Fourteen-year-olds are sensitive creatures. Merle laughs when I ask how to adjust the clutch on my 1969 Yamaha AT1. Instead of offering technical advice he mocks me, saying, "You want to race and you can't even work on your own bike." His words cut me to the quick, but mostly, they made me want to learn. I never forgot what he said or how it made me feel.
Six months earlier my Honda CL70 had been laying in pieces on the garage floor with half the engine case screws drilled out or the heads chiseled off. My efforts to fix the busted fourth gear were more destructive than the stick that had jammed the chain and thrashed the transmission. A friendly dealership mechanic ultimately cleaned up my mess.
More recently, I cringed when a fellow Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor bragged that he never took his bike to the dealership; only he called it "the stealership." He explained to the group of impressionable students how dealers were just there to take their money. I thought back to my ham-fisted days of learning to use tools and wondered what my education would have cost in today's dollars.