Tandem, An American Love Story

Wayne beginning a new life

Yesterday we met Wayne as we walked around the park. He is embarking on an adventure, moving from Santa Cruz, California to Duluth, Minnesota to begin a new life far from the California lifestyle. He wants a place where people are less new age and more real, where people like him are not looked on as some sort of political statement.

He is disabled, a partial paraplegic from the neck down. We soon forgot his joy-stick controlled chair as the three of us, make that four, his helper dog Eubie is always at his side, strolled and talked about our travels and his. He’s 30 now, been in the chair for 10 years, and adapting as well as can be expected. He feels isolated by his condition, lonely, and hopes this move will lead to new social connections and perhaps a relationship with a caring woman.

Moving is often the thing Americans do when things aren’t right where they are. It is often characterized as running away from problems, but I’m not so sure. Movement is sometimes needed to jog us loose from ill conceived, but comfortable, ideas and habits; long held beliefs that stand in the way of growth and joy. That’s what Wayne is doing, growing out of the new age mold and into a new life. He’s a brave young man, not ready to accept a limited role for himself because of his disability. We wish him well.

The only thing that seems to worry him much about Minnesota is the snow and cold. I told him he’d better start looking for chains to fit his wheelchair. What a great smile.

Billy and Jesus and Scooter Too

We met Billy, a biker (as in Harley Davidson) living in a converted school bus and working construction, who wore a Jesus t-shirt covering scars from a terrible accident that led to his conversion. Billy is close to 50, graying with a short pony-tail. He wears a black T-shirt and jeans and rides a customized Harley. A little on the heavy side, he has a smile a Texas mile wide and likes to talk about Jesus.

About ten years ago, Billy said he was riding with biker gangs, drinking, whoring and selling drugs. Then he had a dream. Jesus came to him and told him how he was living wrong. Told him he was damning souls into Hell by selling them drugs. He told Billy he was going to have to stop or be taught a lesson. He vividly remembers Jesus pointing a finger at him when he told him he would be taught a lesson.

Billy got up and went on about his drug rounds the next day, riding his Harley, long hair flying in the wind and sun, and dreaming of what he would do with all the money he was making.

That was the day the semi ran over him.

At this point in the story he pulls up his T-Shirt to reveal a scar three inches wide and ten long. He lived. Barely. Lost four houses he rented out, everything else, including people he thought were friends.

He was left with another Harley he was building up, an old GMC school bus converted to a camper, and one friend who gave him a job working construction.

Under that smile, that black T-shirt says, “J. C. King of Kings and Lord of Lords” Billy is living a new life. He has less material possessions than at any time in his life and yet is happier than he has ever been. The lesson was a harsh one, but he learned it well and is willing to share it with anyone who will listen.

I generally prefer the company of Christians who live their faith to those who talk a great deal about it. Billy does both and somehow it works. He is sincere, and his story has power.

His smile is his good news. His good deeds happen every winter when he goes to Mexico to spend the winter helping kids in a small town there as part of a mission. North in summer, south in winter; not a bad reward for right living in my book.

Billy lost his best friend last year. Scooter was the small poodle that rode with him, sitting in front of him on his Harley. They were together for years until Scooter’s blindness led him away from the campground and to the dog pound where he was put to sleep. Scooter was special. Larry’s thought about a new dog. Not yet. Maybe next year.

Billy doesn’t live like a monk. He is very outgoing and has friends and goes to bars to talk to people; shares his story. He doesn’t drink or do dope, and he doesn’t condemn those who do. He is simply there to witness a better way to live. Some people don’t take too well to preaching, but I suspect they listen to Billy because he has lived the life and learned the lesson. You can see it in his face; the old sins and the new peace, together in the lines around his eyes and creases of his smile.

He showed us post cards of the big motorcycle get-together in Sturgis, South Dakota. Thousands of motorcyclists gather there each summer to party. He’s there every year to witness to as many who want to listen. The gas tank on his Harley is painted with a cross and a crown and the same message as is on his T-shirt. I can imagine him there in the middle of the biggest motorcycle party of all, listening to some drunk tell his story and then telling his, and maybe, just maybe, changing a life.

Billy has 20 acres of land on the Canadian border. The way he reads the Bible, the year 2,000 just might be the end of time. He wants a place to go, away from the troubles of that time. And if it is not the appointed time he will have a place to live out his years in peace.

He shared a memory of that place, a few summers ago, when Scooter was still alive. A moose wandered into his meadow and Scooter decided to chase him. The moose, ran to the other end of the meadow, turned and chased Scooter back. This happened several times until the moose tired of being harassed and wandered off into the woods.

Billy, sharing his message with the world is a little like Scooter chasing that moose; big job for one man, but he’s not about to give up.


Tandem, An American Love Story — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the memories, and the update on your own adventures. That last few days back to Sequim was bitter-sweet after more than a year on the road. We’ve never been the same; a good thing.

  2. What a marvelous and beautifully descriptive article about a simply amazing woman – Karen Landis. I’ve had had the serendipitous experience to create and nurture a friendship with Karen after I underwent a hip replacement and three hip fractures and realized I needed to request the local “Meals on Wheels” service. And of course, if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Karen serves the Chino Valley community two days a week by delivering meals to people in my circumstance.
    I loved Karen the first moment I met her. And when we started chatting I knew I had met a soul mate. I’ve been looking all my life for a role model, a hero, an amazing example of humankind. I don’t know if she realizes what an outstanding example she is of a strong, independent, intelligent, talented woman. Sometimes as women, we have a dentency to undervalue ourselves. But Karen, I want you to know you are the real deal. You are just so beautiful in your authenticity. And I a so appreciative of the value you have added to our environment by caring for the land and the animals under your watchful care. Your abilities and strength simply boggle my mind. And thank you for your loving service to me these past four months. You rock girl!

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