Goodbye, old whitewalls. And thanks.

They don’t look like much now, cast aside and tossed on the ground outside Wild Bill’s motorcycle shop in Largo. Soon they will join the pile of worn-out tires outside the shop’s wide door. Eventually, they will end up in the back of Bill Billings’ red pickup truck, carted off to some landfill with all the others.

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The old Continentals

But it wasn’t too long ago that these two motorcycle tires were snazzy new wide whitewalls, bought to add some pizzazz to my brand-new Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited. I loved the look of my new bike, but the original equipment blackwall Dunlops didn’t do much to set off the Harley’s black paint. Before the bike had gone 100 miles, I was down at Wild Bill’s, looking for a set of wide whites.

This was more of a challenge than I expected. I had wide whitewalls on my 2004 Harley, and also on my 2006. But the new Harleys have wider tires, and the tire manufacturers hadn’t caught up with the change. Plenty of blackwalls available, but virtually no wide whites. The only manufacturer that was making wide whites for the new H-D touring bikes was Continental.

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The orginal blackwalls on the Ultra on the day I picked it up from the dealer

I had always put Metzelers on my Harleys, and they had supplied the whitewalls on my previous bikes. But they hadn’t got around to making whitewalls in the new, bigger size. Dunlop didn’t make them, either. So, we ordered a set of Continentals. I had reservations about them, but I WANTED WHITEWALLS!

UPS dropped the new tires off in a couple of days at Wild Bill’s, and I was in business.

They turned out to be pretty good tires. They made a bit of road noise at highway speeds, but they tracked and cornered well, and they didn’t mind the rain grooves that had made the older-model Dunlops wiggle right and left.

Most important, they made the Harley look like a million bucks. There are a lot of black Harleys out there, but I think mine stood out because of those wide whites.

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The front Metzeler arrived first, from Jacksonville. The rear tire came a few days later, from Ohio.

My Continentals carried me all over the place for a year and a half – all over the state of Florida, over to Daytona for Bike Week and Biketoberfest, on uncountable lunch and dinner rides with my Harley Owners Group friends, on about a million trips up to Crystal River and home again to Tarpon Springs, and even on a trip up to Pennsylvania for a tour of Gettysburg.

All told, they carried me nearly 17,000 miles, and they looked good doing it. They kept me safe, and eventually gave their lives in support of my favorite pastime.

One interesting sidelight (at least to me) is that the front tire wore out at exactly the same time as the rear tire. On motorcycles, the rear tires do most of the heavy work, and they usually wear out first, but that wasn’t true with these Continentals. Don’t know why; maybe Harley’s new linked braking system had something to do with that.

Meanwhile, sometime in the past year-and-a-half, Metzeler got its act together and started making wide whitewalls for the newer-model Harley-Davidsons, and that’s what is on my Harley now. Sorry, Continental; it wasn’t anything you did wrong. Honest.

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Looks better with whitewalls. At least I think so.

Riding the Motor Company’s machines

It seems as though there has been an orgy of demo rides over the past week or so.

It started with Crystal Harley-Davidson pulling a number of inventory bikes outside so the HOG chapter members could ride them exclusively and try out the new Milwaukee 8 motor. Then, this weekend, a factory trailer truck pulled into the yard and unloaded 17 demo bikes so anyone with an MC driver’s license could come by and take one for a ride.

img_2582(I rode a Road Glide. Yup, liked it a lot – LOTS of power, especially in the mid-range, but if you rode one of the 107 motors you already know that.)

This was more like a party than a demonstration. HOG chapter members volunteered for a number of chores, from directing traffic to leading demo ride groups around the predetermined road course. At midday, we volunteers enjoyed pizza provided by Jeff of  Crystal H-D.

img_2647I was there for a good part of the festivities on Saturday. Sunday was going to be a similar day of demo rides.

It all got me to thinking about the bigger question of Harley demo rides, which I’ve been enjoying and participating in for years. I read somewhere recently that Harley had more than 100 demo bikes in Sturgis this year, and there’s always a good-sized fleet at Bike Week and Octoberfest.

img_2623Harley must benefit from these demo rides, or they wouldn’t do them. I don’t know if Harley originated the demo ride idea, but I do know that when I go over to Daytona, many of the other brands are doing HD-like demonstration rides. Don’t tell anyone, but I rode an Indian Roadmaster at Bike Week in 2015; I liked it, but not enough to pull the trigger. Besides, what would I do with all those Harley t-shirts?

Anyway, it got me to wondering about the origins of the Harley demo rides. I did some research, but I didn’t find very much. However, I DID find some info on the benefits of motorcycle demo rides in general, which I’ll share here.

An Australian website, MotorbikeRider.com, quoted some statistics from a U.S. marketing study, the Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) US Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study (what a mouthful), which said that demo rides boost customer satisfaction with motorcycle dealerships while also boosting sales.

img_2803Two years ago, Harley–Davidson’s communications manager, Matt King, told a TV station in Sturgis that there are a number of benefits to be derived from the demo rides.

img_2771“It’s a great way to try a new model bike if you’re thinking about getting a new bike or maybe just a different model that you’ve never ridden… or

maybe you’ve never even ridden a Harley before,” he said. “It’s a great chance to come and try the product, get your hands on it and see what it feels like.”

img_2714So after all this, if you still haven’t had enough demo rides, just remember – Biketoberfest is right around the corner (it may be over by the time you read this). Get in line, and have your driver’s license ready.

A baggage handler’s respect

I thought this picture deserved its own posting.

IMG_1859This man is a Logan Airport baggage handler. On Thursday, August 25, he was doing his job, and his job was simply to help unload a Marine’s casket from a Delta jet.

But once that work was done, he paused to put his hand over his heart as the Marine’s casket was loaded into a hearse.

He probably did this automatically, and never expected that anyone would notice. Well, I noticed.

72 years later, a Marine comes home

Beth and I were at Logan Airport in Boston yesterday (Aug. 25, 2016), waiting for a plane to take us home to Florida after our vacation, when we noticed some activity out on the tarmac.

IMG_1740A Massachusetts State Trooper pulled his cruiser up near a Delta Airlines plane dock and was talking to a worker, apparently asking him to move his luggage cart. In a moment, a procession of cruisers and other vehicles rolled into sight. State Police cruisers were at the front and back, blue lights flashing. There was a limousine, and a hearse, and a number of other cars, maybe eight in all.

They parked in a line. Soon, a number of airport fire trucks arrived and lined up behind the cars. The firemen got out and milled around. After a while, even though it was a hot day, they all changed into their heavy firefighting gear, including their helmets.

IMG_1747The hearse had “U.S. Marine Corps” seals attached to both front doors, and there were a half-dozen Marines in dress uniforms standing in front of the line of cars. It was pretty clear that a Marine was coming home. But who?

As soon as the hearse and the other cars came into view, I put the telephoto lens on my camera and started taking pictures, even though I had no idea what I was recording. I took close to 150 pictures.

IMG_1763 - CopySoon, people I took to be family members got out of the limousine and some of the other cars and gathered together. They joined Marines in dress uniforms, State Troopers, baggage handlers, and a number of others, including two police officers in helmets who I took to be motorcycle officers, although no motorcycles were visible.

Finally, a Delta jet taxied into view, and the Marines, police officers and firefighters snapped to attention. Once the jet had stopped in front of the cars and people, airport personnel opened the cargo door, several men pushed a belt loader up to the side of the plane, and a couple of other men climbed up inside the cargo hold.

IMG_1764 - CopyIn a few minutes, the end of a coffin, draped in an American flag, came into view, and the men in the hold muscled it onto the belt loader. Three Marines stood on each side of the belt loader and slow-saluted when the coffin began to come down toward the tarmac.

When it reached the end of the loader, family members approached and surrounded the coffin. Several of the people reached out and gently touched the American flag.

IMG_1767 - CopyAt last, the Marines lifted the coffin and carried it to the hearse. As they did, a single baggage handler who had been standing off to one side placed his hand over his heart.

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But who was this Marine?

Once I got home Thursday evening, I googled “Marine and Logan Airport” and dozens of other combinations and found nothing. I looked on the Logan Airport website, the Boston Globe website, as well as the websites of all of Boston’s TV stations, and once again didn’t find anything. I went to bed frustrated. SOMEBODY must know what was going on at Logan Airport Thursday morning.

IMG_1797In the morning, I downloaded my pictures and went through them. One of the pictures showed the two helmeted motor officers. When I blew that picture up, I could see there was a single word on the back of each helmet.

IMG_1819“Plymouth.”

So I did another Google search, this time using these search words: “Marine” and “Plymouth.” This time, I found him. Marine Pfc. James Mansfield, an American warrior who died in the South Pacific in World War II.

IMG_1831IMG_1857Here’s the story I found on Wicked Local, a Plymouth, Mass. news website.

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PLYMOUTH – Marine Pfc. James Mansfield is finally home.

Police escorted the remains of the fallen World War II veteran back to Plymouth Thursday afternoon.

Mansfield was killed in action in November 1943 in the battle for the Tarawa Atoll.

His remains were recovered from a battlefield cemetery on the island of Betio last year. They were recently identified using DNA analysis from a sister.

Mansfield will be buried with full military honors this weekend.

State and local police escorted the remains from Logan Airport back to Plymouth Thursday afternoon. The procession went through a bridge on South Street that is dedicated to Mansfield and three other local men killed in World War II.

The procession also drove past Plymouth Rock and the downtown waterfront before arriving at a funeral home in North Plymouth. The family has requested privacy for Saturday’s burial services.

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Welcome home, Pfc. James Mansfield.

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Robin’s soul food lunch ride

Robin Gardner has a knack for finding unusual, off-the-beaten-track eateries that serve great food.2016-07-05 11.30.42

A case in point: Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant in Dade City, a gem of a restaurant tucked away on a side street, far enough from the town’s main drag that even Robin wasn’t sure he could find it on the first pass through town (he did, but he didn’t look very confident leading the group to the parking lot entrance.)

This was a nice, leisurely ride through West-Central Florida back roads, maybe 90 minutes or so, just enough time to work up a decent appetite. We’ve eaten at a number of Dade City restaurants over the past few months, places like Kokopelli’s and Doc’s, but Steph’s Southern Soul has managed to fly under the chapter’s radar until now.

There’s a couple of things we noticed right away:

  • Steph herself was right in the middle of things, busing tables and directing things.
  • The place is a little unusual in that it operates cafeteria-style – grab a tray, push it down a chrome railing, and be ready to sing out your preferences – chicken broiled or fried, meat loaf, pro, liver and onions, and so forth.
  • When you walk in the door, the girls behind the counter sing out a greeting. It’s a little like Moe’s, but somehow it seems a bit more sincere and heartfelt.

2016-07-05 11.37.57I had the fried chicken, and it was great. I also had the rice and beans, which was also great – very flavorful and moist. I had cornbread, which I love and which I’m a little picky about, and it was delicious. The desserts looked very good but I manned up and passed. They had a nice-looking peach cobbler, something that oozed blueberries, and a sign that offered sugar-free apple pie (which tempted my inner diabetic.)

2016-07-05 12.12.39The Tampa Bay TIMES did a story on Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant in 2013. It talked about how Steph Reaves came to Dade City from Plant City with her three kids, fleeing a bad marriage. She got a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant, was almost immediately promoted to chief cook, and then spent the next eight years managing the place.

She and her second husband opened Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant in 2012 in an old building that had once housed a barbecue joint. She works seven days a week. Steph grew up on a farm and knows her fruits and vegetables, which she buys from sources in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

Everything is prepared fresh daily, including all the desserts.

So let’s do this one again.

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Ride to the Barber Museum

Tuesday wasn’t starting out according to plan. Tropical Storm Colin was supposed to have moved on overnight, but when I opened my eyes at around 4 a.m. I could hear wind and rain. I needed to be in Crystal River by 6:30; that meant I had to leave home by 5.

“The rain will have stopped by the time I’m ready to go,” I thought to myself, but when I opened the garage door it was still coming down hard. I went back inside to check the Weather Channel one more time. It showed rain in Tarpon Springs (I already knew that), but clear skies in New Port Richey, maybe five miles north.

I waited around for a lull in the weather, and when the rain slowed I headed out. Sure enough, New Port Richey was overcast but dry; I didn’t see any rain after that.

2016-06-08 11.02.44This was the day we were heading for Birmingham, AL. and the Barber Motorsports Museum. One day up there, another day at the museum, then one day back – about 550 miles in each direction.

Russ was already at the dealership when I arrived a little after 6. Skip showed up a little later, followed by Jeff and then Eric. In all, 18 people had signed up for this ride. Now we were down to five. A little disappointing, maybe, but five bikes is a good workable number for a long ride.

2016-06-07 09.15.25We were off at 7:07. First stop was the Cypress Inn in Cross City, maybe 75 miles north (one review: “Best swamp cabbage I have ever eaten”). Funky old place with “Jesus is the Reason” painted on the big front window. Good breakfast and cheap. My kind of place.

The rest of the ride north was long but uneventful. Some nice two-lane roads but some fairly heavy traffic in some of the Alabama towns. We spent some time on interstates, especially north of Montgomery and as we approached Birmingham, but nothing too serious. Thanks to the time change, we got to the hotel (just down the road from the museum) at around 5 p.m.

After dinner the group gathered around the pool. Except for me – I thought I’d lie down to rest for a few minutes and ended up waking up the next morning.

We found out the museum didn’t open until 10 a.m., so we ended up having a long and leisurely breakfast at the hotel. It took maybe five minutes to ride over to the museum. The driveway was the longest part of the ride – the distance between the hotel and the museum entrance was maybe a quarter of a mile.

2016-06-08 11.11.35Have you ever been to the Wheels Through Time museum in North Carolina? It has almost nothing in common with the Barber museum other than the fact that both contain a lot of motorcycles. The Barber museum is new, expensive-looking, state-of-the-art, with carefully manicured grounds; Wheels Through Time is funky, old-looking and cluttered. The bikes at Barber are carefully restored and better than new; the bikes at Wheels Through Time look like they just came out of the barn.

Dale Walkster gets his motorcycles running but otherwise leaves them as he found them. George Barber scrubs everything to a high shine, and his bikes look like they just rolled off the end of the assembly line. Only better.

So which museum will you like better? Depends on whether you lean toward neat-freak or sloppy. Being a bit unkempt, I guess I felt more comfortable at Wheels Through Time. But it’s impossible not to be bowled over by Barber Motorsports, which has something like 750 bikes on display and another 800 in various storage facilities. The sheer numbers, and the level of perfection, are hard things to ignore.

2016-06-08 12.30.23There’s like three or four levels inside the Barber museum, plus an off-limits ground-floor level where the bike restorations take place. There’s also some storage areas for unrestored bikes.

2016-06-08 14.50.01Luckily, Russ had to go to the bathroom at the same time as one of the security guys. They struck up a conversation and Russ somehow convinced the guy to give us an exclusive guided tour of the shop. This was really cool – there were some bikes in various stages of restoration, some race cars, and we got a walk-through of a bike storage area crammed full of all kinds of unrestored bikes. Plus, our guide told us a lot of stuff about George Barber and the museum that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

All told, we were at the museum for about four hours. I took maybe 300 pictures.

We found a good local BBQ place for a late lunch and then stopped to pick up some adult beverages. I managed to make it to the pool party on this night. Having eaten lunch so late, we elected to pass up dinner.

Next morning we were off by 7 a.m. Uneventful ride, lots of sunshine, plenty of back roads and no rain until, ironically, Crystal River. This time the time change worked against us, and I didn’t get home until around 8.

The worst part of the ride? For me, it was the fact that after the other guys were turning into their driveways, I was grinding out another 50 miles to Tarpon Springs.

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If you want to see more pictures of the museum bikes, go to my Pinterest page

 

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Lunch at the Lucky Dill

It’s always good to experience the routine things that happen in your life through the eyes of others. That just happened to me.

2016-06-04 11.35.50We had a lunch ride to Lucky Dill, a New York-style deli, in Pinellas County on Saturday. Now, I live in Pinellas County, and my wife Beth and I go to the Lucky Dill frequently – in fact, we had had lunch there the day before.  It’s a great deli and kind of an unusual restaurant for Florida. We enjoy it a lot, but the excitement factor of the place has kind of worn off for us. We’ve been going there for 20 years; we’ve followed along as they’ve grown and changed locations. Twice.

Anyway, on this day I didn’t ride up to Crystal River and take part in the ride; instead, I just rode to the Lucky Dill by myself and waited for the group to arrive. Since I got there a little early, I had a chance to wander around a little and see the place in some new ways.

I went to the bakery counter, bought a toasted bagel with cream cheese and some coffee, and sat outside in an area that resembles a sidewalk café. I walked around the parking lot and took some pictures. I found a painting of a giant pickle on the big “Lucky Dill” sign out front, something I had never noticed before.

2016-06-04 12.53.16All in all, I got a new perspective on a place I’ve been to dozens of times before.

Then I got to see the group arrive. There’s always something exciting about seeing a good-sized group of bikes come into view. I saw all the headlights first, then heard the rumble of the Harley motors. Through the camera, I could see the riders waving to me as they turned into the parking lot.

2016-06-04 11.56.13They put us in a function room at the back of the place. Our Pinellas HOG group used to have functions there, but this time I was with people who were seeing the Lucky Dill for the first time. They explored the bakery, checked out the cake display, and then oohed and aahed over the copious mounds of food that is a Lucky Dill trademark.

So it was a fun day for me. After 28 years of it, this HOG stuff never gets old.

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Lunchtime at River Ratz

IMG_8263.JPGJohn Holloway led a great local lunch ride yesterday (Saturday, May 21) to River Ratz in Nobleton, only about 40 miles east of the dealership.

IMG_8268I was going to recite some history about River Ratz, which is a rustic little fish-camp sort of place on the banks of the Withlacoochie River, but I couldn’t find very much. So instead, I’ll tell you a little about what I found about the Withlacoochie. Let’s start with a trivia question:

Q: What do the Withlacoochie and Egypt’s Nile River have in common? I’ll give you just two minutes and thirty-nine seconds to answer. While you’re thinking, you can watch this Egypt-related video, which is EXACTLY two minutes and thirty-nine seconds long. What a coincidence!

Okay, give up?

A: Here you go: Both the Withlacoochie and the Nile flow from south to north.

(Actually, I found out this south-to-north thing is a little unusual, but not really all that much. But if I hadn’t brought it up, I wouldn’t have had an excuse to post this Steve Martin video, which I always thought was pretty funny.)

IMG_8320So if you want some actual facts about the Withlacoochie, here you go: The Withlacoochie’s source is Florida’s Green Swamp, which also is the source for the Peace River, the Ocklawaha River and the Hillsborough River. It covers about 110,000 acres, and it may be the single most important component in the state of Florida’s water supply.

So the Withlacoochie is a pretty important waterway. And you can watch it just keep rolling along if you go to River Ratz, sit at one of the outside tables, and sip on a Shirley Temple.

Before we leave the Green Swamp and get back to talking about lunch, there’s something else we should spend a moment on; Bigfoot. Yes, there’s some sort of Sasquatch that’s been reported over the years in the Green Swamp, and if you ever go there for a hike or something you should be prepared to watch out for it.  This past year, some guy said he saw Bigfoot taking a bath in the Green Swamp waters, and he even sent in a picture of it, up to his Bigfoot armpits in green slimy water. Take a look.

Now, back back to lunch, which was pretty good. I had one of the daily specials, which was chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes. It was very good, and I know the chicken wings are good as well, because Al Contrino gave me one of his.

IMG_8386Likewise, the french fries were pretty tasty. I know this because this squirrel ate a whole bunch that were quietly slipped to him by Carol Niquette. No wonder he’s so fat. If he were a flying squirrel, he’d never lift off the runway.

If you go to Yelp, the restaurant website, you will see that the reviews of River Ratz are all pretty good; it gets four-and-a-half stars out of a possible five, and that’s real good for a place like this. Florida has a lot of these fish-camp places scattered around, and in my experience they are often long on atmosphere but a little short on food quality. Not so this place.

Also, once you let your lunch settle a little bit, you can rent a canoe and a life preserver and paddle around in the Withlacoochie if you aren’t ready to go home yet. Watch out that Bigfoot doesn’t grab your paddle.

It’s a popular place for motorcyclists of all kinds. I chatted for a while with a couple who were riding a Kawasaki touring bike, and there were all kinds of bikes, cruisers as well as all sorts of metric bikes, in the parking lot. The day after we were there, I noticed on Facebook that a group of my friends from the St. Petersburg HOG chapter had ridden up to River Ratz for lunch.

IMG_8257We had a very good-sized group for the ride. Around 30 or so left from the dealership, and and a few more picked us up along the way. Let’s do this one again!

 

 

The LOH Progressive Lunch ride

The Ladies of Harley put together a tremendous ride/event over the weekend, Saturday’s progressive lunch ride. It was a little hard to get an accurate head count, but 29 people turned up at the dealership to actually ride the route, and then a handful of others were also involved, such as some who were hosts and stayed home to get things together.

2016-05-14 09.55.30-2First stop was the Meyers home, which followed a good ride through the countryside. Great food and company, both enjoyed on the lanai. Had to remember there were two more stops upcoming, but I loaded my plate up anyway.

Next stop: Niquette’s house. I think this was supposed to be the “salad” stop, but there was a lot more than salad going on. Ate too much again, and then fell asleep in a big leather recliner. Some of my “friends” took pictures; one of them posted a pic on the Facebook page. I will get him for that.

2016-05-14 13.22.50-2Last stop was Contrino’s house for dessert. This was really tempting, but when we passed through Brooksville, which isn’t that far away from my Tarpon Springs home, I dropped out of line and headed for home. Being diabetic, I figured it might be better if I skipped that stop altogether. Judging by some of the pictures I saw, it was probably a good decision.

A ride like this takes a lot more work than it seems. Three separate households have to do a lot of preparation and cooking. This ride went so well that it seemed like no one was working at all, but we know better.

2016-05-14 10.45.04So thanks to those who worked so hard, and thanks to LOH for making it happen. And… thanks to the chapter for picking up the check.

 

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Who was Spec/4 Michael Osteen?

A few weeks ago, a few of us rode up to the town of Bronson to visit the gravesite of rock ‘n roller Bo Diddley. There is a very big, very elaborate stone marker there that you can see from the road, and we spent some time talking about the inscriptions and taking pictures.

But as we walked back to the bikes, we noticed another large grave marker. It turns out that there is another person of note buried in Bronson Cemetery.

2016-04-21 11.46.38The headstone simply reads “Sp/4 Michael S. Osteen. March 20, 1946 – May 5, 1968.”

For people of our generation, there’s a lot of information in those few words. I knew right away that he and I were contemporaries – we were born just 10 months apart. I knew that we went to high school at around the same time. And the “May 5, 1968” told me that, in all probability, he was killed in Vietnam.

Jim and Pam, Ron, Steve and I stood around this grave marker and talked, just as we had talked about Bo Diddley a scant 50 yards away. Who was this young man who died at such a young age about 45 years ago? What was the story behind this very elaborate head stone, with a statue of a charging soldier carrying a rifle on the top, an emblem of a golden eagle with wings spread, and an American flag and two military rifles beneath all that?

And what was the meaning of the woodland scene on the granite stone beneath all the military symbolism — green trees, wispy white clouds, birds in flight, a rabbit, and a small grouping of deer grazing on a bed of green grass? It all seemed incongruous, and it made me wonder if his family was trying to show a patriotic young soldier whose life was built on a foundation of love for home and the outdoors.

2016-04-21 11.46.48It’s been three or four weeks since our trip to the Bronson Cemetery, but I’ve thought about this young man several times. Who was he? What was he like? More than 45 years after his death, has he been remembered? Or largely forgotten?

I thought I might be able to turn up some information on Sp/4 Osteen on the internet. Here is what I found, mostly from an article in a 2012 edition of the Chiefland CITIZEN:

Michael Osteen joined the Army in 1967, and he was sent to Vietnam that August. He had relatives who worked in law enforcement, and that was the duty he requested. As a result, he became a member of the 4th Military Police Company, 4th Infantry Division.

On the day of his death, he was escorting a convoy on Highway 14 in Pleiku Province when they encountered an ambush. Artillery fire rained down on the convoy and killed at least eight American soldiers, maybe more than that. Osteen was one of them.

Osteen’s life might have been largely forgotten were it not for one of his old high school buddies, Roger Morgan of Williston. Four years ago, Morgan teamed up with Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner to get a portion of County Road 326 named after Michael Osteen.

2016-04-21 11.47.00Morgan made the suggestion to Joyner in a letter: “I speak from my heart,” the letter said. “And on this subject my heart still has pieces missing.” The Levy County road named after Osteen was dedicated on Aug. 6, 2012.

Here are a few other things to know about Michael Osteen:

  • He was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather, “Big Perry” Osteen, had been a law enforcement officer, and was probably the relative whose footsteps Michael was planning on following.
  • He was married to a girl named Mary Swilley, who had grown up on a nearby egg ranch. Mary now lives near Silver Springs.
  • He loved the outdoors and enjoyed hunting and fishing. His friend Roger Morgan recalled that they spent many hours together, fishing and then camping out on the banks of the Wekiva River. “We loved to deer hunt and stuff,” Morgan said. “My goodness, we fished a lot.”

Morgan is also a Vietnam vet, and he recalled that he had been in Vietnam only a short while when he got word of Osteen’s death.

“One of the greatest honors of my life was to have the privilege of escorting Mike back home, as he had given his last full measure for all of us.” he said.

Journalism taught me many years ago that there are stories all around us if you are willing to scratch the surface a little bit. If you ever visit Bo Diddley’s grave, think about taking a moment to visit with Spec/4 Michael Osteen. Just look for a tall grave marker with a statue of a charging American soldier on the top.