Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The urchin and the grizzled veteran.

I know, the blog's been quiet for a few days. I've been busy doing what I do. Working, and uh, working. Although the second work is kind of like play.

This is a picture from McMinnville, a small city of about 36,000 inhabitants. It's located approximately 35 miles East of Portland and 50 miles Northeast from my place. The trailer rolled behind me on the way up Friday afternoon and back to the ranch on Sunday night. In between times I drove the truck back and forth. I'm not ashamed to say I took full advantage of the air conditioning! We've been allowed to set up a range in a middle school parking lot. I'm hoping that the fact we trained 22 new riders will offset the twenty some gallons of diesel fuel I burned over the weekend.

Either way, it was quite the switch from being on a motorcycle! This one ton truck is built as stout as you'd ever wish. The trailer's 33 feet from nose to tail. There's 12 feet hanging out behind the tandem axles. One has to be careful about those 12 feet! In tight corners it's possible to take a mirror right off the side of a car. Ask one of the fleet maintenance guys how we know!

Sunday was an extremely long day. I arrived home Sunday night 16 hours after I left. The truck and trailer had to be returned to Corvallis. After unhooking and securing the trailer, I still had to drive home. Despite the long hours, it was a really neat class. My group was extremely personable and coachable. I had to laugh to myself hearing the students chatter excitedly among themselves as they dismounted the bikes for breaks. This isn't about the class itself, though. It's about a young man who showed up Sunday afternoon as I was hanging around waiting for the afternoon class to be finished so we could load the trailer for its trip home.

There was about an hour and half to wait between the time I finished with my class and the time the afternoon group was done riding. Gratefully, I settled into a canvas folding chair to wait. I'd been on my feet for too many hours. The trailer provided some welcome shade. On Saturday the area hit a hundred degrees for the first time this year. Oddly enough, it was one day before Phoenix hit a hundred for the first time on Sunday. That never happens. Until now, that is. So here I am, sitting, relaxing, drinking cold water, and snapping a few pictures. It would have been a good time to have tried the 55 to 200 mm lense but it wasn't with me. I did the best I could on the long shots with the 18 to 55 mm lense. I didn't have the energy to actually get out of the chair and move closer. There was still a trailer to be loaded and hauled back to the barn. I'd need to save some energy.

The last exercise of the day is a traffic interaction situation. Students turn into traffic at one of four intersections. The middle is a four way stop. At the same time, there's one way traffic circulating the pattern counterclockwise. At one end they had a new wrinkle to deal with. It was in the form of an urchin ambling across the top end of the range. He was headed for where I was sitting. I was ready to get up to correct his path of travel. Fortunately for me, he did it himself.

The picture above was taken earlier in the day but you can see the layout. The truck was parked farther away from the trailer as I'm sitting in the chair. My chair's close to the trailer's tongue. West is to the left of the picture. That's the direction the sun's headed as it seeks to light the other side of the world. With a plop the urchin parks his butt on the ramp. That's the way all young people seem to sit down. They perch their rear ends somewhere over the target and then come crashing down like their legs have suddenly turned to jelly.

I gave the young man a visual going over. His hair's a dirty blonde. The skin on his body not covered by his charcoal colored t-shirt and dark denim shorts is tanned and dirt streaked. Just what you'd expect from an 11 year old who spends long days roaming in the sun looking for adventures, real or imagined. I should have thought to have taken his picture. At the time, though, I didn't think I'd be writing about him. His name is Allen and he sits quietly watching the bikes. For a short while, that is. Then the questions start.

"What are you doing with all those motorcycles? Do the bikes belong to you? Why aren't they using their own motorcycles? Could they use their own?"

After I told him that this class had to use small bikes, he told me the bikes didn't look small to him. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? Allen probably didn't grasp the idea of large frames with smaller cc engines. The motorcycles simply looked big to this small boy. The questions continued; not obnoxiously, but certainly in large quantity.

I have to admit it. My first reaction was to shoo him away. I was tired and hot from a long, hard, weekend. Answering a bunch of questions wasn't first on my list of fun things to do right now. I guess the gleam of excitement in his eyes reminded me of myself a long time ago. It also triggered memories of my own boys when they were young. Remember the youngest who just got the VFR?

My nickname for him for a couple of years was "The Voyeur". It wasn't meant in the strictest definition of the word. Rather, it was because he'd follow me around everywhere, watching with intense interest and asking questions.

Katie calls me a tough creme puff. She claims that I really have a kind and tender heart but she's the only one who ever sees it. Well, I let Allen see it on Sunday. I answered all his questions, treating him like an adult and giving him straight answers. He really melted me more when it was time to put the bikes away.

All the bikes are lined up behind the trailer, waiting to be loaded and strapped in. It's not quite time, though. Students are being debriefed and given their completion cards. Helmets need to be sanitized and put away. Keys need to be pulled and put in the key box. I'm doing all this while Allen follows me around. I start pulling the cabinet doors shut. There's a dozen on each side. As I start down one side, I see Allen starting down the other side. He wants to be a part of what's going on. Allen helps me pick up the empty paper cups sitting around. There's a few more chores he chips in on.

Then we get to the where the bikes are. Allen, despite being 11, has his own cell phone. It's a flip up model with a camera. He starts taking pictures of the bikes. Then he stops at a blue and white Suzuki DR 200 dual sport. Allen's clearly taken with the bike. Here comes another question.

"Do you ever sell these bikes? I'd like to buy this one when you do!"

I let him down gently by telling him we'd probably be using it for quite a while yet, as the motorcycles only see about thirtyfive miles during a class. Allen wasn't done with the DR, yet, though. As I was putting keys away, he asked which key was the for the DR. I teasingly told him I was starting to get a little suspicious about why he was asking! When I showed him the key, which looked just like any other key, he was visibly disappointed.

"I thought it would be a special key", he seriously told me. Like I say, he was totally smitten by the bike! I knew exactly where he was coming from. We were seeing eye to eye, this 11 year old urchin and the grizzled veteran.

Keeping him safe, I let him hang out and help until we were done. Allen solemnly shook hands with me and the other two instructors. Then he ambled back across the parking lot the same way he'd arrived. The young man carefree and living in the moment like kids do. The grizzled veteran fired up the truck and started the trailer rolling. His heart and mind still smiling from the encounter with the urchin.

I wondered what he'd have to say to his parents over the supper table. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a class in half a dozen years. He had all the makings of a future rider. Allen's felt the magic!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

Kids have this marvellous way of simplifying things ... if you take the time to see it at their level, you'll always be rewarded.

You have a great week.

Lady Ridesalot said...

Memories like this one are the kind you remember when you become grizzled. I thought it was a very sweet story. Your right about one thing, he was probably burning up the conversation at the dinner table. To bad we can't fast forward to see what this young man decides to do with himself. Oh well, that means we'd go forward fast too, and I don't think I'm ready for that. Thanks for sharing such a nice story.

Lucky said...

Yes! Warp 'em while they're young!

R.G. said...

Bravo to you for taking the time to have some conversation with this young fellow. He isn't much younger than I was when I got my first bike [ a suzuki RM125 }. My guess would be you probably have sparked a life time obsession.

irondad said...

That's a valuable reminder, for sure. It's so easy to get too serious about everything.

Lady R,
I'm with you. My hunt these days is for the "pause" button! I would have liked to hear the dinner conversation, though.

Warp them or show them the "true way"? They're sort of the same thing, aren't they, compared to what's considered the norm?

I think he already had the flame started. I just fanned it for him, I think.

Take care,

Bill Sommers said...

Man, that was a good story. I can relate totally.

Have fun,

Allen Madding said...

kid's got a lot going for him with a great name. :)

Bryce said...

Alien invasion of the younger kind?

Maybe he was just there to ensure
you knew what you were talking about.

Grizzled? Veteran? The latter yes, the former
only if you wear a beard or didn't
do the three sss's when you got up in the morning.

Suspect Dan you're the height of decorum and smelling sweet when
you get on the course.

And as to that pick me up and trailer, that is a long rig, best
be real careful operating same.
The length of the tail can be a
bother at times; try it with an
18 wheeler with an extended length
trailer, real tricky.

Understand it's been warm on the west coast, compared to here; heck we had a light dusting of snow the other night!

irondad said...

Thought you would especially appreciate it being a father and all.

Now why would you make a statement like that? :)

Quality control people come in all sizes and shapes for sure. As to the beard, it comes and goes. It's also at least half grey which qualifies as grizzled in my book!

Take care,