FEATURED COLUMN by John McDonald: The motorcycle arrives in style

By John McDonald

The older folks back home like to tell the story about the first motorcycle ever seen in their quiet Down East town. It wasn’t driven through town by some loud, rich summer-complaint. The first motorcycle to come through town was driven by hometown boy Walter Merrill.

Walter had joined the army, and when he came back home on leave for the fist time for a visit, he was astride a brand new shiny Harley Davidson motorcycle. Most people in town had seen pictures of these motorcycles — in magazines, newspapers and in the movies — but most folks had never seen a real one up close. So when Walt came rumbling through town and parked his big, bad shiny, new bike in front of the store, it drew a crowd in short order.
Lots of folks thought it was kind of funny that Walt, of all people, should be the first in town to get himself something like a motorcycle. Walt wasn’t on what we might call today the “cutting edge” of anything, except maybe a buck saw. Older people remembered that Walt could barely ride a bicycle until he was almost old enough to shave.
After showing his Harley to the folks in front of the store, someone suggested to Walt that he might ride his snappy new vehicle out to Wink Dalrymple’s place, to see how old Wink would react to such a contraption. Walt agreed it would be fun; after taking a few hair-raising turns around the square, he headed out to Wink’s place.
Now, Wink and his wife Florence lived about as far out in the country you could live and still get a country radio station. He came to town once a month, whether he wanted to or not, and most of the time he made it real plain to all that he didn’t like to but had to. Walt headed out to Route 9 — “the airline” — and from there took a turn onto the tote road leading to the Dalrimple place.
Wink was sitting on his front porch, smoking a pipe and looking through “The Saturday Evening Post” when Walt came racing up the drive and into the clearing on his roaring, snorting, ear-splitting Harley. Without hesitating and not one quick to panic, Wink dashed into the house, took down his hunting rifle, came back out on the porch and blasted away at the strange contraption.
Well, the motorcycle went flying toward one side of Wink’s driveway and sailed into a patch of puckerbrush., and Walt went flying toward the opposite side of the driveway and into another patch of puckerbrush.
Hearing all the commotion, Wink’s wife Florence came running to the door to watch the whole thing. When things quieted down a bit, Florence said “Did you get that critter, Wink?”
“Don’t know,” said Wink, but at least it let go of poor Waltah!”

John McDonald is a Maine storyteller and the author of five regional bestsellers, including “The Maine Dictionary” and “A Moose and a Lobster walk into a Bar.” He also entertains with his stories at banquets, conferences and conventions throughout New England. To reach him, call 207-240-8324 or email maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com