Although this isn't the usual sort of article you'd expect to find on a site for injury attorneys, this book review looks at a sordid time in history when being a rider wasn't fashionable or even safe. K. Randall Ball's Terry the Tramp: The Life and Dangerous Times of a One Percenter, MBI Publishing, Minnesota, 2011, takes the reader through the seedy streets of small California towns and the asphalt highways linking riders with their destiny.
A young Keith Randall Ball, circa 1970's
Although this book chronicles Terry Orendorff's journey from being raised in a broken family to his rise as national leader of a notorious one percent motorcycle club, it could be the story of any number of rebellious young men born in the mid 1940's who had a passion for freedom and living outside the norms of society. It's no surprise that these men chose motorcycles as a means to transport them to their dreams, since motorcycles were also outside the accepted boundaries of civilized society at that time. Not all bikes and riders, only the so-called one percent of riders who chose not to conform to the rules laid down by people they had no respect for.
A Rare Glimpse
What's really fascinating about this book is the way author Ball weaves the historical fabric of current events, music, and the rider sub-culture together to provide the reader with a view of what it was really like in those days. Having been a product of those same times, and as a rider, I can easily relate to what was happening in southern California between bike clubs and law enforcement. It was happening all over the country. Maybe it was not as intense everywhere as it was in, for instance, Hawthorne, but being a rider was a daily challenge.
If you rode during this time period, you will instantly enjoy this book, as it tells one man's story while simultaneously transporting you back to your own recollections of events you witnessed or experienced. The bikes, the women, the parties, and the conflicts are all here. This is reality, not some made-for-TV fantasy of what being a rider is all about. If you want to know what drives a man to put his club before even his family, then this is a rare glimpse into that world; it is a snapshot of history unlike anything you will see in the movies. This is a rider's story, told by a rider. It doesn't get any better than this.
I highly recommend this book. I could hardly put it down once I started reading it. Even if you don't ride or were born after this time period, this book will give you insight into the world of the one percent rider you haven't seen yet. This isn't National Geographic or the Gangland series. This is real people striving to survive in a world they were thrust into. They did bad things and bad things were done to them.
If you have any old copies of Easyriders Magazine laying around, look for #208, October, 1990. There's an article about the Vagos' court battle against the Hawthorne Police, which is recounted in the book. There's even an illustration by David Mann at the top of the article. I happen to be in that same issue, on page 30, as I was inducted into the Easyriders rider Hall O' Fame in 1990.