A TURKEY OF A DAY
So it’s 1968 and instead of living in upstate New York, Syracuse, I am now living roughly 3 miles from the Virginia D.C. line. I am 16 years old. My father had been transferred from New York to D.C. or so he said. I could never figure out how getting fired from one company and joining another constituted a transfer but that’s a story for another time and place.
A year earlier from the moment I walked down those shallow halls of that Virginia high school I was that damn Yankee that had invaded their precious world. Images of the Civil War would flash in my head as the comments prevailed. As a sophomore I had made some acquaintances and a couple of friends through football. But fists were always at the ready in case I was cornered in a hall, a classroom or the boy’s rooms.
I began skipping a couple of classes every few days to go work out in the gym with another class I sneaked in with. Hence the disciplinary vice-principal, Mr. Ford (not the future president) became acquainted quite often. Trouble is I was passing the classes I skipped because I always showed up for the tests. Finally I was restricted from “extra time” from the gym thinking I would give up and go to class. Au contraire I found another diversion and hiding place. In the gallery of Congress of the United States.
Of course not all my skipping school time was spent watching Congress what I thought was at work. It was later I found out most of the work was done (Deals) behind the scenes. But I digress. Like I said there was much more to do in D.C. than attending Congress. Rally’s, demonstrations, sit-ins, speeches on all sides captured my attention. I remember at the tender age of 16 sitting down, drinking coffee and talking with Coretta King, Godfrey Cambridge, Bob Dylan, Black Panthers, SDS, John Birchers and so many others. I also remember one Saturday or Sunday sitting close to the White House fence and out comes this tall guy walking around with secret service. I pressed myself against the fence and watched as this tall lanky man with a cowboy-like hat on came sauntering up and shook my hand. The only words I heard were.
“Nice to see you son.”
Now I don’t care who you are or your political affiliation is. When the president of the United States walks up and shakes your hand at 16 years old it is something to remember.
But on with my story. It was at one of these demonstrations pro or against the war or pro civil rights or whatever that I heard an interesting rumor. It was floating around that a certain motorcycle “club” was going to come to D.C. I also found out they would be here in about a month. So I kept tabs with a couple of people in the SDS that I had met to keep me posted. Why I wanted to see or even meet them I had no idea I just did. Well not only did I find out when they were coming but the route they were taking. So now I needed a plan.
At 16 years old I came up with a plan which, of course, was absolutely brilliant. Not having a car yet I either needed to “borrow” one for a while or recruit someone to join in my insanity. Someone who preferably had transportation. This person readily joined me and as a senior had the wheels. When he asked me what the plan was he roared. So I had enlisted a compadre. Next was to obtain and organize all the implements necessary for our adventure. Things were borrowed from the neighbors, neighbors kids and purchased from the store that imprinted T-shirts for 10 bucks a piece. Small price to pay since my friend was furnishing the wheels.
Finally the magic day arrived and we loaded his trunk with our stuff. Arriving at a particular spot on the D.C. beltway we parked, albeit illegally, and prepared for our fun. We took two kiddy tricycles equipped with bells and pink and red streamers out of the trunk and set them beside the beltway. Next we donned out T-shirts with the image of a corncob with its mouth open and smoking a cigar. The words SCREAMING CORNCOBS MC were on the back. Next came the baby bonnets, one pink and one blue, on our heads. Finally a couple or Tiparillo’s to complete the scene.
While traffic passed by we could see people shaking their heads and laughing hysterically. I looked at my friend and we both felt like a million bucks. After about a half-hour we could har the beginnings of the roar of engines. The closer they got the louder the roar. As they approached the lead bike spotted and started to slow. There were about 50 or more Harley’s following him. As they slowed down my friend and I looked at each other . We both said it at the same time.
“Oh shit, we’re dead.”
Finally the lead biker stopped and turned to show us his Hells Angels logo. He stood with his back towards us for what seemed and eternity. I looked at my friend who was pale as a ghost. Finally the lead biker turned towards us laughing. As I recall he was tall and neither skinny or fat. He was a white guy with a road worn tan and dust. He had the biggest afro I had ever seen. When he started to laugh the others joined in. Then he looked at us.
“Name’s Turkey. You guys got some balls.”
With that Turkey cranked his bike which signaled for the others to get ready. With that they sped off laughing all the way.
Funny thing is about a year later I hitched from D.C. to Atlantic City Race track for a 3 day concert. The concert started on Friday and lasted through Sunday. On Saturday afternoon I was walking through the crowd when I heard someone behind me yell.
“Hey tricycle. Ever get a bigger bike.”
I turned around and there he was still sporting an afro and beard but now he was smoking the biggest joint I ever saw. We laughed and slipped skin.
I never saw Turkey again but when I first saw the movie “Woodstock” I swear he was in the crowd with the same afro and beard and smoking a different fattie. So here’s to you Turkey, if you’re still alive, for making my life a little more special that day on the beltway.