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.]