Your Letters & Pictures

My American Dad. One of the last living legends


At Christmas, I received a letter and a picture from my American Dad. Considering that he is 96 years old, and still drives his car (!!!), I thought that these memories from him, while he was traveling through the States with his Harley Davidson a long time ago, would bring us back in time to a world deeply different than today’s. I hope you enjoy it:


“Down Mexico Way” by John Hoover

After returning from WWII, I decided to go sight-seeing in the far west. For transportation I planned on using my newly purchased Harley Davidson motorcycle. Before leaving I happened to read about the remarkable structures of the Aztec civilization, and so Mexico took first place on my agenda. A short time later at Brownsville, Texas I crossed the border and started south.

At that time Mexico was having a cattle epidemic called “Hoof & Mouth Disease”. To keep it from spreading, shallow depressions were made in certain roads and filled with an antiseptic liquid that cattle waded through.
Of course I knew nothing at all about this epidemic or the cattle dips, but very soon I was going to learn. Some distance ahead was a cattle dip with a soldier sitting beside it on a bench. I managed to slow down but not nearly enough and when I went through, the motorcycle wheels sent up a sheet of evil-smelling liquid that drenched the guard. I saw his gun leaning against the bench so thought it best not to stop and I took off in a cloud of dust half expecting to be overtaken by a fusillade of bullets. But I needn’t have worried. A glance in the rear view mirror showed the guard drying his face with a cloth. I continued on, wondering what I had gone through and feeling sorry for that unfortunate guard. By mid-day I had almost reached the capitol.

Mexico City is located on a high plateau at an elevation of 7,300 ft. and because of the rarified air, gasoline engines lose power. My top speed was 45 mph. I didn’t know what was wrong but the slower speed came just in the nick of time. Several miles from the city I had an experience that I hope never to have again.

On a long uphill grade the motorcycle suddenly ran over a thick oil-slick in the road. Instantly the rear wheel lost traction and began to spin. The motorcycle skidded sideways and I was thrown head-first onto the road where I made two or three rolling somersaults before coming to a stop. Incredibly, I had no broken bones, but I was badly bruised and bleeding from cuts and scrapes. The motorcycle laid on its side with water leaking from the battery so I picked it up then sat down at the roadside to rest and collect my thoughts. After that big motorcycle had made those jolting flip-flops in the road I thought surely it would be damaged and I rode the last few miles into the city.

It happened that the Mexico City Motorcycle Club was having a picnic in the park and when I went by and saw all the cycles I stopped.
My face was dirty, my leather jacket was torn and scuffed and blood spotted my clothes, so I didn’t look very presentable. Several spoke English and asked what happened. When I explained they all seemed to know about oil on the road. It was the result of old trucks in need of repair, going slowly up the long grade, leaking oil as they went. I wasn’t feeling well and one from the group was kind enough to leave the picnic and take me to his home where I laid down for a while. Then we went to a Red Cross First Aid station and my cuts were cleaned and bandaged.

Back at my friend’s home he said he had something that would make me feel better and from his cellar he brought a bottle of wine called Tequila and poured me a glass. It wasn’t at all to my liking but he was proud of his brew and I was grateful for all his help so I complimented him. That made him pour me another and now, after my complimentary remarks I had to drink the second glass which I did as graciously as possible. Then, in the bottle, I noticed a small caterpillar and I wondered how it got there. He said they put one in every bottle. If it dies, the alcohol content is good… if it lives, the wine is weak. Of course, this one was dead and after drinking two glasses I could understand why.

After four or five days rest in a city hotel I did my sightseeing and I wondered how the Aztecs with their savage, brutal, and sometimes stupid customs, still had the intelligence to design and build their large structures, and the artwork and sculpture that I saw which was all of a hideous and repulsive nature.

I think the Aztecs enjoyed ugliness.

John Hoover



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Posted on 29 Jan 2008 by coachgianni
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