Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mile 1,510: There Is No Spoon

I learned to ride a motorcycle on the edge of the badlands of West Texas where the people are gentle and the wind is cruel. It was impossible to come home from a ride without feeling sandblasted. But out there in the early 1990s is where I graduated from the back of my grandfather's Shovelhead to my own bike.

Other than my friend Randy's fat-tired mini-bike--(which to a ten-year-old was the most awesome thing ever invented)--my experience on a motorcycle was limited to the backseat of the ugliest ratbike ever made, but a bike to me that was a thing of beauty.

My grandfather's image has only grown richer in my adult life, now thirty years after his passing. He was one of the last true cowboys, a rancher who herded cattle and sheep and pigs from the back of a real horse. No four-wheelers or fancy ranch pickups with air conditioning. A man who could not care less about silver spoons. But he embraced his transitional role in that last generation of old-school cowboys when he would throw me on the back of his motorcycle to go out into the pastures to chase the cows. Those Beefmaster cows and steers must have considered us a strange sight, a leather-skinned Irishman in a cowboy hat on a Harley hauling around a five-year-old toehead with a Dutch-boy haircut.

Those images haunted me with a strange comfort as I spent my own early motorcycling years out in the desolate cotton-farming counties of West Texas. One particular man named Nolan reminded me a lot of my grandfather. He had two pairs of overalls: a pair for everyday life, and a nice pair just in case he needed to gussy up for a special occasion. He cared nothing of his appearance, and everything about the people around him. He was Texas. A rugged face with a gentle heart.

The ghosts of Nolan and my grandfather continue to inform who I am (and want to be) as a man. The focus is to be on caring about friends, not the distractions of our material culture. It was hard for me to leave West Texas and enter into a decade of places that cared a little too much about purchased things and keeping up appearances. That life just never made sense to me after spending my first twenty-five years around farmers and people of the land.

And even though today I spend most of my forty-something years here in one of the biggest cities in the world, I cannot escape the ideals of the badlands where the only truth is the people. When your tractor breaks down, you go fix it. When feelings get hurt, you go fix that too. And then you keep going.

The most important things are the people, not the things you can buy with a credit card. And after such a realization... then... the most comforting truth of all is this: There never was a silver spoon in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment