Happy new year!
I recently went to an indoor swap meet where a couple I knew was having difficulty controlling their pre-adolescent child. He was obviously having a fit because there wasn’t anything that he could stay interested in for more than a minute. The kid was screaming at the top of his lungs and the mom and dad didn’t know WHAT to do. I had a few ideas, but figured the best thing was to stay out of it for the sake of my own freedom. I then thought how glad I was that my kids never really freaked out in public. The closest thing either of my two boys did publicly was the time Jason went on strike, and that wasn’t exactly publicly. I gotta smile as I remember how it happened..........................................
It too was a swap meet, held about twenty years ago in a huge gymnasium of some kind in Canton, Ohio. I was in the middle of rebuilding my old Shovelhead. I had bought it at an auction for $500. It had been wrecked, and the previous owner bought it from the insurance company after it was totaled. He put it in his garage to rebuild it and his garage burned down, so it was actually totaled out twice. For more than a few years I obviously needed LOTSA parts, even though I had her running and on the road a few months after I got my hands on her. But, for a LONG time I was constantly looking for this and that to replace what was bent, broken or burnt.
I took my two boys Ben and Jason who were about 5 and 8 years old respectively. They both [like most kids do] really enjoyed anything that had ANYTHING to do with motorcycles, so imagine my surprise when we pulled into the parking lot and the oldest, Jason, asked disgustedly,
“Is this gonna be another one of those motorcycle things again?”
“It’s a swap meet. I told you guys about it last week. Why? What’s the problem?”
“I thought it would be nice to do something else for a change. Like, go to an amusement park or something.”
“We went bowling last week.”
“Yeah, but it was an ABATE bowling tournament.”
“So it seems that just about everything we do has something to do with bikes or bikers!”
“Well, that’s who we are. I thought ya liked bikes and stuff. Ben doesn’t seem to be having any problem with it.”
“He’s not gonna say anything ‘cause he’s just a kid.”
“And what are you?”
“I’m an older kid.”
“You’re what, eight?”
“Yeah, but he’s only five.”
“Oh, I see. OK. Tell ya what….next week maybe we’ll do something that YOU guys pick out. Ok?”
“We wanna do something else TODAY!”
“But we’re already HERE Jason. What do YOU wanna do Ben?”
“I wanna go to the bathroom!”
“Ok. We’ll go inside so’s Ben can use the can. We’ll make it short and just check everything out, then maybe we’ll do something else.”
At this point Jason, for one of the few times in his life, became obstinate and refused to get out of the car.
“I’m staying here!”
“Ok. You do that! Me and Ben are going inside. Here’s five bucks for the gate if you decide to come in and join us. You just sit here with the doors locked and don’t let ANYONE in for ANY reason. Just remember the discussions we’ve had about the “Bad People”. And if ya DON’T come in, I expect to see you here when we get back or yer butt is gonna get blistered!!”
Then me and Ben went inside.
Now, remember Jason WAS very mature for an eight year old, and he was responsible enough so that I wasn’t too worried about his safety. AND I wanted to teach him a valuable lesson: That the world didn’t revolve around his young ass.
Once inside Ben and me had a good time checking out the vendors and I ran into a few people I knew. I picked up a sweet painted, NOT chromed [most of ‘em have been chromed] cat’s eye dash and backing plate for the Shovel. Ben found a few doo dads, like a sling shot and a poster by Dave Mann for his room.
I was starting to think maybe we should get on out to the car where Jason was stewing, when all of a sudden there he stood with a scowl on his face and his arms crossed on his chest.
“Jason! Li’l buddy!! How the Hell ya doin’? I bet it was boring sitting out in the car all alone, huh?”
“Quit bein’ a smart ass Dad.”
Then he turned to Ben,
“Whatcha get outta the old man this time?”
When I saw the sad look of envy on his face and without even asking him if he wanted one, we returned to the vendor who sold us the sling shot and got him one too, AND a different poster for HIS room.
To be honest I was sorta proud about the WAY that he stood up for his rights that day without throwing an outright fit about it. Nobody likes being told what he can do or where he can or cannot go. It took a few forced rehabs to remind ME of that.
That was the only time either of them ever had any kind of a problem with the lifestyle I’ve chosen. I remember picking both of them up [separately of course] after ball games or whatever on the bike, and both of them obviously being proud of their “Biker Dad” and being able to climb on the back of a scoot instead of getting in the back of their folk’s station wagons like all the other kids. Over the years when it was practical [because one of them might have other plans] we’d spend hours riding on country roads. I’d point out motorcycle riding safety tips to them and long before they were old enough to pilot a bike, they were both well versed in what to do and what not to do. By the time they were 16, both of them could ride the Shovel around the yard by themselves and neither one of them ever damaged the bike [or themselves], even though they did on separate occasions lay her down. Hell, I even made sure they could stand her back up by themselves!
Now, over twenty years later, Jason has his own home and family, is an Air Force Tech Sergeant in Louisiana studying to be an officer. He now owns that very same Shovelhead, has been riding her for the past few years and is in the process of rebuilding her from the ground up pretty much by himself. He’s pulled the motor, replaced the stator, powder coated the frame, redid the heads, tore the transmission apart and is in the process of installing a Springer front end on her. Even when we disagree on things like flashy [spelled “EXPENSIVE”] wheels, I’m still proud as Hell. His plan is to pass ‘er on down to HIS son when he’s old enough and Jason’s financial agenda allows him to comfortably buy a new bike [with flashy wheels].
Ben’s an Air Force Staff Sergeant in Dayton, has completed a tour in Iraq, did a year in Korea and had a few other overseas duties. Primarily for these reasons he hasn’t decided to get a bike yet, though he’s slated to own my Road King someday.
Those of us that have been riding for a while know that no matter how careful you are, riding a bike is dangerous. And any parent that gives a damn is aware that when, and if, their kid starts riding, they [the parent] are NEVER gonna stop worrying about them. I know I still do. Idiot car drivers, road conditions, foul weather, tire blow outs and general mechanical failure can drop you in less than an instant even if the rider is the safest, most experienced on Earth.
In 2008 let’s pay more attention to, and do what we can to keep, the “Motorcycle Ohio” program viable. There’s been some talk of eliminating it in recent years. This very important program teaches motorcycle safety and awareness to not only the riders [new or experienced], but encourages EVERYONE to be aware of motorcycle safety. I know as long as my boys, my wife, myself and my friends are riding [which I hope will be for a long, long time], I’ll take this issue very personally. Obviously you should too. If ya check into it you’ll find that they’re always looking for experienced, qualified instructors. They’ll even qualify ya. AND it’s a paying gig! Imagine that! Getting PAID to be a biker! What a country we live in!! .
Y’all have a safe and happy year,
PS Don’t know if we can make the state seminar this year, but if YOU can make it, you should go. Not only is it the best way for all of us to learn how to make this “ABATE thing” function properly, it can be a blast!