with your fingers, then carefully insert the pistons into the cylinders. Be careful that you don't damage the rings against the base of the cylinder. Also be careful not to bend the connecting rod.'"

"That's enough of that," Ed said. "Let's get down to it. Join your right hands together and snuggle up close."

Vera Sansbury, do you take Billy Bob to complete your 'engine assembly?

"I sure do!" She made a fist and stuck it up high in a victory sign.

"Billy Bob Hillard, do you take Vera to complete your 'engine assembly?'"

"You got it!" He shuffled his feet and did a little dance.

"You got a ring, Billy Bob?"

Billy Bob produced a pull-tab from a can.

"Alright now, take Vera's hand and put it on her finger."

It fit tight, but he worked it onto her finger.

"Take hold of it with your right hand. Then you say these words: 'This ring says you are part of me.'"

Billy Bob said it and gave Vera a hug.

Brother Ed smacked his fist against the Harley Manual with a loud crack!

"Now! By the powers of this glorious State, which are vested in me as a legal ordained minister and by the higher power of God Almighty, I pronounce you man and wife - that is, I declare you to be a complete 'engine assembly,' ready to run on the roads of life.

You may kiss the bride."

Everyone started their engines and began blipping the throttles. The exhaust from the engines went "Vroom, Vroom." Then they blared the horns for a few seconds.

Jill and Jim grabbed a bag of cat litter out of the pickup They threw handfuls on the happy couple as they walked hand in hand to Billy Bob's Hog.

With Billy Bob's Harley leading the way, they took off in a shower of gravel, heading for the Hayloft Lounge. Time to party! This was a very special day! A time of celebration and happiness for Billy Bob and Vera! They would ride the roads of life together on the Harley's buddy-seat.

[This is fiction. It could have happened like this in the 1950s. Billy Bob and Vera intended to be man and wife, and they were faithful to each other. Brother Ed Beeson influenced them to come to the "storefront church" and led them to Christ. They became members of the Christian Motorcyclist Association. They lived happily ever after.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


R. D. Ice

I put the coffee on when I got up. It was ready when I got back from looking in the mailbox again. I poured myself a cup and reached for the creamer.

Still no letter. Herbert Shertman is missing! Where could he be?

I haven't seen him since Christmas. He should have been at my house two days ago. We have a gig to play, and we need him to be there with us.

When did I last see him? It was just before Christmas last year. We had a gig at the Green Tree Lounge. It's near Victorville, California, in the edge of the high desert.

We flew into the airport at Ontario, California. A van took us on to Victorville, about a hundred miles. But that's not far on the freeway.

We had rooms reserved at the Starburst Motel. Traveling really tires a person. We needed some sleep to recharge.

It was getting on toward evening when the van took us to Green Tree.

Steve Johnson met us. He is the head man. "Welcome to Green Tree Lounge," he said. "You have a few hours to kill. You can put your instruments on the stage. They'll be safe there. Then come to the dining room. We'll feed you before you go on."

One half of the Green Tree was a very posh restaurant. They gave us a truly scrumptious meal. The food was something to remember. I want to eat there again sometime.

We went out and walked around the parking lot. It was good to stretch a little. Then we went in to get set up.

The other half of the Green Tree was a dance floor where we would play the gig. We got everything set up, checked our sound and tuned up. Man, it sounded good to hear us together! We were the Fabulous Five!

We go way back. It's been years since we played our first gig. Herbert Shertman and his zydeco accordion. Roger Kayne and his acoustic bass guitar. Steve Beeson and his Dobro steel guitar. I am R. J. Reynolds and I play the keyboard. Al Romig was the lead singer. Well, you know, we were together again! It would be a "swinging time."

The crowd started coming in and the floor was soon crowded. I do mean crowded! The dance floor was huge, and it was packed. We would get a percentage of the gate. It was a very good gig.

Al Romig picked up the mike and shouted out: "Dudes and Dudesses! Let the stomping begin! It's the Alligator Stomp!"

I hit the first notes on the keyboard and then kept up the lead. The others joined in.

Al sang it out: "You ain't nothin' but fine!" Well, was he wailing!

Man, we were choppin' with our axes. Those good old days! But listen to me. You can tell how old I am from my language. I don't know how the young people would say it. We were having great fun as we played and sang and watched the people dance. As Justin Wilson would say, "We had us some music and some good time."

The customers loved it. They were out on the floor, stompin' to our beat, having themselves a ball!

We got the usual heckling. "Where did you bums learn to play?" "Hey you loafers! I want my money back!" I won't write down what some of them actually said. It wasn't very polite. You know the kind of thing. Some of them were half in the basket and some were high. But really they loved us. You get so you can feel the mood of the crowd.

"Play 'Old Mountain Dew'" someone shouted.

So we swung into a slow step version, with me leading on the keyboard. Al was singing.

"Down the road here from me is an old hollow tree, where you lay down a dollar or two. You go round the bend and you come back again. There's a jug of that good old mountain dew."

Well, they were circling and shuffling and this went on till early in the morning. I suppose some of them had to go to work when the sun came up. They began to leave little by little, and soon there was just two couples circling around on the floor.

"Dudes and Dudesses," Al said, "go home. We can squeeze out just one more and then it's term-in-na-ted. Herbert, let's have 'My Toot-toot.'"

Herbert played a chorus on his accordian. Then he kept up the lead as Al began to sing.

"Don't mess with my Toot-toot, don't mess with my Toot-toot; well you can have the other woman, don't mess with my Toot-toot."

Do you know, the short man came up afterwards and handed a hundred dollar bill to Herbert.

"I hear you man," he said. "That's back home in Lousiana. My daddy used to play like that."

About that time the chef came in and offered us breakfast. We sure took him up on that in a hurry. He took us back to the kitchen.

Finally it was time to go. The head man gave us our cut, broken up into checks for each of us.

As we went out the door, Herbert said to us: "I'll break this hundred and split it with you." But he never did.

When I woke up that afternoon, Herbert was long gone. I had my paycheck, yes, but Herbert had his and he had that hundred dollar bill. It wasn't that much money, it was the principle of the thing.

That was then; this is now. I would get a letter from Herbert every so often. He was on the road. Dallas. Atlanta. Rochester. Buffalo. Even Toronto, Canada. He was living out of a suitcase. That's how it is when you play one-night gigs. I've done enough in my time.

Yes! That was some good time! We were the Fabulous Five! Just remembering gives me a tingle.

Herbert, where are you now? We're set up for Chicago the 6th of June. You were supposed to be here in town. I would phone you, but where would you be? It's nearly time to go to the airport. But where are you, Herbert? We need you! I haven't seen you since Christmas.