Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Lots of bikers staying here in the campground this week, the week of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. They are a pretty quiet bunch I must say, no coming in late or partying all night. I imagine the hardcore bikers and party animals are staying closer to the rally base in Sturgis, which is actually about 40 miles from here.

Who are these people? 

Motorcycle gangs? Clubs? Individuals? Folks who, for 51 weeks out of the year, are lawyers etc.?

Why do they come? For the scenery? Camaraderie? Brotherhood? Beer?

Are they hell raisers, old biker dudes, or just your regular folks who dress up and ride like the best of 'em?

I talked to a few folks here in the campground. I met a couple who described themselves as suburban bikers, she is a school psychologist, I forget what his 9-5 job is. Like she said, they have to work for a living because bikes are expensive. They are here on their 10th anniversary, kids are grown, never been to Sturgis before, just wanted to see what it was all about, and no thanks, they do not want to stay in the field/campground at Sturgis for a week without showers!

Perhaps it is the rumble of the motorcycles in the air, I find myself thinking a lot about my older brother, Jim, these days. He was killed in a motorcycle accident at age 37 in 1977, 37 years ago. He was living the motorcycle gang? life?

I didn't know him, he and our mom were always butting heads. I can probably count on one hand the times I remember actually seeing him. 

As the story goes, when I was 2 he was 16 and ran away from home to join the Navy (he supposedly lied about his age to get in).

When I was 6 we returned from being stationed in Germany and saw him at my grandmother's house in Ellenwood, Georgia. He and mom had a big blowout once again, something about he wanted to marry a girl that mother didn't want him to (but he married her anyway).

When we lived in Fannin County (late 60s) we saw Jim and his family several times, they had 5 kids under 6 years of age, stair-steps. Mom would make them clothes. Jim was a fireman in Atlanta. Then another blowup, we stopped seeing them. Stories were that Jim had joined a motorcycle gang.

We got the call in 1977 that he had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Virginia. His body was cremated and sent to Georgia. We attended the memorial service in Jonesboro, saw the whole family once again.
Off and on, Jim's oldest son Robert has been in touch, he was working on family genealogy. Just last year we shared some family photographs, that is where I got those above. 

I noticed the leather jacket with 'Outlaws' on the back. I did some online searching, it seems the Outlaws motorcycle gang/club has been around a long time, since 1935, and is one of the most notorious according to this list

I found the Outlaws website and the Forever tribute pages to their fallen members, which is where I once again found a picture of my brother, a.k.a. Bull:

The 1% caught my eye, so another search turned up this explanation on Wikipedia: "Some outlaw motorcycle clubs can be distinguished by a 1% patch worn on the colors. This is claimed to be a reference to a comment made by the American Motorcycle Association in which they stated that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying that the last one percent were outlaws."

So I don't know much about my brother. I could have tried harder to get to know him and his family. I just listened to my mother, I guess I was intimidated by her. When she passed away and I was working through the probate on her will, I had to contact all of her heirs. She didn't have much left to divide up, but I could have given some to all of Jim's kids (against her wishes). At that point in my life I had been a grandmother for 9 years, and I couldn't understand her wishes to exclude these grandkids of hers, they had never done anything to her. But mom held grudges. And I honored her wishes. Maybe I was afraid she would come back and haunt me?

I wonder why he joined a motorcycle gang? I wonder if he ever rode to Sturgis?

There go some more bikes down the road, listen... the rumble is in the air.


The Calico Cat said...

My mom is a super grudge holder too. (For what it is worth.)

Dinah Paris said...

You capture this story so well with your words. Thank you for sharing.