Every time I get my new The Antique Motorcycle magazine or a Montana Vintage Motorcycle Club flyer in the mail I want to devour it in one reading, but instead I take small snippets and savor the articles. I especially enjoy the article written by everyday club members and the "remember when" true life stories that they write.
My motorcycle days started in about 1963, when I was about 12 years old, if memory serves me. It was right about the time that (in my mind) any good use for a horse was over. I had seen a neighbor kid with a Honda 50 street model, the ones with the leg guards, and I wanted one so bad I could taste it.
I grew up on a ranch about 30 miles north of Lewistown, in an area called Salt Creek. I had ridden to town with my dad in the truck one day when I asked if we could go into the Honda dealer to "just look" at the bikes. He didn't see any harm in just looking.
When I saw the brand new Honda 55 Trail model that sold for about $285 my mind just seemed to go into overdrive. I told my dad that if he would have to pay a hired man for summers wages, it would cost more than 285 dollars, and that I had been doing the job of a hired man for several years now. I would be glad to get the bike for summer's wages. My argument held water. I had actually run a Caterpillar tractor since I was eight years old, and at 12 had spent quite a few days on one plowing summer fallow. I got the bike.
That night I finally got a sleeping bag and went out into the shop and slept with my shiny new motorcycle. I'm sure there were a few times when dad had regrets about giving me this much freedom, but over all it has made an indelible impression on my life. There were literally hundreds of miles of gravel roads to travel and explore. Even without a driver's license, that far away from town, one could make short runs on the highway without fear of getting arrested. Pretty heady stuff!
A couple of years later we traded the Trail 55 for a new black Honda S90. This was a real motorcycle by comparison. It had a four speed transmission with a hand clutch, and was very fast. On a big hill if you lay down on the seat, pointed your toes and made yourself real small, the bike would do 65 mph, according to the speedometer anyway. I never used to say much about that because people thought you were crazy for doing it on a gravel road…with those itty-bitty tires.
A neighbor kid had an S90 like mine and we rode together sometimes. I was up to their place one day when some guy rode out from Lewistown, on a late '50s XLCH Harley. He wanted to go look at the fishing pond and asked me if he could take my bike off road as he thought his was too heavy. I figured he could handle it so I said sure. Then (and I didn't think he would let me, being only 14 years old) I asked him if I could take the Harley out on the gravel road. Sure, he says, and started it up for me. He said, be careful, they shift on the wrong side. No problem… I hoped.