This page last updated on 07/08/2017.
Copyright © 2001-2017 by Russ Meyer
My buddy, Rick, and I had both built go-carts. We used to race them in the K-mart parking lot late at night. It was a lot of fun. Later, some of our other friends joined us. They would bring their skate boards and Rick and I would tow them around the parking lot using ropes tied to our go-carts. Through painful trial and error, we discovered that there was one right way and many wrong ways for the skateboarder to hold the tow rope. As a boarder, you had to be really careful how you held the rope, because if you fell off the skateboard for some reason, you had to be able to let go quickly. The trick to this was to wrap the rope one turn around your hand. One turn, that was the cardinal rule, otherwise you could really hurt yourself.
Well, one night, Bill shows up with his skateboard. I carefully demonstrated the proper method for gripping the tow rope. He said he understood, took the rope in his hand, and wrapped it around once. Good. I got on my go-cart and started towing him. He pointed to a line of concrete parking bumpers in the parking lot. We used to have a lot of fun towing boarders down this line of bumpers, because you could slalom through them. Bill entered the slalom and it looked like he was doing OK. I was watching ahead when I felt a big jerk and the go-cart started slowing down. Looking back, I saw Bill being dragged across the parking lot at the end of the rope. I stopped and ran back to see how he was. He stood up with the rope still in his hand. I was surprised to see it wrapped about 20 times around his hand and forearm! He was skinned up pretty badly. After he recovered, I asked him why he had wrapped the rope around his hand so many times...didn't he understand what I had told him? "Yeah, I knew that, I just felt like wrapping it a bunch of times," Bill replied. Great...brilliant...well, it would take a while to heal from that mistake!
Bill took a break from skating the rest of the night and seemed kind of lethargic. After we were done go-carting around, we piled the gear back in the trucks and took a drive around town. Bill wanted to go home early, so we dropped him by his house. We didn't see Bill for a couple of days, but when he showed up again, he had a cast on his arm. "What happened to you?" we chorused. "Oh, you remember that night we went skateboarding. Well, I woke screaming at about 3:00 AM. My arm was swollen and it hurt like crazy. My Mom took me to the emergency room and it turned out my arm was broken. Must have been that skateboard rope." We were stunned.
Several months later, after Bill's broken arm had healed, Bill suggested we go dirt biking. His Dad owned a couple of bikes, and Bill used to take them out once in a while. We loaded the bikes and headed up Tiger Canyon. I had never been dirt biking, and in fact, had never ridden a motorcycle before. Bill explained the basics and let me experiment a bit until I felt confident.
We got on the bikes and headed down an old logging road. The road led way back into the woods. I followed Bill easily for a while, then he started picking up speed. I eased the throttle open to keep up. We kept going faster and faster until we were blasting along between 35-50 MPH down this narrow winding dirt road. The pine trees flashed by in a blur. I was driving the bike at the ragged edge of control, power sliding around blind corners, and still Bill was pulling away. I thought maybe this was just because I was new to riding motorcycles, but I was really driving the cycle hard and could feel it was close to the edge of control. Man, I sure didn't want to lose it and fly off into the trees...that would be real ugly.
I was leaning hard into a blind left hand turn, almost scraping the foot peg with my left leg out steadying the bike. Suddenly, there was Bill...50 feet ahead parked across the road, completely blocking it. I had two choices, hit Bill or fly off into the trees. Instinctively I laid the bike down on its left side and started sliding. Dirt and rocks flew everywhere in a huge cloud. I slid right up to Bill and bumped into his left leg, my cycle thumping into both of his tires. He lost his balance and toppled, bike and all, on top of me.
We untangled ourselves and stood up. Bill said, "Cool crash, Russ!" I asked him why he had been parked sideways in the road around a blind corner like that. He blinked, stared blankly and said "I was waiting for you to catch up." I suggested it might be better to just stop on the shoulder so there would be no chance I would hit him accidentally. I also asked him to slow down a bit because I wasn't able to keep up. "Sure, no problem," Bill said enthusiastically. Super! We picked up our bikes, got them started, and were off again. In 90 seconds, Bill was out of sight and far ahead. Heavy sigh... I was wary this time. I didn't try to push the bike too hard. I slowed way down coming into blind turns. I started to realize the danger wasn't just that I might hit Bill, it was also possible to meet a truck coming the other way. A truck would take up the whole road; there wouldn't be room to squeeze by. I'd either hit it or run off into the trees. Ample motivation to keep the speed down coming around blind corners.
I slowed way down coming into a particular sharp left hand turn when suddenly, there was Bill parked sideways in the road about 25 feet ahead. There was a rock wall on the left and trees on the right. There was no room to squeeze through. I locked up the rear brake and snaked an S-shaped skid in the wet dirt. I wasn't going to be able to stop in time. I started to lay the bike down on the right hand side...too late! I crashed into Bill and knocked him "rear over tea-kettle." What a mess! Man, I'm sure glad I wasn't going very fast or I would have just annihilated him. I was going probably 15 MPH around the turn.
We got up and I asked Bill why he had stopped cross-ways in the middle of the road again. "I was waiting for you," he said, exasperated. Well sheezh man, wait on the shoulder of the road not in the middle of it on a blind turn! Fer cryin' out loud! Bill just stared blankly. I don't know whether he ever "got it" or not. We just picked up our bikes and continued on. I deliberately hung way, way back, and took the blind turns really slow. Bill thought I was being overly cautious, but I just didn't know what he would do next. I wondered if he might turn around and come back towards me. I could just see meeting him head-on at 40 MPH on one of these corners. (In fact, he did turn around and come blasting back the other way a couple of times that day. Luckily we didn't meet on a sharp turn.) He seemed kind of reckless. He just didn't think, and worst of all, didn't seem to learn from his mistakes. I'd hate to hand him a shotgun and go hunting with him. Later that day, we came across an area of slash where there were a bunch of big logs strewn over a dozen acres. It was very rugged and treacherous. Bill tried to ride his cycle up and over all these logs and performed a glorious "endo," flipping end-over-end into a bunch of broken limbs. He dinged up the motorcycle pretty bad and hurt himself in a couple of places. At least he's consistent, you've got to hand him that!
In the spring of 1980, some of us got jobs out at a farm moving sprinklers. It was hard work. You had to get up at 4:00 AM, drive out to the fields, and slog through knee deep mud hauling 40 foot sections of sprinkler pipe. After a couple of hours of that, you had to hurry back to town, take a shower, get your school clothes on, and get to class. After school, you had to zip back out to the fields and do it all again. Anyway, Bill started working with the rest of us out there. He had an old yellow Mercury Cougar that he used to drive around. One day, after finishing up the afternoon sprinkler move, he ran to his car, started it up with a roar, sprayed gravel, and tore out for town. He used to make a big deal out of being the first back to town, and bragged about driving the car full throttle all the way. Everyone else got in their car and fell in trail. Bill disappeared in the distance. Rounding a very slight bend in the road, we discovered a huge cloud of dust and a yellow Cougar lying some distance off in the adjoining field. Everyone stopped, jumped out, and ran over to see if Bill was still alive. He was dazed but OK.
He had been going about 110 MPH when he came to the one and only bend in this two lane road. The bend is very slight, I'm guessing here, but it has to be less than a 5º turn. Anyway, at that speed he had to drift over into the oncoming lane to negotiate the "corner." This is normally not a big problem, because the road is way out in the country and not heavily traveled. Unfortunately, on this day and at the exact moment Bill was hurtling around the turn, in the oncoming lane was none other than our High School driving instructor! To avoid a catastrophic collision, Bill steered the car off into the ditch. The car flipped end-over-end several times. Of course Bill never wore his seat belt, but despite this, for some mysterious reason, was not ejected from the vehicle. Rather, he was thrown into the rear seat, and good thing too, because the engine and transmission promptly crushed the front passenger compartment flat. If he'd stayed in the front seats, he would have been killed or very severely injured. Only God knows why he wasn't ejected from the car. Bill managed to get through the whole thing without a scratch. Unbelievable. Here's a diagram of the crash scene:
Anyway, a crowd gathers around Bill. Shortly thereafter, a patrolman arrives to deal with the aftermath. Our farm boss, Bob, advises Bill not to say anything that might get him in trouble. The patrolman walks up, surveys the carnage, then sidles up to Bill and asks, "What happened here?" Bill begins regaling the patrolman about how he was going 110 MPH, and how he does that all the time, and how it would of been OK had our High School driving instructor not been in the oncoming lane, and how he had to save the day by crashing in the ditch, and how the crash musta been spectacular, and how it's a miracle he wasn't killed, and how lucky he was not to have been wearing his seat belt 'cause otherwise he wouldn't have been thrown into the back seat, etc., etc. The bystanders just let out a groan.
This incident cost Bill his driving privileges for some time. Bill was permitted to ride a moped, so he bought one and used it for transportation. Bill stayed on out at the farm with the rest of us and worked harvest that summer. Many of the fields we worked were more than 40 miles out of town. Bill would drive his moped all the way out to the job and all the way back. I asked him how long it took to drive all that way on a moped. "Oh I can usually make it in two hours," said Bill. Man...2 hours out, 12 hour shift, 2 hours back...that's a long day. Could have cut that commute to 20 minutes at 110 MPH...oh well.
When school started again, I took an interest in a girl I had know for a few years...I'll just call her Melissa. We started dating, and really hit it off well; at least I thought we did. We dated for several months then broke up. About two days later Bill asks me if he can ask her to a dance. I guess I don't have a problem with that. I'm glad he asked because at least he has some respect for my feelings in the matter. Anyway, they go to the dance and guess what...Melissa has a new beau. Oh great...gee, I'm so excited...how wonderful for the both of you. Bill comes to me and gushes all over about what a great girl she is, etc., etc. He won't shut-up about it. Hey, I don't want to hear it! I don't know what it was like when you were in High School, but when I was in High School, there was an unspoken code amongst guys that were friends. Out of respect for the other guy, you don't start dating his old girlfriend until at least 2-3 months have passed. The idea is that girlfriends may come and go, but you want to stay on good terms with your mates, 'cause you'll need their goodwill from time to time. In addition, it conveys respect for your friend and a sensitivity to any feelings he might have. Guys don't talk about these feelings, but they all know they're there, and it is considered an honorable courtesy. Well, Bill just bulldozed through that little minefield. I have to say I was perplexed and a frankly more than a little irritated. He broke the code. Apparently his passing fancy for this girl was way more important than any degree of respect he had for me as a friend...at least that's how I took it at the time. It doesn't seem like a big deal to me now, but at the time it seemed a grievous breach of etiquette.
Well, that was the end of any friendship Bill and I had shared. I saw Bill again a couple of years later. He seemed kind of high strung, desperate, and pathetic. He was studying as an apprentice wooden boat builder way back East somewhere. That didn't exactly seem like a promising career move, but it was par for Bill's course. His future seemed continually clouded by bad decisions. Looking back on it all now, I tend to see Bill as a kind of forlorn, lost soul. I gather his home life wasn't really very healthy, and I think that may have contributed to his addle brained behavior...but then again, weren't we all idiots in one way or another back in High School? Ah well...