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Biker rodeo had some uplift, letdown

Kraut von Magnus, center, from Spring Hill, talks to friends while his dog Khan sits in the sidecar of his Harley at the Old School Biker Rodeo at Jimmy Batten’s ranch in Brooksville on Friday. Von Magnus has trained five dogs over the years to ride in his sidecar. Khan has been riding for over three years.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Kraut von Magnus, center, from Spring Hill, talks to friends while his dog Khan sits in the sidecar of his Harley at the Old School Biker Rodeo at Jimmy Batten’s ranch in Brooksville on Friday. Von Magnus has trained five dogs over the years to ride in his sidecar. Khan has been riding for over three years.

Considering I arrived at the Old School Biker Rodeo Saturday afternoon in a Ford Focus, it's probably no surprise I didn't like everything I saw there.

I've never been one for ogling internal combustion machines or accessories like chrome pipes and leather saddlebags.

The Confederate paraphernalia irritated me so much that when I saw a battle flag embroidered on a leather vest over the slogan "Try burning this one, a--hole,'' I was tempted.

When I watched the so-called rodeo event of women biting dangling hot dogs while riding on the back of slow-rolling Harley-Davidsons, I wondered what the fun was in that.

It seemed even less fun for the women involved, and more humiliating, when I realized there were people in the audience like Don Thomas, 51, a self-described "real biker'' from Hudson.

"She's telling you the straight-a-- truth,'' Thomas said, nodding toward his wife. "My bike comes way before she does. She don't get nothing until my bike's taken care of.''

Not that the bikers will or should care what I think, but there was some stuff I did like:

Camping under oaks, friends sharing drinks while Bad Company's Rock Steady floated through campfire smoke — and that the beer concession and $10 admission fee (from about 2,000 bikers) went to disabled veterans.

I started to understand the biker spirit when I talked to Billy Peak, 56, about his 1975 Norton Commando — one of the last built by the original English manufacturer — and the pleasure of taking it on a three-month tour around the country last year.

I liked that Robert Bushee, 69, could ride a bright-blue Honda three-wheeler and be associated with a group of Alcoholics Anonymous bikers called Mean and Clean, and spend the weekend without getting grief from more hard-core bikers.

Though by no means endorsing its priorities, I was also glad to see this old culture hadn't been completely overwhelmed by brand-hunting consumers who buy Harleys for the thrill of parking them next to their Winnebagos.

Thomas, for example, who looked at me though bloodshot eyes and over a chest-length beard, pulled up his pant leg to reveal a leg so mangled and swollen by an accident two years ago he still has to wear a Velcroed canvas medical shoe.

"The real biker — you crash the son of a b----, you pick it up and you get back on it,'' he said.

Jimmy Batten, 62, the rodeo's organizer, has probably provided our newspaper with more colorful copy over the past 20 years than anyone else in the county.

We've written about him as one of Hernando's "last true-blue cowboy ranchers,'' as a County Commission candidate, as a guest on a Paris Hilton reality show, and as the impresario of dove shoots, more conventional rodeos and mud-bogging events.

But, in the past, I've wondered about his casual approach to the safety of, for example, 18-year-old bull-riders and toddlers playing in the same mud pool as the monster trucks. Saturday, I felt a little let down that the proud cattleman I used to know would organize an event that offered free margaritas to any woman who bared her breasts.

But, again, why should he care what I think?

To tell you the truth, I didn't see anyone take the margarita vendor up on his offer, and other than a few women walking around with body paint in lieu of halter tops, not much nudity at all.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office received no reports of laws being broken. Batten's 40-acre pasture east of Brooksville is, of course, private property.

The neighbors said the music had been shut down at midnight Friday night. And in the nearby large-lot subdivision of Country Oak Estates on Saturday, the roar of exhaust pipes registered only as a distant hum.

So, what difference does it make what we think about what went on Batten's pasture?

Biker rodeo had some uplift, letdown 11/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 9:58pm]
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