The Near Demise of “Billy the Dog”
Most small towns are the same, quiet and stress free until some “Move Inner” stirs up a mess. You know the place. The town dog belongs to the kid down the street but it never stays home. Found sleeping on any porch, everybody feeds it. The Advance town dog is called “Billy the Dog”, not to be confused with “Regular Billy” or “Bill Elliott”. About twelve miles away, the Hoosier Cushman Club hosted the National Cushman Club of America meet in Lebanon, Indiana, at the Boone County 4H Fair Grounds. So big deal, why do Cushmans have anything to do with stray dogs? Follow my babble and I’ll explain.
Hundreds of bikers converge on a small town and you start thinking about the historic “Life” Magazine photograph of the disheveled biker posed with beer bottles scattered around and citizens bullied by Marlon Brando. Well, this Cushman bunch is a different breed of “Wild One”. Rather than shake your fist at nairdowells, a raised hand greets these scooter hooligans with a smile and a wave. Eagles, Step-Thru(s), ‘Meter Reader” Trikes and the occasional golf cart terrorized Lebanon streets with sputters, pops and laughs. Show bikes, daily rides, flame painted customs with V-twin engines, all converge in a happy union.
The planned activities included a tour of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see the two and one-half mile oval. Early they’d gather. Cushheads young and old readied their machines for the migration to the 500 Mile Race Track. A southeastward shot down U.S. 52 would deliver them there in a few minutes but they pursued adventure. The herd turned west across the glacial plain to Dover, taking the scenic route and adding twenty-five miles to a real Ride.
A thundering vision approached from the north. The animals noticed it first. Birds flushed from the trees. Rabbits scampered to the bushes. Billy the Dog awoke from his nap confused; tilted his head and lifted an ear to investigate. A cacophony bore down on tranquility. By now, humans sensing the vibration left their homes and shops and gathered at the curb to watch the coolest motorcade to ever hit Advance. Flags fluttered. Scooter horns tooted. Children waved, jumped up and down, and clapped with delight. Bike after bike went by, two wide at thirty miles an hour with no end on the horizon.
I don’t know why dogs do what they do. They circle three times before the lie down. They like playing with roadkill. They do all kinds of weird things. And, for some reason, during that multi-mile long convoy of Cushmans, Billy the Dog had to cross the road! He paced side to side. He sat down and then stood. He barked, whined and yelped. He’d dart, chicken and return to the curb. Calamity was inevitable. Town’s people feared the worst. . . A huge scooter pile-up and Doggycide in front of the children. OH, THE HUMANITY! (and psychiatry bills). People tried to wave the bikers to slow down but they replied with a thumbs-up and a tooting at unknown danger.
Then it happened. . . The Miracle, the Las Vegas Luck. One keen rider saw Billy the Dog. He raised his hand and slowed. In complete control, hundreds of machines coasted to a stop letting the poor mutt cross. Why? So he could sit on the other side. Then seeing all pedestrians were safely out of the way, he gave the “GO” sign. Up and away they sputtered, popped and laughed, tooting and scooting. Heroes all.
Location: New York.
We find ourselves in eastern New York during one of the worst winter storms on record. The storm dumped more than 24 in. of snow so far. We visit a super secret skunk works in order to trick every horsepower out of the Rupp. We cannot divulge every detail however the finished product will undoubtedly devour methanol like there is no tomorrow. We decide to camp overnight in a quiet grove somewhere near Morristown. Every weathercast predicts a tough night and Tater seems uneasy.
It struck with a vengeance and shook the camper like a paint mixer. The nearby trees would offer some protection as long as they did not break and crush us like bug. No one could sleep so we spent the night playing cards. As dawn broke a white whirlwind enveloped us. Freak Show attempted exit only to find that drifting snow had us pinned in the camper with out escape. We were 200 yards from the road with our tracks now buried under waist deep snow. We had no choice but to wait it out.
Using a piece of plywood with some creative vice-gripping to the steering wheel, I’ve fashioned a handy worktop / writing surface upon which I’ll chronicle this stay in our snowy prison. For a short time the storm subsided and we were able to get through the sunroof, align the satellite dish and survey our situation. A flick of the windshield wiper switch revealed that we were stuck in an Arctic vice. We could see the town's water tower yet we knew no one could find us. We spend the day generally trying to keep ourselves occupied. Luckily, we have plenty to eat and if we can keep the dish clean, will have enough television channels to keep us entertained.
I DON’T CARE HOW MANY DAMN BOTTLES OF BEER ARE ON THE WALL!!!! Freak Show decided that it will be days before anyone finds us, so why get dressed. I station at the driver's chair and watch him (a hairy pear wearing a rubber band) pace the camper, ranting about government restrictions on carnival operators. Tater nests in the cupboard above the refrigerator.
Toe nail clipping in the eye. Boil the pliers. . . . The onslaught of albino brain chiggers subsides for now. I fear reinforcements gather in the west. Attack at nightfall seems eminent. Three days now, besieged in this icy belch from the belly of hell. I've fashioned aluminum toboggan hats and mittens for my faithful followers and myself, our shield from the white hoards. We survive on boiled bologna and the grace of a higher being.
More snow and Chewed life-savor wine. Booze and beer are gone. Freak Show watches the Discovery Channel and learns that chewed Mantioc root, when fermented, can produce an alcoholic beverage. Desperate, a concoction of crushed car seat candy, Tang, and a splash of Tabasco is spat into a zip lock bag and placed in the toolbox. By Nature’s grace you’ll find me mummified with a death grip on this steering wheel. My worst fear is being discovered frozen, spooned to a chimpanzee and a tattooed slob in a futile attempt at heat conservation.
Dawn broke calmly and I decided I had to get out before something bad happened to Tater and Freak. Risking frostbite, I fashioned snowshoes from two seat cushions and duct tape. Through the sunroof and over the side, first contact was every bit as exciting as Neil Armstrong's giant leap for mankind. By luck, when I reached the road I encountered a farmer driving a huge tractor. He offered a ride and asked if I was by myself. I thought, "No, it’s just me". Instead, I answered honestly and in short time, the farmer plowed his way to the camper and towed us to civilization.
A life trial can certainly put things in perspective. You discover personal strengths and weaknesses. You adjust and exercise patience. Rather than act on anger consider that more times than not, the cops will find the body. I have personally mapped out a new life plan. When I win the lottery, I'm going to buy one of those giant heads from Easter Island.
Stood still on a highway. I saw a woman by the side of the road with a face that I knew like my own, reflected in my window. Well she walked up to my quarter light and she bent down real slow. A fearful pressure paralyzed me in my shadow. She said, "Son, what are you doing here... My fear for you has turned me in my grave." I said "Mama I come to the valley of the rich... Myself to sell." She said, "Son, this is the road to Hell. " - Chris Rea
The road with a chimpanzee and a 300-pound carnival ride operator, conversation of an intellectual nature expired 400 miles earlier. Tater shakes the TV Guide and points to Larry King who will interview Janet Reno. Freak Show's response is enthusiastically oppositional. The Man Show will host a Wet T-shirt contest. When we bivouac for the night and align the satellite dish, I'll cast the deciding vote. Prey we spy Janet Reno in a wet T-shirt contest.
Strange and amazing places like Bald Knob, Beaver, Dogpatch and Toad Suck are called home in Arkansas and thrill my traveling companions. The two-story out house at the Booger Hollow Trading Post, along Scenic 7 Byway, in Dover creates quite a splash. (Rivaled by Bell Plaine, Minnesota; Gays, Illinois; and Phelps, NY all home to the world's one and only.) At Fouke/ Texarkana, you hear the tail of the Boggy Creek Monster. My pilgrimage follows Robert Johnson, master of the blues. Written in song and legend, we make for the junction of 49 & 61 near Helena. "It is the Crossroads to Eternity." accounts Willie Coffee, Johnson's life long friend.
Night fell and time to eat. To make up for the TV show commotion, Freak Show wanted to treat us to dinner. He knew of a great truck stop. We topped a hill in the full moon light to come upon the Moldy Dumpster Slop & Fuel. On a good day it could be described as a roach house - a shack with a half operational neon sign buzzing and popping away in the parking lot. Freak Show rubbed his hands together and assured us that it would be great. As we entered the fly covered screen door, Freak was welcomed with hardy handshakes and pats on the back. "Come on in, we're monkey friendly!." Show commented on how the area had changed. They replied, "When they closed down the slaughterhouse, the neighborhood turned to crap."
After a nice visit and a Chili Bucket with Mushrooms, it was time to hit the road. Show offered to take over my driving duties.
It might have been 20 minutes later. Who knows? An odor wretched from the belly of Hell enveloped the camper in a green/yellow mist. My vision blurred as the caravan shook violently. I yelled to our pilot, "Be careful! You're going off the road!" He responded, "Which side!" Within the cyclone, I felt like I would purge my gut. We stopped and as I extricated myself from under the dashboard, I looked at Freak Show. His eyes blazed ruby red. His beard moved, entwined by reptiles. In a voice unheard before he growled, "Your soul to become the best rider of all."
I'll pass. I'll shoot for mediocrity and take my chances. Besides that, the chili was lousy. Quit screwing around!" The demon looked past me to the chimp. "How about you?" Tater convulsed.A horrific screech burst forth, the wind swirled. . . silence.
Its time to go.
At 8:10 PM EST US, January 15, 2006 I determined that my blog name, Roscoe, was used to comment maliciously on other blog sites. In recent weeks I’ve seen many bloggers attacked unfairly or maligned for apparent sport; a chance one takes when you present yourself to the public. I extend my apologies to anyone harmed.
My intent with Roscoe Stuff was, for fun, to re-post stories of a character’s adventures, originally written for a website which in part promoted motorcycle safety to kids. Anonymous posters then inferred that this blog was part of the My Mule blog. It is not. Josh is a long time friend who encouraged me to start writing again.
For now, to all who were encouraging, Thank you.
The wheels of justice roll slowly and the alignment is off. Freak Show's plea-bargaining abilities did not rise to my expectations. The jailhouse shrink report carried more weight than I anticipated. One condition to my release was to participate in a court-ordered observation period of 72 hours. Afterwards, I would spend a minimum of two weeks in group therapy at the city's finest Nut-bin. I would find my inner feelings looking at inkblots and answering questions like "Aren't you afraid to touch doorknobs?" I'd seen it before. In my family, interventions happen at Christmas when everybody gathers to tell you how you’re screwing up . . . Good times.
It is uncomfortable learning your "doctor" is straight out of school. Doc tripped over his feet fumbling with a clipboard. He described the battery of tests I would take in the next three days and quipped, "I hope you stick around. We hate to tell the court that you were not cooperative." I replied that I was not Harvey Mushman and this was not "The Great Escape ". The young fellow scribbled notes and asked, "Who is Harvey Mushman?" Sensing this was test number one I told Doc that racing motorcycles was more than a gimmick to Steve McQueen. He was a serious motorcycle racer who often registered as Mushman because he did not want to draw attention to himself. With a bewildered look and a shoulder shrug, my newly graduated, smart as a whip, wet behind the ears Doctor asked, "Who is Steve McQueen?" . . . I was in trouble.
Things were not going well. The staff would congregate at my door and whisper. Internal resentment festered - that monkey put me here. One nurse understood my frustration and extended an understanding hand. Her advice . . ."Don't fight the medication." Then I remembered a quote by William Jefferson Clinton . . . "If you find yourself in a big hole, stop digging." I had to agree with the hippie. I kept my stories quiet, took their tests, and told them what they wanted to hear. I had fun the next couple of days finger painting but I kind of missed Tater, Leelee and our adventures. Visiting day arrived. Freak and Tater showed, bringing gifts. Doc saw the bonafied monkey and released me to Gen-Pop, a whole new world and a whole bunch of new friends. With a bare-assed hospital gown and a restored sense of freedom, I was ready for Gen-Pop.
The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. . . In my case, twelve steps and a pair of pants. Twelve step programmers are natural moochers. Most anonymous support groups take the alcoholic steps, remove the word alcohol, and insert the habit necessary. Alcoholics, Sexaholics, Gamblers, Food Addicts, and Cocaine users jump in. There is a support group for you. In Gen-Pop, the first thing you do is sign up for the Substance Abusers Softball League. It is supposed to introduce you to the rest of the gang and their problems. No bats or ball, just a bunch of crazies standing in the yard screaming "Hey Batter, Swing!" Al Unser said Robert Downey was last year's MVP. Not THE Al Unser, this Al was a 6 ft. Jamaican and his racecar was, in fact, an old office chair. Man, could he hot lap the bases.
Time flies when you are on behavioral modifiers. During my stay I wondered how to make twelve steps work. "1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable." Okay, I admit I am powerless over monkeys -that our lives had become unmanageable. "10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.". I have three motorcycles and a monkey. I was wrong about the monkey. The rest of the steps rely on God for help. While God might have made both man and monkey, history shows you don't mix monkeys with religion. It didn't work for Darwin.