The Rebel Rides

September 9, 2008

All Posts, Features, The Rebel Rides

I was not my mother’s pride and joy. Let that go right there.

My father could never have managed to play a father on TV.

I don’t know what my brother who died could have grown up to be.

My sister went to Bible College so now she can speak authoritatively when she states her sincere belief that Jesus sure as Hell did not die to save the likes of me. Also, she is grossly obese. But she doesn’t blame it on a glandular disorder like some people might. She thinks being fat is somehow on account of the molestations.

Eventually, by working at jobs he hated, my old man raised his economic status to the point where he actually owned a postage stamp piece of land. He grew rocks and tree stumps for the most part. And my job in the family was to dig them out for him. Sometimes, when I did a particularly good job he gave me a half a can of beer to drink. Other times all I got was constructive criticism.

My father and I were never buddies. We did not play catch. I tried to stay out of his way. But we did have a father-and-son talk when I was 18.

“You’re 18-years-old. What are you gonna do? What do you think?” We were walking down the kind of road nobody walks down anymore. It was Spring. The air was buzzing.

I kept waving my hand in front of me. “I don’t know. What do you think? The Army or the Marine Corps?”

“The Marine Corps? Why? So you can come home and impress some girl with your pretty dress blues? You’re going to hate the Marines. I know you. Let me tell you about chipping paint.” He lit a cigarette and shared it with me while he told me about going over the side of a ship and chipping off the old paint. The cigarette timed out how far we were going to walk and it discouraged the bugs. “The Army’s not much better.”

We started back. The old man lit another cigarette. He was a chain smoker. I didn’t want to smoke anymore. This was our first actual talk and I was pretty sure it would be our last. So I wanted to take this golden opportunity to confess to him my most secret ambition. “I’ve been thinking about trying to go to college.”

The old man laughed. Then he coughed for about a minute. “Are you drunk? You know you’re not smart enough for college.” He shook his head. “Geez.” He laughed and he coughed some more.

“Then I don’t know.”

We stopped when we got back to what we used to call our yard. The old man grabbed my arm. “If I was you….” He got close to my face. His breath was hot and smelled like Lucky Strikes. “If I was you I would buy a motorcycle. Hear me? I would buy a motorcycle and I would get the hell out of here.” I might not have been smart enough for college but I was smart enough to know that he was talking about himself. He wasn’t talking about me. “I would get on that motorcycle and I would just go be free.”

So, it was my old man who put the idea in my mind.

Of course, I ignored the son-of-a-bitch for about ten years. I had big plans. I wasn’t going to be me. I was going to be somebody better than me. And then all those plans had to be revised. Then my new and improved and smaller plans got revised. Eventually, I got stuck being me.

I did not see my father for years at a stretch. And, we did not have much to say to each other when we did meet. After a while, I started to think every time I saw him would be the last time. The laughs got fewer. The coughing got worse. The signatures on the Christmas cards got shakier.

By then he had already been dead to me most of my life. But, it is never the things you say or do that eat at you. The worst parts of life are always what you did not do or did not say. So I wrote the old man a letter.

“Dear Dad. Remember that advice you gave me that time about getting a motorcycle? Well, I never said thanks and I wanted to thank you for that. Every time I get on my bike I think about thanking you.”

This was in the mid-90s. It was about a year before he died. He never bothered to write me back. It was too late for him to live his life through me so why should he? I did not hold it against him. He probably felt about the same way I felt when I did not go to his funeral.

But I did not forget him. In fact, I probably like him more now than I did when he was alive.

And, I do still love to ride my motorcycle. When I ride I still feel 18-years-old and free and all the possibilities of what I might yet do and see and know and what my life might yet be seem to stretch out forever in front of me like a long, grey ribbon of highway. And, I know I have the old-son-of-bitch to thank for that. And, I know that most fathers leave their sons less.

, , , , , , , , , ,

16 Responses to “The Rebel Rides”

  1. Penguin Says:

    Good story, Rebel. Thanks

    Me? Pop died in my arms. He was 50, it was my 13th birthday. We were camping… Heart attack. Yes, it makes it hard to know how to be a dad…I was not very good at it.

    Mom did her best. JROTC warned me off the army…college…girls…and my first bike (a WLA) at 16… College lost, the bikes and girls and “so-forth” won.

    The old man’s death saved me from many ugly arguments which I would have had.

    I did later some contract work for the military. It was absurd. But they paid the bills…

  2. SB Apollo Says:

    Austin, my sincere apology

  3. stroker Says:

    Dear Rebel……
    Like Austin, I don’t comment too much anymore, but read your site faithfully most every day. I’m still fascinated enough with this lifestyle I’ve chosen (or did it choose me?) to check up on what’s doin’ in our culture.
    Like you, I wasn’t friends with my father. He was a no-nonsense, old-school WWII vet. When he came back, he really didn’t know how to be a dad, or a father. Like him, because of him, I didn’t really know how to be a dad or a father to my own children. It wasn’t until I suddenly had to take my 3 kids back from my ex-wife that I developed any real interest in being a dad. Even then, it was perfunctory duty at best. Now, I treasure my kids (and grandkids) but it took a while.
    The distance between me and my dad decreased somewhat as we both got older, but I joined Uncle Sam’s canoe club, and stayed 3,000 miles away from him the rest of my life.
    Like you (and a whole lot of others) I took to motorcycling as soon as I got back from Vietnam. Never been sorry. It’s my sanity on two wheels. The reason and inspiration for every day; knowing I’ve got an iron horse (or two) to blast my blues away.
    I can look back on my dad know, with some sense of missing him, but knowing it’s probably me missing the idea of missing him.

  4. panamaa Says:

    Good shit Rebel…….

  5. white witch Says:


    Great piece, brings back some similar memories.
    Keep up the good work. appreciate it.

    ride free
    white witch

  6. Old & Jaded Says:

    Sometimes you can’t stop reading something once you start. This was one of those moments.
    Thank you, Rebel. Here’s to the next decade.

  7. Dasein Says:

    SB Apollo, “Maimed Happiness” certainly sums up much of this life. Thanks for putting that up. Austin though, couple posts below, “bumped” this, and I’m glad she did. In fact all “The Rebel Rides” tales, below the “patch”, above are powerful, compact and densely concentrated remembrances, always telling far more than they seem to say. That’s what separates Rebel as a Writer, from the Journalist, and that’s the appeal of this site. It’s “the News” alright, but presented as literature, poetry, even, at times, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.

  8. Gandalf Says:

    I can see the town/street and area perfectly. I was just there… So still is Lou Turks.

  9. SB Apollo Says:

    Dasein, I’m glad you bumped this.

    Rebel, can’t really talk about my pop quite so eloquently, but—

    First time i heard this song, I said to myself I was gonna make sure he got a listen to it. He liked it.

  10. Dasein Says:

    My Dad smelled like Chesterfields, and gin, and told me I should probably see a psychiatrist. But when he was in his waders, fly casting in a swift mountain stream, he was all but angelic. That’s what I remember the most.

  11. Muck 1%er Says:

    That was indeed a crazy year. Thanks for sticking it out and thanks again Rebel, for all that you do to shine a light on things best aired in the sunlight.

  12. Rebel Says:

    Dear Austin,

    Thank you, I appreciate that. This blog went up around Labor Day 2008. Dave Burgess had just been framed in Wyoming. Stonee Ablett and Papa Guardado had a fatal encounter in San Francisco. Sons of Anarchy premiered. Doc Cavazos had a book out. Hitman Martin got shot off his bike on the Glendale Freeway the first month. Operation Black Rain was still all Top Secret and shit. Thanks again.


  13. Austin Says:

    Hey Rebel, I am not sure exactly how much I missed it by – but I am picking this story as being very close to the beginning of the best blog in etherland.

    I first came across in late ’08, and while I don’t contribute much anymore, I am still out here reading, and am grateful to you and to the readership for your unrelenting coverage of non-mainstream news.

    Dude- I am amazed to be saying;
    Happy 10th Anniversary of keeping a light on for the TRUTH. Congratulations on staying true to your values, and not letting those dirtbag Fed assholes shut you up.
    Our associations are with different clubs, but our spirit is one. I still wish the fallout hadn’t happened – but – as the love of my life was fond of saying…. “It is what it is”

    I will never get my white picket fence dream life, but I am at peace with what I DO have. Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

  14. sled tramp Says:

    I see our sleds are set up the same.You can tell a lot about a guy from his sled….

  15. JAMES Says:


  16. Sandra Says:

    Yes. I like this one, too.

Leave a Reply