Stewball

Stew was another of those crazy bikers I’ve hung out with for many years.

I have never been sure where the “Stewball” came from, but he is a solid brother slow to anger and quick to forgive. I do know he was a Viet Nam vet that was present for the entire siege at Khe Sanh. A seven month battle that accounted for over 15,000 deaths and casualties on both sides. In some respects, he never came home.

I met his brother once and he related to me the person he had grown up with and the person I knew, where not the same person. The war had deeply changed him, but he was always happy.

One night Stew and I were having a few drinks at a strip club in Kailua and as I at the time, it got late we decided to head on home. We were both riding H-D Sporty’s; mine was a rigid frame with a long square girder front end and his was mostly stock except for a few “modifications”. Mostly made by Stew himself. It was after midnight when we topped the Honolulu side of the Pali and started down toward town. Something about the sound of Stew’s bike made me look over and the sight I saw almost made me try to stop.

There on my left side, at about 60 mph, Stew’s rear brake was softly glowing g red. Not the red of a taillight reflection, but the glowing red a piece of steel turns just before it turns white hot.

I tooted my horn to get his attention only to be told;

“Yeah I know. But if I stopped I’m fucked ‘cause it’ll weld together.”

Oh boy, this is not good.

Stew lived in Pearl City but I lived just of a freeway ramp near the university.

“We’ll go to my place”, I yelled. “Follow me.” And we both took off.

As we rode toward my apartment building Stew was trying to maintain speed so the brake drum wouldn’t cool and weld itself together. This meant not stopping for stop signs (3), but we made it. As I helped Stew get his bike parked on the sidewalk fronting my apartment, the heat coming from the drum could be felt several inches away. It was hot.

“What the Hell Stew?” I asked.

“Well, let me tell ya good buddy,” that’s the way he talks, “I think I threw a spring or something ‘cause the brake was full on most of the way. Can I crash at your place and get my truck tomorrow, I mean later this morning?”

So that’s what we did.  When we tried to move the bike, the rear wheel would not move. And there was a small puddle of solid metal on the ground beneath the brake drum. Yep, welded solid.

After a little conversation, Stew starts telling me how he’d made a few “speed mods” to his bike and brake just prior to our riding out the night before. Apparently, something went wrong. That’s what Stew did. He made little improvements.

As you can tell, some of his modifications worked out better than others. But fourty something years later, Stew remains my “Good Buddy”.

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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