Clair McFarland: Here Comes Dad To Resurrect Papa Wheelie

in Clair McFarland/Column

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By Clair McFarland, Columnist
and Lee Rohn, Guest columnist

If I’ve got a toilet clogged beyond intervention, a vehicle broken beyond repair or a bad case of writer’s block, I ask my dad for help.    

So here comes Dad to help co-write this column. But don’t be surprised: Dad and I used to co-write a column titled “Papa Wheelie Says” when I was just a teenaged salesgirl peddling motorcycles at the family shop.    

The column, featured in a startup newspaper in our town, was one of those snappy advertorial types designed both to advertise our business and give retired coffee shop-goers a morning chuckle. We worked together under the shared alias of Papa Wheelie – a grizzled motorcycle vagabond and part-time life expert.    

Dad’s Turn:   

Each one of us would take turns writing the column, with topics ranging from how to adjust a motorcycle chain to raising a kitten we found in one of the ATV crates.  

Looking back on those writings, it wasn’t very hard to figure who wrote which column each week. One of us wrote with a vocabulary flowing and elegant, and one wrote like a sailor who skipped school a lot, especially English class.   

My Turn:   

Now Dad, that’s not quite fair. The only time I ever skipped school was when they actually forced me to leave because I wore my pig-manure shoes that day.    

In all seriousness though, the column was a good blend. Dad’s got a mechanical knowledge that I didn’t inherit – the tough, gritty common sense so strong among Riverton residents it stands in for pickling vinegar. 

But he was kind enough to pass his love of the written word down to me.    

Now another oddity about Papa Wheelie – we were sexist. But in a silly way. We were ridiculously, hyperbolically sexist in a way that women could laugh at. That’s what you get when you have a teenage girl who identifies as Hunter S. Thompson.    

Dad’s Turn:   

Sexist? I guess Hunter Thompson could be considered for that title, at least a little. Probably not the most perfect author to throw at your teenage daughter, but it did help her understand the audience that often wandered into the motorcycle shop speaking in grunts and nods, smelling of 50-weight oil. 

The shop attracts a lot of testosterone. Having a teenager around who grew up reading motorcycle columnist Peter Egan was good for the place, kept the rough-and-rowdy in check a little. 

Plus, she could always help us with our limited vocabulary.   

My Turn:   

Peter Egan – now there’s a legend. I wonder what happened to that guy.   

Nothing distills a writer’s passion like hours spent in a garage restoring a bent anachronism that no one else can appreciate until they’ve ridden it, screaming, down a road that flees society. And Egan embodied that struggle.   

The closest I come to that as a columnist is when I accidentally channel a swamp hag while baking cookies.      

Anyway.    

Was I the most mechanical motorcycle salesman? No. But did I sell a lot of motorcycles? Also no.    

Where was I going with this …    

Growing up in the shop – and before that, hallooing to the heavens from the dirt trails of our home – gave me a love of all things rugged and real.    

Dad’s Turn:   

Peter Egan is alive and well. His last guest column was titled “The Five Stroke Norton.”  Seems he had a stroke while trying to start an old Norton motorcycle that he’d recently restored. Motorcycles   

are like that, as rugged and real as a dogged old brain.    

Growing up in the dirt and gravel, listening to countless heroic stories at the store is pretty rugged and real also. Papa Wheelie would be proud.   

My Turn:   

Aw, thanks Dad! Papa Wheelie would be proud of you too, dusting off the ol’ pen and chopping away my writer’s block like a gaudy fender. 

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