DAVID KIRBY'S PINE CRIK TALES - Motorcycle Stories (Part 2)


A Pine Crik Hollow Home

Former Pine Creek resident David Charles Kirby, the son of Roy and Eva Buck Kirby, recalls his life and times growing up in a remote Pine Creek hollow and in Calhoun County.

He attended a one-room school taught by his mother and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1954, with a BS degree in agricultural engineering from WVU (1959).

Professionally he is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and Professional Engineer in WV, OH, and PA, having worked 22 years as Loss Prevention Engineer with Factory Mutual Engineering; 20 Years as Process Safety Engineer with Union Carbide in South Charleston; 12 years a Sr. Principal Engineer with Baker Engineering & Risk Consultants of San Antonio, TX.

He is married to the former Betty Estep of Mt. Zion, their children, sons, Dr. Kris N. Kirby, professor at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; and Gregory D. Kirby, of Parkersburg, Safety Engineer at Cytec, Willow Island, WV.

Kirby's recollections reflect life from the Great Depression to the fabulous 1960s, earlier tales can be found under People, Humor and History.

Motorcycle Stories (Part 2)

Those of you not having experienced bone chilling cold rain pox marking your face, while water is being forced up your sleeves from numb hands, and down your boot tops to missing feet, all the while it is penetrating zippers and seams of certified rainproof gear; or the opposite of being cooked by radiation from a 105 degree Fahrenheit road surface, where the air is so hot that it seems to be oxygen starved, requiring very short breaths are just to sustain life, whilst, amplified by the high ambient temperature, your right leg is cocked 90 degrees to minimize the effects of 2nd degree burns being administered from the high, right-mounted mounted exhaust of a Harley Low Rider… Or nagging Lower back pain and extreme fatigue from a 12 hour ride… Or, just hypnotized by the beauty of it all. Suddenly you are in the scene, and part of it, not just an observer. All of your senses saturated, including the sense hearing which is mesmerized by the rhythmic purr or thump of the engine, depending on whether you are riding a Goldwing or Harley. The ecstasy of riding a two lane country road on a warm evening experiencing the smells of honeysuckle interrupted by an occasional smell of cow barn or a skunk.… Those who cannot identify with any of that should take a pass from this article, skipping to some more docile reading, such as something on knitting.

Motor Scooter - I was barren of all motorcycles through my Senior Year. As soon as I got gainful employment I bought a 2.5 HP, 2 cycle, single speed, pull start, 6 in wheels scooter. It was small enough to carry around in the trunk of my Desoto, and I took it everywhere. In 1960 I took it with me to Fort Knox, but not being street legal I had to sneak around or ride it through parking lots. One Saturday, with very few personnel on the base, I took it into the barracks. A couple of other 2nd Lieutenants and I started racing it down the long hallway, around the captains desk in the office at the end of the hall, and back to the starting point. We got better and faster. However, it did not have a front brake, so we started leaving long skid marks near the entrance to his office. Also, we chipped off all corners of his desk. I was just about to start another timed run when Lt. Smith yelled “Here comes a Colonel”. I accelerated to the end of the hall, through the screen door, down a long flight of concrete steps (ouch) into the parking lot; whereupon I removed the rear view mirror from a car parked much too near my path. I raced to the Desoto where I speedily stored it. Upon his return, the Captain conducted an inquisition on causes of observed effects, but I never got caught.

More than one story can be generated about the scooter. One of the funniest was when my wife Betty decided to learn to ride it in the front yard of our farmhouse. It was pretty simple. Just twist the grip on the right handlebar to give it gas to engage centrifugal clutch, and go. If you gave it the gas, you took off, if you let up on the gas, you stopped, as simple as that. I thought that was all she needed to know. She hadn’t bothered to ask, and I hadn’t bothered to tell her that it had a brake. She mounted, and gave it the gas, and after a semicircle headed straight for the farm pond bank. She was still trying to hold on, and giving it full throttle when it wheelied up as it got to the bank, whereupon she still held on to the right handle bar (throttle) as she stepped off. If she had let go it might have maintained enough momentum to go into the pond. As it was, she held on to the right handgrip, and it started making ever increasing diameter circles around her, and she still held on. Near the termination it looked as though was in final stages of a shot put. When she finally let go it ran across the yard and lay down, and that was the end of it. No it wasn’t. I still haven’t heard the end of it.

1966 Benelli - Except for the scooter I was barren on motorcycles until 1966. We had moved to Butler County Pennsylvania when I bought a 125 cc Benelli trail bike. It was fine for riding the back roads and rolling hills of the area. Few hills were a challenge, and easily conquered.

In spring of 1968 we moved to Pocatalico (Sissonville). I hadn’t been long in Sissonville when I took a ride up Grapevine, and I hadn’t gone up far when , I came across a few people gathered along the side of the road. They were watching a motorcycle hill climb on the left up a power line right-of way. There were six or eight motorcycles. It was an amazing hill (to me at the time). I dismounted, and joined the spectators. Two of the bikes were Bultaco Matadors, one was a Husqvarna, and the rest were white- tanked (1968 Model) Yamaha DT1 Yamahas. Bultaco’s were the best at the time, but nearest dealer was in Huntington, where two of the riders were from. The nearest Husky dealer was in Beckley. Doing just as well were three or four Yamaha riders from the Sissonville area, including Bob Parsons, owner of the local Yamaha dealership. When they had sufficiently worn themselves out I decided to give it a try. The bottom of the hill was smooth. I hit it wide open in 2nd, then shifted to first, and totally ran out of power before I even got to the steep part. I made friends, met the Sissonville chaps few more times for rides. In many cases, I couldn’t even able to get to the hills where they were climbing.

1969 Yamaha DT1-B - In the spring of 1969 my friend Don Stalnaker and I bought new 250 cc, Yamaha DTI-Bs on the same day. Thereafter I had a riding partner, and we rode a lot together.

Motocross racing was catching on at about the same time. Someone dozed out a little motocross track near the head of Grapevine, consisting of crossing the main creek - than back, and then crossing a holler back to the starting point. A few of us would gather in and line up for competition. The flagman would drop an empty can of his favorite beverage, and we were off. In the few cases that I managed ahead I would inevitably wreck, and thereupon be run over by two or three riders. Being not entirely of obtuse intellect, I gave up the sport.

I was Loss Prevention Engineer for the local Union Carbide Plants, and we had an early quit every day. Every day before supper I would practice an hour hill climbing on Rocky Fork;, or when weather was bad I would stack up a 20 ft. row of 12 inch cinder blocks end-to-end. I would hop up on the blocks, ride to the end, and hop down. I even practiced stopping at the middle and starting again. Balance was important during this exercise because putting a foot down from a leg 12 inches too short could result in a painful dismount. During this time one of the hills I practiced on was “Old Rocky Top”. Initially, before everyone wore it down, it was a tough climb. It had two anti-erosion ditches that had to be jumped during the climb.

Don’s Ride To Rocky Top - Don Stalnaker went to climb Old Rocky Top.

Success in climbing a hill has several milestone measurement scales. For example, a poor ride can be when you have been waiting patiently at the bottom until people and debris has been cleared. You start your bike, hit the hill like gangbusters, make it about 1/3 way up, and you’ve forgotten to turn your gas on. A great ride is when you have made it to the top of a tough hill, turn around without stopping, and arrive at the bottom of the hill the same time as your bike does. Measured on that basis, Don made a great ride. I was an observer located at the bottom. He took off in great style, jumped the two ditches, but when he got to the crest, instead of breaking over the top, he continued going straight up for about 10 ft. whilst doing a 90 degree pivot in the air. When he came down both wheels hit the ground simultaneously, and jill poked him off the high side over the hill, giving him a considerable head start on beating the bike to the bottom of the hill. But such was not to be the case. The bike started flipping over – handle bars & seat – wheels – handle bars & seat, etc. Don looked back, and the bike was gaining on him. Don is a good athlete, and he uncoiled from a fetal position to a full spread- legged bull frog leap. He repeated that exercise several times. They played this game tit for tat most of the way to the bottom of the hill. It migrated sideways, facing down the hill, where the ground was leveling; it bounced sideways and started sliding on its side, finally catching up with him. From that point on, from my vantage position, although I am sure he was trying to push it away, it looked like they embraced in a slide back to the starting line, thus arriving there together. By definition, he had made a great ride. Damage was limited to bruises and abrasions for both rider and bike. to the starting line.

I got good enough to accompany the Sissonville boys – at least to the bottom of the hill they were climbing. Once a hill was conquered we would move on to another. I was riding with the big boys, one of the Bostics went on to earn National Amateur points champion, and Larry Harper (lives out the street from me now) went on to earn AMA National Hill Climb Champion three years in a row. He rode good stuff. He bought a 600 cc single Yamaha, and had it bored out to 750.

See   David Kirby's Motorcycle Stories (Part 1)

Editors Note: Watch for David Kirby's Motorcycle Stories (Part 3) next Tuesday ...