Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, summer’s almost over, an’ it’s been one event after another since the snow melted back East, an’ the bugs came out here on the Left Coast. A lot of those events have swap meets as part of the agenda, an’ those of ya who build bikes like I do have probably made the rounds every chance ya got to find that one great deal hidin’ under piles of rusty junk in the back of a beat-up old pickup truck with dead tags. Yeah, I’ve found my share of diamonds in the rough, but I’ve also found some stuff that turned out to be less perfect when I got it home than it looked among all the other rusty junk. Have ya ever noticed that buyin’ parts at a swap meet is like datin’ a divorcée? Yeah, they look good, but it makes ya wonder what defects are lurkin’ beneath that great exterior! Brother Bear asked me just the other day, “Didn’t ya see that crack in the primary? Ya could fling a cat through it!”
“Well,” I answered, trying to sound as indignant as possible, “in the first place, I don’t have a cat, an’ in the second place, I left my glasses at home.” That, in case ya haven’t noticed, is a great excuse for most anything ya didn’t see, from cracked primaries to not signin’ a liability waiver, although it does get really annoying when the cashier at Dollar General leans over the card reader an’ pushes the right buttons for ya. And even worse is havin’ some wise-ass teen say, “It’s OK, sir, I already gave you the senior discount.”
Anyhow, back to the swap meet… There’s a really big swap meet held twice a year about an hour’s drive north of me, an’ it’s all car and motorcycle parts. It takes up the entire fairgrounds, an’ it takes ya all day to maneuver through the crammed aisles, an’ dig through every box, trailer, truck, an’ table. After wastin’ half an hour diggin’ a bent-up mouse trap shifter out of a box of transmission parts, empty beer cans, an’ barbed wire, ya hold it up, an’ the guy says, “Yeppers, them are rare as teeth in a hen, so I gotta have seven hunnert bucks fer it.” Growling like a cornered wolf, ya drop it back in the box ya just dug it out of, an’ watch as rust scale falls off the inside like red dandruff. That’s when the ol’ boy comes back with, “Awww, I’ll take six hunnert ’n’ fifty, but just today.” Like he’s doin’ ya a colossal favor. “Naw,” ya say. “It looks like a divorcée ta me!” The guy’s still scratchin’ his head on that one as ya walk away.
I usually make sure I take at least one pal along when I hit a swap meet. Sometimes ya just can’t see everything, an’ it’s good to have an extra set of eyes lookin’ for the good stuff. It also helps to have someone to pull the little red wagon when you get tired of runnin’ over your own heels. I actually extended the handle on my Radio Flyer to make it more adult friendly, and it really comes in handy, but with the ice chest fulla beer, there’s not much room for parts. It’s also nice when someone offers to buy ya a seven dollar hot dog, cause that hour’s drive turns into an all-night affair if they’re walkin’!
Last time, I picked an Evo head up an’ turned it over to check out the ports. Somebody had taken what must’ve been a wood rasp to ’em at some point, because they were hogged out till you could almost read a newspaper through the casting. The guy proudly proclaimed “Yeah, I done the portin’ myself.” I set the head back down carefully so the fins didn’t collapse into the exhaust port.
“Yeah, I can see that,” I replied, trying not to offend him, since he was about seven feet tall, with “big house” tattoos all over, including his forehead, an’ a hula girl on his neck that wiggled her butt every time his Adam’s apple bobbed up an’ down.
“Ya want ’em?” he asked, looking at me like the cat looks at the can opener. “Naw,” I said, “My stock engine couldn’t handle that much power.”
That seemed to mollify him, an’ I sneaked off while he was leaned sideways blowing his nose on his fingers.
Anybody who’s been in my shop knows I collect old Sporty gas tanks. Some were custom-painted back in the 60’s or 70’s, and some have the stock AMF decals on ’em. I hang ’em on the shop walls to keep the spiders out of the jukebox, or at least that’s what I tell everybody. I always check out any I find at swap meets; not because I want to use ’em on anything, but because I want to save ’em for posterity. After wadin’ through a pile of junk for 20 minutes, I pulled out a tank with an original 1960s flame job. Chipped, faded an’ dented, it was a true piece of history, an’ after payin’ the guy the ten bucks he wanted, I left the swap meet with my diamond in the rough, an’ a smile on my face!