My Cowboy and Motorcycle connections:
This all started in Tucson, AZ when I was 5 years old with what I call my ‘cowboy heritage’.
I didn’t know then my connection with ‘Uncle Wyatt’, but did things like going to Tombstone for the re-enactment and having a photo taken of my brother and me at Boot Hill. It was many years later I found out how I was related, by marriage, to good ol’ Wyatt Earp. All very distant, but turned out to be great fun.
My first recollection of a motorcycle is a vivid, though partial memory from those days. I have no idea what bike, only being told to avoid the hot pipes. Didn’t even ride the thing, just remember being very close to it. But I was told then by whoever the rider was, to stay away from the pipes or I’d get burned. Some memories can last forever. And the seeds of both cowboys and motorcycles were planted in me.
It was also back then that my brother receive two of what are now my favorite books, which I later acquired. “The Book of Cowboys” and “The Book of Indians” by Holling C. Holling. The art and instruction on all things cowboy has had a huge impact on me and stayed with me all my life.
For Christmas I received a toy cop on a motorcycle, something like the one at left, and loved it. Also started riding the porch railing with rope stirrups, pretending to be a cowboy. Seems I took a bit of Arizona back to DC with me.
Over the years following, I was always reading cowboy comics and even one with a flying motorcycle sort of vehicle.
Chevy Chase, Maryland, 1956
When I was 14, I happened to be watching the Wyatt Earp TV series with my grandmother, I only did this once, when she said “Oh, he was nothing like that.” It was then I finally made the connection to the visits by Ana and Edna Earp coming to see my Grandmother. They were her sisters who marries into the Earp family in Virginia, who originally came from Fairfax County. This is where Wyatt’s grandfather Walter Earp was born in 1787. So they were very familiar with these distant relatives and their real personalities. As remote as it all was, I suddenly realized I had a real connection with ‘Uncle Wyatt’. Please note that I believe Kurt Russell is the best Wyatt done yet.
After being pulled out of school in Switzerland for poor grades, my mother offered my physical labor to the husband of an Irish lady, Kathy, across the square from our flat who worked cleaning homes and such. I helped lay a flagstone patio and had my first real ride on a motor bike with Kathy’s husband. I don’t know what it was, but must have been about a 120 cc or larger to carry the two of us easily.
St. Albans, Vermont, 1962
While serving my 4 year Air Force tour in Vermont, it happens that the maniac who played lead guitar for our little off-base rock band, for which I played drums, had a 1957 Harley Sportster, similar to the one at right. Here is where the motorcycle fever really caught hold. Lead guitar player Bob Graeme took me with him a lot on the bike since I was bigger and he liked having me kick start the thing. See, drummers do have their uses after all. I was harder to toss over the handlebars. And that Harley kick start could do it too.
Chevy Chase, Maryland, 1967
While working for the C&P Telephone company as a house installer, I was without a vehicle for getting to work and walked the nearby railroad tracks. With little funds, and large exasperation, I managed to buy a Honda Cub like this. It’s only a tiny 50 cc automatic ‘scooter’. But it was so much better than walking and I loved it.
Bethesda, Maryland, 1968
After upgrading my ride to a Honda CB160, I further made a re-connection with my cowboy ‘heritage’. My first wife had me taking horseback riding lessons. Those rides though the woods were a pure delight. And it kept the ‘heritage’ alive.
From the Honda I advanced up to a 650 cc BSA Lightning. This was only for a short time before family pressure forced me into a four wheel vehicle. But with those megaphone pipes, that BSA was the loudest bike I ever road.
to be continued…