Henry's Cover

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Well-known member
Sep 5, 2005
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Creston, CA
Around 1981 or so, riding the 79 A1 (Kawasaki kz1300 6 cylinder) near Walla Walla, Washington, USA.

In the hills above town, the GF and I hunkered down under a picnic table as a huge thunder and lightning storm, with massive rain, soaked us to the bone. No rain gear, just 501 Levi's, Chippewa 17 inch 'engineer' boots... and a leather jacket.

The storm passed, we headed down the hill. The little sleepy town of Walla Walla was a mess, storm damage everywhere, and the main road through town was covered in about 2 to 3 inches of fresh mud. The mud wasn't deep enough to prevent the mighty heavy KZ's tires from touching asphalt, so I didn't give it much thought.

Until mud packed up under the fender and front tire.... then BAM we've crashed and sliding down the muddy street, in front of the entire town it felt like. About 25 to 30 mph.

I remember looking back, while sliding, to see if GF was OK. I could clearly see her look of 'Phuck, you just crashed me out!' through the 3/4 helmet.

Hadn't even stood up yet, and the big bellied sheriff walked up and said 'Doncha know you ain't supposed to be a wallering in the mud?'

I was so pissed about everything, of cancelling the trust of my pillion, of damaging the bike (my beautiful 750 dollar paint job on the fairing, bent bars, and a hole in the left hand side case) but knew I couldn't say anything to the sheriff.. I knew to him I looked like a long haired commie hippy kid with no money, ready and able to rape all the local wimmen..

But my perception was incorrect. The sheriff was actually a really nice man. He talked to the folks who owned a house across the street, made arrangements for me to store the bike in the guys garage. Which his where I pulled the broken cover off, and realized I was truly hosed.

No motorcycle dealerships in Walla Walla. Just a John Deere shop. The nice homeowner said, "I'll drive you to a hunter's hotel, which is walking distance to JD. Ask for Henry. He can fix it for you."

So he did, we did. The lodging was very cozy, there was an old skool hamburger/hotdog/ice cream diner across the street. This was Sunday, BTW.

Monday AM walked into JD. Lady behind counter knew of us, hell, the whole town knew us by then. She went and got Henry.
...and my hopes faded like a pin prick in a rock n' roll balloon.

Henry. Henry. Henry was about 5 foot 0.5 inches tall, wearing overalls that were too long, so the cuffs were rolled up to damn near his knee caps, he had a big belly, scraggy hair, and wore glasses thicker than an old fashioned Coca Cola glass bottle bottom. I kid you not.

But I have no other options. Henry walks us into the shop area, not one word yet spoken, and places the broken part on a metal table.

….and Henry just looks at broken cover, for minutes, still sitting on the table.

Then Henry picks it up, holds it about 3 inches from his coke bottle thick glasses, and looks at it from angles.. top side, side view, upside down, inside, outside..

It’s been 15 minutes. Still not one word spoken. I wonder if Henry is deaf, or mute, or a serial killer. This situation is weird, and getting stranger by the moment.

Henry takes his glasses off, picks up the part, and like a blind man reading a Braille newspaper, explores the broken cover surfaces. For at least 5 minutes. Then, suddenly, he tables the broken cover, puts his glasses on, and walks away, out of sight. I can hear metal rustling as Henry searches for something…

Returning, Henry has a small section of aluminum sheet plate, approximately 6x8 inches, which he places in a vice on an adjacent work bench.

Without looking at the cover, Henry begins bashing the aluminum sheet with a small to medium sized ball peen hammer.

...and with every blow, that sheet plate took form! I remember being in awe, as the required patch had several angles, on a round form, and yet, with just a vice and hammer, I’m watching it magically appear from flatness.

And at no time has Henry fitted the cover to the patch. The cover is 30 feet away. Henry is doing this from memory, and Henry has been working the patch for more than 30 minutes.

Finally, Henry walks the patch to the cover. Without any fanfare, Henry tested the patch ‘fit’ to the cover, and, of course, it was perfect.

For the first time, Henry speaks. “Guess I’ll weld this up now’.

Me: “How are you going to to that? I don’t see any TIG or MIG welders here?”
Henry: “I’ll use oxygen-acetylene.”

And Henry does. I’d never heard or seen anyone weld aluminum using oxygen-acetylene. Especially on a complex, curved shape.

Henry finishes up, walk over, hands it to me.
“Here you go.”

Me, like a fool, opens my mouth and proves I’m a true idiot.
“Henry, this cover has oil behind it, is this patch leak proof?”

Henry’s eyes flash, his shoulders square up. Henry is pissed off. As in right the f#*k off..

Henry walks over to a sink, fills it with water, proves it doesn’t leak, then half hands it to me, half throws it at me and walks away.

Karen states I’m a phooking arzhole.

But I don’t take offense. I’m wondering how much this repair is going to cost me. It’s past lunch time, Henry has been working this since 9AM. I don’t have much cash, and zero credit cards. I’m wondering how much the shop pays per hour should I need to ‘work my debt off’ being shop bitch.

The nice counter lady looks at the invoice and says ‘Twenty Dollars’. I damn near faint at how little the cost is… then realize she and the dealership are doing us a huge favor.

I ask the nice lady if it’s OK to tip Henry. She says yes. Walking back to the shop area, I find Henry, and extend two crisp twenty dollar bills his way.

“I don’t want that, I don’t need charity” says Henry, dryly.

“Henry, this isn’t charity. Please take the money, perhaps take your wife out to dinner?” I say.

Henry: “The wife and I don’t eat out. Now take your money and go. Now.”

Me: “I’m sorry if I offended you. I just wanted to say Thank You.”

Henry: “Then say Thank You, shake my hand, then get the hell out of my shop.”

So I said Thank You (with sincere voice), was surprised when Henry actually shook my hand. We left the shop pronto.

Here’s pictures of “Henry’s Cover”

Ya know Don, I was almost ready to call B/S as I remember this story you told a bunch of us once that I think you tried to stretch my dick around the world twice! You know us onion heads are pretty gullible :). JSNS
But pictures don't lie and I love happy endings. Miss ya Don hope to see you sooner than later!
Great story.

I have found the more isolated, as in rural small town, the less people look like what they can do. Book and cover analogy fits best.

A guy down the road is a camper savant. Looks like he just dragged himself out of a weeks bender and no sleep. Stooped over due to back problems and crabby to boot.

But he can fix anything and make it look like new. And does not charge much. His crabbiness wears away after you work with him for awhile and you realize he only seems crabby. He is actually a pretty good guy. I think he assumes you are going to ask him stupid questions which take up his time so treats everyone that way to begin with.
I was in Labrador last summer with a VStrom DL1000 and slipped on some sand breaking the left footpeg off. Had to ride for a day using the shifter pivot and occasionally the rear footpeg for a foot rest. Wasn't any fun. Next day at a truckstop asked if anyone local could weld aluminum was sent to another local truck stop and they dropped everything to tackle my issue . After about an hour I was on the road and a reasonable $50 covered their time. These events make for good memories that last a lifetime.