The bike hummed like a mantra as we made our way home from the Bhagwan’s Airstream. It was another warm, lovely evening with a bright moon and long lunar shadows. I glowed like the moon and was engulfed in a feeling of gratitude.
As we passed a bar in Spearfish, Melody nudged me to pull over. She made a beeline for the restroom, and I ordered a couple of beers.
“Our time with the Bhagwan has been magical,” I told her when she returned, “and I want to thank you for this mind-bending experience. I don’t know if my life will ever be the same.”
She smiled broadly. “You had a mind-bending experience because you were ready for one,” she responded. “When you need a guru, he’s there. I’m glad to have been part of the process.”
It was after midnight by the time we got back to the fishing lodge. Melody walked into my cabin, dropped her clothes on the floor, and collapsed into bed. I did likewise. We fell asleep in each other’s arms.
We hadn’t thought to close the curtains, so we awoke early to the searing rays of the sun. I reached over and kissed her. “That was a remarkable day yesterday, and an amazing evening. Thank you.” She smiled.
While she was showering, I went outside to check my motorcycle. The BMW dealer had done a good job of installing the new/used parts after Spider’s accident and everything was secure.
Melody’s dad came by as I checked the oil. “Where’s Melody?”
“In there,” I said as I pointed apprehensively my cabin. I hoped he wasn’t going to disapprove.
“You and Melody have a good time yesterday?” he asked. I told him about the strange experience of visiting the Bhagwan.
“She loves going to the Bhagwan’s camp,” he responded. “At first I was a little concerned, but hey, she’s an adult with a mind of her own.”
As he walked away, he said, “breakfast will be ready in ten minutes.” Dad’s a pretty sharp guy, I thought to myself.
When I went back to wash my hands, Melody said, “you know, I really ought to help my parents today. With all these bikes coming and going, the place must be pretty busy.” I told her I understood.
Over breakfast, I thanked her parents for the opportunity to stay in the cabin, and that I felt an obligation to assist them in some way.
“Great,” dad smiled without hesitation; “I really don’t want to leave the property during bike week so I need someone to go to Rapid City and pick up a fuel pump for the tractor. It’s paid for, just tell them who it’s for.”
“No problem, I’m happy to help.”
I decided to detour through Spearfish to check on my campsite. Bikes and people were bustling about everywhere. The tree limb that had collapsed onto the bikes was gone and the city crew was taking down the tree itself. The affected campers were still there enjoying the rally on their rented bikes.
Bert Thurston’s Gold Wing was parked on my site along with another Gold Wing and another tent. I checked my tent and found everything intact. (Bert had beaten cancer and had been riding his bike for the last six years, as told in Part 11 of this series.)
Then Bert walked in from town with another fellow. “This is Roland,” Bert said. “I met him at Mount Rushmore and invited him to share our camp. Hope you don’t mind?”
Roland nodded. He was about Bert’s age and sported a long white beard.
“Hi Roland, are you having a good time?”
“Hell yah!” Roland responded. “This is my first time to the Black Hills so it’s great to have someone like Bert show me around. After Mount Rushmore, we checked out Custer State Park. Everything is so much prettier here than in Missourah.”
“I feel like I ought to give you some money for the site, Montana.”
“Real estate around here is at a premium this time of year Bert, I’m not sure you can afford it.” He laughed.
“How long are you staying?”
“Well, you’re in luck. The site is paid for ’till Monday. Enjoy!” Bert smiled.
“Nice to meet you Roland.” He smiled too.
I got on my bike and headed for the I-90 to Rapid City.
Before I’d even left the Spearfish city limits, I came across a wreck. Some chopper pilot had missed a turn and run into the trees. The dust hadn’t yet settled as I stopped to offer assistance.
The rider was bleeding profusely from a head wound. I grabbed a fresh T-shirt from my saddlebag and gave it to him.
“Apply some pressure before you bleed to death. Are you feeling alright?”
“Thanks man, yah, my head hurts, but I don’t feel dizzy or anything.”
“You will if the bleeding doesn’t stop.”
Fortunately, a city cop came by and got on his Motorola immediately. He ran out of his cruiser with a medical kit, looked at the guy’s head, and discovered a four-inch gash in his scalp.
“You’re going to need stitches,” he said. “An ambulance is on the way.”
“I’m all right, officer, I just need to rest a bit.”
“All right, just lie down and relax.”
The ambulance screamed up in 10 minutes and in short order, the rider was on a gurney and on the way to the hospital.
“You know this guy?” the officer asked.
“No, I just stopped to help.”
“All right, I’ll have the bike delivered to a storage facility.”
“Do you think the guy will be all right?”
“He’ll be in the hospital for a while; he has a concussion.”
As I pulled away, I thought to myself; choppers with extended forks and no front brake look cool, but they are dangerous. If you are going to ride a dangerous bike, why wouldn’t you wear leathers and a proper helmet? I understand the arguments about individual rights and helmet choice, but this rider paid a high price to be stylish. Reminds me of free soloing – climbing mountains without the use of safety equipment. A fall means certain death. It makes my stomach churn just to watch it on TV. Not sure what motivates people to make such choices, but I’m sure I’ll never be one of them.
I picked up the fuel pump in Rapid City and enjoyed the scenic ride back to the trout pond. Melody’s father was having lunch in the breakfast room, so I joined him. Melody soon came in with some sandwiches. I kissed her before she returned to the kitchen.
“You like her, don’t you?”
“I really do. As a result of our friendship, I’ve learned a lot.”
“Melody has that effect on people. But don’t get too attached. She’s a free spirit.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant and wasn’t interested in the details, so I asked him where he learned to work on farm tractors.
“It’s kind of a long story. You sure you want to hear this?” he said as he got up to grab some more coffee.
“Sounds like it’ll be interesting.”
When his cup was full, he related this tale:
“I volunteered to work on a kibbutz in Israel during my sophomore summer vacation. When I got there, they put me to work pulling dead grape vines. At the end of the day, my hands were bloody from the spikes.
‘Forget this,’ I told the volunteer co-ordinator, ‘give me some other job to do.’
The next day I was pruning fruit trees. They had spikes also. At the end of the day, both my hands and arms were bleeding.
‘This isn’t going to work for me either, I told the volunteer coordinator, what else you got?’
‘What do you want?’ he asked.
‘Well, I notice you’ve got a repair shop over there. I took auto shop in high school and have been fixing my own cars ever since.’
‘OK, tomorrow you can go talk to the shop manager.’
The shop building looked run-down from the outside, but inside, it was clean, well-lit, and had all the latest equipment. The shop manager was about 60 years old with a thick, Eastern European accent.
‘Vat you can do boy?’ he asked.
‘Anything that needs doing?’ I answered.
He put me to work in the oil change booth. In the booth next to me, a guy was working on a Ford tractor. After a while, he left the shop for a couple of hours and came back with four field hands. While the field hands held a 4 by 4 under the tractor, he removed the last of the bolts securing the front half of the tractor to the rear half. Then the field hands shimmied across the floor, physically carrying the rear end of the tractor to set it on a heavy wooden stand by means of the 4 by 4. I couldn’t believe it, but continued my work.
At the end of the day, shop manager asked how I was doing. ‘I’m doing fine, I responded, ‘but it looks like somebody in the both next to me is going to get hurt.’ I explained to him the awkward procedure they’d used to change out the clutch plate.
‘Yah, ve always done it dat way,’ he said.
‘But you’ve got a modern, overhead pulley system. Why not use that?’
‘Day don’t want to,’ he responded.
‘How long does it take to change out a clutch plate?’
‘Maybe two day.’
‘I’ll bet I can do it a half day without any help.’ I boasted.
‘OK, you do duh next one.’
First thing on Monday, the shop manager called me over and pointed to a tractor.
‘New clutch’ he said. ‘You got forrr ourrrs.’
He handed me a clutch plate and I got to work. By 11 AM, I was finished, thanks to the overhead pulley system and pneumatic tools.
The shop manager was amazed. ‘Who help you?’ he asked.
‘Nobody, I did it by myself. I can teach your guys how to do that if you like.’
I went from being a new volunteer to the kibbutz hero in one day, and the following weekend, was invited to dinner with the family of the kibbutz’s head honcho. Apparently, that was a great honor. I was just happy to get away from the fruit trees.
Anyway, that’s where I learned to work on tractors. The kibbutz had 52 blue Ford tractors, and I must have replaced the clutches on 15 of them in the two months I was there. They gave me a plaque when I left.”
“Great story,” I told Melody’s dad. “Was that the first time you’d ever received an award?”
“More importantly,” he responded, “that’s the first time I’d ever received any recognition. It changed the way I felt about myself.”
We got up from the lunch table and I watched him pull the old fuel pump.
I handed him the new one, and he asked, “hope they gave you a new gasket as well?”
“Yeah, I had to remind them about that,” I responded.
“Thank god you did. My son is waiting for this tractor.”
Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Joost J. Bakker from IJmuiden.