Indian Stories

2014-04-23 12:00:00 AM

Indian Motorcycle® Rider Story: Larry Barnes

Like so many other motorcyclists, my Dad was directly responsible for getting me involved in motorcycling. But the sport gave us much more than just the fun of sharing a hobby…it gave us the opportunity to become “best friends.”

My father, Donald W. Barnes, was born in 1920 and grew up during the depression. His father (my grandfather) operated small bicycle repair shop out his garage trying to make ends meet, so I guess you could say my father got his introduction to two-wheeled transportation from his father, which makes this a three generation story. But my Dad, like most boys do these days, quickly developed the urge for something with a motor.

When he was about 20 Dad started racing dirt track and TT with his brother, Clifford, as his tuner. He became a state-ranked TT expert in the late ‘30’s, winning about 35 local and regional races. His favorite racing mount was a modified 1929 Indian 101 Scout. My uncle had changed cylinder heads for more performance and mounted a larger front wheel to keep the frame from digging in while cornering. Pretty advanced stuff for those days. They bent the hand shifter in such a way that Dad could shift gears with his knee (don’t ask me how) and not let go of the handlebars.

Unfortunately, World War II halted his (and so many other’s) racing career. And when Dad came back it was time to settle down, marry his sweetheart, Dorothy, and raise a family (me and three other kids). But Dad hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for motorcycles. Together he and Dorothy opened an Indian dealership in Wooster, Ohio, across the street from his father’s old bicycle repair shop.

When Indian folded, Dad sold off his remaining stock for, and finally his beloved Indian 101 Scout. I still remember it going out the driveway in the back of a pickup truck. I guess Dad figured he’d never need it again or maybe we needed something for the house that the $50 he got for it would buy. (Big mistake.)

Mom, without telling any of us, tracked down the guy who Dad had sold the Scout to 30 years later. Unbelievably, he still had it. Well, most of it anyway. Apparently the guy’s son was good at taking things apart but not very good at putting them back together. Dad’s Scout had been completely disassembled in a dirt floor basement and left 20 years to rust. But Mom bought the priceless pile of rusty parts for $500 and gave it back to Dad for their 40th anniversary. And so began a restoration process that took another five years until Dad’s 1929 Indian Scout 101 dirt tracker was restored to its original factory condition. When it came time to ride it for the first time, he jumped aboard and took off like no time had passed at all.

Dad, Mom, and the whole family really enjoyed having the Scout back as a member of the family. Dad would ride it in community parades and we’d all go on outings with the All-American Indian Motorcycle Club. It meant the world to him…and no visit of mine was complete until we went to the shop and discussed what needed to be changed, fixed or shined. And of course, started one more time.

Unfortunately, Dad got to enjoy Scout for only a few years before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The motorcycle then became his reason to live. If only he could get well he could ride again. But it wasn’t meant to be. The last time he was able to be outside the house, I rolled his wheelchair out to the shop to see his beloved Scout. We sat him on the seat and could see through our tears that he was reliving a ride (or maybe a race) that he had experienced 50 years before. I’ll never forget the moment when he feebly pointed at a spot of impending corrosion and I knew he was reminding me to take care of the bike when he was gone.

Dad died in 1996 and the Scout is mine now. It will never leave the Barnes family again


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