Update: This story has been updated to reflect the facts. Check the comments for details. :end:
A while back Mitch Boehm of Moto Retro contacted me about some old SL 70 stories. I don’t know if he used any of them or not as I haven’t gotten around to subscribing yet. But here’s one I didn’t send him.
After I “outgrew” my SL 70 I sold it to my younger brother. The top photo on the left is my brother jumping the SL 70 off a hill on some unnamed junior high campus. We were such scofflaws.
Anyway, back in the early ’70s there was a big vacant lot, probably a couple of acres, right off of 5th street and Palmer, just behind the Tyler Junior College campus. TJC has a big football practice field there now, but back in the day it was just a wooded lot with a creek running through the back.
We made some trails through the lot and, eventually, turned it into an impromptu MX track that we used to ride for hours. It was fun and I did many, many laps there thinking one day I would be Marty Smith. Anyway, after I sold the SL 70 to my brother I traded up to a used 1973 Honda CR125 Elsinore and we’d both go riding there — middle photo on the right is me riding the 125 on that lot. That old Elsie was really loud. Looking back it’s amazing we never had any trouble with the police there — at least none that I recall. Must have been some really tolerant neighbors.
One of the problems with open trail riding is there aren’t any rules about which direction to go. We had a more-or-less established direction for the track, but on any given day someone might decide to ride it backwards for a change. On this particular day my brother and I were riding the track. I’m not clear on the exact sequence of events, but I think I had stopped for a breather and David was still riding. Off at the other end of the lot I heard another bike, but couldn’t see who it was.
I could tell they were headed up to the front of the lot, in the opposite direction we normally rode. I couldn’t do anything. I figured whoever it was would see the dust trail, or hear the other bike, or — at least — David would see the other rider and act appropriately. But no.
None of those things happened. Instead, David collided head-on with Brent Berryman Stratton Weems, another local kid who rode a Yamaha YZ 80. I remember a thud, and a “r-i-i-i-i-i-I-I-I-I-I-N-N-N-N-N-N-N-G-G-G-G-G!!!!!” as both of them fell off. I went running up to find my brother down on the ground holding his shoulder with a big lump on top — a sure sign of a broken collarbone.
I can’t remember what happened to Brent Stratton. Seems like he was OK. I was kind of panicked that I was going to have to get my brother home and then get an a$$-chewing for letting him get hurt. I think there was a bunch of twisting front wheels between our knees to try and straighten the forks. Then, according to my brother, I went to a nearby house and got a friend’s Mom to drive us to the hospital.
I vaguely remember the neighbor, but I really don’t remember that part very clearly. I just remember the head-on crash. The only picture I have of Brent is this one, where he’s riding the SL 70 on the sandlot track back in ’74. And I don’t know if this was before or after the crash. Probably before.
Good times, for sure, despite the occasional trip to the emergency room. No one had to get pins, rods, or screws in their bones, at least not most of the time. I have another story about my own little faux paus riding the Elsie across town, but that’s for another day…