Snapshot

brothers

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!

Advertisements

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!

White City, Ks. 66872

th

Driving down the old brick main street of White City, it dawned on me how much everything has changed. As a kid growing up here there was so much going on in a town where not much goes on. The pace is slow and the town is small, but when you’re a kid in the 60’s and ’70’s all you had to do was ride your bike down the sidewalks past Anderson Lumber and Hardware where my mother worked part-time. You could walk in and buy a Daisy BB gun right off the wall behind the counter. I wish I would have paid a little more attention to my mother while she was working. Funny and graceful I’m sure, but I would like to go back in time and see her in action. She is still very funny, but age and health has taken the grace from her step.

On the same side of the street was the White City Register. The local and surrounding newspaper, where Lacey Mahon did it the old school way. I can’t imagine what it took to do a weekly paper but he and his son John did a great job. My sister Jan worked there part-time and I’m sure at a time in her life that carries a lot of memories, she will smile when reminded of this.  Next door to the newspaper office was the KP&L office and the Phelps Agency. Clarence Phelps sold insurance and it wasn’t a building I needed to walk into much as a young boy but I did on occasion. But mostly I remember the air conditioner that was above the door that dripped down outside on the sidewalk. Being a kid on a bicycle you tend to notice that kind of thing.

On the corner was Herb Funk’s Vicker’s Station. Herb had the air lines out across the driveway and we couldn’t resist every once in a while to ride across and make the bell ring. An old Pepsi chest vending machine and two old chairs inside for the regulars to sit on, the place was small enough that you had to step outside to change your mind.

On the next block was the laundry mat where many a day was wasted sitting outside on the steps. Not much to report here mostly because there never was much going on. It was a laundry mat for crying out loud! Next door was a church and Kohler T.V. and Appliance. John was a very public guy and was the Mayor for many years. I can remember riding by and looking in the windows at all the inventory. If memory serves me correctly, my folks bought our first color T.V. there. The RCA that changed the way we watched Gilligan’s Island and Big Valley. Amazing.

A little further down was a phone booth where a call could be made for ten cents. Or you could dial home and hang up when you needed a ride, without putting a dime in. You could hear the person who answered but they couldn’t hear you, so you would often hear from the other end of the line when calling from there or from the payphone at the high school “is this Jeff?” “If you need a ride home, hang up”. What a world we lived in back then…

The Jones’ had a clothing shop and there was a barber shop next door to it. Erichson had the pool hall and Perry Moore had one of the two grocery stores. I spent a lot of time in both the pool hall and the grocery store. Pool tables and pinball machines along with some locals playing dominos was a way to spend a few hours on a summer day between mowing yards. And Moore’s Market was a place to pick up a few things for my mother and have Perry “put it on the ticket”. Great to be a kid in a small town.

On the other side of the street was the Standard Gas Station and Spohn’s Repair Shop. Ash’s Repair shop was just a door or two down from Spohn’s and Buck’s Service station. Again not someplace a kid needed to go but it always seemed there was a lot going on there. The Post Office and Ken and Barb’s Cafe was next door to them. Ken and Barb’s was a neat place to go and how I wish we still had a Cafe or Diner like that. Ken and Barb did a great job. Vernon Rose had the other grocery store and it too was a cool place to walk into as a kid. Vernon’s Market was in the biggest building in White City and to this day is still a pretty neat old building. Like all of the business owners in town, Vernon was a good guy.

The White City Bank where Boone Scott took care of all my mowing money is on the corner across from Vernon’s Market. Can you remember a time when a bank didn’t have an ATM or drive-up window? I do. There was a Masonic Lodge, a bar called “Walt’s” and a farm implement dealer that was owned by Russell Brown. Did you blink? All of these and a few more business’s were located within the two blocks of main street. Since those days there have been many more people involved in the local business’s like Christlieb’s, Parker’s, Guimond’s, Fielder’s, Wood’s and Debbie Blythe. Bill Hickman and both Keith and Joann Kahnt, Rusty Rice and Ingmire’s to name a few. Lee’s Plumbing and Jamie Schmidt with Town and Country Beauty Shop and Alan Scott with The Katy Grill. I know I haven’t named them all and believe me there are more. Bill Calvin was a local welder, Bill Hare worked on small engines behind Vernon’s Grocery, the Mor-Kan Elevator, Barber and Son Construction, Junior Hultgren moving houses, Robert’s also owned a gas station, Keith Barber had the pool hall, Wayne Hultgren still has a repair shop and Frankie Nelson runs the library. Leo Hultgren sold Ohlde seed and Dale Scott with his NC+.

Life in the fast lane I know, but you had to be there to understand the impact all of these business’s and great people had on the community. They managed to provide and thrive in a small town and keep it all wrapped up in a town of about five hundred. You didn’t need to leave town for anything and I would give anything to have that back. But the amazing part of this is we still have the “small town” thing going on. That’s why in my mind, I can still drive down Main Street and see the drip from the air conditioner at Phelps Agency.

The Explorer In All Of Us

Growing up “small town White City” isn’t a bad thing. Looking back it was a great time to just be a kid. Riding all the back roads around town gave me a great sense of direction and a good idea how far you could go on a tank of gas before hitting reserve. Practicing wheelies and power slides outside of town where no one could see or hear you was good as to not raise any eyebrows and to keep my mom and dad in good graces within the community. But it didn’t stop me from practicing those wheelies on my way out-of-town! So much for being a kid…

You never knew what you would find. Maybe an old cemetery where I would get off and check out the headstones, and sometimes find one with a familiar name from White City. It all helps put the pieces together on how far out side of town the farmer’s family went. There was always old farm equipment parked from days gone by and left for dead. But no headstone was necessary. Their names were painted right on the hood.

At times I would be parked on a hill miles from town and look off in the distance and see the Mor-Kan grain elevator in the distance calling me home, but I wasn’t quite ready. More power slides and wheelies to be done and who knows what else. You would rarely meet anyone on these back roads but when you did there was usually a friendly wave and once in a while you might stop and talk for a few minutes to a class mate whose family farmed as they were on their way to town. 

At one time I was pretty good at both wheelies and power slides. After all, practice does make perfect. But as all things do, the dirt bike needs gas and I’m hungry, so back to town we go. I often wonder if my parents really knew what I did on those long summer days on my motorcycles. Gone for hours and coming back dusty or skinned up. Not all wheelies were successful! I’m sure they did though, even when they didn’t say anything about it. If any of you know anything about a small town, it’s hard to keep a secret. Or maybe it was the marks in the gravel from my power slides as I left town…

Sunday Morning Coming Down

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

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!”.

The Beaten Path Less Traveled

So I’ve been thinking about the road less traveled. We motorcyclists seem to search out this road to find the peace and serenity of a curvy or tree-lined way of getting there. Usually it’s a short two-lane between cities or major highways, but beautiful none the less. But how far is the road less traveled? How far is “off the beaten path”?

A road trip to Sturgis in 2007 found me and six of my friends on one of these roads. It was a Sunday and it didn’t take us long to find out that in some remote places of this country there is a world of folks that take Sunday off! Mostly gas station attendants and repair shops. As we rode into the Northwest of Nebraska we soon found out that the more you need gas, the harder it is to find. A great idea of a modern version of the old gas station,open 24 hours, to include beef jerky, hotdogs on heated rollers and pay at the pump gas, more commonly known as a convenience store, had yet to make it to this corner of Nebraska.

As we pulled into a farmer’s co-op this Sunday afternoon with a closed sign in the window and no pay at the pump, it was decided that a restroom was also a pretty important part of the modern conveniences we have come to expect. Well what do seven guys do when nature calls? We answer  the phone! Standing next to a bulk fuel truck and our backs to the highway, we found the one person that does work on a Sunday. He wears a badge and drives a pretty fast car. He pulls in and asked what we were doing in a very nice but firm manner. We explained the situation and expecting the worse, he was quick to get on the one piece of modern technology that did make this far off the beaten path, his cell phone! He called the one guy that could come and open the co-op for us to get gas.

Relieved, in more ways than one, we stayed for a little while and spent some money on Snickers bars and Mountain Dew. The appreciation on our faces was obvious and the officer stayed and hung out as well. It is truly amazing at the helpfulness of those in the small towns. I know as I’m from one myself. But to go out of your way and help is a two way street. Pass it on or pay it forward. Take the road less traveled and relax. Meet the local people face to face, or wave at the young boys on their bicycles as you ride through town. It’s a pretty universal language.

As I said, coming from a small town myself I know how these communities struggle. Next time you stop for gas, buy that candy bar or hotdog on a heated roller and show your support. You never know, that same place may not be open next time you pass through without your support.

Summertime 1974

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974

Long, hot, endless summer days. Where the sky was blue with big white clouds. All I knew was my folks didn’t care what I did all summer but I had to be home by six. How I knew it was six p.m. is beyond me but supper was always ready and I’d better be there.

I was an impressionable kid and motorcycles were new to me. My brother got me interested with talk of them and a random magazine in the house to give me a visual. Trips to a couple of local dealerships and I was hooked. Picking up free brochures and reading them cover to cover studying everything from dry weights to tire sizes. As if some day I would be asked and a grand prize was in the balance. So the day my dad brought home an AMF Harley-Davidson 90 in the back of his ’67 Chevy truck was the day the earth stood still. Or at the very least the day seemed to be really long.

So the day my dad brought home an AMF Harley-Davidson 90 in the back of his ’67 Chevy truck was the day the earth stood still. Or at the very least the day seemed to be really long.

We had a pasture by the house I grew up in and we were able to spend many hours of every day riding aimlessly around and knocking down the tall grass to make trails. To this day I can still smell the yellow weeds that grew in that field. I would ride that 90 all day only stopping for gas and maybe a drink from the hose, and then back at it. After all I would be riding the Springfield Mile before long and I needed to practice. My stars and stripe helmet with a bubble shield and cheap gloves that turned my hands black as they sweat. Great times.

Simple. Pure. How can I get those days back? I read Dirtbike and Motocross Action. Cycle World and Cycle. Every word, over and over. never throwing an issue away. I practiced and pretended. Always wanting to ride and and explore. And I did. Long hours of riding with learning to fix what broke or wore out. I looked up to the local guys that rode the big bikes. If we heard a motorcycle coming down the road, we stopped what we were doing to watch as it went by. And of course I knew what the dry weight and tire size was!

Those were the days. Not much exposer on t.v. Wide World of Sports but who had a t.v. guide? Three channels and even so, I was too busy riding. On Any Sunday had a grip on me and I still love watching that film. It was the story of my life.

I still feel like that kid when I ride. It is a feeling of the the motorcycle as a part of me. It’s always been that way and always will. Looking back on the day my father brought home that 90 he had no idea what an effect it would have on me, or how it would change my life. My dad has never ridden a motorcycle but has always supported my habit and I love him for that.

Whether we are young or old when we start riding makes no difference. The days may not seem as long, but we can still go out and practice for the Springfield Mile.