Time to Paint Part 2

The story

In 1947, at the ripe old age of 16, my uncle Jim hitched a ride to LA for the expressed purpose of buying a motorcycle. At this time in history, right at the close of WWII, most vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. were still in military machine production mode and about the only way to acquire a new mechanical mode of transportation was to find a used one.

This is what motivated my uncle to go to Los Angeles and scour the local police departments for Harleys about to be retired from service.

I guess back then policemen purchased their own rides.  My uncle spent a week going from department to department asking motorcycle cops if they were thinking of an upgrade. Law enforcement had the inside track for new equipment.

It was a frustrating week and my uncle was about to pack it up and head back to Southern Idaho.  On his final day in California he received a message that a CHIP’s officer was buying a new bike.

The officer sold him his service bike for $75 bucks on the condition that my uncle would replace the bald and bulging tires and take a few extra cans of oil and a set of tools with him before hitting the road solo on his way back to Idaho. Did I mention he was 16 years old?

So, my uncle spent the last of his money on a couple quarts of oil, threw them into the saddle bags with a wrench, a screwdriver, and some dirty clothes, promptly ignored the promise to replace the bald tires, and hit the road.

After he reached Las Vegas he noticed a sailor thumbing a ride near the highway 93 junction. He pulled over and after a quick chat the sailor placed his Navy duffle over the rear fender and saddle bags and climbed aboard.

Now my uncle was short in stature but a giant in heart. He maneuvered all 5 feet of himself onto the gas tank and gave the single seat to the sailor who held his cap on with one hand and his duffle with the other. They hit the road.

This is the image I want to capture: A young man driving a big old Harley while sitting on the gas tank and a sailor riding on the back through the Nevada desert. I can see their excited expectant faces; one looking forward to his return from the war and the other to the excitement of a life yet to be explored.

More to come…


2 Responses to “Time to Paint Part 2”

  1. Mike it was a pleasure to meet you. You are an interesting and talented fellow. This is a great story and you are so gifted! Thank you for sharing a few of the interesting things that cross your mind. I wish I had a fragment of your ability.

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