Washing down a cookie with a slug of milk, I stood beside the Beast at a gas station, waiting for road buddies to catch up. There was time to kill since I was an hour ahead of schedule. I occupied myself by perusing the map when I spied her coming across the parking lot. I guessed her to be near 70. Wearing a yellow cotton dress wrinkled from sitting and flip-flops with big yellow daisies, her white hair was pinned in a neat bun. With eyes locked on the Beast, her face lit up as she got close.
“What a beautiful motorcycle… you on your way to Yellowstone?” she asked with a big smile as she ran her hand over the fairing like a cowgirl would pet her horse.
I tossed the remnants of lunch in the trash and nodded.
She inched her way around the Street Glide, lightly touching the grips, seat, windshield, and then leaned against the bike and started her journey down memory lane:
“I used to go to Yellowstone every summer when I was in high school. Got a job cleaning the cabins or the lodge. It wasn’t much money, but we had our own rooms and it was like camping. I loved Yellowstone; it was a lot of fun. But there were bears. They warned us about them and told us not to go out walking around at night. Will you camp there?”
Again, I nod and tell her, “Yep.”
“Aren’t you scared? One of those bears actually did eat someone while I was there one summer, and the bears are still there, you know. You don’t really get scared though, do you? I mean, you’re all by yourself? You don’t have a man to look after you? I’d be so scared to ride this thing all by myself; well, really, I’ve never ridden a motorcycle anyway. I used to have a boyfriend with a motorcycle, though. I rode behind him a few times,” she told me. “He was older than me and lived down the road from us. My parents didn’t like him. Mamma said he was wild. Daddy, well, he just never liked any of the boys I met. He was at Yellowstone with me one summer, though. Mamma and Daddy didn’t know he was gong to be there else I’m sure they never would have let me go. I went walking with him at night; even though they told us about the bears, we just went anyway. I felt safe with him. We were kinda necking; you know how kids are.” She blushes and touches her cheek before looking off into the distance.
“Never was scared before that, but the next morning we heard about the bear and we went down to see where they said that fella got killed. It was really close to where we were by the lake and it was just a mess. It could have been us, you know. Ted, that was his name, he was a junior, but no one ever called him Junior except his daddy. Anyway, Ted just laughed about it and would growl after me like a big ol’ bear and I’d scream. He thought that was really funny, that I got so scared. I’d scream like that when he took me on his bike, too. He was really crazy on that thing. We would go so fast.” She slaps her leg and laughs, brushing an errant strand of hair from her brow before tucking it back into the hairpin.
“He’d take me after work and we’d go over to the other side of the lake, away from everybody, but after that bear attack I didn’t want to go that far anymore. He called me “fraidy cat” and would still talk me into little rides that whole summer. He used to tell me about all the places he wanted to go on that bike, places I’d never even heard of. I don’t know anything about motorbikes, but I remember it was an Indian Motorcycle because it said so on it. Most of the paint was scraped off ’cause he kind of beat it up a lot, but one side wasn’t dented at all so you could tell it said Indian. Have you ever heard of one of those? He was really proud of it and said it was special, but I thought it was mostly just an old piece of junk, but it was fun to ride behind him. He was such a sweet boy. He ended up going into the Army before I even finished school. He died over there. It broke my heart.” She gasps and covers her mouth with her fingertips as a tear falls from her cheek. “He wanted to get married, but, well… I never got married. I just couldn’t find another boy as sweet as my Teddy. And I never did ride a motorbike again, either.”