It has been my privilege to know Country since the summer of 1990 (24 years) but until he wrote his books – a trilogy of ‘Evolution of an Outlaw Biker’. I didn’t come close to knowing all the facets of talent this interesting character could peal back. He wrote his three books in a way not many people could equal.
Country starts Volume 1 telling us a little of his childhood but mostly, starts explaining how somebody can morph into an outlaw biker. He has experienced 8 or 10 lifetimes worth of unusual hair raising episodes that would have killed many other men.
You can’t tell me, that God didn’t have a hand in preserving his life. You see, Country had a righteous Granny that had a special relationship with God . . . what do you think?
Sometime during watching the meteor showers, my day of riding in the intense heat pulled me into deep, restful sleep.
The next day, the strong heat burned off the cold desert night and woke me. The first thing I saw opening my eyes was a vulture slowly circling me, hoping for his next meal. While all my attention was on the vulture, something next to my hand moved on the sand.
“Snake!!” I thought. Sitting up fast with my heart racing my fingers were still tingling from the sudden burst of adrenalin, I then realized it was nothing but a horned toad. The desert was full of them back when I was a child.
They are a rare sight these days but back then, being poor kids with few toys, during my first trip to California, we played with many of them, watching them hiss and changing colors when aggravated. I know SPCA would raise hell now, but like I said we were hurting for entertainment.
That morning, with the sun blindingly bright, I sat there for a while surveying the panorama. There was nothing to hurry me, no problems, my whole life ahead of me; I was never to know peace like that again.
My pan’s clicking (Harley Davidson Panhead engine) as the sun heated up her metal, was her way of saying, “Tsk-tsk; laying around with all this adventure ahead of us, what’s a Harley to do?"
I gave her a drink of 70 weight oil which turned to the weight of water during the hot day, threw my belongings on her rear and kick started her up.
Rapping her pipes a couple times to announce to the desert we were taking over, I headed her toward the lonely black ribbon of blacktop disappearing in both directions as far as the eye see. One car had gone by during all this time.
“My!” I thought, while my lungs enjoyed a big gulp of the freshest air I could imagine. “C’mon Darlin’.” I said to the sweet iron horse I straddled. I patted her on the tank as we peeled back onto Route 66 to continue our journey.
Right after crossing the Arizona line, I stopped on top of a butte to give my butt and Darlin' a rest. Again as far as the eye could see I spotted a bike coming our way. After what seemed forever, it stopped a couple of yards away.
Two people got off and would you believe it - they were both wearing Helmets!! Nobody wore helmets then. Those days were many years in the future and if I had been told what was coming I wouldn’t have believed you.
Taking off their helmets I saw a man and women with white hair. I was mesmerized, and after finding out they were both 62, even more so.
Imagine two people that age, taking a trip on a motorcycle. I laugh now, having passed the age of seventy and I plan on doing a lot of that, but the ignorance of youth puts anyone over the age of 40 as ‘life over’.
I was no exception. After we shared our trip stories and parted company, I was cruising along listening to "Sweet Darlin's" pipes.
We bikers tend to name our bikes, I guess it's because we depend on them and after a while they take on a persona, I even catch myself talking to mine. While Darlin's melody opened the theater of my mind and I drifted into the past again.
I remembered when we took that trip to California in 1952 to pick cotton, my mother was taking her turn driving that old 1949 Pontiac pulling the 20 ft. trailer.
It got dark, everyone was asleep. We kids were awakened by my mother saying, “Ray! Ray! Wake up! I turned off the road to find a place to sleep and I wound up on this mountain and I can’t turn around, it's too narrow”. She said with a breathless panic in her voice. “I've jackknifed the trailer and am afraid to move".
Ray, trying to shake off his groggy doze said, "DAMMIT Maudie Lee!"
He bailed out of the car into the pitch dark and went straight down. The car was next to a canyon and Ray had jumped into it. He had, by reflex grabbed the door handle and floor board when his feet didn’t connect with terra firma. I don’t know how deep it was but I could hear him kicking rocks loose and didn’t hear them hit bottom. He finally crawled back inside with his eyes wide as saucers and sweat drippin’ down his face.
He sat there a short moment to settle his nerves. He was very subdued, all anger instantly gone. I guess he was just proud to be among the living.
OK, I admit . . . I laughed.