Tuesday, June 13, 2006

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.