By Norris Chambers

            Occasionally Clifton and I saw a motorcycle whizzing down the road and roaring like an agitated bull. We agreed that something like that must be a lot of fun. Of course we guessed that the price of such a contraption would be away beyond the buying power of our ‘possum hide business. You can imagine how interested we were when we saw a classified ad in the Cross Plains Review offering two motorcycles for sale – a Harley for $35.00 and an Indian for $7.50. We were particularly interested in the Indian since the price was more in line with our combined slush fund accumulation. The jewels were offered by a man on a rural route in the vicinity of Sabanna. We had heard of the place and knew it was a few miles north of Cross Plains.

            We made a hasty decision and on a bright Saturday morning made an early start in my Model T coupe for Sabanna. The trip was uneventful and by the middle of the morning we found the house and three motorcycles parked in the front yard. When we got out and started looking them over a tall man dressed in overalls came out of the house to greet us.

            He pointed to two of the motorcycles as the ones for sale. He told us that the other one was the one he was riding at the present. The Harley was a low, handsome machine. He hit the crank and it started instantly. We were convinced that it was a very nice machine. But our budget required that we concentrate on the other one. The Indian was a slim, tall cycle with a single seat. The gasoline tank was between the seat and the handlebars and on each side had the words “Old Slim” neatly painted. The wheels were large and the tires very narrow. The man told us that it was a WWI army cycle. He didn’t brag much about its condition.

            ”It’s a little hard to start and it’s missing on one cylinder.” It had a neat two-cylinder engine and a foot crank on the left side. “It needs a little work, but it rides well!”  He didn’t offer to start the engine. Of course we believed that we could fix anything that needed attention so we made a hasty decision to buy it. When we returned to Clifton’s place we found that the Indian had gasoline and oil and we decided to start it and see how it sounded. We familiarized ourselves with the controls – the throttle, clutch, gearshift etc. We even checked the air in the tires!

            “Ready for the road!” Clifton announced. We started the cranking process and felt encouraged when the engine would fire now and then. Since there was no muffler the false starts were very loud. After several attempts to get the engine running we decided to take desperate steps. We would pull it with Clifton’s old truck and let the towing do the cranking.

            We tied one end of a long rope to Old Slim just above the front wheel and connected the other end to the trailer hitch on Clifton’s truck. I mounted Old Slim and Clifton steered the truck down the road. When we got going I depressed the clutch with my foot and pushed in the shift lever. When I released the clutch the engine began to turn and before I knew what was happening it started with a roar and Old Slim took off like a scared rabbit. Before I could think what to do I saw that I was going to crash into the rear of the truck, I made a quick left turn and passed the truck like it was standing still. I had a nice ride until the motorcycle reached the end of the rope and made a quick flip. I landed roughly on the dirt at the side of the road. For a short time the cycle was jumping around on its side with the back wheel spinning. Then the engine quit and everything was quiet. I got up to see if I was still in one piece. Clifton had stopped the truck was wondering if I was O.K.

            We weren’t able to crank Old Slim. After many attempts the crank quit working. The gear teeth had been worn and new ones welded on. The welding had broken and left the crank inoperative. We decided to send the patient to the blacksmith shop for a thorough examination.

            In our examination we found that the camshaft was worn so badly that the valves on one cylinder wouldn’t operate well enough for it to fire properly. We made a quick decision to advertise the nice old motorcycle and see if we could sell it. An ad in the Review bragged about a fine old Indian motorcycle for only $15.00. Three would-be buyers came and looked but were smarter than we were and didn’t buy. A fourth came looking. He was a teenager and seemed very interested, “The engine is really all I need," he told us. He said he was building a glider and wanted to use the engine to fly it as an airplane. There was just one problem. He didn’t have any money. He would trade us a bicycle for the old motorcycle. At least we were familiar with bicycles, so we traded with him. When he brought the bicycle it was in worse condition than Old Slim. But we didn’t complain.

            Several weeks later Clifton’s younger brother, Clyde, sold the bicycle for fifty cents. Clyde was afraid he didn’t get enough for it. We told him that he probably cheated the customer. I’ve often wondered how well the airplane with the Indian motorcycle engine performed. Neither Clifton nor I ever owned another motorcycle. We had enough fun with Old Slim to last a lifetime. So if you ever run out of fun things to do try buying and riding an old motorcycle.