Ladies and Gents ... meet Howard. Robert, actually, but he has always preferred to go by his middle name ... or "H", as his younger brother Kenneth has always called him ... or ... . Mr. B ... Now, what you're about to read you may not consider an "Epic Adventure". Nor would I from my own perspective. However, if you or I were a 93 year old man, if you or I had been severely handicapped since 1945, if you or I were the adventurous soul who would have done nearly anything just to throw his leg over a motorcycle in the ensuing 64 years since "the injury", but were completely unable ... well, we would consider it an adventure, indeed. Allow me to explain ... Mr. B resides in Southern California, near San Diego, where the sun is warm and the climate near perfect. He isn't originally from here. He's only lived in California full time since his wife of 49 years and sole caregiver, Ferne, passed away back in January of 1996. They had been wintering here, as well as in Arizona for several years in the late 80's and up through the winter of '95-96 when "H" lost "Fernie", the love of his life, to sudden and devastating illness. They were from Iowa. Who am I? I'm Paul. Debbie, Howard and Ferne's only child, and I married 33 years ago. We, along with our 2 children who have since both married and had children of their own, have lived away from Iowa for 21 years now. It was only natural, under current circumstances, that Howard would now come to live with us, in our home in Southern California. We were to assume the role as Mr. B's caregivers for the next 8 years. And to be regulars at the Assisted Living facility where he's been since. But, to see the broader view, let's go a bit further back. Howard and Ferne grew up together in the little midwestern town of Oskaloosa, Iowa. Ferne was the eldest of Dave and Felicia's seven kids, 6 girls and 1 boy, railroad people, the hard working, hard living, barely-scrape-by kind of people. Howard hung around Fernie's family nearly all the time and, the way it's told, became almost part of the family, everpresent. They say some girls like the "bad boys". Howard though, was never "bad" by the true definition of the word; he never, ever had a malicious bone in his body, but he surely did like to walk on the wild side. When they were kids, he was the one who would jump, not from the road-level of the bridge into the river below, but from the very top of the span, just for the rise he could get from the girls, their mothers, anyone who might see. He was the one who would "borrow" his Grandmothers car to run Moonshine. He was the one everybody called "Barney Oldfield" because he seemed to think every road was a racetrack and he was the champ ... remember, this is back in the days of the Model "T", later the Model "A". . Howard 21, and Fernie 20 in 1937 Time marches on and sometimes ... well, sometimes we follow a "different" path than we may have imagined. These teenage sweethearts went off in separate directions, each marrying another. Howard joined the Army in January, 1941 and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas until being shipped off to Europe in 1944. . Howard on motorcycle cleaning day at Fort Hood ... this photo still hangs on his wall Ferne shortly found herself single again and, together with one of her sisters, went out to Los Angeles during the height of the war years to seek their own brand of independence. They later told stories of the fabulous times they'd had dancing to the sound of the Big Bands at the Hollywood Palladium. . . Then, in April, 1945, this news article appeared in the Oskaloosa Herald Howard had been a Tank Commander and while in Belgium (the newsclip says Germany, Howard says Belgium), travelling along in convoy, head poking up out of the turret, he was hit by a sniper's bullet. No pain whatsoever, he later said. Just sudden and absolute unconsciousness. On exit, the bullet had taken with it gray matter and bone. Howard woke up two days later in a London hospital. After many months and multiple surgeries to his head wound, both in London and stateside in Philadelphia, he was patched up as he would ever get. The effect was as though he had suffered a massive stroke. His formerly strong, athletic body would now be completely paralyzed on the right side, a "Hemiplegic" for life. And, though he could think as clearly as you and I, and with the very same thought processes, he would now be plagued by "Expressive Aphasia", the inability to speak as before. Then and now, it's a word at a time, two at best, physically unable to construct a sentence since that fateful Spring day in Belgium, 1945. The doctors told Howard he had, maybe, a year to live. They were astounded that he just ... kept ... on. So amazed were the doctors at Howards tenacity and relentless unwillingness to give up, that he actually received cards from some of them at holiday time each year. Well, those doctors were getting up in age a bit. Sometime in the 60's, the Postmans' deliveries of Well-Wishes ceased. Howard and Fernie married after the War, after the injury, only imagining what the future might hold. In 1948, a baby girl was born. Sherry died shortly after birth. Ferne was told by the medical professionals of the day that she would never again be able to bear children. Sometime early in 1957, she hadn't been feeling well. "I must have caught some Flu that won't go away", she thought. Several months passed, it turned out to be another baby girl ... they named her Debbie. "Fernie", "Sherry" and "Debbie", the only girls names Howard could enunciate. Howard and Fernie in 1993 No doubt, by now you've surmised that Howard is a highly determined man with a keen love for life. Handicapped as he is and has been, he's never let it keep him down. With the use of just one arm and one leg, there he would be, out in the cold Iowa winters, shoveling snow from the driveway. He later got a Cub Cadet ... with the snow plow attachment, which he put on and took off by himself ... with the mower assembly he put on and took off, the blades of which he removed and sharpened when needed, by himself. The vegetable garden he tended, the rabbits he raised, then butchered. The Airstream trailer he pulled behind the big Olds 98 ... yes, he hooked it up, unhooked it, set it up, literally singlehandedly. Drove the car with a suicide knob and left gas pedal retrofit, no sweat. That's the kind of self-determination that keeps a guy going. ... and ever remaining the daredevil. Road trips were frequent. Once, back in the 60's, the family had taken a cross country trip in a two-car caravan with Ferne's brother and his family. The brother-in-law later told of how, on one open section of the road, his car suddenly began to accelerate by itself! Imagining he has a stuck throttle linkage, he frantically tries to free it by jamming up and down on the accelerator pedal like you could do with a carburreted engine back in those days ... nothing. Not knowing what to do, he glances up, startled by the image of a huge Oldsmobile filling his rearview mirror, front bumper ON his rear bumper, pushing him down the highway at 85mph. Howard, giggling the whole time, had so deftly crept up on him that the tap was imperceptible! This would be Howard ---> This would be everyone else ---> As capable as he has proven himself to be, without the use of the right side of his body, there was no possible way for him to ever ride a motorcycle again, something he would have dearly loved to do. He and I have talked about it and there is no question whatsoever in my mind that motorcycles would have been an intergral part of his life had he only been able to ride. ********** Honestly, I don't know why I hadn't done this before, but just one week ago today, I put out an APB on the "Hacks" forum of ADVrider.com for someone; anyone who lives within a reasonable distance, who would be willing to take a great old guy out for a joyride in their Sidehack, the very next best thing to Howard being able to ride himself. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=514673 What an incredible response I received! So many ADVriders, people from all over the country, even one gentleman from the UK, who said if only they were near to us, or we to them, they would consider it an honor to do so. I was sent local contact info to follow up on by riders living outside our area. Members posted photos of themselves giving sidehack rides to aged ones in their own families, as well as so many others with kind words of support. Many thanks to you all. What ever transpired? ... in the next post, Mr. B rides again! .