I returned home to Ohio after that, and in February of ‘75, one of my greatest dreams came true. I became the proud owner of my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I quickly became obsessed with learning about Harleys. Early one morning in April, after drinking for several hours, I left a bar stone cold drunk and headed home. I was going about 85 mph when I hit something in the road and laid the bike down, totaling it, but receiving no serious injuries myself. The local Harley dealer allowed me to use his shop to repair my bike. I learned to “wrench” by rebuilding it, and eventually earned a reputation as a custom builder.
When not at the shop, I hung out with other bikers. We drank, fist-fought, and rode our Harleys. In October of 1975, after much persuasion from a good friend, I joined my first motorcycle club. It was a small, local club, based on bikin' and brotherhood. In the spring of 1978, I met some members of a national club in Daytona Beach, Florida. After hanging out with them for well over a year, and proving I was “rotten” enough, I was accepted as a member. I became the charter president of their Toledo chapter.
There were dark sides to the lifestyle of a bike club member, including many funerals. The death of one of my best friends is a prime example. Very early one winter morning, a club brother and I left a bar in my Camaro with a couple of girls who needed a ride home. Our newest member, Ralph, was following on his Harley. When I stopped at a traffic light to let the girls out of the car, Ralph roared past us, heading on toward the clubhouse. We lost sight of him as he entered the alley behind it. Rounding the corner, I saw he had gone down. Ralph was unconscious, lying in the middle of the alley. Rushing to his side and realizing that he wasn't breathing, I attempted to straighten him out in order to do C.P.R. When I removed my arm from underneath him, it was glistening in the dim light of the street lamp, covered with his blood. Ralph had been gunned down by what turned out to be a rival gang member. I realized I would have been the first one into the alley had I not stopped at the light. As chapter boss, I was the target. I'm the one that should have been killed that night.
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