The Shirt off My Back


This is the shirt ON my back. It’s a favorite shirt of mine. It’s a souvenir of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally of 1984. It’s worn rather thin and it’s faded. It comes with joyful memories of a cross-country motorcycle trip with my daughter Jackie. We met family we had known of but not known until that almost accidental day that we turned off Interstate-80 to see if we could find a distant cousin. We not only found her but we stayed with her a few days among the thousands of riders who congregate in Sturgis every summer. I didn’t know at the time that a cousin was one of the founders of the Rally. We got to sit in the box of honor with him at the short track. We also used Sturgis as a base that allowed us to tour the Black Hills. We viewed the magnificent sculpture of the four presidents and the in-progress even more impressive sculpture of Crazy Horse. We visited the Native American Museum nearby and passed through Deadwood where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise. We also passed over the roadway originally laid in part by my father who was a teenage teamster during the construction. That was very emotional for me.


In summer of next year, 2014, this shirt would have turned 30. I’m afraid it’s not going to reach that milestone. Margarita has repaired the holes as best she’s been able, but there is just not enough firm cloth to put the needle through anymore. I hesitate to just toss it in the rag bin. I feel about the same as when we had to put my German Shepherd, Baron, to sleep. Although I knew he was in pain, I just couldn’t bear to part with my best friend. I only hear from my daughter if I comment on her Facebook page. I haven’t ridden a bike in more than a decade. It’s time.


I have other shirts with meaning that are headed in the same direction as my Sturgis shirt. I only wear tee-shirts that have some significance for me. They represent my high school, my college, my last country music appearance, my favorite hockey team, and my beloved El Salvador. The latter shirts were bought or given to me ten years ago on my first missionary trip to this beautiful country. I keep telling myself that at 77 my time is short and I have no reason to think I’ll outlive most of my shirts. Still, I have a little bit of pride in my appearance and wouldn’t let my kids go out with holey shirts. (The enduring fad of wearing worn out jeans is my only exception for my son.) I will NOT wear shirts that advertise the manufacturer, say something stupid that only a teen-ager would find amusing, or that would jam my moral compass. I like plain solid colored tee-shirts but I’m happiest when my shirt sends a message about me. I think I have a good body for my age nd prefer sleeveless tees. But I still have so many shirts in my drawers that I don’t have to worry about running out for a long, long time. Maybe when I’m down to my last shirt, I’ll ask to be buried in it.


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