Louisana Auntie (A Very Good Run)
by Mel Goudge
(Ellensburg, Wa,, USA)
It had been a good run — over Lolo Pass into Montana, then over Beartooth Pass into Wyoming, then and out over the Bighorns onto the High Plains. The bike, with the heads I had to have rebuilt because I had timed them 180 out, ran sweet and cool – but in a campground at Springfield, Missouri, I hurried an oil change and stripped out the threads for the filter basket.
“Damn, “ I said to the Redhead, who sat on a picnic table watching me.
“What now,” she asked gently.
“Ah, hell.” I looked at her while rubbing grease off my fingers. “Can’t believe I stripped it! I’ll try and borrow a big wrench and put the damn thing in anyway. I just hope it lasts the trip!
I borrowed a twelve inch crescent off a drunk in a Chevy and slowly and carefully tapped the cross-threaded nut into the soft aluminum of the engine case. I tightened it as much as I dared, and then I started the old Wing up and we both watched below, our hearts in
After a moment, the Redhead looked at me.
“It’s not leaking, huh?”
“That’s good. That’s real good!”
The rest of the Missouri Ozarks went well, and then we dropped into velvety Arkansas,with its twisty roads and heavy, muggy air. And then we were in Louisiana, where the red eyes of alligators gleamed in the Cypress swamps at night, and New Orleans, our destination this trip, lay less than 100 miles ahead.
We stopped at a convenience store to refuel. Black and white youths milled around the pumps, speaking a beautiful, soft and lilting dialect that we could barely understand. A black man, drinking from a wine bottle in a paper sack, looked at our license plate.
“G’lawd, man,” he sang out.. “You is a long way gone, now, hain’tcha?”
I grinned at him, “Yessir.. A long way gone is a good way of putting it!”
“Washin’ton,” he said. “Nevah been thar…. no, I hain’t!”
“It’s pretty,” I said. “Just like this place!”
He grinned at me.
I went inside to pay for our gas.. At a formica-topped table drinking a coke, sat the oldest black woman I had ever seen. Her face was corrugated and lined and weathered, like a pine board that had been in the wind for fifty winters. Over a hundred, I thought to myself, she’s at least a hundred years old. She watched me as I put my helmet down on the counter and dug for my wallet.
“Y’all wear that big thang to protect yore brains?”
Her voice was vibrant, suprisingly youthful, and she stared steadily at me with gleaming eyes that I could barely see.
And then, somehow, I sensed the merriment in that ancient face.
I grinned at her and said, “ You are telling me that is hardly worth the bother, huh?”
She laughed gently. Her laugh, like her voice, was youthful, gentle, compelling.
“Why’y’all ride them thangs, anyhow? Doncha get wet when it rains?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “We get wet sometime….. but it’s cheap this way. Fun. We feel free when we ride.”
The old lady took a deep swallow of her coke. She stared at me for a moment.
“Wahhl…,” she said. “That’s awright, Ah guess. All freedom …even the middlin’ kind … is worth havin’.”
The young black girl waiting for my card said to the old woman gently, “ leave him be,now, Auntie, he’s got somwhar to go….”
Outside my wife stood by the bike talking to man with the bottle in the bag.
“Who were you talking to,” she asked.
“Some ol’ lady that knows more ‘n me,” I answered.
“Lot of them around!” She grinned.
“That’d be ol’ Auntie,” laughed the man with the bag.
We geared up and pulled out, accelerating gently in the dusk, watching for deer and the first glow of New Orleans. So far, it had been a very good run.