GOLD HILL, ORE.–Hanging out in Klamath Falls at the recent Rip City Riders Run shooting folks as they took part in the bike games, one of the participants in particular caught my lens. He struck me as a longtime rider. His bike looked well loved with apehangers and pinstriping, but no p-pad despite the passenger he packed. He handled his bike well as he maneuvered through the slow race, ball-and-cone game and the wienie bite, laughing easily and chattering with his passenger as they enjoyed the competitions. Towards the end of the day he sidled up to me and announced, “My name is Bucky, I’m the mayor of my town.”
First reaction was, “Well, of course you are!” A biker mayor? Seriously? I’m a notorious smartass so it was tough, but I managed to squelch the words, “And just how many others live with you in your little town, Bucky?” before they tumbled out of my mouth. Instead I simply asked what the population was in his town. “One thousand forty-six,” came the answer. I nodded and promptly asked for his business card. Ya just gotta wonder what kind of town votes in a biker for a mayor, especially a biker like Bucky, and I just couldn’t pass this one up. We made arrangements for a visit to his little burg a few days later on my way up north.
Rolling into Gold Hill, Oregon, was like stepping back in time. The quaint little community was tidy and charming and had that Mayberry feel as I looked around for Bucky. As expected, it was easy to spot my host. Having been given directions of “right across the street from the Post Office, I’ll be at Lucky’s,” I recognized the parked Cross Bones H-D immediately and chuckled with the realization that our meeting place was to be a local watering hole. Perfect. Bucky the biker mayor’s office is a bar, and he arrived riding his bike wearing flip-flops. I couldn’t help but giggle.
Now Bucky isn’t a big guy. With a slight build and chest-length white beard, he still manages to stand out in a crowd. He has the quintessential style of an undeniable biker. Friendly and chatty, the 58-year-old leaves an impression with everyone he meets, since what he lacks in stature he more than compensates for with personality. His bright blue eyes have a sort of sparkle about them, and if you look close, there’s a hint of orneriness behind the warm smile.
We settled in at the bar as introductions were passed around and Lucky’s owner, Janice Grimes, poured. Soon we were swapping road stories, details of his most recent bike build, and local lore in between interruptions from residents as they stopped by to hash out business and discuss the happenings at City Hall. More than once His Honor explained to citizens that he was conducting official business with the press before he ordered another beer.
“Janice just opened this place about three months ago,” Bucky explained. “At first she told me she’d give me a free beer for every biker I brought in. That wore out real quick, though,” he said. “Ha!” Janice says as she waves her hand, laughing. “I stopped that right away. I would have gone broke!”
Out of a population of just over a thousand, about 25 are bikers and they all turned out to welcome the new bar. Already Janice reports a good business. For this afternoon, the several customers bellied up to the bar participate in a round-table discussion about organizing a run to bring more bikers to the area. Just 30 miles from Lost Creek Lake and 75 miles from Crater Lake, the area offers a number of scenic ride opportunities. It isn’t, however, a year-round destination for bikers.
“I’m a spoiled SoCal boy and this cold just don’t go right with me. I could ride year-round down there. Here it’s just too cold for about 10 months it seems like, but really the last three years I’ve been able to ride just about year-round. I still ride down to Berdoo once or twice a year to see everybody. But I love it up here; it’s such a nice little place.
“You know, the main reason I ran for mayor was because I didn’t like the way things were being run, so I decided to get involved. I had a lot of ideas to update the city. It has the potential to be a historical city since it really is, and I just really care for this place. My slogan was, ‘I might be unconventional, but that might just work!’
“Our problem here is that people just don’t get involved like they should. They don’t vote. I’d had a massive heart attack in ’07 and really didn’t have anything else to do since I quit contracting, so I ran for city council and won. Then I ran for mayor and I’m going up for my third term now. Been in office for four years and if I get it this time, I guess I’ll break some kind of record for mayorship or something.
“One of the first things I did was get rid of the police department. They weren’t really doing anything as far as I could see, so I fired them all and we sold off all their equipment, cars and stuff, and now I rent out my office to the Sheriff’s Department as a sub-station, so they’re around if we need them since about the most we have is a domestic disturbance once in a while—maybe.”
The Gold Hill City Council consists of six members, only one of whom is male and Bucky shared that the meetings can get tedious.
“Our city business could really be handled in about an hour, but we get bogged down when they get to bickering. Lately I’ve been gaveling the heck out of ’em ’cause meetings tend to last for more than three hours otherwise,” he said.
If Bucky represents what bikers are capable of, then I wonder why more of us aren’t governmental officials.
“We don’t have a lot going on around here, though we do have a Gold Dust Days celebration on the first Saturday of June every year and that’s a big deal. It’s just a sleepy little town and the folks are good here.”
Established in the 1860s by people hoping to hit it big after miners found a large gold nugget, Gold Hill is nestled next to the Rogue River, and outdoor recreation is a big draw. The main industry in town is a fabrication shop. There are a couple of bike shops, a nice restaurant called Patti’s and they have a historical museum, as well as their very own vortex.
According to the town’s website, Native Americans considered the region the “forbidden ground,” since their horses, or any animals for that matter, refused to enter the area eventually determined to be a geological vortex. Geologist John Lister came to town in 1920 and opened the area to the public in 1930, remaining in Gold Hill discovering, and developing, theories about the mysterious grounds until his death in 1959. There is a “House of Mystery,” established much like California’s famous Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, and it’s a big tourist destination.
Eventually the clock over the bar reminded me I had several more miles to cover before sunset, so my last request from the illustrious official with the tattoos and support gear was to tell me one interesting thing about himself. Without missing a beat he sort of tilted his head and chuckled. “Well,” he said, as those bright baby blues twinkled, “Women seem to like me!” Everyone laughed. Then it dawned on me. We need more guys who can lower citizens’ expenses by cutting government, promoting local commerce and supporting his community while riding a Harley and wearing flip-flops. Personally, I vote Bucky for president.
***This story appeared in the September, 2012 issue of Thunder Press. Current information on the city of Gold Hill via their website states that Jan Fish is currently mayor. To learn more about Gold Hill, Oregon, go to www.ci.goldhill.or.us/index.html.