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Interview with Cat Hammes

One Legged Blonde Cat Shares Her Thoughts

by Mistress Chris, some photos by Rogue
10/1/2013


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 Riding Above The Tombstone


“When death throws you back”, her strong, vibrant words echo around the room as she addresses veterans and others in hopes of inspiring them to live each moment, as she shares her own story of fighting back from the depths of despair after a devastating motorcycle accident.  

Life has never been easy, moving from town to town as a child and learning from a grandmother with a 3rd grade education who taught her you can make anything from nothing, and how to transform those things around her into beauty or nourishment. She started working at 14, having forged a birth certificate to get around the labor laws.  

At 16, her older brother introduced her to motorcycles and riding, she instantly fell in love.  At the time it was considered taboo for women to ride, and Harley-Davidson was a dirty word.  Clinging tenaciously to her dream she purchased a Yamaha at 18 years old.  At 23 she had a boyfriend who owned a ’69 Panhead, who insisted she ride on the back, because “girls don’t drive, they clean and ride”.  This only fueled her need to ride her own. By 26 she had her own 1979 Low Rider and discovered the bliss of riding your own ride, the open roads and the freedom that can only be found on a bike.
 
 
 
If you have met Cat, you will know she is not “typical”, she moves to the beat of her own drum, and riding is who she is, the bike is a vital part of her existence. 
 
Her first Fatboy was the 15th Anniversary Harley Edition, which gave her everything she wanted. In 2006, on May 20, a day she will never forget, her dream turned into a nightmare, as a minivan pulled out in front of her.  Her world tipped precariously, ending upside down as she lay on the road, bike totaled and body damaged so badly that the doctors said she would not survive. She was transported to ICU with skull fractures, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), broken bones, collapsed lung and eventual amputation of her leg. 

The irony of finding herself in an ICU bed was difficult since she herself was a highly skilled ICU RN and worked at that exact hospital. She excels at everything she does, and nursing was another of her passions.  Broken not only physically, her spirit crushed, she discovered a deep, lonely, dark bottomless pit of despair.  While on medical leave she was terminated from her nursing job, 6 months later divorced, lost her house and suburban way of live, all that was left was a crushed Harley-Davidson, and a broken body and soul.  Summing up the despair in her words, “As the days went into nights, and surgery after surgery, the certainty of my life changing so irrevocably was emerging into a repulsive reality.”

The pain, and anguish, unable to walk or climb stairs, looking after herself became a terrible ordeal. She fell into a deep, dark and lonely hell, out of which she struggled hard to climb.  She shared a decision that changed her, “I could stay angry the rest of my life or pick myself up and the only way I knew how was to ride that Fatboy again.”

  Her friends fixed the bike for her, and on the day after Christmas she climbed back on and took a ride above the tombstone. This was the beginning of a new journey. 
 
 
How difficult was it for her to get back on and ride?  She says not difficult at all, it was like being reunited with a best friend. The bike is called Phoenix  “To rise from the ashes,” she says “means to make a miraculous comeback. As a Phoenix (my life, my bike, my heart, and my soul) rises up from being broken and forged from ashes, may the embers I leave behind ignite your flame, your passion, and, for some, your Phoenix.”

Through Ray McKinney, the leg-man who gave her a prosthetic leg and gave her life again, she discovered new life.  As she rehabbed with veterans who had suffered far worse injuries, she discovered a deep connection with them.  She pulls into the VA Centers with her prosthetic leg, and the Vets look at the woman who rides a Fatboy and start to believe in their own recovery. 
 
A Veteran from her second cross country run
A Veteran from her second cross country run

 
Congressional Medal of Honor, Gary Wetzel
Congressional Medal of Honor, Gary Wetzel

Vicki Sanfelipo, Amy Skaling and Cat, started The Diamond Posse, a non-profit agency bringing encouragement to veterans facing the tough challenge of dealing with their own injuries.  Their Mission Statement: To give hope and encouragement to veterans who are facing challenges from having served the United States of America.  The Diamond Posse, a veteran outreach program for the non profit organization Accident Scene Management Inc., has partnered with NEADS,Canines for Combat Veterans Program.  NEADS is a non profit organization that trains service dogs for disabled veterans and others in need.  They utilize incarcerated individuals to train the dogs in their early lives.  
 
Diamond Posse group
Diamond Posse group

 
She often visits VA Hospitals bringing a positive message and encouraging Vets along the way.
 
 
You don’t have to understand why someone gets inspiration from her, with her positive attitude and personal story; her actions speak louder than words. She lives every second as life has no guarantees.  She loves the camaraderie of meeting up with old friends for special occasions; the Biker Belle ride is one of her special favorites.  She attends Sturgis as often as she can, and buys those cigars she is so well known for in Deadwood, the only store that sells her brand. 
 
 
Senator Dave Zien's first ride after his leg loss
Senator Dave Zien's first ride after his leg loss

She has built a new life, a very busy life as a Motivational Speaker, a prosthetic advisor, volunteering to help Veterans, motorcycle safety and makes her own line of custom jewelry. 
 
She is always reaching out to people in need, often at the expense of her own health. An advocate for women riders, she encourages women of all abilities and disabilities to ride whether it's behind their partner or riding their own.  She is not afraid to cross all venues and creeds, cheering on women from all areas to come together and celebrate life and the joy of riding.
 
 
Women's Ride in Milwaukee
Women's Ride in Milwaukee

 
 
She has found it tough at times dealing with some of the male, chauvinistic attitudes, but says it is getting much easier and feels a change in attitude and respect.  When she pulls up in front of any arena on her pink and white Harley-Davidson with her prosthetic leg proudly on display she is welcomed everywhere.  As she says; “It is what it is, like me or not, I love to ride and I don’t care.”  Riding is her sanity, her narcotic, a place she can think clearly, and when she can ride no more she will be done with life.  In the winter she travels to warm places so she can ride, and also plans her future surgeries around the winter so she is recovered in time to ride free again.
 
Women's Ride in Milwaukee during the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary
Women's Ride in Milwaukee during the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary

Her pink and white 2006 H-D Fatboy, has an extension heel toe shifter, and an extended kick stand, a customized white leather seat with pink writing “Above the Tombstone” on it, decorated to match what is left of the tattoo on her leg.  The Guardian Angel on her fender is there to watch over her. 
 
 
 
 
 Vicarious, tenacious, friendly, big heart, fun and full of life is Cat, the OneLeggedBlonde.
 
 
 In Her Own Words:

“Life is about choices.  Everyday we get the option to make a positive influence in the life that’s been put in our path.  Will yours be a positive influence or negative influence?  Remember not making a decision is a decision.  Make a difference in someone’s life; it might just be your own.”

“My Harley has been my anti-depressant, my narcotic, my sounding board, I would rather ride than eat, sleep or do anything. There is nothing that can replace it. I find comfort, solace and peace when I am on my Harley. On the road with that Fatboy and a good cigar I have found a peace that surpasses all understanding. It is there I commune with my creator. It is there I clear my mind of clutter. When death throws you back, shut up and ride!”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Click here to check out our sister's site.
Click here to check out our sister's site.

 
 

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Reader Comments


Cool article. Only one problem, there is no Congressional Medal of Honor. There is only the Medal of Honor:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_of_Honor#Etymology

Please correct.

--Will

Will
Virginia Beach, VA
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Editor Response Thanks Will, it's interesting. The medal does come through Congress. Here are some historical lines from Wikipedia:

This decoration is America's first combat decoration and was preceded only by the Fidelity Medallion, the Congressional medal for Henry Lee awarded in September 1779 in recognition of his attack on the British at Paulus Hook, the Congressional medal for General Horatio Gates awarded in November 1777 in recognition of his victory over the British at Saratoga, and the Congressional medal for George Washington awarded in March 1776.
--Bandit
My life changed the Day I met Cat, And I am blessed to be able to call her a friend.

Brett Lemin
Melbourne, victoria, Australia
Monday, November 18, 2013
I've only met cat once but I hope when I'm ready I have the mental strength she has to live love and laugh.

Reid
Chicago, IL
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Editor Response She's cool and I see her anytime I'm in Milwaukee. She's always out and riding.
--Bandit
This Woman Has a Heart Of Gold! I've met a lot of wonderful people in my lifetime, this is the GENUINE article right here.

Steve Warren
Farmington , MO
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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