A motorcycle can be a pretty minimalist approach to transportation and I like that. Buy a good used 50 mpg bike for relatively little money, maintain it yourself, register and insure it for $150. Travel light.
Not really the North American way these days, but there was a time when that general approach to living was mostly what I knew.
In 1949 I was 5 years old and we lived just behind Elliott’s coal yard in a small cottage on a dirt road that led to the town beach on Pentucket Pond. My mother loved the beach.
But for my younger brother and I, a short walk through the back garden and into the the woods brought us to Mr. Bateman’s place, a 10′ x 14′ tar-paper shack. We called him Charlie. He was an old, slow-moving, WWI veteran who kept to himself, took care of himself and said little.
He had no car, no phone, no power, and no plumbing. Everything was dark. Kerosene lighting, coal stove, dark boards, black tar-paper walls and roof, old army blankets, and Charlie himself all in black with one of those heavy fabric vests that old men wore. One small window above a tiny makeshift table attached to the wall.
I was a bit afraid, not understanding Charlie and how he came to be there and what it meant, but there he was and there I was. My brother loved him easily and spent a lot of time shooting Charlie’s air gun, drawing cartoons at his table, and just hanging out.
The absolute best adventure was going hunting. Squirrel hunting. We’d hike down the abandoned railroad bed to a place in the woods Charlie liked. He had a shotgun and a big canvas bag with crossed rifles on it. The squirrels would go in the bigger part of the bag in the back. Our sandwiches and the shotgun shells would go in the smaller outer part. There were rules and only one of us could go with him at a time.
A bag like Charlie’s, but his was darker.
One morning my mother found Charlie slumped down on the back stairs, unconscious. He had tried to come up to the house for help. That had never happened before.
It was my first funeral. I was surprised how good he looked in the casket, considering he was dead. At the grave site an honor guard of veterans fired their rifles in the air in a three volley salute. It was so loud! Again, and again, and I realized Charlie must have been young once and there was a whole world of stuff I didn’t know about him, and now shots were being fired out of respect for him and I could hear a distant bugle, beautiful and clear.
He’s one of the very few people I remember from way back then, before I went off to first grade.
In the years after Charlie died, the shack came down and the Elliotts built a large new home overlooking the pond on the wooded knoll behind the cabin site.