Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

I don’t know how the whole thing began, but it happened on Thanksgiving Day of 1969. My friend Dennis was a motorcycle rider, and for one reason or other I was going to ride one of his smaller bikes from Point A to Point B. I don’t recall the start Point A, but I was cruising, helmetless in those days, eastward on Maple Avenue off ECR and planned to turn north onto Sixth Street because I was headed to end Point B at Dennis’ parents’ house on Sixth between Oak and Palm, and so when I got to that street, I turned the bikes handlebars to the left and headed northward; but not really.

You see, I did not know that unlike a bicycle one has to lean one’s body in the direction of the turn when steering a motorcycle, and in the wake of that I was rapidly heading toward the curb on the east side of Sixth, so I did what all novice riders do, I panicked. I somehow rationalized that hitting a curb nearly straight on was not going to end well so I jerked the handlebars hard to the right and throttled up the engine; this second action was not planned. The bike catapulted into a driveway and headed for a garage, so in my desperation I headed for the gap between the house and the fence separating it from the house next door: I had to lift my left foot so not to hit the cement step leading out of the garage.

In a split second I was crossing a backyard and heading to a large wooden doghouse with, of course, the inhabitant chained to it and barking loud enough to raise the dead. Clarity came in a flash and I hit the brakes and jerked the handlebars hard left, I guess; at any rate the bike slid at a near horizontal position and slammed into the doghouse, tipping it over. I don’t know what happened to the dog because I was upright in a second and headed back out the same way I came; but not before I saw something that proved to change my life for months. Behind two wide, glass patio doors I saw seated a whole family enjoying their holiday meal, and who was at the head of the table but one of the only motorcycle racers in the town. Hoo, boy.

Now I was a fugitive in my hometown. It wasn’t but a day or two that the story of the bike riding expert whose Thanksgiving Day meal was rudely interrupted, not to mention a dog still in shock, by the antics of Young Wilson; an appellation of the time. Along with that came word from Dennis that this same motorcycle racing expert did not believe that anyone could accidentally end up where I ended up, and so apparently the whole escapade was done on purpose, for fun or something. I didn’t ask for specifics, I just did my best to hide from this guy as best as one can in a small town.

Luckily my parents traded at the Economy Market, and so avoiding Tiny’s Market was easy and that was where my antagonist was employed; as a butcher, no less. As the year progressed my time in classes in King City and after school for football practice kept me out of town a good portion of the week, and on weekends I never ventured too close to Tiny’s nor did I use that portion of Sixth for any reason, and so the incident finally went the way of all such things as life moves on. But, for a few months I was fully aware of a feeling of ill ease in the only town I had ever known, of knowing that at least some portion of the populace thought I was, for want of a better term, a jackass. I had to agree.

I like to think that after that experience I was more cautious about any actions that could bring negative attention and the accompanying hard feelings; but alas there were days to come that indicated I had not learned a damn thing; but those are stories for another day.

This two-part column is the result of what psychologists refer to as introspection, a inside look at oneself, a mental inventory of sorts. The motorcycle theme came about because I recently stopped by the celebration of life of one of Greenfield’s old guard; Jim, to some Jimmy, was a widely successful motorcycle racer and all-round nice guy. Back in the early ’60s he was our Marlon Brando with movie star good looks, black leather jacket and, of course, a motorcycle. And it was while there, greeting old friends and meeting a few new ones, that I realized how anti-social I am becoming.

I am a storyteller, and storytelling is not appreciated by the people unless they want to hear a story; sitting round a table with six or seven other people is time for short additions by all, not a long narrative by one. I’m fine in front of an audience, and usually get credit for doing a good job; but I find in settings where individual musings are required, I am without words. And to add to my mental deficiencies, my physical drawback is a set of teeth I find unsuited for public dining as I cannot really bite well or chew like I could even a year ago. So, I have concluded I am getting more anti-social as I age; maybe that is normal, but I sure as hell don’t like it.

Now, you may wonder why such personal disclosure, and I join you in that, but I think my idea is that some out there may experience the same type of inner retrospection and the revelations they bring and are not really sure if it happens to others, I’m here to tell you it does.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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