Monday, June 25, 2007

Dirtbikes, Dogs and Rebar

A "migrant worker" with a four foot piece of rebar can be a formidable foe, especially when you are riding a dirtbike through a row of orange trees at about 40 mph, and the worker jumps out in front of you and swings for the fences. This occurred to me one day as a teenager. I had been riding through the local orange groves, as I often did, and one of the workers tried to take me out with a piece of rebar. It caught me off guard, and he, thank God, missed his mark. I used to have many an adventure while living out in the hills of California, but that one was a wee bit more of an adventure than I would have cared for. Ironically, I ended up meeting that man again under much different circumstances.

I was lucky enough to live in a very rural area beginning at the age of eight. I didn't leave there until I left home for good to join the Corps (with a short break to attend schools "in the city"). It was a dream come true for a young boy. We lived out in the hills, and there was all manner of fun things for a kid to do. I would often head into the "back 40" with my bb gun and our dog. I'd shoot it out with a horde of desperados (pop cans), and tame wild beasts (lizards and horned toads). I'd live out whatever adventure I had seen on the last weekend movie, often a western, or perhaps John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. As I grew older, my adventures progressed.

I eventually moved on from bb guns to dirtbikes. The beauty pictured above is a close match to my 600cc desert thumper that I would spend many an hour on. Living where we did, I could simply hop on and go tearing off through the hills. I had a great time. There were also weekend trips to the desert with my dad. That was the best. Endless miles of open desert, combined with that big, bad, beautiful beast of a bike, made for a fun combination. Having a great time with my dad wasn't bad either.

I would occasionally ride through one of the many nearby orange groves. This was especially fun after a rain. The mud would be thick and sloppy, but not as slick as some of the clay mud that you might encounter elsewhere. It made a big mess, but it was easy to maintain control. I had never encountered people in the orange groves, until the day of the rebar incident. Luckily, the worker missed me, and I was able to haul ass out of there. I made a point of pouring on the gas as I went by the guy, showering him with sloppy mud. I was a bit bothered by the experience, for obvious reasons. I knew that the guy was "defending" the property, but he could have done a number on me with that piece of metal. In addition, their own work trucks tore the place up a heck of a lot more than my bike did. I later learned that the Mexicans that worked in the groves also lived there in a cluster of tool sheds. Not knowing much at the time, I felt pretty sorry for them.

About a year later, a friend and I went rabbit hunting. I was using a Winchester lever action .22, and he had a Ruger semi-auto .22. I was a pretty fair shot with the Winchester, and would easily bag the rabbits on the run. We took about six of them, and were very pleased with ourselves. Unfortunately, when we went to gut the first one, we discovered that it was full of worms. He said that it was no good, and we were going to have to get rid of the rabbits. I was disappointed. I knew that my parents would be impressed if I brought home a few pounds of food, and it ended up being time, and critters, wasted. Then I had an idea. I told my buddy, "Why not give 'em to the guys in the orange groves? They'd probably be happy to have them." He agreed.

We hopped in my truck and made our way to the groves. We wound through there a bit and found where the workers were living. They already had fires burning, and a few cans of chili and such ready to cook. We pulled up and started pulling the rabbits out of the back of the truck, and their eyes lit up. I could see immediately that they were excited about the prospect of fresh meat. A young boy among them spoke fluent English, and he was passing on the profuse thanks of the elders among the bunch. I told him that the rabbits had worms, and he assured us that his grandmother knew how to prepare them properly. I then noticed a man looking closely at my dirtbike, which happened to be strapped into the back of my truck. He then began rapidly chattering away to the young boy. The boy told me that the man recognized the "motorbike" and was very sorry. I didn't understand what the heck he was talking about. He said that the man was very sorry for trying to "hit you with the fence stick." Then I knew. It was the same guy that tried to take my head off about a year earlier. I didn't know what to say. Here this guy was, about ready to piss all over himself. I know he was scared, but I could tell that he was genuinely humiliated and sorry as well.

I guess I was the bigger person that day, because I told the boy to pass on that all was well. "Just tell him not to try and take my head off again; they put people away for life for that here." When the boy passed that on, the guy started crying and thanking me. He was groveling so much that I almost felt like I had done something wrong. He told me that I could ride my "motorbike" there any time that I cared to. We left the groves with the whole clan of workers smiling and waving to us like we were some sort of saints. I told my buddy that if they were that impressed with a few rabbits, they should learn to set traps.

I was blasting through the groves on my dirtbike two days later. Good times.

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