Anyone who has been a rider for very long can recall many special motorcycling moments and noteworthy events. As a photographer I have been fortunate to have captured numerous special moments on film and later on digital media. I love to dig out old photos in order to relive fond moments and share them with others. Editor Mike has graciously allowed me space over the next few months to share some photographs that are special to me and will hopefully be entertaining to Cycle Connections readers.
Return with me to the Spring of 1991. I had been a motorcycle rider since the age of 14 but had been the owner of my first big motorcycle, the 1990 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail that I still ride, for only about a year. I had yet to attend a real motorcycle rally until that Memorial Weekend. At that time A.B.A.T.E. of Kansas held its annual Spring Rally on a rural patch of ground on the outskirts of Dodge City where I lived. Friends convinced me that if I was going to be a legitimate biker, I would have to attend such events, and I might even have some fun. I was still a bit intimidated by the “biker” stereotype and some of the rough characters who might be there (some of whom have since become my very good friends). However, I decided to take a walk (or in this case a ride) on the wild side. From the moment I rode through the gate, my perspective of “bikers” changed. The atmosphere was laid back, and everyone was just out to have a good time. Live bands played great music all weekend. There was a bike show, and each night there was a beauty contest the likes of which I had never seen before. What an eye-opener!
Anyone who has read my Rides, Rallies, and Events articles in this magazine knows that I love motorcycle rodeos. That weekend, I witnessed my first. At the time I didn’t have the confidence in my rider skills to enter a competition with all of those seasoned veterans. That left me free to take my first stab at capturing a motorcycle event with my second-hand Petri 35 mm SLR camera and 200 mm telephoto lens. I went through a lot of film that weekend, but one shot will always stand out as a favorite.
Rick was the local A.B.A.T.E. District Rep.. His partner was a wild woman whose name I never knew or don’t remember. She had gotten lots of attention all weekend, competing in the “beauty contests” and challenging bikers to hit the target dropping her into the dunk tank. She didn’t have to worry about getting her clothes wet since she wasn’t wearing any. I’m not sure how this particular biker babe came to be Rick’s partner for the games, but her devil-may-care attitude definitely added spice to the competition. During the balloon toss, I was for some unknown reason on the wrong side of the rodeo area. The shadows in my photo indicate that I was shooting facing the west with the late afternoon sun behind my subjects, a definite blunder. However, my poor choice of location was overcome by timing that was lucky in the extreme. Rick had ridden under the bar. His partner had tossed the water-filled balloon over with perfect trajectory and was in excellent position to make the catch. Perhaps she should have trimmed her fingernails prior to the event or used a gentler squeeze when attempting to grasp the balloon as it dropped into her outstretched hands. I snapped my photo just as the balloon burst directly above Rick’s head. A fountain-like plume of water had just begun to spread from the girl’s hands. The contrast between her expression of surprised dismay and his serene expression (displaying his unawareness that he would be drenched about half a second later) is priceless.
I decided this photo was one that most bikers would find amusing, so I sent it off to American Iron Magazine. I even gave it a name, “Balloon Toss Goes Bust or Rick Gets a Shower.” The editors must have liked it, because it appeared on page 58 of the September, 1991, issue as one of six photos featured in that month’s “Snaps” section, and a biker photojournalist was born. My reward was a six-month extension of my subscription to the magazine. The real prize was that the event was the beginning of a life-path that would provide me with a world of good times and precious friends.
Story and photo by Stripe