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Southern Rail: Color blind

By Robert Filla

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After my dad’s death in 1975, I abandoned my three year chase of an engineering degree, leaving the hallowed halls of Texas A&M and returning home in an effort to keep the family intact, food on the table, gas in mom’s car, and doing my best to serve as a father figure for my three siblings. But I was certainly no saint and, shortly after arriving, I finagled my way into a manager’s position at one of the more rowdy drinking establishments in the hardscrabble burg.

Although most of my patrons were rough and calloused oilfield trash, my Harley parked on the front sidewalk of the bar began to draw in a different crowd and soon the bar had as many local bikers as oilfield workers. Most of the bikers were guys I attended high school with along with a few misfits I’d never met before. And then, without any brains or direction, I fell under the evil influence of these ner-do-wells and we began discussions on founding a bike club.

We’d already read the magazines that included photos of big-breasted chicks reclining on the back of tall-ass sissybar choppers, watched every B-rated biker movie available and now, we were poised to establish our own bike club. We had no idea what the hell we were doing but we each had a denim jacket and a pair of scissors. We were kids, we were clueless and… we should’ve done more research.

At a drunk-fest establishment appropriately named the Dew-Drop Inn, it would be decided who would be president of our new club, the Camino Jammers. My only contender for the honor was my bro Colorado. One of us would be President and the other VP. With everyone sipping on draft inside, we went to the back lot to determine Alpha Male.

“Colorado, I’m a much better follower than a leader,” I declared.

“Cool, then I’ll be President but… I gotta hit ya in the head. Just so it looks legit,” Colorado responded. And he did. His blow was a lot less painful than pretending he wupped me. And then the poop hit the fan.

The reigning bike club in Texas mistook our ignorance of motorcycle club etiquette as a potential threat and a few months later, in territory where we had no business being in the first place, a confrontation escalated and turned sour. Quickly realizing that the weighty nature of flying colors was a lot more serious than what the magazines had portrayed, we politely retreated.

Later, the Prez and I were making a run out to New Mexico for a July 4th biker run. Unbeknownst to us, this annual event was organized by a State Trooper. Also unknown to us was the rumor that a large contingency of patch-holders would be in attendance that year. Apparently that rumor stirred up quite a commotion, caused the State Trooper promoter a ton of headaches and resulted in a drop in attendance. And then, like proven fools, the Prez and I came rolling right into the middle of this mess sporting cut-off blue jean vests and colors (that rumor of a large contingency was just that, only a rumor and we were the only bad-ass bikers there). We were immediately singled out by the Trooper, given a stern lecture that we would be under constant surveillance during the event and that appropriate action for any misconduct would be swift and heavy-handed. Made for quite an interesting few days.

The Jammers MC managed to hammer out a few more years before disbanding to pursue family life and careers that actually produced legal money. But flying that patch was never trouble-free and I was constantly burdened with uneasiness. Endlessly looking over my shoulder, always sitting facing the door, I swore I’d never ride with a club again.

Ten years later, I’d seen the light, repented of my sinful ways and was a licensed minister riding with a Christian Motorcycle Ministry and once again wearing a three-piece patch. That certainly received plenty of attention and, again, from both the biker world and law enforcement. The police figured we were actually drug runners, only using the pretense of religion as a cover. Most of the patch-holders didn’t take us serious at first with one even pointing a gun to our heads and telling us to “keep Jesus in church where he belongs.”

So from a colorful, firsthand background I have a firm grasp of the grave consequences that are possible when flying colors. But apparently the team at Harley’s MotorClothes aren’t quite the wizened savant as I and fall into that “should’ve maybe done more research” category. With the release of their Men’s Vintage Denim Vest they are certain to ratchet up the friction between serious motorcycle club members and some weekend rider with a hankering for a trip on the wild side. The Vintage Vest is a cut-off denim jacket bearing a Harley Number-1 patch and a winged Bar & Shield patch on the front (not too big a problem). But here’s the rub, on the back is a 3-piece patch designed to resemble club colors with a “Harley” top rocker, a “Davidson” bottom rocker and a hollowed-eye skull as the center graphic. But the masterstroke of genius has to be the MC patch strategically placed next to the skull. One customer review of the product states, “I love this vest. The only issue I have is that it runs a bit long.” If experience has taught me anything, I figure this vest has the potential to cause quite a bit of running.

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