It happened a couple of times every year. The family vacation to Colorado or Nebraska was a good trip and it was always nice to get out of the small town and hit the road. Me being the youngest of three kids, my place was sitting between my brother Danny and sister Jan in the back seat. I don’t need to say anything else to all of you “youngest”, but it was the least comfortable place to be because there was no window and nothing to lean against that didn’t punch you. At times, before I started growing like a weed, I would actually lay on the rear deck in the back window. I can hear it now, “How could they allow their child to be in a car unrestrained and in harm’s way”? It was the late 60’s and early 70’s so what do you expect! Most people didn’t think about that and admit it, you’ve been there.
As my sister grew up and left the house there became more room in the back seat which was good because I was growing as well. Then it became my turn to sit by the window. We didn’t have cell phones, i-pads or dvd players. The only thing we had was an 8-track player in the car with Gordon Lightfoots’ Greatest Hits playing, and our imaginations. So for many hours driving across Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado I used my imagination to keep me occupied. Mostly pretending I was on Roger DeCoster’s motocross bike just inside the fence line along the highway. Jumping the fences as they came up was easy as someone had conveniently placed a mound of dirt there for me to get over it. If the path got to be impossible I would move to the ditch and continue. After all it was MY imagination! Speed wasn’t important, I could keep up with the car no matter what. I was that good.
When my brother finally moved out I had the back seat to myself. It’s funny how lonely it can be even when you didn’t like the cramped conditions to begin with. So as the road trip began, it was my mother and father, me and Gordon Lightfoot. The Fury III was a large car and the vinyl seats were comfortable. For those of you that don’t know, vinyl is a material that was designed to adhere skin to car seats. Lucky for me I was a self conscious preteen at the time and always wore jeans.
I found that my imagination has remained with me. I still look at the terrain along the road and the tree lined roads with fences. The ups and downs and the deepness of the ditch. I don’t imagine myself riding along the car as every great motocrosser has to retire sometime, but I have to admit that I have watched my shadow rolling along beside me when riding my motorcycle. Wow, I look good! And you would think I would know every word to every song Gordon Lightfoot sang. And maybe I do. Some things you just can’t forget.
1974 Harley-Davidson 90
Growing up in a small town is who I am. I know every street, store front, and house around. We used to be a self sufficient community with everything from two grocery stores and two gas stations, and a cafe and clothing store to a community with limited conveniences. But still a great place none the less. At 13 years old and no drivers license it was ok to ride around town on my Harley-Davidson 90. I would ride to the Vicker’s gas station on Main street to get 50 cents worth of gas, a Snickers bar and a Mountain Dew. Herb Funk would require a 3 cent deposit on the bottle if we took it so I would eat my candy bar and drink the Mountain Dew there while hanging out with the regulars. It’s a wonder I didn’t pick up smoking cigars as a few of the old men did, but it was always fun to watch Herb fix a flat or go out to pump your gas. Looking back I have often wondered what he thought of us young guys on our bikes hanging out. As young men we never thought from that perspective. We were more consumed with the moment.
But one advantage to a small town is a local police officer that wasn’t to concerned about us riding around on the streets. And apparently neither were my parents. Frank was the local cop and he was also the city maintenance man so a lot of times he wouldn’t go out on patrol until the evening hours. Long after I had to be home! Both Herb and Frank were good guys. They are like so many people in White City that had a lasting affect either on the community or me personally.
Exploring the streets and country back roads for hours on end was great for a kid. Probably not something parents would allow now but it was the early 70’s and I guess that made it ok. Wearing the appropriate stars and stripes helmet, bell bottoms and a “what, me worry?” t-shirt and I was set. So many times we would ride out behind the grain elevator to what we called the Katy trails where the Katy train tracks used to be. It was a small area but it was all we had. You would think growing up here I would know everything about everything but it took me twenty years to find out who actually owned the property. One more person that really had an impact on us as young riders remained anonymous for most of my formative years. For that I thank him. He allowed us to ride there any time and never once said a word. Again, we didn’t think about that then, we were too caught up in the moment of being the future of our sport!
This was also a time when the summer days lasted forever. The sun hovered above us and time stood still. We went home dirty and tired, strung out on Snickers and Mountain Dew. Blisters on our hands, bell bottoms torn from getting caught on the chain and sprocket and out of gas. Good times.
I still live in this town. Some of the people that have always been “White City” have passed. Herb, Frank, Perry Moore who owned the grocery store and Earl Casterline, just to name a few, are missed. I wish I could tell them now that I’m an adult how much I appreciate them for making this town a great place to grow up. Now that I’m not so much in the moment of being a teenager, I would like to know what they thought of us. If I was a betting man they were thinking “those crazy kids and their damn motorcycles!”.