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The Kid Gets His Bike  


by Martin Hackworth

Photos: Dawna Stocker, Megan Broyles, Martin Hackworth 

Jimmy, Jesse, Martin

     I’m sure that Jesse was perplexed. There were a lot of people standing around that he didn’t know, and he seemed to be, for some reason, the center of attention. One of the most well-known motorcycle racers on the planet had just introduced himself. His mom had told him that the reason that they traveled 10 hours was to pick up a motorcycle for a family friend. I’m sure that it didn’t feel like that was what was going on, and that even at the age of nine, Jesse Stocker sensed that something was up.

     Jesse is the son of Jimmy Stocker, my friend who lost his life in the Mexican 1000 a few months ago. I have still not gotten over this. Every time I think of Jimmy, perhaps the most quintessentially alive person I’ve ever met, I really miss him. It’s the sinking feeling in your gut that won’t quit. In this regard, Jimmy is the latest in a long line that stretches back almost 40 years. Sometimes I think that if I’m lucky, one day it all won’t matter much anymore, other times I realize that if I am even luckier, it will. Jesse showed up at his father’s funeral wearing a motorcycle outfit, right down to MX boots. Later, at the wake, my son JR and I asked him to show us what he was riding. He told us that he didn’t actually have a bike, and that his mom said that it might be a while before they could afford one.

     In all high-adventure, high-risk activities, the ties that bind are pretty solid. When a friend goes down, it’s not all over except for the slow walk and the sad singing. Entire communities form to support those left behind. Just a short while back I watched friends of mine, working class folks, raise half a year’s salary in two days to benefit the wife and daughter of a fallen friend. Anyone can do something generous or noble when it’s easy, it’s when it’s hard that you find out who’s good in the pocket. You give me a choice between the A list social scene and my distinctly downscale adventuring buddies, I’m going with what’s behind door number 2. Those folks may be a little dinged on the outside, but on the inside they glisten and gleam.

     A few months after Jimmy went down, we arranged for his wife, Dawna, and son, Jesse, to travel here for a get together. When they arrived we had the grill fired up plenty of eats for everyone tricking in. After dinner, I asked for everyone to gather around the tailgate of our toy hauler, which was backed up next to the deck. I asked Jesse to come on up and help me out. And as we approached the trailer we had a short talk. “The thing about being alive,” I told him, “is that no matter how badly one day goes, you have a chance every morning that you get up to make the next one better. That’s what we are here doing right now.” At that moment JR lowered the rear gate to reveal a CRF150R motorcycle and a large pile of equipment to go with it. Most of these items were purchased with funds donated by people who dug deep for the money. KLIM and Pocatello Power Sports helped out a great deal as well. If karma works, I know which way it was flowing that afternoon.

     The next day Jesse got to go riding in a very small group of kids with Jimmy Lewis, one of America’s most accomplished off road motorcycle racers. Jimmy’s been on the podium at Dakar, won the Baja 1000 and just about every other race that matters. He was a hero to Jesse’s father, and Jesse got to ride with him for an entire day. The 150R that we got for Jesse was was a bit much for him, at least right now, and he and JR swapped bikes occasionally during the day, but it was clear that he was happy. I figure that if you are going to get one free bike in your life, it might as well be the hot rod that will make you the envy of every kid on the block. Sometimes it’s about more than just the bike.

     Mostly life is kind of ambiguous. Today’s great deed is tomorrow’s old news. Any effort to improve the world, even in a ridiculously small way, often seems of as little consequence as a single grain of sand in the Sahara. It’s really pretty hard to keep the faith, at times. But every once in a while the big wheel in the sky places you in the middle of something that you can think about and say, yeah, that really was a good thing.

Enjoy your bike, kid.

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