When I was a teen the minimum age requirement for an Idaho State Driver’s License, daylight priviledges only, was 14 years of age. I knew in my family there wasn’t much point in getting a driver’s licence if I didn’t get a vehicle to go with it. No one was buying me a car.
So, the summer I was 12 I took a full time baby-sitting job, 8.5 hours per day. I also baby-sat evenings and weekends. All money went into a container in the back of the freezer (you had to know my dad — our freezer could have retired to the coast and lived quite comfortably). The following summer my dad was logging much further away from home, so we left the house to my step-brother and his new bride and lived in a travel trailer just outside of the teeny town of Murray, Idaho (please run your mouse over pic for more information). There were no baby-sitting jobs to be had there.
So, to earn money I got up every morning and walked 3 miles. I drug a gunny sack with me and I picked up every aluminum can along the west side of the road on the 1.5 mile trip to my destination, and all the cans on the east side of the road as I returned. You would think I wouldn’t acquire many cans since I walked the road daily, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact I sometimes wonder if the road would have been passable by the end of summer if I hadn’t walked it every day.
My destination was the dump — really just a very wide spot beside the road where the city put three huge green refuse bins. This was back in the day when nobody much worried about saving the world — or making money on trash. A couple of local bars made it a nightly practice to drop off their empty aluminum cans. I made it my daily practice to gather them up, put them in gunny sacks and toss them into the bushes. On his way down the mountain my dad would pick them up, then at the trailer park we poured them out, put slabs of plywood over them, which dad then drove the one-ton across to flatten them out. Then I picked them all back up again. Every Saturday we drove into Wallace, Idaho and I turned the cans in for cash. Sometimes I made as much as $60.00 — which, way-back-when, was a pretty good pay out for a 13 year old kid’s work week.
During the school year we were back home and I was baby-sitting again. As April 24th approached (my birthday) I began looking for a car. One of the folks I baby-sat for owned a body-shop. He had a lovely ’69 Chevy convertible for sale for $600.00 (remember, it wasn’t a classic then, it was just old). Coincidentally $600.00 was exactly the amount of money I’d saved. I asked dad for the car.
He said, “No.” My step-brother had just wrecked his convertible and, even though he was just fine, dad wanted me in something sturdier. Dad went out of town. I asked my step-mom to let me buy the car. She reminded me that my dad had said no, but she knew just like I did that he was going to say no to everything until I was 18 — or maybe 32.
So, while dad was out of town we went shopping for — and purchased — my very first vehicle. A lovely little Yamaha track and street bike. It was only a 125cc, but I could afford it and the insurance, easily keep it in gas (75 cents filled the tank) and legally go everywhere I wanted to both on and off road.
When Dad first saw the bike he stared at it in shock. Then he walked around it too or three times, stopped, and stared some more. Slowly he turned around and stared at me. Finally he looked at my step-mother and shouted so loudly he made windows rattle and our neighbors come to gawk: “At least the car had four %#&*! sides!” Then he went in the house and slammed the door.
So, that’s how it came to be that my first car was a motorcycle.