European Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Death of a Harley Sprint

I went to high school in a splendid country setting, the school with many separate buildings laid out like a college campus and perched near the edge of our mountain, in north Alabama near Guntersville.  There was a 75-foot limestone bluff right behind the Chapel and Arts/Craft complex.  In those days, way before environmental issues were even discussed, old books and so forth would sometimes be thrown off the bluff, just as the hamburger bags and soda cups were tossed out the car window.  Sometimes distraught or rejected lovers tried to fly from this bluff.  It was a pretty long ways down.

One fine Saturday afternoon I'm up that way on my fine Crème and Coral Allstate MoPed, chatting with buddies, all of us sitting up on picnic tables with our feet on the seat planks.  Biggest bike anybody had ridden up on was probably an S90.  We were discussing the world geopolitical situation, relativity theory, the state of the Vatican and whatnot, when this fella we all know comes pushing along his newly acquired but somewhat used HDA 250 Sprint.  

"Why you pushin' that big ol' motor," somebody asks.  "Bitch won't run," he says, "Ahm gwain set it afar, and push it off th' bluff," just calm as can be.

My heart leapt up.  "No, NO! Give it to me!" was the unrehearsed chorus of our picnic table ensemble.

"Nope," he say, "Cannot do it.  It is a devil, it has to be destroyed."  

We watched wordlessly, disbelieving.  He pushed the bike to the edge of the bluff, and put it on its stand.  He poured gasoline over it and trailed it back a few feet.  He lit and tossed down a match.  The gas caught, ran to the machine, it began to burn.  After a few seconds he grabbed a pine branch and shoved the bike right over the edge, turned around without a peep or look back and starting walking home.  No one offered to give him a ride.

Slack jawed and silent, the crowd dispersed.  I just sat there going through it all again.  Then I went back over behind the Crafts building and labored down the long path that went around the edge of the bluff.  Ten minutes later I was there staring at the bike.  It had gone out on the way down, but had landed on a limestone outcropping on one side.  The tank and instrument were smashed, and the head had broken from the cases.  Some how the handlebars had missed impact, so I came back later and removed them, took them home.  I still have them, as a memento of something, I'm not sure what.