Back in 1938 I doubt if Pappy Hoel ever envisioned the creation of the Jackpine Gypsies would ever be the catalyst for an event that would bring hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the globe. And transcend a lifestyle But in fact, that's what has happened.
Every year during the first week in August at the base of the Black Hills the modest town of 5000 residents in Sturgis balloons into a population that exceeds the population of the entire state of South Dakota. Its where misogyny, bare knuckle fights and bare naked female flesh are as common as the black top that cover the streets.
During that week there are more cops per square mile than in Washington DC. Every night the amount of garbage that is collected rivals that of New York on New Years eve.
The rules that govern polite behavior is suspended and the odious nature of man regresses to the days of Wild Bill Hickock and Doc Holiday. The air is filled with the smells of leather, roasted meat and the exhaust fumes from thousands of bikes. The testosterone filled air leaches to your skin and sticks to your clothes filling your taste buds with a nocular sour taste that is both indescribable and has the consistency of gum.
Men and women alike clad from head to foot in black leather chaps and riding vests. Their vests festooned with patches declaring American pride. "Ride it like you stole it", "live free or die" and cartoonish statements about brotherhood. "Nice trailer pussy", "I rode mine to Sturgis".
Pictures and paint jobs depicting female genitalia. Open displays of nipple pastied boobs and ass cheeks. There are more tattoo artists in one city block than most cities have in its entirety. The ambiance of an 1850 wild west town comes alive in 21st century terms.
There is a strong sense of impending violence lurking at the edges of the crowd. Not unlike the feeling of being strung up on a meat hook like a side of beef. The closer you get to the heart of downtown only intensifies as the gentile white males who attend looking for a good time gives way to the outlaw bikers who dwell like gargoyles looking for prey. For those uninitiated to the world of the self aggrandizing and the Hollywood romanticized illusion of bad boy 3 patch members let me assure you they are not given nor are they prone to deeply spiritually held beliefs nor are they the plotting and sympathetic anti hero's in outlaw biker movies.
They are instead the mentally and emotionally stunted versions of sock puppets who have all of the gravitas of a bar of soap. But make no mistake, their ability for unprovoked violence and the sadistic nature with which they inflict themselves on their victims confirms the long held suspicion that they are incapable of restraint and devoid of moral compass.
Over the years the 1%'s who owned the event has given way to a higher socioeconomic class of biker who pulls into town in with million dollar motor coaches. But don't be fooled because Sturgis is still where outlaw bikers, grifters, main line cons and white supremacists travel when they want to be among their own. But during any biker rally an uneasy cease fire exists between those who live outside the law and those who enforce it. A tacit agreement between the gargoyles that sit on the shoulders of humanity and stalwart enforces of American jurisprudence who agree to let the want to be's and the industries of capitalism coexist in an arena devoid of real world violence.
The irony here is both of them act as overseers of a 19th century plantation. Lawmen serve as notice that while the illusion of lawness that permeates the biker culture there is in fact a body of men who see that the laws are adhered to and not thrown over the gunnels. But the three patch clubs serve as a reminder of what the consequences of stepping over the line of brutality and violence can bring down upon them.
And if you don't believe you are accountable for restraint and good behavior the gargoyles will systematically eviscerate your internal wiring and begin to break bones and stomp your existence into the gutter. And by the time deputized lawmen reach you all that will be left is a bloodless pulp of broken bones and an empty and lifeless shell of who you were.
For everyone else you are on a week long pass into the garden of Gethsemane. A seven day reprieve from being tacked up on a societal mortal cross. Because during that week you are by either nature or proxy a biker. And the vices of your fellow man are both freely given and explored. Whether its hillbilly heroin, weed, pills or booze, it's all available in amounts large and small and done so without the judgement of your fellow man.
Jack Daniels shots with a beer back from can't see to can't see. The chance to step into iron leather and feel the full heart and soul of an iron horse roar to life. The mechanized life blowing through the rear tailpipes and the throaty rumbles vibrating your whole body. Its rider given into the illusion of positive control when he goes from full throttle to fuck it.
Entry into the mythological world of modern day iron horse outlaws and the chance to live in an ethos made famous by the movie Easy rider is granted with the possession of an iron hog and a love of the open road on your terms. The seduction of living in a world that is both uncompromising and free from the restraints of normal society are easy to fall victim to. During any biker rally week the belief you belong to an exclusive club is inescapable. You're surrounded by black leather clad men riding throaty 1000 pounds two wheeled iron horses with all the rumble of a bombing raid. The laws of government are meant for those encased in four wheeled air conditioned bubbles.
For bikers stand your ground and the second amendment are a religion built around the belief that backing down and giving in are for those who come unequipped with backbones or the moral vacuity to do otherwise. A defect in their DNA. The biblical writings of the meek inheriting the earth are a cosmic joke meant for those who live from the convention of political correctness. A biker lives in the ethos of freedom and fighting for what you believe in. It's why there are so many active duty and veterans in the biker culture.
For the hardcore biker a bed roll and a spot on the ground is all that is required for sleeping, but for most others campgrounds become a hedonistic garden of Eden full of a Pavlovian copulation of booze, music and sex.
The thing about the biking culture is it does not lend itself well to the notion of equality of the sexes. Women are treated with the same consistency and in the same manner as BBQ pulled pork. The only homosexual contact had better between two women because if two men were caught in the throes of copulation or intimate contact the cross they would be tacked up on is one in the literal sense. The disembowelment of their lives would serve as a reminder in the biker world a man's cock only acceptable orifice of penetration is in a woman's body. Tolerance of sexual orientation is not a birthright in the biker culture rather the only acceptable copulation would be better defined from a biblical definition from Revelations or that of the Republican party.
Like main line cons who accept their fate of stacking time in concrete castles and are guarded by iron bars and a militia of men who are charged with keeping the gargoyles at bay. Bikers accept the same nihilistic fate of dumping their bikes on a 4-lane blacktops and backwater country roads. Knowing that every ride could be their last.
Every year the number of bikers who lose their lives riding across the hard road of the Black Hills goes into double digits. Their families getting death notices from vacant eyed and hardened men and women who carry a badge. And while they mourn the loss of their husbands, brothers, fathers and friends the rite of passage known as Sturgis rolls on unencumbered without the moralities and the victimhood of dying. If the deceased is lucky a drink will raised in his memory.
This is the religion of Sturgis.