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Story ID:3642
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Butte Mt. USA
Person:Me 'n Pops
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Hail To The Chief
by Kathe Campbell

Funny how a smoldering desire sticks in the back of one's mind over the years. A yearning that raised the very hackles on Grandpa Art's back over the very mention, but nonetheless, a want so deep as to crowd out all sensibility.

She lit up Ken's eyes like a Fourth of July rocket, the sorry looking used and slightly abused 1937 model Indian Chief motorcycle. He eyed the relic in the garage upon returning home from WWII and had fallen head over heels. Someone had given his treasure up to pay the rent in one of grandpa's buildings. Grandpa Art was so adamant about the kind of people who rode motorcycles, he set down a firm commandment that nobody in his family dared disobey. But despite his disapproval, his wandering eye thoroughly savored the billboards with scantily clothed girls posing on the cussed noisy things.

"Besides, son," he brusquely admonished, "you would have the thing torn down and parts scattered everywhere like that jalopy you keep rebuilding."

A time came in the early fifties when Ken graduated from college, we were wed, and the Indian Motorcycle Company closed it's doors forever, in that order. The big Indians would become valuable, a good argument for hanging onto the worn out old Chief. Grandpa was now spending his days overseeing his ranch operations up north, leaving Ken in charge of the family business. My incurable optimist lusted after the Chief's rusty old plugs, bared brakes, leaky transmission, and one crooked wheel. To his way of thinking, it was sinful not caring for the sick and disabled, and he was hard put keeping his hands off her. It was then I decided that if my darlin' ever looked at me the way he ogled that faded blue Indian, I'd be eternal putty in his hands.

That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with motorcycles of every description known to man as our burgeoning family hit the highways and by-ways. Our garage resembled a showroom of every breed, color, and size as six trail bikes sat in their big hauler. Ken carefully taught our eager youngsters and neighbor kids to ride up and down our gully and in our Montana mountains. We set out on deserted logging roads, snuffling the scent of pine and fir, always with lunch, a gold pan, and a line and a pole bungeed along side. When the fishing petered out in one place, we moved on until we caught our limit, sometimes packing enough gear for overnighters, devouring every mother nature moment.

All too soon our brood was off to college or married and we were left floundering in a world of bikes. For the grandkids someday, Ken avowed, although I knew deep down that their princely presence represented his youthful daydreams. A virtual wealth of machinery to wrench on and tinker with, obsessed with the smell of ether and exhaust, and the rev of a hot engine. And as if by design, our grandchildren rode the same bikes their parents had nearly worn out.

"Common, hon, we're going over to look at the new bikes this afternoon," Ken announced with another fanciful gleam in his eyes. It was as if the garage was summoning a new congregation of wheels, tires, fenders, seats, and engines. I shuddered to think what could possibly be next until I found myself riding down our street on a brand new cherry red Gold Wing GL1000. Now that's an awfully big road bike for this little 5'3" gal who said a wee prayer at every stop sign in hopes of never dumping her over. But I was a good rider and I never let either of them down, not even once . . . well, maybe once--real easy.

After the harried mowing of lawn and Saturday morning chores, we fled town and filled our senses atop our hushed dynamos of power. Every blade of native grass, farmer's crops, wildlife, pungent sage, manure, and all the rivers coursed flagrant scents. Rocky Mountain warblers trilled and the game birds struck up their signature chords, boasting their nested hatches at our every stop. It's said that if you wait 15 minutes, the weather will change in Montana, and nobody notices it like a biker.

Those in the know mooned covetously, pegging a thousand questions about the Chief's glorious rebirth wherever our travels took us. We relished our summers aboard our bikes like two kids running away from home to discover all manner of the diverse and wondrous. We even took a weekend trip up north to breeze in on our beloved old cowboy, Grandpa Art, on his cattle spread. Emerging from his cabin, he shook his head and smiled while running gnarly fingers through his beard, still thoroughly offended by our brand of horsepower.

"Well, Kenneth, I guess I never realized how important it was for you to have a bike. Have you taken Kathe's apart yet to see what makes it run?"