Ruby Weber of Sacramento California is a 5’1”, 100-pound woman of 77. Having had her share of hard knocks, they’ve resulted in a brand of perseverance and quiet strength that makes her downright unforgettable; her story, the stuff of legend.
Ruby came into the world in a remote Montana mining camp butted up against the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the 49th parallel. She would be named after Ruby Gulch, a forested drainage so impacted by mining practices from 1844 to 1996 that, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, “it will require water purification forever.”
Ruby’s grandfather and his son-in-law worked the mines, living hard and drinking a volume inconsistent with responsible parenting. Due to neglect, she and her four siblings were removed, relocated to Oregon, then to Washington after leaving the Big Sky State. Ruby would live in six different foster placements by the time she was a teen, at which point she explained, “I wandered off.”
Having lost track of her siblings and parents years before, at 13, when walking with a friend to her foster home after school, fate stepped in. “A car full of boys stopped to check us out,” Ruby explained. One of them was Ruby’s older brother. From that encounter, she eventually found all of her siblings nearby in the Seattle area. Her parents had divorced and re-partnered and surprisingly, Ruby’s mother was pregnant. The reunion wasn’t what Ruby had hoped. She realized that by some grace she’d moved beyond the unfortunate place her family still seemed stuck.
Though she’d later get her GED, while still very young and with only an 8th grade education, employment was limited. Ruby knew how to care for others and that lead to jobs babysitting, sometimes live-in positions. The foster system stopped looking for Ruby and in 1957 she tagged along with a friend to Sacramento. There, still watching children for a living, she would meet Jim “Mother” Miles, who’d become her husband and father of her son James (RIP) and daughter Sibrina. Miles founded a motorcycle club, Hell Bent for Glory, before being invited by Sonny Barger to disband and join the Hells Angels in Oakland. There was enormous law enforcement resistance to HA in the Sacramento Valley, but Miles was instrumental in establishing a presence of the Angels there.
Although Ruby enjoyed riding as passenger, she learned to ride her own while she and Miles were coupled. Riding on a bike with ape hangers and a raked front end can be challenging, and Ruby explained her first solo took a little while. “I had to find enough room to turn around.” Over the years she’s been what she calls “lead mare” organizing and leading lady rides into the foothills for lunch or far longer rides out of state, sometimes 30 bikes in her rearview. She eventually became a well-known activist for motorcycle rights in various groups, holding the title today of club liaison for ABATE and MMA of California. Attending events, Ruby’s easily recognized, making a quick drop-in near impossible. Even at 77, Ruby explains, “I’m not one to put things out there” or to ask for help. But she knows if the time comes, those riders “have all got my back.”
Ruby speaks fondly of Miles: “He was a good father, kind and gentle, laid back,” but not one to hold a job. Though done with the relationship in ’64, their friendship continued, she and the kids often spending the weekend with Miles and his girlfriend in their home so the kids and he could be together.
Jim “Mother” Miles was killed in a motorcycle-truck accident in January of ’66. Ruby sat with his girlfriend Ann during the service. Police escort was provided for well over 100 bikes and vehicles, the County Sheriff allowing colors to fly for the limited engagement. According to Ruby, “Escorting was a way of keeping an eye on them.”
Sonny Barger was one of the pallbearers.
Ruby wasn’t looking for a relationship when she met her second husband Dan, a non-rider, with a marriage lasting 13 years. In 1977 she married fellow rider Don Weber, who she calls “Weber” and in ’89 they moved to a shy two acres adjacent the Auburn Boulevard off-ramp in Sacramento. Until a few years ago the well-groomed parcel provided paddock for beloved horses.
Cancer took Ruby’s son in early 2016 and her last horse in December last year. Afterward, Ruby faced diagnosis herself and endured the surgery to remove part of her lung. She’s cancer free today. She told almost no one of those trials, handling it as she’s handled most of her life “on my own.”
Weber, 86, is in the throes of dementia and Ruby once again finds herself a caregiver. In quiet grace she explained, “I’ve had an interesting life, with good times and bad. You just sort of take things as they come, then move on.”