Saturday, July 12, 2003 -- Sitting in the reception hall, listening to one person after another describe how Ron Blackmon had impacted their lives, I felt like a hack guitar player at my first Jimi Hendrix concert.
Hang on and I’ll explain.
Fellow bikers, family members, and co-workers had gathered to pay final respects to Ron “Skull” Blackmon, who rode into heaven on July 5, 2003 at the age of 55 after a year-long battle with lung cancer. Led by a motorcycle escort, the funeral procession wound through McKinney streets to the church building. This procession had been a little different from the start – the minister, in a suit, rode Ron’s trike to the service, with Ron’s club vest draped over the sissy bar.
Web and I had ridden with Ron and Karen for years, and we thought we knew all about him. We had been with him in the cold spring rain crossing Arkansas, in the blazing sun through the Badlands of South Dakota and the Hill Country of Texas, frozen in a 26-degree toy run, and had ridden away endless beautiful fall days around Dallas. He was always a skilled rider and true biker. He had a good time wherever he went, and rode for the pack, not just for himself.
Once inside the church, we found out more. His family told us about Ron the soldier who had gotten married at 18 and gone to Vietnam. We heard about Ron the father, who helped raise his three daughters. We saw pictures of him teaching them to fish, buying them a car, and standing beside them at their weddings. We heard about Ron the employee who had worked 35 years on the ground crew at American Airlines. We heard about grandfather Ron, “Paw-Paw” to his seven grandchildren.
Then Web got up to speak for the bikers. “Eulogies are sometimes like fish stories,” she said. “When people talk about someone who has died, their good character is enhanced and their deeds become more and more grand,” she continued, spreading her arms. “The fact is, Ron really was a remarkable person, whether he was at work, at home, or on the road. He cared about the people around him”
She went on to explain to the suit-and-tie crowd that we were not in riding gear and colors as a sign of disrespect to Ron and his family, but attended this way at his request, showing the highest possible respect to Ron and all he was to us.
The service ended, and at the reception hall, a strange thing happened. Church people forgot that the bikers were wearing leather. Bikers forgot that the church folks were wearing suits. Everybody got together over lunch, and had a great time remembering Ron.
It was about this time that I began to feel like a hack guitarist listening to the master. You see, I really have been a guitar player since I was 14. That doesn’t mean that anyone would pay a nickel to hear me. Just because I’ve been doing it for a long time doesn’t mean that I’m any good at it. But today, I was sitting there listening to a recital of a master at the art of living.
I think I need to practice.