One Tin Indian in the Texas Wind
This was a trip to Texas on a borrowed motorcycle involving a lot of donuts
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All of a sudden, I heard a pretty loud clanging sound, immediately followed by a loud stream of cussing and belly-aching, then followed by the unmistakable sound of wrenches being thrown. I recognized the wrench throwing sounds quite well, so I got up and eased my way down the street to where I was sure I heard the noises, and sure enough, there was a large garage door open and a guy in an old greasy, white T-shirt walking around with his head down, looking for some of his wrenches that had found their way outside the shop and into the weeds.
My kind of guy, I was thinking, as I approached him to see if he wanted any help gathering his tools from the dirt and weeds. Not looking up, he just said he didn’t give a shit, and kept looking for his tools. As I moved closer to the shop, it became apparent that the clanging sound had come when this huge old army green motorcycle had fallen over and was now lying on its side with parts and tools every where, and a puddle of mixed gas and oil was oozing itself around the perimeter, inching its way toward the large leather covered seat.
Noticing this, I asked if he wanted me to help him pick the bike up before the seat and one of the old saddle bags got soaked. He let out another string of expletives which I completely understood because he was a local boy, and I was intimately familiar with each word he spewed forth as he walked around to grasp the handle bars and started to lift the bike to its wheels. He asked me to locate and position the kick stand in a manner that would lend itself to being held in position by a pair of vice grip pliers. The latching bracket for the kick stand had been twisted and would not hold the kick stand in place, hence the need for the vice grips. The vice grip pliers were in such poor condition that they needed to be taped together to hold their grip. It was at that point, that I believe I figured out what had led to this young mans dilemma. The oil and or gas had dripped onto the tape and it had loosened its tension on the vice grips and all hell broke loose as this guy had to take immediate evasive maneuvers just to keep from having the bike fall on one of his legs. He must have had a handful of tools sitting on the bike itself in addition to having his toolbox sitting on a small stool just to the side of the front fork, and when the bike fell, it knocked over the stool, spilling the tools from the toolbox and the tools on the bike onto the floor.
He was calming down, and setting down his hand full of tools and wiping his hands on a rag, he introduced himself to me as Johnny and thanked me for my help. He offered me a beer and we sat on an old front car seat sitting on the floor near the door and he began to piss and moan about how he was trying to get this bike back together in time to take his wife on a short trip over the Labor Day holiday. He was having trouble getting one of the heads installed and had tipped the bike over trying to get it to come back off for some reason.
As we continued to hide the hops he calmed down some but was still frustrated that he was having such a hard time with the bike and his wife was giving him hell for not spending time and money with her. She wanted to go visit some relatives somewhere and he was more interested in working in the shop. He told me that it was a 1942 Indian Scout military motorcycle that had once been used by his dad or someone that his dad had known, and he was pretty interested in getting it back running again, so he could sport around town on it. As we continued to shoot the shit, I noticed that seat had been loosened in the fall and that the shift lever was bent even though it was not on the side that had hit the ground. I then pointed out that the coil wire had come unattached and the coil mount appeared loose.
He seemed surprised that I could see all of that from our seat on the floor and I began to share with him some of my trials and tribulations while I was racing go karts and had that I had learned the hard way to look for small issues that made life miserable at the track. He suggested that I come over and help him some evenings, but I did not want to miss soccer practice when school resumed and I suggested that I help him this coming week while school was not in session, to which he replied that he would be in deep doo-doo with the ‘old lady’ if he kept working on the bike. I said that if he thought that he could trust me mechanically on the bike, that I would work on it while he was gone if he wanted to take her to the relatives for a few days. I would come back in the morning, help him clean up the mess that was made tonight, take inventory of the issues and we could go from there. He didn’t seem all that convinced, but I said I would come back in the morning anyway and we could go from there, and he seemed resigned to at least a different approach from that he had been taking.
When I showed up early in the morning, Johnny was already at work sorting parts and gathering tools, and he had a smile on his face when he looked up and said he was glad to see me. Apparently the Mrs. thought any idea was good that got her to the relatives for a few days and they had worked out a plan. I would work with him most of the day learning what needed to be done to finish assembly of the bike, he would show me what he had done so far and suggest what to do next to get the ball rolling on the project at hand. Then, early in the afternoon he would pack up the wife and they would go the relatives leaving me alone with the Indian motorcycle for 5-6 days. He gave me the name of two parts houses that he had accounts with and gave me $50 for assorted ‘crap’ as he called it. He said they would lock up the house and leave me a key for the padlock on the garage door, then he taped the phone number of the fire department on the door to the house and said only to call the cops as a last resort. I wasn’t quite sure why he did any of this as there was no phone in the garage.
The morning went well as we got the kick stand/ rear wheel support secure, straightened the gearshift lever and tightened up most of the loose screws and bolts. The big remaining issues were to get the rear head installed and torqued, install the distributor and time the ignition, finish the wiring, and run the oil lines. Shit, I hated wiring. I still do. You can’t see it and it can hurt when it bites you. Even a snake will hiss or rattle to give you some kind of a warning before it bites you. And sometimes if you do it wrong you can let the smoke out of important pieces. As they were getting their car ready for the trip, his wife came over and thanked me for giving him some time to share with her and said ” take your time she didn’t care if it ever got done,” She figured that big iron would somehow hurt him one day.
As they were leaving I shouted out to him and asked if I could take it for a test ride if I got it done. He hollered back that it had no title, but said “go ahead,” I’m sure he was figuring that I would never have all the work done, let alone get it running. They were going to be gone almost a week and the mess on the floor did not look like it would ever get assembled let alone run. The motor was in and the wheels were on and the seat was in place. No fenders, no gas tank, no lights and no battery. There was a pile of parts by the large door and several boxes of parts and pieces on the work bench.
The first thing I did was to make a couple of laps around the garage to sort the tools again and clean up the tool box. I emptied the boxes of parts and sorted them according to where they went on the bike. I searched thru all the cabinets and drawers to see what all was at my disposal. Then I sat down on the car seat near the door and while pondering my next move, I noticed a 5-gallon bucket over by the door into the house that Johnny used to put leftover bolts and nuts in and it reminded me that I had been presented with a challenge just like this a few years earlier with a Moped motorbike project. My Dad helped me buy a ‘basket case’ Moped by loaning me some money and had said that if I could get it put together in a week that I would not have to pay him back the money. I worked on that old Moped the rest of the day and all thru the night, and started it up for him in the morning before breakfast. It had been brought home in several cardboard boxes and one 5-gallon bucket just like the one over by the door. ‘Damn, I thought, that has to be an omen. I gotta do it again! The challenge was too much too resist and I decided right then to see just how long it was going to take me to get this old dog to bark.
Just yesterday afternoon, I was pissing and moaning about being bored for the week and now I was up to my ass in alligators, but it sure seemed like the right thing to do. I quickly got up off the seat on the floor and went over and sat on the large leather seat on that Indian. For a brief moment it seemed like it too was saying ‘I bet you can’t do it either”. Geeze, I hate it when someone tries to tell me I can’t do something. Now, it was really on.
I dismounted the bike and said”OK Tonto, you got a bet”, and headed for the work bench. It was obvious that I had to start with the big stuff, so I mounted the rear cylinder head, after marking top dead center, torqued it down and rechecked the front head while I was at it. Next came the distributor. It went in place OK, but getting the timing down was going to be an issue with no manual or instructions. I picked a cylinder, and using my thumb to check for compression found top dead center and set the distributor, went ahead and installed plugs, cap and wires.
I kept at it, working nonstop to install the fenders, tail lights and
headlight, then running the oil and gas lines. Johnny had the carb rebuilt
and it was a piece of cake to mount, and it was starting to look like
something had been getting done. I was getting pretty damn hungry and
headed to the garage door to get some late supper, only to find the sun
beginning to rise. I had lost track of time and had worked clean thru
the night. Breakfast was coming up! I needed a pair of fittings and a
few fasteners, so I walked to the local greasy spoon, then on to the parts
store and returned to Johnny’s garage and started back to work on
ol’ Tonto the tin Indian
It was time for lunch, and on the way back to the garage I passed by another of the many local eateries. I was already very thirsty and was getting hungry again, but noticed that the eatery was filling up quite rapidly and I was in hurry to get back. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but I decided to just roll that Indian front tire and wheel up to the drive thru window and order a sandwich and a drink to go. It was not a fast food restaurant, but at lunchtime you could drive up to a window that was parallel to the main road and order something from a very limited menu.
Several of the passers by on the road began to sound their horns as
they noticed me in the short line and as I got to the window the old lady
that taking orders was so flustered that I was not in a car that she could
not speak. She just kept looking at me and then at the ground and finally
just stood there looking at me with her mouth open. As I continued to
try and give her my order she continued to stand still, and then, just
as she turned away I saw the top row of her false teeth slowly fall until
they were resting on her bottom teeth. It was extremely hard not to laugh
my ass off, and in a moment a young college student that I recognized
took my order, apologized for my having to wait, and said ‘Betty’
just had to go sit down for a minute. He probably had not experienced
anything like this either, but made no comment.
I could barely stand it, but I was beside myself with the anticipation of actually getting on this grimy green stallion and seeing if I could actually make it go down the road. It was heavy as hell, and I found it very awkward to control while it was stopped. I got the garage door open, pointed the bike towards the noonday sun and started that bad boy. Wow, it felt much better straddling that thing as opposed to making the motor run while you were standing next to it. What a rush. The pungent odor of the over rich carburetor setting and the smoke from the excess oil wafted up and around my nostrils, while the loping growl of the dual cylinders spoke to me thru the seat of my jeans. There was no indecision here, no mistaking the intent. We were going out on the street.
It was immediately clear why these big bikes are called iron horses. This one was heavy and stubborn and had a distinct odor about it, I could feel its desire to flex its muscle and we shared the need to pick a direction, make noise and leave some tracks. I chose to turn left towards the country, but as I began to let out the clutch, Tonto quickly pointed out that I was a piss poor rider, by stalling and putting me on my ass with him leaning on top of me. I was beginning to understand exactly who was boss here and it wasn’t me. After I got it back up on two wheels I leaned down the carburetor a quarter turn, advanced the timing a little bit and tried this again by giving it a little more throttle a little sooner. This was much better as we got going right away, and as the speed picked up so did the comfort level and I was soon shifting gears and having a great time, all the while greatly exaggerating my own abilities and riding skills.
I got back to the garage early in the afternoon, did a little cleaning and was again thinking about finding some excuse to take this hot rocket out riding again. I couldn’t think of s good reason, so I said ‘the hell with it’ and began checking to make sure the lights worked and looked at some little things to make sure it would stay together and while attaching the license plate I noticed that it was 3 years old. Damn, now what! I really wanted to go for a longer ride this time. The best idea that I could come up with was to take the plate off, drag it across the floor, sand down some of the numbers and put some primer paint over the ‘year’. The plan was to tell anyone who asked about it that I had just been working on the bike for some one else and that it had just been in a wreck, and that I didn’t know anything about it.
I checked the gas tank and noticed that I would need to stop and add fuel, and checking both pockets I found that I had $46 left from what Johnny had given me and $16 of my own. I donned the gloves and the goggles, noticed that the clock over the door said 2:30, put the lock on the garage door and headed into town. I was thinking I would get a little gas, sport around town for awhile then get something to eat and head back home. This was way cool! I loved the feel of the wind in my face, the buffeting of the old leather trimmed goggles that I had ‘borrowed’ out of one of Johnny’s cabinets, and my long hair dancing back and forth at the rear of my neck gave me the feeling that I was penetrating air, and it felt way cool! I had torn my faded jeans earlier in the fall at the garage and had wrapped grey tape around the tear just below my left knee. My T-shirt, originally white, had become grey from the previous days work and I hard torn it under my right arm leaving a large hole for my arm to go thru. I was wearing a pair of very old, very stiff work gloves that I had found in one of the saddle bags earlier. I’m sure this provided a sight somewhat different than what I envisioned of myself as I continued to gain confidence and increased speed as the pride and pleasure continued to rise.
The enjoyment of riding had soon overcome my hunger and I was interested in seeing how this riding would feel out on the open road and I suddenly found myself heading away from Wilmington, headed south on route #68. I continued lazily along, looking at the countryside on both sides of the road. Looking at the world around a small Plexiglas shield was entirely different that through a windshield. While the additional view was an improvement, the additional smell was not! I was dead in the center of Holstein heaven, I am sure. At times the odor was beyond pungent and as I approached Fayetteville and route #50 I saw a sign indicating Cincinnati was 30 miles West, and assuming it would smell better in Cincinnati, I did my best impression of downshifting, leaned it ever so slightly to the right and goosed it good, up shifted to fourth gear and I was on my way into the setting afternoon sun.
It must have been close to 4:30 as I was winding my way down the hillsides to the edge of the Ohio river, passing by the Lunkin Field airport, continuing to following route #50 as it wound its way along the wide and slow moving river. It was easy to keep looking towards the river and watching the tugboats because it was some what discomforting to look directly into the evening sun. Along with my newness to riding this large bike all these distractions made me some what erratic in the evening traffic, and while it was apparent to most of the commuters that I was a pain in their ass, some drivers actually approved of my ‘style’ and pointed out that I was #1 in their opinion.
I continued heading west on Rt 50, and was easing my way out of Cincinnati when I noticed the Anderson Ferry moored at the landing and taking on a few cars, and it gave me an idea. I figured that I would take it to Kentucky, get a bite to eat and I could wind my way back across the river and get home before dark.
As I tried my best to control this hunk of iron down the short grade to the landing, I looked up and saw that the gentleman in control of the loading was signaling that they were full and raised his hand to stop the next car. I was not too hot at this braking downhill in the loose gravel and this surly steed had taken this opportunity to once again point out to me who figured to be in control. It slid to the right and as I tried to compensate, I inadvertently goosed the loud pedal and it accelerated abruptly. I was able to regain control, but not until I had slide sideways just enough to come to a stop right in front of the loading agent, coating him with the loose gravel dust.
He acted like nothing happened and said “the might be room for you, sir, if you can pull it up between the two smaller cars at the rear of the ferry”. Since I was headed that way anyway, I continued on aboard the now rocking ferry as a river tugboat and its barges had just passed in front of the ferry.
Another challenge! How do I dismount this heavy crotch buggy on a rocking boat without letting it get away from me and damaging one of the cars that were on either side of me. My inexperience had not gone un-noticed by the occupants of either of the cars and they were dutifully observant of my dismount technique. I just put it in gear, switched the ignition off, set the back end over the rear support bar and climbed off. As I walked towards the front of the ferry, I turned and said to both drivers “let me know if it falls over, I’m going up here to see where we are going”. I don’t know how they took that comment.
It was a short and uneventful ride, and as I was the last one off, I
asked the ferry attendant the best way to I-75 and he gave direction to
the Buttermilk Parkway that would lead me right to the Interstate. Up
a few hills, make a few turns and there I was at the highway and I pulled
directly into a small, family owned truck stop that looked like it had
a nice little restaurant off to one side.
Damn, they were busy as hell! It did not look like I was going to be able to get a table. I had to take a whiz and those old leather gloves had my hands smelling pretty bad, so I headed for the men’s room. As I walked back out towards the dining room a gentleman at the counter folded up the paper he was reading and offered me the seat next to him. We chit-chatted for a while about where we were from and where were we going, etc., and the conversation turned the quality of the food we were eating, it’s relativity to home cooking and good places to eat around the country. We each offered our thoughts in that regard when he mentioned that as a truck driver, he got to eat at places all over the country and that the absolutely best donuts that he had ever encountered were from a little family owned bakery in Wichita Falls, Texas.
I mentioned that I had an aunt and an uncle in Wichita Falls and that they too owned a bakery. As we pursued this conversation, it became apparent that these terrific donuts that he was bragging about had been made by my very own relatives, and the more he described them to me, the hungrier I became to taste them for myself once more. It had been about seven years since our family had stopped there on our way to California, but having this truck driver tell me of the strong pleasant odor of the bakery and the way they actually melted in your mouth was bringing back very strong memories of my own culinary consumption while attending a family gathering in Texas.
We paid our tab at the same time and as we were parting ways in the parking lot, he mentioned that he was on his way to Boston, and had just been in Wichita Falls the morning before and still had a couple of double chocolate’s left in the truck, and would I like to have them.
Would I? ‘Is a pig’s ass pork?’ I said, and off we went to his truck. Even after two days those crushed and twisted donuts were absolutely wonderful. He said they were even better when they were warm. I thanked him for his hospitality and we both mounted up and as he headed out on the highway, I was still just straddling ol’ ‘Tonto’ here, mulling my next move when I decided ‘what the hell, I got nothin’ better to do’, and I had about $55 in my pocket, so rather than head north on I-75, I turned onto the southbound ramp and headed for the Rt. 42 exit that would take me West in the direction of St Louis. I recalled that St. Louis was one of the larger cities on that west coast trip and that was where I was headed, feeling that I even though I had not driven on that trip myself, I could remember enough of the cities and read the road signs along the way and get myself to Texas one way or the other.
Man, that wind felt good! Punching air has always been appealing to me and this motorcycle ride was providing a new experience that was way better than a bicycle or a convertible. The air was reasonably warm, no bugs, no moisture, and lots of folks were waiving as they went by (this time with all their fingers). I came to the Rt.42 exit, veered to the right and I was on my way westward at last. This motorcycle riding was a blast, and I was beginning to see why so many guys did it, but as I was riding into the sunset, it was getting cooler and cooler, so I stopped and put the goggles and the gloves back on.
As I continued on, the early part of the trip to Louisville was within eyesight of the Ohio River, and it was difficult at times as the setting sun would glare off the river on the occasion that the difference it height from the river coupled with the setting sun would quickly send a blinding beam of light in my direction. The goggles did not make that reflection any better, and I was once again displaying my relative inability to ride this rascal.
As I was getting near Louisville, and the coolness, both literally and figuratively was wearing thin, so I stopped at a feed store just outside of town and bought a hooded sweatshirt. The clerk that was attending to me kept looking at my hair, and when I asked if something was wrong, he just reached under the counter and gave me an old used baseball cap, saying that his son had only worn it once since getting it a baseball game. It was ‘on the house’ he said, and I happily accepted a St’ Louis Cardinal baseball cap.
It must have been the wind-swept look. He asked where I was headed and after chatting about it for awhile, I said that I had better get going on my way, as I needed to get some gas and find a place to stay where I could watch my ride as I was getting pretty damn tired. It had been a long couple of days!
The gentleman must have thought that I was near destitute as he offered me the ability to stay outside, next to the store inside a fenced area that they kept bagged grain in. It was a covered area with some wood siding, and although there was no lock on the gate, he said that it would appear locked from a casual glance at a distance, and I could let myself out in the morning. Without hesitation I said that would be cool, and went out to put the bike inside the fenced area. I relocated a few bags of grain, put on the hooded sweatshirt and the hat, then snuggled down among the bags of grain and pulled the loose end of a tarp over me and the back half of ol’ ‘Tonto’.
The morning of day 2 found me hungry again, and after looking for a quick bite, I spotted an all-night diner at the end of the block behind the hardware store. I ordered and was served bacon and eggs while sitting at a torn and disheveled booth, but it all felt comfortable to me. I was raised in a clean and orderly environment, but these surroundings felt quite accommodating as well. I left the diner after paying my bill and asking directions to St. Louis, bought gas nearby and found myself daydreaming and eagerly awaiting the new countryside I was about to experience. As I left the gas station, the bank clock across the street showed that it was getting close to 6:00AM and I was pumped!
Not long after I got back on Rt. 42, I spotted a road sign indicating that St. Louis was in the direction to my left and in a matter of minutes the sunrise found me chasing the long shadow as I crossed the 3rd Street Bridge, headed for the happy Hoosier hunting grounds. I began looking for the Rt.64 exit and I was happy to see the sunrise because even though the headlight worked, it was not very bright and was angled downward too steeply to do much good. I was getting quite used to this big bike by now, and was able to reach up and turn the headlight off, but shifting still wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked for it to be.
The ride up thru New Albany and thru the Hoosier National Forest was uneventful but enjoyable as I was still learning to adapt to the bike and was enjoying the greenery as I was viewing it from an entirely different perspective from that normally viewed from inside a car. The noise and the vibration from the motor and the quick response of the throttle and steering were also exciting new sensory inputs and my mind was darting from input to input while deciding how to respond and to what degree. I finished the excursion thru Indiana by being concerned about finding a gas station, but soon after entering Illinois, I saw a filling station in the little town of Albion and as I pulled into the station, I noticed a sign that said I was on Rt.15, and asked the attendant if I was lost, and was told that the highway change numbers at the state line.
I finished with the gas, stuffed my sweatshirt into a saddle bag and headed out onto the highway. After finding my way to St. Louis, I was damn well happy to find that the new Interstate was open almost all the way to Springfield, but the constant higher speed apparently took its toll on the chain and I found myself with a breakdown just as I was leaving a small town named Carthage, just this side of Joplin, Missouri. Luckily for me I coasted across the highway and into someone’s yard that was reasonably flat, covered in unusually green grass, and had 4 or 5 trees close enough together to have a large shaded area. I was getting tired of riding by this time and was not actually at the point of being pissed about anything yet, so I just sat down under one of the larger trees, pondering my next move. I must have been there about a half hour when I heard a screen door slam and turned around to find a young fella’ about 15 years old that looked how I would have pictured Tom Sawyer to look like if he had grown to be that age. Bib overalls, no shirt and no shoes and dirty as hell. Not a straw hat, but rather an old golf hat that was kind of oily and on backwards. I reckon I didn’t look like much a cultured creature to him either, but after about a minute of silence as we gazed at each other from top to bottom and back, he inquired if I was hurt? I had shut the bike motor off as soon as I heard the scraping noise and had coasted into this young mans front yard, so he was unaware that I was having a problem with ol’‘Tonto’.
He kept staring at my t-shirt and it finally dawned on me that I must have looked injured to him stemming from an earlier incident that occurred as I was getting off a section of the Interstate. I had been following a tractor trailer truck on the interstate as it afforded me some interference from the constant wind and buffeting, and as we were getting off the highway we had to travel about a quarter of a mile of heavily graveled road surface. I had no issues at that time, but about 4-5 miles after we were both on a paved road again, he must have thrown a small rock out from under one of his rear wheels and it had sliced the hell out of my left ear lobe. As soon as felt the blood I pulled over, but I had nothing to stop the bleeding with. I figured that if I kept moving, I would not get any in my eye, and the blood would drip out behind me until it stopped. I was pretty much right about that, except for the fact that I was cut worse than I thought and it had taken a while for it to stop all together, but it had left both the front and back of my shirt looking quite poorly.
I said that I was all right, but I was having a chain problem with the bike, and did not know how I was going to fix it, as it appeared as though one of the links had split and was allowing the remaining part of the link to slide out and hit ‘things’. The young man said that his Uncle had an old motorcycle out back and maybe we could take something off that bike and put it on mine, so we went back to take a look and found that the chain size was the same, but he had no real tools to work with. It took us almost two hours with a hack saw, a hammer and a screwdriver to get one good links from his Uncles bike and install it onto mine. Just as I got ‘ol ‘Tonto’ smokin’, a lady appeared from the house with two hotdogs wrapped in plastic paper and said that they were for me, if I wanted them. I sure was hungry, but I was damned well dirty, looked like shit and wanted to get down the road, so I took them, thanked her and put them both in a saddle bag for later.
It’s now ‘later’, about ‘dark-thirty’, and I am just this side of Tulsa and I’m tired as hell! I pull into a pretty good sized truck stop and pull up to the repair shop and asked the first man I met if I could park my bike near the back door under the lights while I get something to eat. Again, the blood causes some hesitation as it appears that he takes a better look than the kid does and says it might need to be stitched. I have no clue where a doctor is and besides I am damn tired and not much money, so I just ask where I could get a clean T-shirt, and I will be fine. This old man was the night manager for the truck repair shop and had just reported for the graveyard shift. He was an older, grey haired man, rather thin and walked with a slight limp, and he just shrugged his shoulders and he didn’t argue with me, saying that if I wanted, I could take a shower in the driver’s lounge and he would go the store in the restaurant and get me a t-shirt. Man, now were talkin’.
He showed me to the drivers lounge, pointed to the showers and said to meet him in the garage when I was done showering. Man, that was one fine, refreshing shower, I had soaped and washed and rinsed my underwear and my socks, then wrung them out and stuck one end of them into each of a back pocket in my tattered blue jeans. I must have looked a sight, walking out into the truck repair shop in dirty blue jeans, tattered and untied tennis shoes, no shirt and a wrinkled St.Louis Cardinal baseball cap, but as I approached, the old man just smiled and reached under the counter and pulled out a light grey T-shirt that said “Old Truckers Never Die, They Just get a New Peter-Built”. He said that it had a small tear under one arm and they could not sell it at the counter, so he said it was free. Cool! I am getting pretty good at cost effective clothing.
It was cooling down some, so I quickly put it on the T-shirt, thanked the man and headed towards the bike to lay out my underwear and socks. Noticing my intentions, I assume, he hollered out to me that they would dry better inside, and that I should move the bike inside the shop and pointed to a long rack of tires along one wall. This quiet hunk was damn heavy and hard to push, but I got it to one side of the rack and next to the tire changing machine and well away from the air compressor
As soon as I put the kickstand down, I remembered the two hotdogs. I opened one saddle bag and put on my sweatshirt, then opened the other and retrieved the two dogs. The mustard and ketchup had soaked the buns, but they were inviting non the less. As I was unwrapping the first one the old man came by and said if your in fact going to eat those things, you might want to heat them first, and taking them from my hand, he walked a few yards and opening the hood of a big truck, reached in and sat both of them on the manifold between the block and the turbocharger housing. “turn ‘em in one minute, eat ‘em in two’ was all he said and went back to the office.
Hard to believe that two 4 hour old hot dogs in soggy buns, heated on a truck motor would be tasty, but damn, these were great. I ate them slowly and smiled at the thought of what this afternoon had provided for me to ponder. It was the first time I remember thinking to myself this might make a funny story one day, but just not THIS day!
When I was finished eating the hot dogs, I went to thank the old man for the food warming advice and we started talking about what I was doing this far from home, and when we got to talking about the donuts, he said ‘hell, I like donuts too, but I guess I’d just go over to the restaurant for mine’. He laughed out loud, and said he’d better get back to work and that his name was Ernie and that if I was ever back this way again, stop and say hello. As he was walking away, he stopped and asked where I was going to bunk for the night. I’m sure he could that I was tired, and before I could answer, he just pointed again, with one finger of an old wrinkled and grease stained hand, in the direction of an old couch in the back of the truckers lounge, and said that if I wanted to, I could bunk there and that he would keep an eye on me and the bike until sun-up. I was asleep within two minutes. It was the first that I can recall being put to sleep to the sound of an idling diesel motor.
As pleasing as I found the sound of a diesel truck running when I was tired, I was both startled and then confused when ol’ Ernie kicked the couch and I awoke to that same dull, throaty drone of several more distant trucks. I had seldom, if ever heard that sound first thing in the morning.
It was just after 7:00 AM, and Ernie had already clocked out and had gone over to the restaurant and bought me three glazed donuts and had them in his hand along with a cup of coffee, and stood there with them right in front of me. Man, was I ever ready for this! He said have a good day there, guy, turned and headed to his car, and was gone. I spent less than five minute devouring this breakfast, gathered my bearings, and headed over to Ol’ Tonto and gathered up my underwear and socks that I had spread over the seat and saddle bags to dry overnight. Short gander the boys room and I was ready to roll.
I got the bike started and headed directly to the gas pumps, and was appreciating the third straight day of relatively warm weather as the fuel was finding its way into the tank. I checked the oil and gave it the old ‘look-see’ to make sure the chain was till OK and nothing else was about to fall of or break. I looked down and admired my new T-shirt as I remounted and restarted this old tin Indian, and feeling good about my fresh underwear and socks, I headed back out on the interstate and was looking forward to once again seeing my Aunt Stella and Uncle Carlos. Just recalling their names brought back memories of their donut shop and the pervasive odor of warm donuts accompanied by the sweet scent of liquid sugar about to be applied to the universal favorite, the glazed donut.
It was another day in paradise! I was closing in on the target of this trip and I was eagerly awaiting the reunion with my not to distant relatives, and my mind continued to wander to the memories of the donut shop interior and the accompanying aroma. Interstate 44 was still nice, new and flat and the ride was quite pleasant as I was gaining more confidence in my riding abilities and my relationship with ‘Ol Tonto had become quite amiable. Leaving the Interstate just outside Oklahoma City, ‘we’ found ‘our’ way to Rt.277 and were on our way to Wichita Falls, Texas. One last stop for gas in Chickasha, and we took a direct bead on the Texas border. Knowing that I was closing in on the pivot point of this journey, I stepped up the pace a little bit and the wind was beginning to buffet the goggles, aggravating the cut on my ear, but I could not help myself. I was about to do what I had set out to do and the feeling of accomplishment was beginning to swell inside.
I had no longer gotten more than a mile inside the Texas border when the pleasant northeast breeze turned decidedly warmer with increased speed. The wind in Texas surely had a mind of its own, and I slowed somewhat to accommodate the change in ambiance, while looking for road signs that might indicate how long it would be until I reached the aroma of my mind. I took the advent of the heated wind as a sign that I should be more careful as I approached my goal, and not to change velocity relative to distance. Keep a steady pace!
Soon after completing that round of cerebral gymnastics, I found myself approaching Wichita Falls and started looking for someone to ask directions from, and settled on another truck stop long the main drag. The very first guy I asked was very familiar with the Bumper Donut Shop, and said that he stopped there several days a week on his way to work. ‘Just go about 2 miles until you see Iowa Park Road, turn right and go two blocks, it’s on the right’ I thanked him, did as he directed and pulled into Uncle Carlos’ store just before lunch.
Hot Damn! Here I am! My ass was sore and more tender than I remembered, so I was walking a little bit tenderly, there was a small amount of blood on the left side of my ‘trucker’ T-shirt, I still had on my goggles, torn blue jeans and my hair was windblown straight backwards, and as I entered the store I waved one of my gloved hands and said: ‘where is my Uncle?’ Apparently, the long ride had left me slightly hard of hearing, so maybe the loudness of my voice along with my appearance may have been what startled a few of the customers as some of them suddenly shuffled their chairs backwards and my Aunt Stella ran to the kitchen.
Uncle Carlos, a short, stocky man with a huge moustache, was reaching for a broom before he recognized me, but got a huge smile on his face as he headed in my direction, waiving Aunt Stella out from behind a counter. I had not called ahead and they were not expecting me, so it is not surprising that I may have startled them some what. The first words out of their mouths were ‘what in the hell are you doing out here?’
I simply said to them that I got hungry for donuts and took this old motorcycle out for a test drive, and here I am. They wanted to hear all about the trip and of course offered me the run of the store in deciding what donuts I was going to be enjoying. I hadn’t eaten much of any good food on the road and they offered some ‘burgers’, fried ‘taters and green beans, so I jumped at the opportunity to have real warm food, and went behind the wall divider into what was serving as a kitchen for them, washed my hands and face and sat at a stool that was sitting near what they were using as a table. It actually looked like an old beer joint bar.
They both took turns waiting on customers, sorting and stacking donuts at the display racks and they were intermittently asking how long I intended to stay, and what I would like to do while I was in town, and how were my folks doing. I have never been some one that likes to sit in one place and admire the surroundings, but I do seem to have a particular penchant to penetrate the surroundings and let the surroundings leave a mark on me where ever it touched me in whatever fashion.
So, it did not seem strange to me when I said that I was not going to stay at all, but I was just going to get started back towards school, because it was my friend’s motorcycle and I was just working on it for him. They looked at each other and were trying to decide what type of a comment to make, when I mentioned that I was a little short of money and could I take some donuts back with me to eat and share with my friends. They were further puzzled by my answer, but of course they obliged, and began to fill bags full of donuts in a manner that would fit into the saddle bags that were on either side of the rear fender of ‘Ol Tonto. Would you believe it, we got in twelve dozen. Assorted! We got more in the right saddle bag than the left because they were mostly glazed and they tend to ‘form’ more closely.
We said our good byes , I mounted up and no sooner had I hit the road North on my way to Oklahoma City, when I once again felt the increasing warmth of the Texas Wind, but this time it was at my back, and maneuvering and shifting in such a way as if to say: ’nice to see you, hope you had a good time, let me help you out of here’!
I was content with a full gas tank and a full belly and anxious to get to myself back into the familiar surroundings of my home environment, and as my mind wandered and pondered the local surroundings, I was mentally rewinding the asphalt ribbon I had just unrolled, anticipating a less arduous return, and already thinking about what I was going to do the rest of the time off before school started.
One more tank of gas, a burger and coke squeezed from a shrinking billfold, donuts for dessert and I was headed towards Tulsa once more and got to thinking if I could get up with ol’ Ernie one more time, I might be able to swap some of my cache of fried cakes for another night on his old, but comfortable, couch in the back of the drivers lounge. Sure enough, not long after I was chasing the long shadow, darkness provided a backdrop for the lights of the familiar truck stop, and I spotted ol’ Ernie walking across the parking lot from the truckers store to his domain of oil pits large tires and loud air compressor.
He not only remembered me, but seemed glad to see me, and expressed amusement to see me back his way so soon, and laughingly asked if I had any donuts. I replied: “is a pig’s ass pork?”, and I could see his mouth begin to water in anticipation, and having shut the bike off, I rolled it back onto it’s stand and reached back and opened the saddle bag closest to me, opened it up and flipped the lid back over the rear fender and ol’ Ernies eyes about bulged out of his head. He turned and looked around as we had just discovered a bag of cash and he was making sure no one else saw us and wanted some. He was very funny! As I opened the top bag and showed it to him, he apparently felt as ease with me enough to reach in with first one hand and then the other and get two donuts in each hand. I told him to put them back in because I was going to give him two bags full if he would let me sleep on the couch again
“It’s a deal” he said. Then he said to take your green friend there, and park it back in the same place as you did the night before, take a shower and hit the rack whenever you feel like it. Man, that was easier than I thought. I may have underestimated the power of a fresh donut! I felt like I was in friendly surroundings as the memories were fresh and Ernie’s easy ways made me feel like we had known each other a long time rather than just 24 hours.
I had asked ol’ Ernie to wake me up before he clocked out in the morning, and when he did he mentioned that he had seen me spread my underwear and socks on the bike last night, but he had a wry smile on his face when he told me that he had seen one of the large field cats run off with one and he couldn’t get hold of it before it had scampered off with it and disappeared with it into the field out back. What a dumb ass cat I thought! We both knew it didn’t fit him/her and I’m quite sure that it stunk as well. Ernie said they had some socks in the truck store, but I had very little cash left and I was too embarrassed to tell Ernie, so I told him I could get home with one sock.
Fifteen hours, four tanks of gas and 600 miles later I was on the home side of Lexington, Kentucky, but low on gas and lower on cash. I was getting in a spot here and not sure quite what to do about it. I was about 100 miles from home, about one tank of gas but all I had was fifteen cents. I made two embarrassing attempts to try and make an exchange of donuts for gasoline, but apparently folks in this part of the country at midnight, did not share my passion for circular pastries. I was getting nervous, pissed and concerned at this point, sitting on the curb of a gas station in very dirty, torn jeans, torn T-shirt, aviator goggle on my head, torn tennis shoes and one sock looking for some way to get $2, and all I had was donuts, so I opened up another sack and started in the last of the glazed.
I reckon I had hidden about four of them when a pair of old school ‘bikers’ rolled in and stopped at the gas pump. They expressed interest in my ride and asked where I was headed. I told them Wilmington, Ohio and they said it will be an OK trip as they had just come from Cincinnati and the weather was still warm and there was little wind. I said something to the effect that I was more concerned about gas than weather, and it finally became apparent to them that I did not have enough money to get home, and they immediately said ‘no problem” and they each gave me a dollar. I told them that I sure appreciated it, but how would I repay it. ‘Rules of the road’ they said. If one biker needs help, other offer, ‘no big deal’.
Just being polite I assumed, one of them asked where I got the donut out here in the country? I said you won’t believe but I got three dozen left right here in the right saddle bag, and they were only made yesterday afternoon. ‘lets call it even’ they said and I gave them all three of the remaining bags. They were happy as hell and I was bout to be headed home.
I rolled into Johnny garage about 2:30 in the morning, rearranged the tools and swept the shop and went back to my dorm room for some serious sleep. Two days later, I went by the shop as I had seen their car in the driveway, and wanted to make sure he was happy with the work I had done on his bike.
He smiled when he answered the door and his wife waved to me as she passed us, headed into town I suppose. I asked what he thought about the repair work and he said that he had tried to start it yesterday and it had started right up like it did before he disassembled it. He said he didn’t remember thatthe license plate was on the bike and it had a new small puddle of oil under the frame, but that he was real happy with the work I had done and I could keep any of the money that he had given me before he left. He then said that it was real funny, but as he had bent over to look at the small puddle of oil, a mouse had scurried out of one of the saddle bags and scared the shit out of him, and when he looked in the bag he found an old donut smashed around his screwdriver, and for the life of him he could not figure out how that had gotten there.
“Beats the hell out of me” I said!