Leatherballs VI: Click

A while back I wrote about the death of my wife in a motorcycle accident. I wrote about the risks we all willingly assume in order to live the way we choose, and the irony implicit in the simple fact that the harder and more fully you live your life, the more likely that life is to end sooner than it might otherwise. That irony is central to biking; anyone who has been riding for long is very likely to be on more intimate terms with it than they probably would wish. Heartbreaking examples of it abound, and in some way they touch all of us, whether we’ve lost a loved one to a tragic accident or not. For almost all of us who ride, it’s more a matter of “when” than “if.” And after a few years, it’s more a matter of “Dammit, not again.”

Well, yes, unfortunately — again.

Clifton “Click” Baldwin, owner of Carolina Harley-Davidson in Gastonia, North Carolina, was one of those guys who seemed to know absolutely everybody. Whether you were rich as Croesus or just some poor biker slob living in a tumbledown three-room shack, subsisting on a steady diet of beans and cornbread in order to support your Harley habit, Click knew you, and always had a hello, a smile, and a hearty laugh for you. He was one of those guys who was so full of piss and vinegar and joie de vivre you could see and hear him coming across even the most crowded and noisy room.

He came by being a biker honest, since his dad was a Harley guy from way back. A childhood photo shows him perched on his old man’s Panhead, his feet barely reaching the tops of the rocker boxes, hands on the fatbob tanks for support, grinning like a merry fiend. He ran his dealership the old-fashioned way, always ready to head out in the pickup in dead of night to pick up a stranded biker by the side of some dark back-road and bring him and his machine back to the shop for repairs.

He made a shit-ton of money in that dealership, and he was smart enough to know how to enjoy all that hard-earned dough. For a good while there, he used to charter a DC3 from a local outfit, load up six or eight friends and their bikes, and fly the patched-together crate down for Daytona’s Bike Week

festivities every year. That lasted until around ten years or so ago, when, almost immediately after take-off, the plane lost an engine and had to circle around quick to land, almost literally, on a wing and a prayer. As the grey-faced and shaking bikers scrambled out of the rickety old bucket, Click was, as always, laughing.

He was definitely an old-school Southern wildass; a partier and a scrapper, easy to get along with, but no one to trifle with at the same time. He died the week before Sturgis, flying down the highway with his fellow Hamsters. And his passing touched literally thousands of people, bikers and non-bikers alike, from all corners of this great nation. For proof, point your computer to the Gastonia newspaper’s Guestbook website at and have a gander — it’s 125 pages long at this writing. And it’s merely the tip of a pretty damned big iceberg.

When they brought him home from South Dakota, I was among over two hundred bikers who paid their respects by escorting his body from the airport in Charlotte to the funeral home in Gastonia. There were bikers of every warp and woof in that procession: weekend warriors, patch-holders, RUBs; Harleys and Beemers and Jap-crappers; average joes and hardass one-percenters alike rode side-by-side in tribute to another fallen brother.

I expected a huge turnout for the ride, but what I didn’t expect at all was to see the shoulder of the four-lane thoroughfare absolutely jammed with people. They poured out of the offices and factories and little mill houses along the route to stand by the side of the road, many of them holding rough, homemade signs expressing their sympathy to the family riding at the head of the procession in a funeral-home limo. Every last cop from the several small towns along the route stood ramrod-straight beside their parked patrol cars, caps doffed and held over their hearts. The firefighters at a Lowell firehouse had their flag at half-mast, and the firemen stood proud and sad at the curb.

They waved, they openly wept, they gave us the raised-fist biker salute in solidarity — even the ones who had never swung a leg over a Harley in their lives and probably never will, and who couldn’t possibly fathom the deep joy and meaning riding offers those of us who accept the risk, reap the reward, and bear the cost. They may not understand biking, but this once, they understood our loss, and the ten miles or so of road between Charlotte and Gastonia was as crowded with them as any Fourth of July parade ever was.

It was one of the most gutwrenching, and heartwarming, things I’ve ever seen.

We’re all used to the sneers, scorn, and even fearful looks we get when the wolfpack goes roaring by a crowd of squarejohn citizen types, in a blast of straight-piped exuberance and near-anarchy. We’re used to sometimes open hostility from people who just don’t get it, and never will. But once in a while we get a reminder that, in the end, we’re all more alike than we are different, and that grief and loss isn’t anybody’s exclusive property.

It’s a terrible thing when we lose a brother or sister to the harsh realities of the open road. But it’s an unquestionably good thing when the wider world unexpectedly opens its arms and hearts to comfort us, and to lighten our load by sharing our pain. And we all owe sincere thanks to those folks who stepped up that day to remind us that when one of us is taken too soon, we’re all diminished.

Latest Posts

Latest Comments

CF Archives


Comments policy

NOTE: In order to comment, you must be registered and approved as a CF user. Since so many user-registrations are attempted by spam-bots for their own nefarious purposes, YOUR REGISTRATION MAY BE ERRONEOUSLY DENIED.

If you are in fact a legit hooman bean desirous of registering yourself a CF user name so as to be able to comment only to find yourself caught up as collateral damage in one of my irregularly (un)scheduled sweeps for hinky registration attempts, please shoot me a kite at the email addy over in the right sidebar and let me know so’s I can get ya fixed up manually.

ALSO NOTE: You MUST use a valid, legit email address in order to successfully register, the new anti-spam software I installed last night requires it. My thanks to Barry for all his help sorting this mess out last night.

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit.

Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) won't.

Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar.

Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

Ye Aulde CF Blogrolle–now with RSS feeds! (where available)

"Mike Hendrix is, without a doubt, the greatest one-legged blogger in the world." ‐Henry Chinaski

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Become a CF member!


Email addy: mike-at-this-url dot etc
All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless specified as private by the sender

Allied territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media: A few people worth following on Gab:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."
Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

Claire's Cabal—The Freedom Forums


"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
Daniel Webster

“When I was young I was depressed all the time. But suicide no longer seemed a possibility in my life. At my age there was very little left to kill.”
Charles Bukowski

“A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him.”
Ezra Pound

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.”
John Adams

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves."
Bertrand de Jouvenel

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."
GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free."
Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved."
Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil."

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork."
David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"If the laws of God and men, are therefore of no effect, when the magistracy is left at liberty to break them; and if the lusts of those who are too strong for the tribunals of justice, cannot be otherwise restrained than by sedition, tumults and war, those seditions, tumults and wars, are justified by the laws of God and man."
John Adams

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine."
Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it."
NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in."
Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Finest hosting service

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2024