I went to an annual indoor winter swap meet the other day and ran into an old riding buddy I haven’t seen in years. His road name is Tall Boy. His last name is actually Talbot and he is sorta tall. Though I usually don’t use my friends’ real names, he said he wouldn’t mind if I did for this month’s column. As we sat having a beer we began to reminisce about an incident that happened in the mid 1980’s involving a 1943 WLA Flathead 45 chopper he was building at the time. Although Tall Boy loved and respected antique bikes, someone had already chopped and raked the frame, so he felt it wasn’t sinful to complete the job. In fact he was way into it.
Tall Boy had spent months scrounging parts to finish building this bike from swap meets and friends. The only thing he really needed to get the scoot rolling was a transmission, and he found that tranny in a wooden box in the barn of an uncle who was also into old bikes. The uncle had died, and when his aunt got hold of him a few months later, she told him he could have the box if he wanted it, only knowing it contained some motorcycle parts. Now, Tall Boy knew what the hell a transmission for a Flathead 45 looked like, so he didn’t think anything but, “OH YES!” when he found it in the box buried under a pile of tractor parts in the barn, and toted it home with him.
I dropped by to see him a few days later while he finished the build in his garage. He had the tranny mounted, was charging the battery and sipping on a hot cup of coffee in his kitchen when I entered.....
“Hey Tall Boy! What’s happenin’?”
“Hi Bum. Just waiting on the battery charging. I got the chop ready to start.”
“Cool! Let’s go fire this bad puppy up!”
I followed him into his garage and we saw that the battery was ready, so we moved stuff outta the way and poured some gas in the tank. The bike was sitting pointed toward the open garage door. Next, Tall Boy sprayed a little ether in the carb ‘cause the motor hadn’t been started for a while, and straddled the seat. After a few dry pumps to build compression, he turned on the key and gave it a coupla good kicks. Wouldn’t ya know that old bike fired right up! It sat rumbling for a minute or so while he fiddled with the hand advance for the distributor, then waited for it to even out before he nudged it into gear and let out the clutch. And then the damnedest thing I ever saw happened. The bike flew BACKWARD about 6 feet into the workbench!!
Tools and cans of this and that went flying all over the garage as Tall Boy struggled to keep the bike upright wondering what the hell was going on. My eyes popped open to the size of baseballs as I grabbed a can of paint in mid-air that had fallen from a shelf and jumped out of the way. Tall Boy managed to shut ‘er down and immediately started laughing his ass off as he smacked himself in the head screaming, “What a dumbass!! I should have remembered!” And then he climbed off.
Turns out, his uncle had a sidecar on his bike. Harley then made (and I’m sure still makes) optional transmissions with a reverse gear for bikes that would be used with side hacks, and also for three wheelers. His uncle had just such a tranny on HIS bike before he tore it down for whatever reason and left the tranny in a box with some other stuff. When Tall Boy shifted it into what he thought was first gear, he was actually popping it into reverse.
Now, 25 years later, he and I chuckled at the memory.
My wife Julie came back from wandering around and joined us as she sat down and showed me what she bought. Though THIS swap usually has lots and lots of good old fashioned used parts vendors, it also has plenty of clothes, leather and what not vendors too.
When she and I resumed our meandering, I noticed one vendor who had among other things an unusual oil cap that fit my Road King. It was shaped like a “T” making it an improvement over burning my damn fingers on the pipes whenever I check my oil. Also the stock caps can be difficult to get off sometimes and can actually come apart in your hand. The engineers at “The Motor Company” should have thought of this (among a few other things) when they designed it (I’m STILL pissed about their twin cam-chain screw up). I was checking it out when somebody smacked me in the back of my head and yelled,
“Bummer! How ya been?”
I turned to see my old friend Annie, whom I haven’t seen in years. I introduced her to Julie and we moved a bit away from the crowd to gab. The first thing I noticed was that her very long hair was cut short. It used to hang down below her butt!
“Annie! What happened to all your beautiful hair?”
“I got pissed at my husband and cut it off. I’m getting too old to have long hair anyway.”
Now, THAT is nonsense and I told her so. When I was a kid I had a friend who’s grandmother was from Yugoslavia or someplace. She was in her 70’s, and had hair so long it would almost touch the floor when she undid it and let it hang down. I’d like to meet the people who decide what is “correct” regarding things like fashion and hair styles just so I could smack their heads. Sometimes what is “proper” is just plain stupid! It’s one thing if you cut your hair because it’s too much hassle, and quite another thing if it’s just because it’s “proper” to do so.
Eventually Annie moved on, and Julie and I returned to the vendor with the oil cap, only to find it was sold to somebody else. AARRRGGG!!! Oh well. Now that I’ve seen it I guess I gotta find one someplace else, or make my own. He who hesitates etc.
Before I sign off this month, I’d like to take a moment to mention that no matter what your religious persuasions are, Christmas is traditionally a time to think of your fellow man….to get into the bond we have with the rest of humanity. There are so many folks out there who have no homes or have no family and friends. In addition to that, I’m sure there’s quite a few young American men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan who would love to trade places with you no matter what your situation is.
This year, especially in this time of economic stress, it might be good to just embrace the idea that Christmas is supposed to be about brotherhood and NOT about bucks. It’s NOT supposed to drive you and your family further into debt, making the January bills pile up into an overwhelming mountain just because it’s the thing to do.
In keeping with these thoughts I’ve decided that my family won’t be giving each other Christmas… “OUCH! OW!!! ..... DAMN THAT HURTS!!! OK, OK…I TAKE IT BACK…. JULIE STOP IT!!! How would YOU like it if I pinched and twisted YOUR…..”