Home by Midnight

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I know since the 1970’s things have changed, but really some things never change. I still live in the same small town, and I don’t really feel different different, so I suppose from the outside looking into my life some would think the opposite. Being a teenager in this mile-long town didn’t require much effort at all. I knew everyone and everyone knew me, so as in many small towns, the news of what you did usually beat you home. For the most part, everyone just got along and we grew up without much drama.

Saturday nights were predictable as you would either have a date or maybe you would just hang out with all your friends in front of the pool hall. Four blocks of Main Street kept the cars cruising back and forth and even though you passed Russ or Richard or any one of your classmates or friends out cruising, you would still give the “country wave.” There was usually a crowd in town on those Saturday nights, and after everyone had gone to the movies or out to eat we would always end up back on Main Street in White City going up and down that brick four blocks. You didn’t want to miss anything so you kept an eye on where everyone was and without the luxury of cell phones, we actually talked face to face with one another-or waved. Go figure…

Once in a while we would head out East to the edge of town and make a U-turn far from those pesky street lights of main. There was a stop sign there and as you turned around you could see my house. That house still stands and it brings me back to a time when life was moving at a slower pace-you know like cruising four blocks in my Dodge Charger and making endless U-turns, your girlfriend by your side listening to Chicago on the 8-track.

But it has to end sometime and she needs to be home at midnight, so using the old math problem “if one train leaves the station at 3:15 traveling at 60 m.p.h. and a second train leaves the station at 4:20…” we hurry back to her house to stay in good graces with her folks. Remember, we need to be able to go out next Saturday night and getting grounded puts a damper on things. We pull into the drive, shut the car off and kiss goodnight, just waiting for the porch light to flash on and off indicating the evening is over, or that my watch was wrong. Just one more minute and one more kiss. It was hard to let go of her to say goodnight even though I knew I would always see her again. I hated the drive home alone but it was always a good night. Sunday, with a little bit of luck, I could find myself at her place to share the afternoon.

Looking back at those days I realize this small town made me the guy I am today. I still do the “country wave” when a car passes by me, whether I know who it is or not, and Saturday nights aren’t quite as exciting as they used to be. I wish I still had that Charger and who knows where it might be. But whoever has it must know that every four blocks that Charger travels it wants to turn around. Some things never change.

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Motivation by Recreation

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It’s been a long time. Years. A certain period of time in your life when the weather was just winter or summer. Nothing in between, just one or the other. We were either going to school or we were out for the summer, and as kids that was all we knew. As we got older, we started to notice the difference in the seasons and that there was actually a clock on the wall. Life was going on around us and we were taking in the view beyond the grasshoppers, mud puddles and those really straight sticks you would find every so often that you couldn’t stand to leave behind. We were growing up.

All of a sudden life became a little bigger. Where you sat in the car became somewhat of a status symbol. Back seat – a friend, front seat passenger side – good friend, driver seat – popular with your friends, and sitting in the middle of the front seat – girlfriend. At this stage we were just trying to figure out what we were going to do next Saturday night, not what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. We looked forward to the weekends for reasons other than getting caught up on yard work. Motivation by recreation.

But we keep getting older and that clock on the wall keeps ticking. It’s funny, as kids we didn’t notice the clock on the wall and time literally stood still. Now the clock is such a big part of who we are and what we do, it demands our attention. Like it or not, it’s ticking. But as young adults we were starting to realize that there was something bigger coming down the pike.

I’ve ridden motorcycles for a lot of years and just like my friends who played sports in school, I found a sport that I connected with. Somewhere in the middle of White City Kansas as I was riding a wheelie through one of those mud puddles, it should have hit me then that this is what I could be doing for a living. At seventeen, having the 8-track stereo in your car and enough money for pizza and a movie with your girlfriend was the depth of my focus, not a career in the motorcycle business. Looking back there were a couple of things I would have focused on more and that could have directly changed my life.

The winding road of life can take you to places you never dreamed of. Sometimes it’s the long way around and sometimes it was the obvious route that our stubborn, teenage pride or angst ignored. Either way, the old saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” holds true. So here I am, fifty years old and working in the motorcycle business, motivated by one of the things I enjoy doing. The clock is still ticking and I’m still intrigued by a really straight stick when I see one, but I’ve learned to leave it on the ground. I’m riding and writing about motorcycles and my life of growing up in a small town in hopes that someone will find a little humor in it. It has taken a few years but it has finally dawned on me that life is as big as you make it. And I’m in the driver’s seat!

A Short Ride

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I’m not sure of the exact moment it happened, but it did. Maybe it happened over time as if the water was contaminated and I was drinking from the garden hose. But somewhere, sometime, that young kid from White City Kansas grew up. I look back at all the time wasted on the small stuff when I should have been looking around right there “in the moment” and taking it in. There is nothing wrong with just wasting the day watching the clouds overhead or throwing rocks in the creek, and come to think of it, we should probably do more of that as adults. What I really mean is there is no substitute for “awareness.”

But as a young boy life is happening all around you and all you can think about is magnifying glasses and BB guns. It was the simple things that kept me occupied. Time flies and the next thing you know, you look around at your life and realize it’s the simple things that make you happy. Family and friends are more important than ever and there are days that go by so fast you can’t keep up.

So what’s this all have to do with motorcycles? Glad you asked. We get so worked up about taking a ride or going somewhere that we forget that it can be a simple, short ride into the country to just get you back on track. It doesn’t have to be a “planned ride” or group ride to make you feel better. Sometimes we have this notion that a ride has to epic to count-it doesn’t. So ride today. Take a 10 mile ride to hear the motor humming and the sun on your face. Don’t forget to stop at that old bridge and throw a few rocks in the creek-it might even bring a smile to your face.

Snapshot

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The weirdest thing happened to me this morning. I was thinking about the start of the day and I started thinking of small bits of time throughout my life. Just things I remember about growing up. Like a birthday party in the yard or sitting on the back steps of the house with my BB gun. Or coming out of the walk-out basement door. You know the kind where you have to reach up and open it while you were walking up the stairs.  And the old metal shed on the other side of the driveway. It wasn’t used much and seemed real big at the time, but really it wasn’t. The feeling I had at night walking from the barn back to the house and having the urge to run. So many things that came to me like old Polaroid pictures that had to be shaken before you could see them. All are clear as a bell unlike the same old pictures from back then. Welcome to digital.

It’s funny how a mulberry tree in the back yard brings back some old memories or the fact that we raised bird dogs on the side of the barn that was located next to the same tree. English Setters and there were a lot of them. But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

Even some of the “snapshots” I could see in my mind were of real pictures that were taken. The first day of school with me and my brother Danny standing next to our bicycles in the front yard. Sun in our faces, and our best plaid shirts on. Thinking about this makes me realize that my mother was standing there taking it as we were squinting and looked less than happy. I actually remember the picture but not my mother taking it. Weird. It had to have been around 1974 and even though we weren’t happy about it, I’m sure mom was ecstatic! After all it was probably a long summer of the screen door getting a work out, sewing patches in jeans and hearing “I’m hungry!”

I know we all have experienced something specific from the back of our minds that takes us to that very moment. It could be anything and anyone we’ve come across that sparks this feeling. I’m not sure what mine was today, but there is something nice about it. It is usually all good and it never fails to make me laugh. I hope today is a day that I can look back on and smile. Hopefully the “picture” in my mind will still be clear as a bell!

Dad

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Dad,

Somethings are hard to say out loud. Like, “I broke the lawn mower” or “I put a dent in the truck”. As hard as it was to fess up to something, you showed me it was OK to. And I’m not sure if it was something I had to say as a boy because I think you already knew most of what was going on when it came to us kids. I know this now, as I’m a father myself. But some of the harder things to say back then have become so much easier to say now that I have grown to really appreciate who you are as a man in my life.

I want you to know that I couldn’t have had a better childhood. You gave me so many things a young boy needs to grow into the man I want to be, without making it difficult. It was easy to be your youngest son and there were so many times that I was amazed at what you could do. Maybe you knew I was watching, maybe you didn’t but I loved seeing what you were building or fixing. Hands on, focused and making it look easy. That’s just how you did it.

I like to think I’m a lot like you. If I don’t seem that way it’s not for a lack of trying. You have a good sense of humor but I will probably give most of the credit to mom. But you and mom together…cracks me up! Where I really wish I could be like you is the talent you have with your hands. It all comes natural to you and I could only hope to be half as good as you are when it comes to woodworking. Sure the old saying of “measure twice, cut once” comes to mind. But you just knew how something was going to turn out before you picked up a hammer or saw. For me it’s more like “cut once, go back to Home Depot”.

But back to the things that are hard to say out loud…never mind about the truck or lawn mower. Thanks for being my dad. You did a great job and I love you. You taught me so much without saying a lot and you led by example. I thank you for making me a good father for my two sons. I use you as MY example when it comes to my boys. I know it was hard for you to retire from what you loved doing and I fully understand the difficulty in putting the hammer down and taking it easy. You’ve earned it and more importantly you deserve it. Mom appreciates it too.

But the one thing I have always wanted to say to you but haven’t…

Dad, I’ve always needed you.

 

 

Days of Demolition

Sunday, while out and about I drove by the house where I grew up. It must have something to do with mirrors and shadows, the house, while growing up was big, but today seems small in comparison. The pasture next to it that separated Green Acres from our house also seemed small. This is where we rode our motorcycles before venturing down the side streets to get out to the Katy trails. Lawless, I tell you! The yard appears to be smaller or was I just complaining about the size of it as we used push mowers to cut the grass? Regardless, as I passed by I realized that for about twelve years of my life, things were pretty simple.

Sure, school took up most of my time, but there were always the summers. We had a barn in the back yard that we hung out in and plenty of stuff to climb around on. Bicycles to get up-town to the Vicker’s station or the pool hall and then there were all the yards I mowed for money. My dad painted houses with Sammy and sometimes I would help. So as kids, we were constantly in motion.

One summer, Lacey Mahon asked me to tear down a two-story garage/shed that he had in his back yard. Lacey Mahon owned The White City Register which was the local newspaper. The paper office was only about three blocks from his house and he was a hard-working man who was dedicated to providing our community with a valuable piece of information and historical journal every Thursday in the form of a newspaper. I already mowed his grass and apparently the look or eagerness on my face told him I would do it. It was a big  job as he expected any good lumber to be saved, cleaned of nails, stacked and covered and the rest of it to be hauled away to the dump. I was about fourteen years old and looking back it was probably a little bigger project than this guy should have taken on. Remember the look of eagerness?

And so the roof starts to come off. Wooden shingles and nails falling to the ground. My brother Danny is helping and my dad provided the tools and the ’67 Chevy truck. We were making it happen! I was actually surprised how quick it was coming along. My brother and I found out that if you stayed on the roof with the truck below, we could toss the scraps into the bed saving all kinds of time. Only later did we find out (from our dad) that all the lumber that missed the bed of the truck… those boards that just fell short, might have left dents in the side off the truck. Might? They did. Oops.

Through the hot summer days we worked. We knocked down boards and pulled thousands of nails, some of which we straightened and saved, and it all took time, but we got it done. Many loads to the dump, lumber sorted and stacked and in between days of demolition I was mowing yards around town. I had been keeping track of my hours and figuring in my brother Danny’s help, for that day to finally collect. As a young man walking down the street with my hours figured on a piece of scratch paper, I was nervous that the total was going to be too much. After all, we tore down a two-story garage! When I asked my dad what he thought about how much it totaled he said, “is that how many hours you worked?” I guess that meant that it wasn’t too much.

I remember the day I walked down to the newspaper office to collect. We had just finished up and I knew Lacey was there. Of course he was there as he was always there. I walked in, stood at the desk where Lacey was sitting and told him I was finished. He pulled out his check book with his ink-stained fingers and asked how much. I explained how much work it ended up being and that it took a little longer than I thought. He said he appreciated the cleaning and stacking the lumber and that the rest was hauled off and to tell him how much. “$167 dollars” I said. He wrote me a check and I walked out a much better man than when I walked in. I cut Lacey’s grass for several years and always thought a lot of him for letting me do this. And I was always proud of myself for taking on a project of that size at that age. But I still feel bad about the dents in the side of the truck. Sorry dad!

Hard RD.

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Every morning  on my way to wherever I go I pass HARD RD. It’s a southern Geary County road that runs North and South, into Morris County. A quiet country road that looks interesting enough, but the name changes the perception just slightly. From the Seat of my Road King  it’s a beautiful area and would be even more so if it was called “UNICORN RD” or something along those lines. But HARD RD it is. We have all passed this road at one time or another and sometimes we’re even on it. I know from time to time we’ve all experienced our own hard road. A time in your life when you think to yourself  “this road will never end”. But we hit the next intersection in life, gas it, and we find our way on to a better road. I haven’t found EASY ST. yet, but someday!  There really isn’t any guarantee that we won’t be back here making the same tracks we’ve made before, but we have to remember that it’s up to us to turn the corner to get off the hard road when we find ourselves on it.

I’m pretty optimistic about life in general, but it’s things like this that make me think. So many times we take the path of least resistance and that works for a lot of people. It’s easy and convenient and requires so little effort. It gets us to where we are going and in most cases it’s where we want to be. It’s usually when we find ourselves on the hard road, we automatically think it’s a bad thing. We all know that it’s the difficult things in life that make us stronger and maybe we should approach those particular roads with this in mind. Even as we travel down this rough road, there will be those who are also rolling down the same direction looking for the exit. Stop and give them a hand. Just because you find yourself on it, doesn’t mean you can’t stop and help someone else who also finds themselves there. It’s the hard roads and “uphill both ways” that makes the rest of life enjoyable and rewarding.

Asking directions, whether driving or life, may get you to HARD RD, and even without help we can end up here anyway. That’s when we need to think about who is giving us directions and how reliable they are. Listen to your heart, trust God and your instincts and obey all laws. But remember, this road will end and then it’s back on the pavement until the next bumpy road comes along. If you are like me, you’ll enjoy the scenery on any road, watching the world go by. Watch the signs and you’ll be fine! Just try to avoid DEAD END.