The most important lesson was that once an act is committed, it cannot be uncommitted and whether you get away with intentionally doing a bad thing, someone always knows.
I did something against my late parents when I was 15 years old that has bothered me on various levels at different times for about 45 years because neither mama nor daddy ever found out what I did to the 1964 Cushman Super Eagle.
It was something only I knew that I’ve carried with me all these years, but now it’s time to confess.
I hated that Cushman scooter as much as a 13-year-old who wanted to fit in could hate a thing. I never wanted it in the first place. I wanted a Honda 50, but Daddy invoked the “as long as you live under my roof” rule as he drove me to Sonny’s Small Engine Shop in Denison, Texas, to buy a Cushman scooter.
It was a pretty red color, but it sat too low to the ground. It was too long, too boxy, too heavy, it had a suicide clutch with two gears — high and low. I could not carry passengers on the back because it had a tractor seat instead of the longer banana-type seat on the Honda 50 and when I did try to carry passengers, they always burned their leg because the muffler was positioned too high.
The only thing I liked about the scooter was it was red instead of the pukey, sky blue color that was my other choice.
As we drove into Denison, we passed a place that sold Honda 50s and for a brief second, I thought I felt the pickup slow down just a little bit, but it didn’t and we continued on toward the other side of town to the small engine shop. I’m sure I held the palms of my hands flat and pressed my nose against the passenger’s side window as we drove past what I desired.
Daddy must have seen me or he might have heard me wince or whimper as my heart broke.
“You don’t want one of those Japanese things,” he said.
“OK,” I muttered as politely as a 13-year-old could through clenched jaws.
We arrived at the small engine shop, walked from the pickup, past rows of new and used lawnmowers sitting outside to be sold or repaired. We walked into the shop. It smelled like stale oil, grease and cigarettes. That’s the last thing I remember about that day.
I paid $20 a month for two years from money I collected on my paper route and for two years, I hated that scooter. I only made $40 a month, but making money was not the purpose of having a paper route. The purpose was to learn about how to deal with people and the value of a dollar.
I was making $60 a month by the time I got rid of the route during my senior year. I think a monthly subscription to the Durant Daily Democrat cost a dollar. I kept half of everything I collected.
Main Street was the only paved road in town and since the scooter was built so low, it dragged the ground if it got into a rut. It was almost impossible to ride in the mud, but I stuck with it for two years until it was paid off and the day I mailed in my last payment, I began devising a scheme to get rid of the scooter and get a real motorbike.
No amount of scheming would have worked had Cushman not quit making scooters in 1965, so in 1966 there wasn’t anything else except “one of those Japanese things,” excluding Harley-Davidsons, but as far as I knew, you had to be a Hell’s Angel to ride a Harley.
Not too very long after I mailed my last payment, I pushed the scooter into the garage, drained all the oil and went for a ride. I didn’t ride it far enough for the engine to seize, but it was making a terrible racket by the time I got it back to the house, pushed it into the garage and filled it back up with the oil I’d drained from it earlier.
I don’t know if Mama ever figured it out, but I know for a fact Daddy didn’t because he never said anything to me. He was kind of disappointed that the American-made scooter lasted only two years. The next time he took me back to Denison, we entered town, passed the Honda dealer and drove to Sonny’s Small Engine Shop only to learn about the demise of the Cushman scooter.
This time, I bought a 1966 Twin Jet 100. It was black and I loved it as much as a 15-year-old boy who still wanted to fit in could ever love a motorcycle. Again, I paid $20 a month for the next two years, but I didn’t care about the money. The hardship was the guilt I felt from lying to my parents.
They never found out and over the years, the feeling of guilt lessened, but someone always knew what I had done.