Brant et al,
I write a weekly column for the local newspaper, usually about
education, but thought you might like this story published this
past April 30th. The date of the action in the story is 1964.
It’s springtime and a young man’s (maybe an old man’s too?) fancy might turn to
riding the fresh, open roads on a motor powered two-wheeler. The
wind in your face, the incredible view, the aroma of every field,
or perhaps every chicken-coop you ride by. The feeling of
freedom, the oneness with your environment. The almost orgasmic
excitement. Nothing (well, almost nothing…) matches it!
I remember my first “powered” two-wheeler. A 1947 Cushman “box” motorscooter,
purchased in 1964 for 50 or 60 hard earned dollars. A classic
now. Durn, the thing was ugly. It was an American motorscooter
though and through. None of that sexy European “Vespa” styling!
I was not only proud, but excited too. At seventeen, you are ten
feet tall and bulletproof. I had my own wheels! The Cushman was
designed with a wrap-around bumper, foot pedals for the clutch
and brake, and a humongus trunk, that allowed me to carry several
12 inch LP record albums and a couple quarts of oil to boot!
Powered by what I would describe as a vertical stroke “lawnmower”
engine, my top speed was maybe (I might be optimistic here…) 30
miles per hour or so. The two-speed transmission, clutch use
optional, was shifted by a lever below the seat. Back then we
referred to it as a “tugboat” transmission. It made no
difference in speed, only sound. I’ll get back to sound later…
My poor scooter's death knell.
There were two “rides” on my Cushman I’ll never forget. Living on a cul-de-sac at
the end of a residential street was nice. Well, it was nice
until one day, flat out full speed, I headed for home. As I
neared the house I released the throttle. Nothing changed. The
linkage was stuck, wide open. I quickly chose the lesser of
evils and decided to try to make the turn into my driveway. I
forgot what my other option was… Anyway, as I crossed the
driveway apron I met the concrete rise into the front yard. I
never wanted to be an Airborne Ranger, but on that afternoon, I
was flying high! Scooter parts, record albums, young not yet
“Captain” Tom, and quarts of oil went flying! Luckily, nothing
was damaged beyond repair. Back in the 60’s steel was steel, and
my much younger bones were a wee bit more flexible! I’m not sure
I ever told my Dad about that. Good thing I guess.
My next big adventure on the scooter was with my younger brother,
Tim. Having such a machine as the Cushman I’m sure made him
jealous. He wanted a piece of the action. Let’s see, he must
have been 13 then. We had one of those red wagons, what were
they, “Radio Flyers” or something like that? We came up with the
idea that it would really be neat if we were to tie a rope
between the scooter and the wagon, and he could ride along behind
me. As I tied the rope, leaving about 20 feet between the
scooter and wagon, Tim got dressed for the ride. Remember this
is before the age of helmet use, but Tim cautiously thought he
should wear his football helmet. He also donned elbow and
kneepads, and came out for the trial run. It really started out
nicely. As I continued to glance rearward, I noticed the wagon,
and Tim, begin to make large “esses” in the street. Wider and
wider he went, reminding me of those folks that play
“crack-the-whip” while roller-skating. As he was hollering for
me to slow down, he began to use his feet as “outriggers.” We did
get slowed down, and upon stopping, Tim showed me his tennis
shoes. Worn through to the skin beneath. As I recall, he never
asked for another ride.
The end for my Cushman came sadly. I knew it was “just” a scooter, but I was envious
of the sounds that the big Harley-Davidson motorcycles made. I searched for
solutions, and decided that I would remove the muffler and
replace it with a section of vacuum cleaner hose that I found in
the garage. As I was making yet another “high speed” run down
our street, sounding for the first time like a real motorcycle,
everything came apart, and quickly. The piston rod broke and
bent the camshaft almost double. No crash, thank goodness, but
my “ride” would never recover.
Hmm… I wonder what it would be like to have a scooter again. It is springtime.
Until next time, remember that the Lottery is just another form of tax for those
people who are bad at math. See ya. email@example.com