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Chopper Mick

By Bandit with photos from Sam Burns

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Mick grew up on the South side of Chicago on the edge of a coal mining district. His folks were poor, and dad died of cancer at a young age. He didn’t have much choice except to join the service directly out of High School and send half of his paychecks home.

His dad didn’t leave him much, except a dirty Softail springer classic. He rode it everywhere as if it was his tool box to his future. He changed the oil, adjusted the clutch cable and rode. It helped him send more coin home for his mom and younger sister, who did nothing and complained about everything.

Mick rode to boot camp. He rode to his first duty station, but he rode it home for safe keeping when he was shipped to Iraq. IUDs killed some of his buddies, but he survived and returned with his sand coated camo uniforms, and even a large gathering of sand in his desert boots.

When he returned, he stashed his uniform into his seabag, tucked it away, donned his desert boots, Wranglers a flannel and a leather vest and rode the Softail to a local bar.

He sat in the grungy industrial area saloon, named Iron Bar and ordered Jack on the rocks. He stared across the slick, but nicked and dented bar top to the array of whiskey, tequila and Rum bottles reflecting the dim light in the smokey bar to the dusty mirror beyond and his own reflection.

He still sported the military haircut, but his deep green eyes held a sullen, clouded nature. He ordered another Jack and pondered his future. His mom still lived in the same crummy block apartment building surrounded by rusting steel railings, and in three years his sister hadn’t progressed one iota. But she complained even more as if her bitching level reached a new stage of despair.

“What the hell are you going to do now?” the same bartender who served his dad, said.

Mick looked up from the glistening amber in the glass. He thought about Jack Daniels and what it represented to so many local guys. It was the perfect escape elixir from whatever tortured them.

“One thing is for sure,” he said and his green, emerald pools glinted just a tad as a skinny meth-head broad slid up onto the seat next to him and lite a cigarette. “You won’t see me ordering a drink here again,” Mick said and the teeth grinding street girl stopped her forced smile and moved away.

The bartender stood up slightly and looked around at the handful of regular patrons playing pool or hunched over the escape drink of their choice. An old biker turned from the pool table and nudged his shoulder.

“Time will tell, and shit will smell,” he said and puffed on his cigarette for the final time and tossed the butt to the grimy hardwood floor and stomped it.

Mick looked at the worn-out biker, three sheets to the wind, with long salt and pepper hair and a scraggly goatee but recognized the sadness in his eyes. He nodded, stood to his agile 6-foot height and dropped a sizeable, final tip on the counter for the bartender and strolled out of the neon framed front door.

The next morning, he rolled onto a freeway heading Southwest. He liked that word freeway. He thought about the west and aimed the Softail onto Interstate 80 all the way to Denver, where he headed south on 2-lane highways into Monument Valley, a red-sand desert region on the Arizona-Utah border, known for the towering sandstone buttes in the Navajo Tribal Park. He continued south into Flagstaff. Riding into the summer heat surrounding Phoenix, brought back memories of Iraq but with an upscale western twist. Everything seemed clean, trimmed and comfortable. And the sun seemed unincumbered most of the day. He researched the community college trade curriculum. He could attend classes supported by the GI Bill.

He found a small room to rent and a place for his bike, but during the college indoctrination he was confronted by an angry woman who had a tough time with genders. Mick listened and looked to his left and came eyeball to eyeball with a blond knockout with curves that made his eyes water. He turned back to the dictator/instructor and his eyebrows scrunched into a questioning frown.

He got the girl’s number and ran across a quirky speed shop where he bought a chromed naked hood ornament and had just enough tools to mount it on the big, stock, metallic blue, front fender. He stroked her silky-smooth body every morning before he threw his leg over the Softail. “Women are alright with me,” he said.

He quickly noticed a divide at the school between the liberal students and the shop guys trying to learn a trade. He also noticed the growing homeless population in downtown. In a glitzy downtown bar, he listened in on conversations, which turned acronymous between a guy and his angry girl who blamed homelessness on hardworking folks who owned homes. She called her notion undoing harm. Her bow called it disrespect, drug addiction and mental illness.

Mick started a welding class while taking required courses. He also stumbled across a bike shop, called Lane Splitters. His bike needed some attitude and the owner, Miguel, let him sit on a sharp scooter with high-bars.

Suddenly, Mick’s notion of himself was transformed and his hair grew. They immediately negotiated the installation of sharp chromed bar to the stars. His Softail seemed suddenly a silver sword against the homeless population in Phoenix, but folks somehow wanted them to take over and shoot up on the streets and shit in hardworking folks’ yards.

That didn’t seem to fit with the biker population.
He noticed other bikes screaming through the streets making their voices heard through their fiery exhausts. Nobody fucked with them and the homeless stayed out of their way.

Mick continued his welding studies and attending classes, but if one college notion wasn’t strange the next one was off the charts. He was told that everything bad that happened was due to man driving cars. There were groups on campus who were paid to protest basically against man.

If he asked, he was called a denier. He tried to keep his head down and focus on welding. He enjoyed the solitude of the arch-welding sparks and the tight nature of TIG welding patterns. At night he cruised into Scottsdale to the Billet Bar and witnessed choppers of all breeds, like freedom machines screaming in the night with deep metalflake flamed paint jobs, chrome, loud pipes and radical shit to the moon. He was blown away.

The campus appeared to be a completely different world of strange ideologies and supreme negativity, as if everything was bad and needed to be broken. Mick reacted and tore all the sheet metal off his bike and through Paul Yaffe at Bagger Nations, bobbed and narrowed his tanks and fenders and then got his bike painted flames in radical colors.

He started to cruise the college campus with a couple of other welding students. He also bought a rigid frame and started to modify it. He added to the rake and studied front end geometry. He noticed that the protestors didn’t work or study for a career. They just disrupted anything positive.

Mick worked on a program with a couple of other chopper riders in the Phoenix area. If radicals started a problem, riders and hotrodders would show up on their most radical shit and raise hell.

Paul's Suzy Q.
Paul's Suzy Q.

Mick got a parttime job welding at Lane Splitters, but he learned more from the team than he contributed. He spent time with Paul Yaffe and was blown away by Paul’s Suzy Q chopper.

Mick just wanted to live and create. He learned the creative side of the equation from Miguel, Paul and all the Phoenix chopper riders. He absorbed the chopper scene, as if he was dropped into the golden empire of metalflake madness. He learned everything from machining to performance, fabrication, truing wheels, you name it, it was available in the desert shops and garages. And the girls were amazing, active, fit, creative and hardworking, except at the college. Then they were morose and radical.

It was a night and day experience, and Mick was one of only a few riders who experienced the college dark side. Generally, the brothers who worked hard and played in the streets at night didn’t confront the lack of free speech on campus, but he knew that would change and it did.

While on campus Mick witnessed a radical group posting fliers. He strolled over to the notice board in the administration office to check it out. The flier announced the city council meeting and a ban on loud pipes and another ban on cars and vehicles in the Scottsdale downtown area. Like so many of their proposals they crossed paths with themselves. The third proposal demanded defunding the police and allowing the homeless to rob and steal without consequences.

Mick just wanted to learn, work his ass off and make a life for himself. He didn’t need this angry bullshit. He took a photo of the flier and shared it with the shops and brothers he knew in town. Mick tried to take a break, breathe and go about his business without undue stress, but it dug at him. His deep brown hair grew, and he pulled at the soul patch sprouting under his lower lip.

Morose, he attended a couple of classes and thought about the blonde knockout he planned to hook-up with, but his plans changed. He had to show up at the city council meeting and do something even if it was wrong. He shared the flier on the internet.

His phone started to ping with messages. He shared info about where the meeting was. Interest grew, but he was anxious about public speaking. And fuck it, he didn’t have the slightest idea what to say.

The city hall was a massive foreboding concrete building, and when Mick arrived, he was blown away. Hundreds of choppers and hot rods lined the streets. Brothers and sisters from all over the region filled the halls. A line of guys and girls filled out comment cards in opposition to the proposals.

Even a handful of college kids protested the movement. Mick nervously approached the podium when called upon. “Before you enact any war on internal combustion vehicles you must prove your Climate doom in open court. In the meantime, we want to ride free.” The crowd when nuts and the issues were dropped, for the moment.

The party at the Billed Bar in Scottsdale was wild and Mick’s blonde bombshell met him and added to the fiery emerald glint in his eyes. There were choppers and folks who supported freedom everywhere! He sensed the hope in the night air.

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Reader Comments

Good stuff

Nelson, State, New Zealand
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Editor Response Thanks!
Far out.

Friday, August 12, 2022
Editor Response Hang on for the next one.

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