My little brother Barron bought his first dirt bike at the age of thirteen. He purchased what mom called ‘the death of her’ with money earned from a paper route. Smarter than a whip, quiet as a mouse, yet built for speed, my little brother was born to run.
Administration at Southern Huntingdon County School suggested to my parents that Barron should be transferred into a class of ‘gifted’ students, offering the promise of grants and scholarships and an opportunity for Barron to graduate early and attend an ivy league college, but my little brother refused, choosing instead to remain in classes with other boys who raced motorcycles and learned in shops.
Barron was still riding his dirt bike on the mountain behind our home with his best friend “Luke the Duke Varner” and a group of other hell-raisers on wheels when I left that little red neck town. I haven’t been back much since, but Barron always stays in touch. Having been gone for so many years, I still envision Barron on his bike, leading the pack of wild boys up the mountain road and it is only when I deposit the $50 checks that he sends me on my birthday that I realize that he is all grown up now.
Barron and Luke rode their cycles like indians mounted upon horses, doing donuts on the dusty neglected roads of the quarry mountain. The stone roadways were once wide enough to handle trucks, but have since vanished to mere trails that only a dirt bike can maneuver. They ripped and tore, scalping the stone pathways bare with spinning tires, burning along the dusty trails fearlessly, tempting girls, who despite dangers of rattlesnakes along the quarry floor, rode three-wheeled all terrain vehicles around while the young men raced on bikes.
Kids in Three Springs gathered atop the mountain for keg parties. They shot their rifles towards the face of the quarry, aiming at wild birds that encircled the exposed mountainside like seagulls gliding at sea.
Barron and Luke did not need guns to impress the girls. They jumped over the campfires built by clans of local teenagers drinking beer. They sailed above the flames like doves. The chicks dug them.
Barron’s long, dark hair grew straight along his chiseled face. Like an untrimmed mane of a horse, it fell flat to his broad shoulders where the strands curled to form luxurious locks that almost every girl in town wanted to run their fingers through. His bad acne was no match for light- green eyes that were not hazel but more like emeralds. Luke was blonde and blue- eyed. Their heavy-metal hair reached beyond their motorcycle helmets and they hid their eyes behind shaded visors.
I was in the Army when the motor cycle/ dirt bike phase hit Three Springs. Little Barron took to the mountain soon after I left home. Barron has always been my closest sibling. My departure must have been hard on him. He was the only Taylor son left in the house after both Bill and I enlisted in the Army. Barron has always been the smartest of the five siblings. At least he had enough sense not to run away to the military to escape living in that house. He became a motorcycle riding expert instead. To this day, he continues to race cars and win cash trophies.
Living with Bob must have been pure hell without me there for Bob to beat down when he grew frustrated. Barron was not permitted to get his own car until he turned eighteen. Even I was permitted to have a car when I was a teenager.
I spent my money from my paper route– the job that I handed down to Barron when I left for the Army– on my first car– a green Ford Pinto. Our stepfather Bob was kind enough to place me on the family’s car insurance policy. The favor was granted because I was willing to buy a Pinto and not a Chevy like Barron wanted to own.
Whereas I paid just $40 a month for car insurance, if Barron wanted a car he had to shell out $150 a month on his own car insurance policy. Bob told Barron he couldn’t afford the risk of letting him have a car, insured under his policy. Bob knew what would inevitably happen if Barron ever got on a real road. In an effort to save his step-son’s life, Bob chose not to let the hellyin get a car. I remember Bob not permitting me to have a girlfriend in fear that I would knock someone up.
My mother was horrified at the injuries Barron came into the house with– cuts across his back from where he rolled across hard stone from flipping in mid- air and tumbling under his bike. He often crashed with Luke during games of mid-air truth or dare that were played at speeds surpassing fifty-five. He had black and blue marks from head to toe. A car was out of the question for Barron at the time, so to escape Bob’s wrath of home-bound detention, Barron rode the motorcycle all day, the one he bought when he was thirteen, when he still could be trusted behind an engine.
The quarry floor stretched for miles along the face of the mountain. Surface mining was done atop the ridge generations before, during the Great Depression. The sedimentary rock found in South Central Pennsylvania is of the highest quality found anywhere on earth, surpassing even the sediments found in places like the desert Southwest. Concave lenses inside the world’s largest telescopes were created from sand mined on Jack’s Mountain, but by the time Barron was entering adolescence there and loosening the sands with his bike tires, the quarry was merely a speedway with very few blind spots.
That Honda bike, like my writing with a Cross pen, was Barron’s hobby and means of escape. The mountain served us both well as kids. He grew up in a world surrounded by much natural beauty where the earth was again reclaiming what man had destroyed with machines in generations past.
There was nothing to slow Luke and Barron down– only mounds of refined white sand caused them to let up from the throttle from time to time. Small hills of refined sediment still cover the quarry floor despite the rains and generations that had passed since mining took place there.
I went home for a reunion a few years ago and took a ride up the quarry on Bob’s 4-wheeler. I wandered which of the mounds of sand Barron and Luke had turned into dust ramps when they were kids. I shut of the engine, parked in the very center of the quarry floor, looked around, and remembered the days I hunted there. I heard a faint buzz. It was the sound of two motorcycles approaching. Two shirtless young boys on bikes stopped where I was leaning against my machine, remembering my past. I thought of Barron and Luke the duke when they drove up to me.
“That’s a nice machine,” one said.
“It’s not mine. It’s my father’s.”
“Can we ride it?”
I laughed and replied, “Sorry, It’s not insured.”
They looked at me as if they would fight me for the chance. Just then, one of the boys was stung by a wasp.
“Ouch– holy fuck! I just got stung.”
“Put some mud on it. You’ll be alright,” I said. The boys revved their engines and raced away from me as quickly as possible, no longer interested in racing the old dude – hell on wheels.