Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Diggers

The first weekend in November! Who would have thought it would turn out to be a beautiful, sunny, clear weekend? We probably would have gone for a short trip on our Harleys, but we had promised Ed, better known as Boss Hawg, that we would man one of the booths at his “Hawg Wild Swap Meet". A swap meet is exactly what its name implies. It’s a place where all sorts of bikers gather together to trade or buy parts for their “scooters.” We always attended them, but this would be a new experience for us.

We were in charge of the $1 booth, and it seemed to be the busiest one in the whole place. There were used, dirty, greasy motorcycle parts of every description. I recognized a few parts when I first looked at our stock, but, by the time the swap meet was over, I had learned a whole lot more about parts!

Our booth was actually a shallow trailer with all of these parts thrown into the bottom. To find the good stuff meant literally “digging in.” I came to the conclusion that there are two types of bikers --- the ones that can’t wait to get their hands in there and inspect everything, and the ones that wouldn’t dig in there even if there were gold stashed at the bottom of the pile. I like all kinds of bikers, but after my weekend at the “dollar booth” I’m especially partial to the “diggers.’

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite customers was a guy named, Digger. He really didn’t buy much but he would sift through those parts telling me, or anyone that happened to be standing around what each part was for. What year, what model, how it worked and where it went. Even though Digger never did buy much, he was my favorite customer because as he found treasures he would stash them in a corner and after he walked away, another customer would be drawn to that corner as if a magnet was pulling his eyes and hands in that direction – and I would make another sale. I don’t think Digger realized that he had a talent that people go to school for years to acquire. He was a marketing expert – at least in motorcycle parts.

I definitely got an education about motorcycle parts. I learned about valve lifters, contact points, rocker arms and all kinds of mounting brackets. I watched as these hard core Harley riders tested for things being straight, round, chipped and stripped. They each seemed to have their personal quality program that, I am sure, has been learned through personal experience.

This experience wasn’t limited to adults either. One young kid about fourteen dug through those parts for about an hour. He stayed in there, shoulder to shoulder with the “big guys” as they came and went. I could see he was intently looking for one thing in particular. Finally, he held up a mounting bracket for a floor board. He had found that “needle in a haystack.” The most impressive thing about that young man was that he was wearing a white t-shirt, and after all that time, he didn't have one smudge of grease on it!

There are all kinds of people at a swap meet. People looking for leather goods, jewelry, accessories for their bikes --- people that just want to be with other bikers and visit with old friends. Some are there to promote various good causes that are pertinent to the biker world, like the anti-helmet campaign. Some are there to see the beautiful motorcycles in the show. To see this display of sparkling, waxed and polished machines is reason enough to go to a swap meet.

Our neighbors at the next booth were members of the Riders For Justice. Nice people that are taking their personal time to promote the anti-helmet campaign. This is a cause that is dear to the hearts of all bikers. Helmet wearers or not, they seem to agree in the right to have your choice in this matter. It’s more than an issue of wearing a helmet; it’s the issue of freedom of choice! I knew some of these folks already, now I knew them even better after being neighbors for the weekend.

The swap meet had an international flavor to it as well. We met some people from Berlin, West Germany. They have a motorcycle shop there and spend part of the year in America, buying motorcycle parts to take back to Germany. They had the booth behind us, so we had a chance to get to know them by the end of the weekend. Then there was Matt from Australia. He’s a friend of Ed's and he worked the booth on the other side of us. I got to know him and liked him in the two days – and I learned to understand his Australian accent, as I hope he learned mine.

Surprisingly, you see a lot of babies at swap meets. One little guy was just two months old. His Daddy told me that whether he grows up to be a biker will be his own choice – he just wanted him to grow up with the right attitude. I think this statement is pretty typical of the philosophy of these folks about life.

My whole swap meet weekend was a learning experience for me. Not just about motorcycle parts, but about people and about myself. These are good hardworking, down to earth people and I like them. They express their individualism in the way they dress and the lifestyle they have chosen. They pretty much live and let live. A swap meet is a place they can come to and be among others that dress, live and believe like they do.

On Sunday morning when the band started playing, the first song they played was, “The City of New Orleans”. It has always been a favorite of mine, simply because it is nice to listen to the words and the melody. Now, it’s a favorite of mine because of the memory I would have whenever I hear it. As I listened to the music, I looked around and the west door of the building was open. The sun was bright, the sky was blue and clear, the mountains were snow capped. My thought was, “Yes, these are America’s favorite sons.” The song fit the day and the crowd perfectly.

By the time the “swap meet “ was drawing to a close, the crowd was getting larger. Ed gives away a motorcycle as a door prize, and you have to be present to win. At 5:30 he opens the doors to everyone that has their name in the drawing. The mood becomes very tense as he prepares to draw the winning name out of the squirrel cage. If your name is drawn you have exactly 2 minutes to get up on the stage and claim your prize. I had a couple of tickets in the drawing, so I started edging my way towards the stage, just in case.

For the first time in two days, the building was quiet. As I was standing there waiting with the rest of the crowd, I could hear a small sound of activity coming from behind me. Yes, there they were -- a couple of diggers – going through the $1 booth. These two fellows weren’t about to be distracted by the mere drawing of a motorcycle! After all, they wouldn't get a chance like this until the next “swap meet."

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