The Legend of Franklin County
A long day's ride behind
dusk came in fast , I made up my mind
to settle in before dark.
Scanning the horizon for a likely place to park
I found my way onto a lonely stretch of Franklin County
the blacktop a winding, ebony ribbon
a hidden treasure and this biker's bounty.
Stretching and dipping through the shadowed fields,
riding and reaping what a blacktop yields.
I cruised until the engine coughed and sputtered
slowing to a stop by a gnarled oak tree.
"Crazy bitch bike! " under my breath I muttered.
No matter how much you berate their mechanical hides
you are at the mercy of those fickle rides.
As I was digging deep in the bags, looking for a flashlight,
the sound of pipes rumbled and a biker came in sight.
He rolled to a stop, pulling onto the shoulder,
looking all of 19, maybe 20 and not a day older.
Dark wavy hair swept back in a duck tail
Hollow eyed and cheeked, he was a strange kind of pale.
I said "Sure glad you happened by
and if you could figure out my problem
you are more than welcome to try."
Still silent he nodded, his movements were skilled
and when that scoot fired up
I can say I was more than thrilled .
Climbing on and working the throttle
I turned to thank that strange dark rider
but he was gone like a firecracker rocket shot from a bottle!
I heard the pipes roar away over the hill
grateful to be on my way but mystified still.
On my way, I set on down that blacktop
the twinkling lights ahead
promised me a welcome stop.
I drank in the neon of the town square tap,
getting the once over by the bar keep like some kind of fool.
I made my way in and claimed a three legged stool
and said "I'll take a shot and a beer
don't go too far, just keep 'em coming right here!"
He looked vaguely familiar in his face,
but for the life of me, who he looked like I couldn't place
until I saw the picture above the bar.
Black and white of two boys together with an old panhead and a hot car.
I said, "Well I'll be damned, if that ain't the same fella
who helped me just down the pike!"
The bar keep looked at me sharply and asked,
"was he on an old bike?
Did he have my eyes
and was he real quiet?"
"Hell yeah, as a matter of fact, a real surprise
out in the middle of nowhere." I replied.
The old man's face looked faraway and sad,
"after all these years it makes me feel so bad.
That stranger you met was my brother Bill,
There was a terrible accident out on that hill
so many years ago, but I can't forget.
That night I was driving that hot runnin' 'vette
too young ,too fast, I wanted to fly.
I never meant nobody harm...
never meant for him to die.
Bill came flying from the opposite way,
I can still hear the crash yet to this day...
I guess he never knew that he died
forever to this day that blacktop he rides" ..
I gulped down hard my last swallow of beer
my blood ran cold, I wanted the hell out of here!
Throwing my money onto the bar
I stumbled outside past a mangled car
covered with a tattered tarp.
Sucking in the cold night air like a beached carp,
I grabbed my bedroll as fast as I was able,
in the park across the street I found a picnic table.
Using my jacket for a pillow,it made a decent bed
but all night long the pounding in my head
was the sound of Bill's pipes as he rode down and back
that Franklin County road ,so desolate and black.
Now here's a tale
that may sound "funny "
a young fellow found
some extra money.
So, he bought himself
a bramd new Harley
all black and custom chrome,
fresh out of the crate
his excitement apparent
he can barely wait
to cut loose on that FXD
"That motor is new,
not broken in"
the Harley guy
did his best to explain
but the young man couldn't hear
rules were such a pain!
He could only grin
at visions of burn outs
and squealing tires,
He couldn't help
his RPMish desires
Speed was what he wanted
and he couldn't wait!
Impatience rides with fools,
it's a given trait.
He rode it here,
and he rode it there
just a couple hundred miles or so.
he called to his friend.
pulling the clutch, he gave her gas
little did he know that stunt
would be his last
His new Harley sits and waits repair
some lessons are expensive
and life isn't always fair.
Pay attention son and learn
some rules weren't made to break.
Someday you'll make that tire burn
and ride away from the mark you make.
It had been a couple of years or so
since I saw Tex last.
I nearly walked on by
when a voice from the past
spoke up and said. 'Don`t ya even know a brother?
Bet you thought ole Tex was dead!'
'Tex, you look damn near civilized!
I wouldn`t have believed it was you
if I hadn`t seen with my own eyes!'
Two feet of beard and hair past his shoulder
all were gone now, cut and shaved clean
His eyes looked distant, a little sad and older.
A genuine graybeard, seasoned and sage
now looking more like some wild bird
held captive in a cage.
'I sold the shovel, you know I gave up the life.
It all came down to change or lose everything,
my home, the kids, my wife.
A man`s gotta do, what a man`s gotta do...'
His voice trailed off along with his gaze.
I couldn`t believe what I was hearing,
I was confounded, left in a daze.
Over the years I`ve seen my share of souls
convert for one reason or another,
but I never dreamed Tex would,
My partner in 'crime', my old road brother!
I bit my tongue before I could say,
'Man, it wasn`t that shovel that made you lose your way'
It`s a choice we make, I believe.
When those 'demons' seek you out,
they gamble with your soul
hold all the cards and deal the doubt .
A man has to be ready when they come to call.
It`s got nothing to do with riding,
not a damn thing at all!
But, I couldn`t even begin,
and as I watched his face turn to the wind,
I swear I saw as we stood there in silence.
a glimpse of my old friend and that wind washed defiance
as fleeting as the waning breeze.
'It`s been great and you take care! '
I slapped his back and hugged him like a bear.
His words they turned over again and again
like some troubling song stuck in my brain.
I rode away and he climbed in his truck.
Turning to wave, I yelled back 'Good luck!'
It wasn`t much to offer that much is true,
when a man `s gotta do, what a man`s gotta do.