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Moseyin’ Along

Curiosity and the motorcycle story

June 4, 2015
Westfield Republican

Among the many important tools in a writer's toolbox, none is more vital than curiosity.

Through my many years in the wordsmithing game, my curiosity has brought countless experiences and led to dozens of interesting interviews in search of answers to the standard "who, what, why, when, where and how" of the writer's world.

So, it's no surprise that last week, as we enjoyed a coffee and donut break with our pal, Jon, my curiosity began to itch.

Jon was telling us about his grandfather, who emigrated from Nova Scotia in the early 1900s.

When WW I broke out, the Grandpa joined the U.S. cavalry.

After the war, the man took a job delivering ice. And, on his route, he met an attractive young lady.

When the two began to date, the former cavalry man picked up his lady fair on his Indian motorcycle. She road in the sidecar. Apparently, the experience was a positive one, since the lady became Jon's grandmother.

The picture the story created in my mind of a couple tooling along in a long-ago motorcycle with a sidecar. flipped the switch on my ever-ready curiosity. I was off on a search.

Where, I wondered, had those early motorcycles come from? How popular were they in those long ago days?

At the beginning of my writing career, such questions would have sent me to the reference section of the local library. With pencil and notebook at hand, I'd pour over the encyclopedia, gathering data and making notes.

But, these days, thanks to the Internet, my research is an at-home activity. Within half an hour, I had a good grasp of the background of the motorcycle in America.

It's little wonder that Jon's grandfather left his cavalry horse behind and transferred his allegiance to the Indian motorcycle. In fact, I learned that in WWI, motorcycles replaced horses for such staff jobs as Dispatch Riders and Military Police.

After the war, by 1920, Harley Davidson was the largest manufacturer of cycles in the U.S. In fact, dealers in 67 countries sold Harley cycles.

The popularity of the motorcycle grew through the years to the point that after WWII, many vets formed cycle groups to replicate the camaraderie they had felt in the service.

In 1954, the public's view of motorcyclists took a serious hit with the release of the movie, "The Wild One," with Marlon Brando. Unfortunately, the reputation the movie created of cycle riders as marginal outlaws still persists today with many folks.

And, the recent motorcycle gang melee in Waco, Texas, has helped to reinforce that stereotype.

I have to admit, I used to think of motorcyclists as a wild bunch, too. But that was before two motorcycling couples moved into our quiet neighborhood.

These friendly professional folks kept their bikes in pristine condition and routinely took sightseeing rides through the area.

When I asked Dot, one of the cycling fans, what the attraction of the sport was, she explained the passion she and fellow riders feel for riding their Harleys.

"You get so close to nature on a bike," she said. "It makes you appreciate all the beauty and variety of this wonderful earth."

I suspect that feeling is what keeps the legions of veterans, their wives and so many others tooling along area roadways, the wind in their hair, enjoying this great land up close.

And, my curiosity tells me that Jon's grandfather, along with his sidecar sweetheart, felt the same way back in the 1920s as they bumped along slower roadways in that long-ago Indian motorcycle.

 
 
 

 

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