The Cycle of Life

Posted: Monday, June 11, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Hindsight really is 20-20…or maybe 20-60. But the fact is, I see things about my growing up years a whole lot clearer now than when I lived them.
 
As a kid, I remember thinking how my parents, dad especially, seemed to favor my two brothers over me.
I was the middle son..not the first-born or the baby so, in my mind,  I was always being short changed on things.
“Here, Doug, you can wear Denny’s old parka for one more winter or, let Tommy have the last doughnut, he’s the youngest.”
 
But, while looking through some old photo albums recently, I was reminded of a day in 1959 when my dad made me the most popular kid in Volga by buying me a Harley Davidson motorcycle!
 
It had belonged to my older cousin, Allen who used to give us kids rides on it when we’d visit their farm near Sinai. He even let me drive it once. But now he was headed off to college and decided to sell it.
 
I had no idea what my old man was up to when we drove out to their place that day but before long he and my uncle had agreed on a price and that two-wheeled red beauty was going home with us.
“Think you can handle that thing?” he asked.
“Yes, I can,” was my reply..made quickly so he’d believe it even though I wasn’t that sure myself.
Mom, on the other hand, wasn’t so enthusiastic. She was mad.
She was convinced that dad had just provided the means for me to kill myself.
 
Me and my Harley surrounded by jealous palsNow, let me explain a bit about this motorcycle.
It was not one of those big V-Twin engine Harleys like the ones you see roaring around Sturgis every August. 
After World War II, The Harley Davidson company wanted a light-weight bike to compete with Cushman and All-State scooters so it came up with the 125cc, one cylinder mini-motorcycle with a whopping 5 horsepower and a top speed of 50 miles an hour.. if the wind was at your back.
It was “kid size” and about the coolest thing a kid could have unless you were a worrying mother who saw it as the devil come to claim her child.
 
Oh, that was a great summer!
My friend, Donny Tucker, whose old man had more money than mine, got a blue Harley 125 and together we’d ride the streets of Volga like we were James Dean and Marlon Brando.
Nobody had motorcycles back then so we really got people’s attention.
Our friends were jealous. It was great.
But then, mechanical problems I hadn’t counted on started showing up.
Gas, which I had to pay for with money from lawn-mowing and bale-hauling, began to leak from the carburetor which kept me off the streets until cash could be raised to pay the guy down at the co-op to fix it. Then the battery went dead and I had to convince my mom to help me buy a new one which cost about 20 bucks. It had to be ordered and took about six weeks to show up.
 
It was a hot day in July that my mother’s worst fears were realized.
We were getting set to go on a family car trip to Canada . (In those pre-air conditioning times, Dad liked to leave in the evening and drive through the cool of the night.)
Mom wanted some letters mailed so I put them in my pocket, jumped on my motorcycle and headed uptown to the post office six blocks away.
I never made it.
People had been asking the Hobergs..who lived on the corner..to trim their hedge a bit so drivers could see traffic coming from the left.
I never gave it much thought until I made the turn and slammed, head-on into Duane Sterud in his Dad’s Buick.
I was only 14 but what little life I’d lived went flashing before my eyes as I somersaulted over the handlebars with my helmetless head landing a few inches from the sidewalk.
Somewhat dazed, I lay there taking inventory of my body. Nothing broken.
Sterud’s Buick was undamaged except for a black smudge from my front tire on the bumper.
My Harley what about my Harley?
When I picked the bike up, it was a lot shorter than a few moments before. The front fork had been shoved back about six inches.
I was so worried about how I was going to explain things to my folks that I didn’t notice the pain until I was pushing my crippled Harley home.
When I got there I headed to the bathroom for a closer inspection. I was black and blue from my stomach to my knees..including the most sensitive area.
 
Fearing it may keep us from going on vacation, I didn’t say anything until somewhere in Montana the next morning when mom insisted on seeing the cause of my wincing each time we hit a bump. She was mortified at the site of my bruised body but it was too late to turn back and I got better each day..which is more than I can say for my Harley.
Dad took it to the Jacobson Brothers welding shop and they managed to straighten it back up but it never rode the same and I didn’t feel much like riding anymore anyway.
I spent a long time wondering and worrying about what possible long term physical damage I may have done in that accident…concerns that only disappeared when the first of my children was conceived some years later.
Eventually, I even got another motorcycle which I ride occasionallly.
But I try to avoid streets with hedges.

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