On his sixteenth birthday Charles asked if he might have an automobile license. My father always said, "People may call you cheap, However I would rather call you conservative." I told Charles such a move would increase my insurance premiums. Besides the family car was our bread and butter and I could not afford to jeopardize it.
"Well then, could I have a motorcycle?"
"Yes", I answered. Where would he get five or six hundred dollars?
I really didn't know Charles. He took several jobs at Williams Lake as salad person, dish washer or whatever else they might need him for. Within a few months he had the price of the cycle.
His mother said, "NO! It too dangerous."
I rationalized, "If I were to go back on my word, he would not have the incentive to ever save a penny again." Charles bought his cycle and "I" rode it. I liked it.
He rode his cycle till he entered the Navy. Because of his grades in naval electronic school he was given a geographical choice of service. He chose Rehoboth Beach on the Delaware coast to service electronic listening equipment, an ideal place to have a motorcycle. Charles took his cycle to Rehoboth and I bought a BMW, the cadillac of motorcycles. Numerous weekends I would visit him. Other weekends I visited areas I'd heard about, such as the Glenn Curtis museum on Lake Keuka, the birthplace of naval aviation. The international parachute competition at Lake Placid.
Charles called one evening to tell me he was selling his cycle. With winter coming on, he would really need an auto. He had a buyer for the cycle and he had put money down on a second-hand Renault. I might have said uh huh. He called later to say he didn't get a positive response from me, so he called the salesman to cancel the deal. The salesman said he would try to get his down payment back for him.
I said, " I'll be down in the morning."
Mounting my gallant steed, I rode to Rehoboth next morning.
Charles asked what I had against Renaults. I told him they change piston rings like they do oil changes and the block is lifted off of the base to expose the cylinders. The French engineers were not to be commended for their design.
We stopped for morning coffee and he told me the salesman said to call. He was to call him at our coffee time. I knew that merely suggesting would leave Charles to his own discretion. "Here is some ammunition if you need it. I am here for the weekend. Charles is under 21. You made this deal without my permission. If necessary I will stay over to engage a lawyer."
I don't know and never asked what was said, but we met the salesman and the money was returned. We then looked at a Ford Falcon which he did buy.
In the meantime I became a motorcycle fanatic. The cycle was my whole life. It was the closest thing to an open cockpit of the Stearman. I also met a girl (Wilma) who I had dated a few times and took her riding. The girl became a habit and since she shared similar interests, we set up housekeeping.
Clara, Wilma's mother, visited us for prolonged stays when we would turn over to her all authority of the kitchen. At 80 years of age Clara's talents with oil paintings were exceptional. A wonderful person. How we do miss her now!
Wilma and I covered many miles on the cycle which was now the best of Harley Davidson. We rode to West Palm Beach to visit Charles when he was working for Western Electric installing new telephone systems in the main offices.
We enjoyed a week at West Palm Beach and rode home through a hurricane to fulfill Wilma's determination to be back to work on time. When we reached Durham, North Carolina my rain gear had disintegrated and our body temperature had dropped maybe a degree. We took a motel room and used the shower as a steambath to bring our body temperature back. Our boots were placed over the TV to dry. My arms felt so tired that even the dinner fork was heavy. Looking back it is both humorous and ridiculous but we wouldn't change the experience.
Our next trip was to Niagara Falls stopping first to camp on Lake Ontario. The pollution of the lake and the many dead fish discouraged swimming. From there to Niagara it was hot- hot. I rode without a shirt much of the time. When we arrived at the falls, I couldn't wait to take the elevator to the bottom.
We were given rain gear to wear because of the spray, but I went there to get wet. At the bottom I took off the gear and exposed my self to the satisfying spray. Lord it was wonderful.
A couple with us from Indonesia looked at me, laughed and removed all their rain gear.
They were carrying various types of cameras. These they kept covered.
We lost track of them when we returned to the top of the falls. It was too bad, I'm sure we would have had a wonderful evening together.
Someday I must visit Indonesia. The people are most extroverted fun-lovers
From Niagara we toured the Canadian side of the Saint Lawrence and crossed into the St. Regis Indian reservation to search for a Jake Thomas. Jake (Gray Cloud) is a Cayugas Indian of the Iroquois Nation whom we met at some POW Wows close to home.
My interest in Indians was imbedded as long as I can remember. My Grandfather told me when I was ten I would wreck my feet wearing moccasins all the time. I argued that the Indians had the healthiest of feet and all they ever wore were moccasins.
"Their feet didn't have to fit the shoes we wear today The moccasins prevailed.
I stopped to inquire of Jake's whereabouts from a fellow mowing his lawn. Jake's name was the key. He is a Cayuga sachem of the Iroquois nation and a teacher of the Traveling Indian College on Cornwall Island.
"Follow me", said the fellow.
I left Wilma sitting on the cycle while I was led across numerous yards to a Pow Wow. An Indian Pow Wow is much the same as a back yard picnic only much jollier. The group conversed in Mohawk while I waited. I thought, "Maybe I should have taken Wilma's advice and kept going."
"We think I should lead you down to the college on Cornwall Island."
I expressed my appreciation and told them I could find it myself.
"No!" He was insistent. "I will lead with my car."
It was a caravan with his car leading. Next came my motorcycle and then an open convertible with two young braves, Their hair done in braids Indian fashion.
We must have appeared as a war party to the bridge attendants. The first car stopped to make explanation to the attendants. As we drove by, the attendants stared a me with obvious suspicion. When the bridge was built, the Mohawks would not allow the bridge to be used until the toll booths were moved to the Canadian side. They backed this insistence with rifles to protect their access to Cornwall Island. Their activities keep the authorities very uncomfortable. To me it was quite humorous.
On Cornwall Island we were placed in the hands of a very pretty school teacher from Cautarauges, a Mohawk reserve in Canada. These people spoke Mohawk with the French accent and manner (very fast).
She came to St. Regus (Caugnawauga) and married a Mohawk. They speak a much slower dialect. She told us with humor how the Caugnawauga's would say, "slow up we can't understand you. When she went back home her people would say, "Speak up, what are you trying to say?"
The first stop on the tour was a room where young braves were making beads from quahog shells. They were shaped, polished and holes drilled through them in the ancient manner using an bow to simulate a drill. She told us the government would withhold their allotment unless they purchased an electric drill.
"But wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the school?"
"The government doesn't know the purpose of the school", she explained, "They never will with the reports of analysts sent to evaluate us. We are trying to instill the dying knowledge of the past; culture, religion, language and beliefs."
She led us to a pile of wool and told us it was sheared that morning. She said, "When I first saw it I thought it was insulation for the building. I kicked it and the students hollered at me. Others were gathering herbs around the island to make a dye to color the wool before weaving it."
We sat under a canopy of leaves erected that morning to serve as an open air classroom. A young women from a western reserve gave a lecture on dye preparation. From there I joined a group of young braves who had arranged their vans as a fence between themselves and the women so they could change to bathing suits in preparation to enter the sweat lodge. Surprisingly, their bathing suits were under the clothes they were wearing. They just would not be seen taking off their clothes in front of the girls.
The lodge was erected that morning of willow limbs and canvas. A fire had been started earlier that morning to heat large surface granite stones. Ordinary stones contain some moisture which may cause the stones to explode or break. When the stones were extremely hot the sachem (religious leader) placed them in a hole at the center of the lodge. The first stone represented the mother earth. Next came the four directions; the rest at random.
When all the braves were seated, the lodge was sealed and water sprayed on the stones.
The steam turns the ground to a mass of mud. The Braves put their faces tight to the ground trying to breath cooler air. The heat is almost unbearable. About twenty minutes later the Chief opened the lodge and the braves ran out and dove into the St. Lawrence river. The mud looked like war paint. I was not invited to take part.
Late afternoon we decided to leave the reserve. Our escort met us to bid goodby and thanked us for coming. She promised to give Jake Thomas our regards.
As we stopped at the bridge inspection station the attendant asked how we enjoyed Canada. When they learned we had just come from Cornwall Island they again froze in that suspicious attitude. The Mohawks seem to keep them on their toes - I'll bet they'd prefer duty elsewhere.
We continued on to Rochester, Vermont, were Wilma was born. We camped on the family farm using our small portable tent and sleeping bags. Six o'clock in the morning she woke me to go for a swim in the stream.
"What! You're out of your mind. Even the fish don't swim in that water till noon. I have things to protect and I'm not going to freeze them."
She went swimming anyway. I've seen this lunacy in action on Lake Winisquam when she and Hank Thoms (our IBM manager) went in the water together.
Dave Spurck, another of Hank's employees, and I sat on the dock attempting to thaw our feet after dipping them in the lake.
"You married a nut", says Dave to me.
"Your working for one", says me to Dave.
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