April 23rd…“WHAT WAS A DREAM, AS A CHILD, THAT NEVER CAME TO REALITY IN ADULTHOOD?”
Before I could even see Uncle Doren coming, I could hear the magnificent, bellowing power that was sounding out from the exhaust pipes of his handsome Harley Davidson motorcycle. Upon that steel stallion, he crested the berm of the railroad track crossing that was near my paternal grandparent’s home on the outskirts of Lake Mills, Iowa. Gravel dust spiraled behind him as he careened into the spacious yard and brought that beautiful beast to an obedient stop beneath the cool canopy of shade trees.
Dark aviator sunglasses above his moustache added to his mystique as my dad’s younger brother shut down those Harley pipes and leaned that sleek powerhouse onto its pedestal for a rest. I’m sure little boy drool must have been evident from my mouth as I fawned over and inspected this amazing instrument of speed that seemed encased in sparkling chrome from end to end. The broad, massive leather seat was complimented by a carryover from the Wild West days of some well-tooled leather saddlebags that straddled the back fender just like they would’ve straddled a horse in the old days.
Whether it was from my begging, or just the obvious yearning that Uncle Doren saw in my eyes, he offered to take me for a ride on his dream machine. I was in little boy heaven!!!! Doren mounted the “saddle” first and I saw the Harley bob up and down from his weight, almost like a horse feels its new rider before starting out on a ride. My strong daddy then lifted me into the air and right down behind Uncle Doren for this ride of a tiny lifetime. I was so young, at the time, that I recall my little legs sticking almost straight out to the sides as I was spread-eagle over those handsome saddlebags. The mighty Harley motor turned over and sparked to life. I was engulfed in the sound of power that transfixed me into loving this experience from the instant I felt the coursing vibration of that engine churning just below the two of us.
Uncle Doren popped the kickstand up with his Wellington boots and we tilted to the side a bit as that steel stallion obeyed its master and the pipes growled their language of speed as we began to roll down those Iowa gravel roads on a glorious Summer’s day. Every so often, my uncle would glance over his shoulder to be sure this little nephew of his was still aboard. So happy was I, that I’m sure you could have counted bugs on my teeth from the thrill!!
Little did my uncle realize that his cycle, and that ride, lit a lamp of desire and imagination within this farm boy to want to some day have a Harley of my very own. Until that day, though, I would need to fuel that love with other ways of pretending. Riding my bike around the farm yard was one thing, but to create the sound of a motorcycle’s exhaust pipes was another challenge. Someone suggested that I bend some baseball cards and clip them to my bicycle frame. Each time a spoke of the wheel passed by, the baseball card would make a popping sound and thus, I had a type of motorcycle sound to enjoy on my boy adventures. The more baseball cards used, the larger the “motorcycle” sound was created. Looking back today, knowing the dollar value of baseball collector cards, I could have easily retired from the income of all the Mickey Mantle ($1,400), Roger Maris ($2,000) and other famous baseball cards that met their demise as the “victims” of my cycle sounding apparatus.
Even though dreams and reality don’t always intersect, and even though I’ve never owned a motorcycle of my own; the deep, gutteral sound of a Harley Davidson motorcycle still brings a thrill to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.