Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Have ya ever had a project that seemed to take forever to get started on? Yeah, me too. I got to thinkin’ about that the other day when “Brother Bear” called me to tell me that he’d just picked up the rebuilt engine for his ’46 Indian Chief for the second time in 40 years. I kinda wondered about that, but he had it rebuilt about 25 years ago an’ thought he’d better have it pulled down an’ checked for tarantula nests an’ such, since it had never been started in all that time. It’s a good thing he did, because whoever built it way back when tossed in whatever they had under the bench, an’ its life expectancy would have been less than two minutes.
Now, you’ve gotta understand how attached The Bear is to this ol’ warrior. He’s had it all his adult life, an’ things just wouldn’t be the same without trippin’ over the pieces nearly every day. He acquired the old Chief in a trade when he was about 12 years old. He was tryin’ to sell his Schwinn Stingray bike, an’ an old man looked it over then said, “Boy, I’ve got an old motorsickle I’ll trade ya for it. She’s all apart, but most of the pieces are there.”
Now back then, it was every kid’s dream to actually own his own motorcycle, so naturally, Brother Bear (little Dale, at that time) jumped on the deal an’ hauled the old Chief home piece by piece in a little red wagon. Now this story takes a turn as datin’ an’ marriage somehow weaseled their way into the picture, an’ now it’s a cozy little threesome of Dale, Christine an’ the old Indian. The whole “procreation” an’ “perpetuatin’ the species” thing magically took place so now the family was increased by two more, an’ so the old Chief was pushed back into a corner.
I first saw the Chief back in the 80’s, an’ around 1995 I tried to inspire (or shame) The Bear into startin’ the restoration, or at least knockin’ some of the spiders off so it didn’t look like a Halloween decoration. I wrote him a poem—actually, more of a saga, but bein’ immune to shame is just one attribute that Brother Bear proudly shares with yours truly.
So now, about half a lifetime later, the engine’s done for the second time. It’s been test-fired an’ he’s ready to start puttin’ it back together, but things are startin’ to slow down again. The other day I stopped by an’ he was head an’ shoulders under the kitchen sink. I peeked in an’ asked, “What’s the Indian tranny doin’ under the…”
“Shhh!” he admonished me. “Chris thinks I’m workin’ on the plumbing!”
“Oooookay,” I said, reachin’ for the bottle of Mr. Daniel’s finest that’s always within easy reach an’ ploppin’ down in a chair. “But won’t she wonder why the faucet still drips?”
“Naw,” he grinned. “She knows I’m a lousy plumber. Besides, she’ll fix it herself before long.”
“So,” I asked, wipin’ at a ring of moisture from my glass that was soakin’ into the belly of my T-shirt, “What color is the Chief gonna be?”
The Bear shrugged, covered the transmission with a greasy dish towel an’ headed toward the garage with it. “Awww, I dunno… I guess I’ll have to think on that a while.”
So here we go again. I’m offerin’ this old poem up to the Indian gods in hopes that it won’t be another 40 years before the old warrior hits the streets!
This is the saga of an Indian Chief,
but not the same kind that gave Custer such grief.
Just an old two-wheeled warrior that sat in a shed,
forlorn an’ forgotten, an’ just left for dead.
Now ol’ “Top-Rail” Dale is a sinister chap,
with two ugly buns on the back of his lap.
He bought the ol’ Injun then left it to rot,
in a dark, dingy corner that time had forgot.
One day toward the corner ran a fat sassy mouse,
an’ Dale screamed, “I’ll not have that meese in my house!”
So he cleaned out the corner an’ into the clear,
he pushed the ol’ Chief for the first time in years.
He tried once to kick it, but he hadn’t the beef.
An’ the strain on his leg made it shake like a leaf.
The pistons were frozen, an’ so were the rods,
so he prayed for forgiveness to the Indian gods.
He hooked up a cable to give it a tow,
the temperature outside was 90 or so.
The asphalt was sticky an’ the tire half flat,
’twas the right combination for startin’ the rat.
The pistons broke loose when he popped it in gear,
with a terrible screech that the neighbors could hear.
The smoke from the tailpipes, so acrid an’ blue,
could be seen in Madera an’ Bakersfield, too.
So back in its corner went the proud ol’ machine,
till the kids finish college an’ life’s more routine.
Till the new shop is finished an’ the horses are trained,
an’ the family finances are a little less strained.
He said, “If I should die while the Chief’s still apart,
remember the place it has held in my heart.
And as I move on to a new world that’s greater,
throw the Chief in with me and I’ll finish it later.”