Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Let’s talk about stuff. Your wife has knick-knacks, collectibles, heirlooms, or things. Big or small, they all have a place and a story. You, on the other hand, have stuff. If it’s visible outside your chosen hidey-hole (usually the garage), it becomes junk, as in “get rid of that junk behind the garage!” If you’re lucky, she won’t venture into the nether regions of the yard, simply because a) she doesn’t want to see the junk behind the garage, or b) the grass and weeds are so high she’s afraid of what may be lurking there. Kinda like that Steven Kringe movie Children of the Crabgrass. Anyway, among the rotting carcasses of old lawnmowers, camper shells, and the broken go-kart frame from when you were 12, could be just the piece you need to fix an otherwise unfixable problem. I’m glad Reggie doesn’t bother me about my “stuff,” she just ignores it, since my shop is a couple hundred feet below the house. I have my scrap iron pile, with odds and ends ranging from scraps of aluminum diamond plate to rusty 2” by 3” steel tubing, and sheet metal in all different shapes, sizes, and thickness. At times, it’s the proverbial wishing well, and at others, it’s Pandora’s Box. My problem is that I save everything. Some people see junk, but I see motorcycle parts.
When I built Reggie’s world-famous pink trike, I used what I had on hand to modify it so she could ride it. I made a cable setup to move the shifter to the right side, since she’s only paralyzed on her left side, and used some old pieces of forward controls out of the scrap heap. Same with the fold-down armrests that hold her in place, and the mount for her tour pack is the back of an old shopping cart welded to the sides of an old sissy bar. Once again, it was “stuff” to the rescue! It seems like every time I throw something out, I have to buy one a week later.
Stuff also shows up like ants at a picnic, or maybe by osmosis. Somehow, I became the proud (?) owner of 25 pairs of handlebars. Most are new, but they all showed up at different times seeking political asylum. They’re hanging on the shop wall along with hundreds of other semi-identifiable pieces of motorcycle flotsam and jetsam. When my buddies are needing a part, they usually come by the shop first, because they know I probably have at least three of whatever it is, if I can find ’em under all this stuff.
The other day, I had to make an emergency repair on the clutch for my old ‘74 Harley golf cart before the big semi-biannual golf cart race in Ray’s front yard. Yeah, the one I told ya about last month. That kinda stuff happens all the time, and you have to be prepared, cause it’s usually on a weekend when the scrap yards are closed.
One time a guy I knew pretty well showed up on a Sunday looking for an inner primary for a ’66 generator Shovel with electric start. Just so happened I had one in a pile of other stuff under the bench. I told him 25 bucks, which is dirt cheap, and he said he’d bring the money back the next day. It’s only been about seven or eight years, so I guess he got hung up along the way…
When I go to bike shows, I see that I’m not the only one who uses stuff to make other stuff. Some call them rat bikes, some call it steampunk, and others use it to add a little mystery to a more traditional chopper, but they all have one thing in common: they have random stuff built into every square inch. Horse shoes for footboards, knives for fender struts, an old tractor seat, and more stuff that you can’t begin to guess the origin of, combine to make a one-of-a-kind ride. That’s the kind of stuff I like. When I put one of my builds in a show, I usually hear “where’d ya get that?” about parts I’ve built from scraps of stuff.
I guess I truly am my ol’ man’s kid, because he was the same way. He saved everything, and could build anything. I’ve been making so much for so long with so little, I’m now qualified to make anything from nothing. Back in the ’60s, there were only a few places you could get custom parts for your bike, and those were mostly mail order. If you wanted anything else, you had to make it yourself and shoot it rattle-can black. It was more difficult to build choppers back then, especially if you couldn’t fabricate and weld, but it was also rewarding when you stood back and thought, “Yeah! I built that!”
My problem lately is space versus stuff. I’ve basically stuffed myself out of a place to work, so the other day, I started moving stuff off the shelves and outta the shop. I put up one of those parking covers to put the stuff under, but I’ve learned over the years that rust gives stuff character, so the next time your wife complains about your stuff “rusting away out there,” tell her, “No, dear… It’s building character!”