THE HARLEY DAVIDSON M-50

My son forwarded to me this ad from an auction site. He has heard many times, I’m sure, of the one like it that I once had.

When I was in high school, I owned one similar to this, but red and white, for a few weeks. I had taken it in trade for something and while attempting to sell it for some cash, I enjoyed riding it around our small home town. One morning as I was riding it to school, my friend George sped past me , pegs dragging the asphalt, as I turned right at a corner and disappeared in the distance on his Harley Sprint, this bike’s 250cc much bigger brother, painted in the same colors. Moments later, there was a police car with flashing lights behind me.

The exasperated officer berated me for running from him and announced more than once that he had clocked me at more than 50 mph in the 35 zone prior to the corner where George had passed me. It was immediately obvious to me that he had been pursuing George, not an unusual event in those days, and had mistaken me for his prey.

My protests of innocence were completely ignored for I was : A) a teenager, and B) one not unknown to the local constabulary in the context of motorcycle-related shenanigans.

At school, George found it much more amusing than I did, focusing on his eluding of his just desserts rather than them being served undeservedly to me. The fact that I too had often escaped consequences for similar infractions and outright stupidity did nothing to ameliorate my rage at such official treatment.

With the righteous indignation of youth, I was certain that this travesty of justice would be rectified and thus failed to mention to my beleaguered parents that the summons had occurred and made my way alone to the Police Court on the appointed day. I already knew the way there.

What transpired next was seen, by me on the day, as a triumph of planning and execution, a victory over “the man” who would try to oppress me. In hindsight, with some greater experience in the court system over many years of law practice, it actually was more a temporary amusement for the court personnel, a diversion from the routine.

In those days, before the unified court system was installed in the mid-70’s, police court was, I think, conducted by the County Judge who did not need to have any legal credentials for that position. I do not know if the one I appeared before had such training or if he (and they were pretty much all “he” in those unenlightened days) had his experience in the day-to-day political encounters of a small town.

I waited for my turn to be called and then approached the bench. The judge asked how did I plead and I launched into my impassioned explanation of what happened. I finished up by pointing dramatically at the window, saying that the bike was parked outside and if the officer could get it to go that fast, I’d gladly plead guilty and pay the fine. The judge sat for a moment, smiling pensively, and then told me I was free to go. Knowing what I know now, I’m sure that he and the others in the courtroom burst out into laughter as I closed the door behind me. I sold the M-50 a few days later for, I think, $100, not sufficiently prescient to predict today’s prices.

About johngrice

Retired small town lawyer, lifelong motorcyclist, traveler and old guy sitting around thinking.
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