The Lincoln Motor Company has a new advertising campaign featuring the Academy Award winning actor, Matthew McConaughey. The videos are in the style of True Detective-meets-Locke, and leave more to the imagination than they explain as Mr. McConaughey engages in a soliloquy while inside their latest product.
The most recent advertisement revolves around an 1,800 pound bull named Cyrus, who is blocking the middle of a desolate two-lane road. The first time that I watched it I was transported 34 years back in time.
In 1980 I worked for an electrical contractor on an experimental Oil Shale mine in De Beque, Colorado. We lived over 50 miles away in the town of Fruita, not far from the Utah border. I bought a Harley-Davidson to “save on gas”…but mainly I wanted a motorcycle—it was my first.
Big, black & chrome, my Fat Boy had the first 80 cu.in. V-Twin engine available on a production bike. It was an ’80-80 and a joy to ride across the high desert on the Western Slope of the Rockies.
Like most Harley owners I made some modifications along the way. Mufflers were the most significant replacement item. The factory had a two-into-one setup that was ok, but performance at that altitude could be improved even more with staggered dual glass-packs that also gave the bike a growl at idle and a throaty rumble that would wake the dead at highway speed.
My day started when I left the house at 6:30 am. Out of 25 electricians on the job, I lived the farthest away and as I traveled Eastbound I met up with some of them en route when entered the freeway. At least half a dozen guys rode their motorcycles on a daily basis and we assembled into a pack that looked like a Blue Collar motorcycle gang.
From my perspective the daily commute was like the opening scene of a movie. I rode solo for the first fifteen minutes before my co-worker, Buzz, rolled in behind me at the West end of Grand Junction. Mad Max, on his Honda Gold Wing, and Robbie, on his grey-over-black Low Rider, caught up with us at 24 Road and by the time the 4 of us blew by the airport, Terry had his new red Wide-Glide warmed up and joined us parallel to the face of The Bookcliff Mountains for the ride into the rising sun.
At the Clifton on-ramp BJ positioned his 750 Honda into a slot position alongside Terry and the only person left to complete the pack was Mike, who lived in Palisade. A former Flat-track motorcycle racer, Mike had no trouble joining the crowd on his stripped-down black chopper.
Five Hogs and two Rice Grinders sped into De Beque Canyon at 65 mph, taking the turns like a noisy, high-speed, heavy metal Peloton. Seven riders were staggered front-to-back and side-to-side, the roar of our exhausts echoing off sandstone walls three hundred feet high.
The two-lane highway followed the serpentine path of the Colorado River, forming our own miniature Grand Canyon. Rays of sunlight could only illuminate the top of the canyon rim until mid-morning, when the sun reached high enough in the sky to bombard the freeway and the river with the full light of day.
We slipped and roared through the shadows along the winding river, mindful of oncoming traffic and the occasional animal carcass. Exiting the freeway at the Town of De Beque, our speed became a more respectable 40 mph as we motored the few remaining miles to the parking lot of Occidental Oil Shale, Inc. (Oxy).
Gentle S-curves and long straight-aways defined the last part of our journey and on this particular day I noticed an increasing amount of mud clods littering the road for as far as I could see. The first thought that occurred to me was that a big oil-drilling crew was moving a lot of equipment down from the high-country to a new location. Whenever this occurred, a lot of accumulated mud fell off the underside of the vehicles as they traveled down the road.
I slalomed my way thru the clods and slowed down to a crawl when I approached a blind curve. It was a good thing that I lowered my speed because when we got around the curve the source of the mud was apparent—cattle, lots and lots of cattle.
We weren’t dodging mud clods, we were in a river of Bull shit!
The manure was the least part of the problem before us. The biggest threat to the herd mentality was the loud noise of our exhaust pipes exciting any number of big f—king bulls. From my vantage point on the seat of my motorcycle I was looking up at an animal the size of a VW Bug with legs, who in turn, was looking down it’s snout at me.
I silently, and repeatedly, cursed my staggered dual glass-pack mufflers. I stopped my bike, put both feet on the road and took a quick look over my right shoulder to check on the the rest of the crew.
A moving wall of beef prevented me from seeing anyone, but I could hear the rumble of the other six motorcycles idling…waiting…surrounded…stranded. Should I turn off the bike and wait for Bessie and her gang to move on to greener pastures? Would a quick gesture and sudden silence spook the herd?
I couldn’t believe that we had the potential to be crushed to death in a cattle stampede—this was not covered in any driving handbook that I had read. I held my breath and looked deep into the right eye of the bull next to me. It was like staring at an 8 ball. A fine specimen of beef, Number 9 according to his ear tag. Cattle Karma, just my luck.
In the movies, when you need one the most, a Cowboy on a white horse will arrive to save the day and apparently today was the day that Life would imitate Art.
I heard a short, sharp whistle and a “Hah!” Turning to my far left I saw a man on horseback threading his way through the herd in our direction. He yelled, “Hah! Hah!” Apparently that is Cow Talk for “Get out of the way!”
My new best friend maneuvered his way to my location. “Hang on. We’ll git ya through here, son.”
I could see three other men on horses working their way toward us, separating the herd so that we could pass through unscathed.
“Easy on the throttle, you’ll be OK.”
We rode as slowly as we could for a quarter of a mile until we cleared the group of cattle. It was a helluva way to start our day, but we survived—just like Matthew McConaughey did when he took Cyrus’ suggestion and went the “long way”.