Today’s post is a guest piece written by Don Caldwell. Don brought us a pile of parts that used to be a 1926 Harley and this is its story so far.
Thank you Don for the story and the chance to help share this with the world.
April 27, 2019
S.M. “Whitey” Caldwell’s 1926 Harley Davidson “Single”
by Don Caldwell
I am writing this from my best recollection as my Father had told me this story.
On or about 1962 my Father was working a small job at an Amish farm near Harlan, Indiana. My Dad had a small business; “Caldwell Tractor Service” located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and would often do jobs on Amish farms. His business consisted of a Tractor repair/service in the winter and a Landscaping/Excavating business in the summer.
On this particular job at an Amish farm, he was installing field tile to drain a low spot on one of the Farmer’s fields. It is important to note that in some of the Amish sects, it was contrary to their religious beliefs to own or use any gasoline motor powered equipment or have electricity on the farm for use of the family. Often they would, however, contract someone to bring in equipment for heavy work if needed.
As my father was finishing this job and loading up his equipment to leave, he noticed a set of motorcycle handle bars protruding from an overgrown mound of material next to the barn. He tried to pick them up but they were clearly attached to something below the surface. His curiosity caused him to inquire to the farmer of what these were from.
The farmer went on to explain:
A couple of his teenage sons had acquired a motorcycle without his knowledge and against their traditional beliefs. They had managed to keep it a secret from him for sometime by hiding it in the woods. When opportunity arose they would ride it when the old man was out of sight and hearing distance.
As fate would happen the old man caught the boys in the field one day after they had been trying to pull a walk behind horse plow. They had experienced a serious failure of the cycle and were unable to move it back into hiding in a timely manner.
In order to turn this problem into a learning experience for the boys, the old man hooked up a team of horses and dragged the motorcycle over to where my Father had seen it next to the Barn. He then gave the motorcycle a burial by generously covering it with horse manure. That manure mound was to become its permanent resting place, that is, until my Dad came along and noticed the handle bars.
The farmer told my Dad that it was time to clean the area out and that he asked him to dig it out and take it home if he wanted it.
Well, since my Dad had his equipment there, he went ahead and pulled it out and got it home. Cleaned it up and decided he could get it running again. The damage to it was extensive. The boys had cracked the gearbox housing and broken the teeth off one of the gears and corrosion had attacked most the bike.
Figure 1 is what it looked like after the rescue and a liberal hosing
This story continued long after I had finished University and moved on with my career. My father did have it running maybe a little on the rough side, but never the less he was able to get it to go around the block and on occasion he would take it places to ride and display. Figure 2 is one occasion when he had taken the motorcycle to Harlan days on his flatbed truck and has returned and is unloading it at our home in Fort Wayne.
My Father passed away in 1979 and the old motorcycle set in his workshop/garage without much attention. Over the years my Mother had asked if I wanted to take the old cycle. I surely did not want it to just disappear with the ages and I drove my truck to Indiana in 2000 and picked it up at my Mother’s house.
Figure 3 is the motorcycle as I brought it to my home in Arizona and placed it in storage.
The motorcycle remained in storage up until now when I have decided to see if it could be brought back to life. I intend to pass it on to my Son Bryan to enjoy and preserve it for future Caldwell generations. It will need a lot of special care and professional attention as time and horse manure have taken a toll on the old girl. To this end I have disassembled the bike, had it stripped, chemically treated to remove the rust and expose its warts. I have now put it in the hands of Dave at Highway Choppers to give it his loving and professional care. The motorcycle has seen better days of course but Dave believes he can bring it back to life.
This story will continue as Highway Choppers do their magic.