Wes on my P40 bike.
In the fall of 1961, my father died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 47, I was 14. My mother didn't drive, so in order for us to have any transportation we sold the car and bought me a 1960 Cushman Eagle motor scooter. A 14-year-old could legally ride a scooter or motorbike not exceeding five horsepower in those days. That began my love affair with all two wheeled vehicles.
I bought my first Harley in Reno, Nevada in 1968. If you count the Cushman, I have been riding for 50 years this fall. During that time, I have had a few adventures and met some incredibly interesting people while riding motorcycles.
I could probably write a book about the people I have known over the years. The problem I have with that is, I can never reach a good conclusion. It is just the story of life and it is ongoing. There have been a few friends that really stand out. This story is really about my most recent real friend, someone who I consider a brother, but first I would like to mention some earlier motorcycle-riding friends.
In the summer of 1969, I rode into Oklahoma City from Fallon, Nevada after being discharged from the Navy. I was riding a '62 Panhead with an eight-over wide glide front end and a two-gallon Sportster tank. I had a sea bag full of stuff strapped on the homemade sissy bar. I had just hit town on NW 39th street when I met a guy riding the other way on an ugly green flathead UL chopper. We waved at each other but didn't actually meet until sometime later. When we did meet a month or so later, I recognized the bike and told him I was the guy that waved at him that day. His name is Gary Turner and we are still friends to this day.
Shortly after my arrival in OKC, I hooked up with a local bike club called The Devil's Own Grim Reapers. Not to be confused with another club just called The Grim Reapers. We were just kids trying to be like the guys we saw in all those cheesy biker movies. The Vice President of that club was a 19-year-old named Ross Collins. Ross and I have been very close all these years. Today he has a profitable hot rod shop in downtown OKC. I just helped him find a sharp '79 FLH, so he could get back on two wheels after a decade just building rat rods and such.
In the fall of '69 while riding around on my old '62 Pan I pulled up beside a guy on a similar Pan except it had a cool custom paint job and was much cleaner than mine. His name was Rick, and it turned out I had gone to high school with his ex wife's brother Dave. After some discussion I remembered he was the guy who picked up Dave and his friends and a lot of girls in a '59 Lincoln convertible when I was in high school. He was older by 15 years and had a lot of adventures. We became lifelong friends until his death in 1992 of prostrate cancer. I think his prostrate was just plain overworked. He had been in the porn business and the pimp business among other things.
Turns out that old Panhead was a 90-inch stroker built by a local Harley-building-legend named Pat Spencer. Pat built several strokers. They tore up the drag strips around here. Rick would never race unless there was serious money involved. He would lie down on it and pull up the foot shift with his hand. It would blow away all those fast Sportsters in those days. It turned a 12 something at the OKC drag strip and stayed together. I would sure like to find that old bike now.
This is the stroker before the rigid frame.
Fast forward to 2004. I moved back to Oklahoma after getting divorced and selling my house in Las Vegas. The wife got the boyfriend and I got the house, which doubled in value right after the divorce. I am a lucky man. I got out of Vegas just before the crash. I am sure glad I don't have that old house now.
Anyway, I moved back here to be around my daughter and grandchildren. I bought five acres in the woods and built a little shop. I started building bikes and trying to sell them. I did damn good at that in Vegas. I could throw together any kind of old junk and get premium for it as long as it was a Harley. I soon found out those days are over.
Around 2006 I met the guy who rented Jet Skis from a trailer behind his pickup. He had a totally outlaw business called Playtime Inc., no business license, no insurance, and no taxes. He would just put you in the water on his jet ski for cash. Customers at least had to sign a release form. His name is Wesley Creech and we quickly became fast friends. When I met him his business was already on the decline due to the sad economic times we see now. We started hanging around more and more and he became very interested in those old bikes I was building. He started telling me a bit about his past.
Wes's artwork on his wife's Sportster.
Wes was born in southeast Kansas in 1960. His dad was only 18 at the time. Wes was the oldest but there came two other brothers shortly behind him. Although just a kid, his dad had to settle down and make a living for his growing family. His dad was a natural mechanic and raised on a Kansas farm. He knew about machinery. After working at various mechanical and construction jobs, he moved his young family to Washington State in 1965. He landed a job in the local Harley dealer.
Back then dealers were small, not a giant superstore, and boutiques the way they are now. He wrenched on bikes and worked in sales. He would ride a new bike home for the weekend, strip it down and race it and ride it back to work on Monday. After a couple of years, he moved back to Kansas and went to work for the Honda dealer. That was the time when Hondas were small and they advertised, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda."
Wes working on a Sportster chopper.
Honda was getting big in the dirt bike business and Wes's dad really got into racing. He would take his boys with him. He bought Wes and his brother Honda 50s and they tore up the dirt with them when they were 7 and 8 years old. The younger brother was only around 3 during this time or he would have had one too.
Wes's mom left when Wes was 11 and took the boys with her out to Oregon. Her brother lived there on the Columbia River east of Portland. The Judge in the divorce said she had to stay within 500 miles of Kansas. Wes's dad showed up right behind her and stole them back. After that, he raised all three himself.
Sportster chopper, need to clean shop, goddamnit.
Wes's dad soon found there was more money in the construction business. He started with one company in southeast Kansas and worked his way up over the years to project manager. He brought the boys into that business as soon as they were old enough. As a young single man in Kansas in the '70s, Wes's dad got pretty wild. He was a typical biker, into partying hard. There were lots of women and drugs.
Wes's wife Patty on P40 bike
That Kansas farm country hides the usual crooked cops, drug dealing families, people connected to the Little Dixie Mafia and the Chicago mob too. It was much like the Kentucky Elmore Leonard wrote about in the FX series "Justified." Wes grew up right in the thick of all that. He learned to survive and keep his mouth shut. He became a bit of a badass for a while there. During that period, he married his sweetheart Patty and although it took a while for him to settle down, he finally did. She stuck by him through it all. When Wes was 27, his dad died of a massive heart attack. He was only 48. I don't know if it was hard living or just bad genetics. I think when your time is up; it's up no matter what.
Wes moved to Oklahoma and turned his life around. He found he was very artistic and had a real ability with an airbrush. He became lifelong friends with a doctor named David Good who got him involved in church and doing much charity type work. He found helping others contains it's own rewards. David was not just a doctor but also a hot-rodder, and an all-around car and boat guy. Unlike most doctors, David wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty tearing down a car or truck. They built a shop on Dave's property and started doing custom paint jobs as well as starting up the jet ski rental business.
About three years ago David married a Mexican doctor and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. Wes has been continuing what they started as best he can. When he met me, he rediscovered his love of motorcycles and he started collecting parts and traded his way into several old Sportsters. I helped him with getting one to run right and he has taught himself to be a first class Iron Head mechanic since.
Wes's hot rod.
The Iron Head 1974 Sportster he was riding recently just destroyed the lower end. I think it sat too long in a damp basement and rusted the crankpin. He had another engine in the back room and I suggested we pull it down and see how good the crankpin was. He took that motor apart and found some really short pistons with the oil ring going around the wrist pin.
I said, "I believe what you have there is a serious stroker."
It turned out to be a set of S&S 4 3/4 flywheels for about 76 cubic inches. It was all like new. I think that was meant to be a drag bike engine but was never finished. He put the whole kit into his cases and it has run really good for around 5000 miles. I am amazed it hasn't exploded yet, but he rides it fairly gently. Mainstream performance guys now regard this as antique junk today, but it sure is fun none-the-less and a real challenge to keep on the road.
I got a '98 Sportster in a trade in the spring of 2010. I sold that to Wes for his wife. He lowered it, changed many things on it since. It is a rolling example of his artwork. I built a little hardtail bobber for a guy in Tulsa and Wes volunteered to paint it. He used a P-40 Flying Tiger aircraft theme on it. Attached are some shots of Wes and his bikes. He is willing to do mail order paint jobs. He is working on setting up a website, in the meantime he can be reached at (405) 990 8641.
I've had fifty years of fun with Harley-Davidson's and a few Indians and British bikes too. It has been a great ride, and I have met some wonderful people along the way. Wes is one of the best, and we will be friends until the end.
The road goes on forever and party never ends, more to come.
Bandit drinks Spectro oil with his Jack Daniels when he's in the woods.