I've been to the clubhouse
Saturday, October 13, 2012 8:55 PM
This is not a normal job, but there are many days that seem fairly "normal."
I often come in about 9 a.m., spend the day making phone calls and emails, chatting with sources and working on stories. Many times I attend governmental meetings, Chamber of Commerce functions or meet with sources at fairly run-of-the mill locations.
However, this line of work also provides its fair share of interesting situations.
I've been on police ridealongs and watched as officers have conducted drug raids.
I once had a conversation with Buck Griffin, who was running for the House of Representatives at the time, as we stood outside of an enclosure containing a live mountain lion. I can honestly say it's the only time I've interviewed someone while simultaneously being concerned about being eaten.
I've climbed on 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain's campaign bus and conducted an hour-long one-on-one interview as we bounced along country roads from Anderson to Greenwood, enjoying seemingly unprecedented access for a small daily paper.
I've been to murder scenes and covered murder trials, neither of which is much like what you see on TV. I've watched from a few feet away as a man who had been on death row was released and tearfully embraced his family, a free man for the first time in 30 years.
I've seen the tears flow as local troops are deployed to the Middle East, and I've been there to see the tears flow once more as soldiers return home from war.
Because of this job, I've had the opportunity to interview South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier (he preferred bumping fists instead of shaking hands. I guess he didn't want my cooties on him) and former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. Abbeville resident/human search engine Robert Fossett actually took a picture of me as I interviewed Bowden, ostensibly to prove I could stand within a foot of a Clemson football coach without spontaneously combusting.
My job has taken me from the clerk's office in Greenwood County Courthouse to the floor of the South Carolina Statehouse to, most recently, the bar in the Straight Shooters Motorcycle Club's clubhouse.
YES, YOU READ THAT LAST bit correctly. I recently was granted admittance, however briefly, to the private clubhouse of a local motorcycle group.
About a week ago, I was at home when my phone started ringing. Glancing at the caller ID, I saw it was my friend Dennis Reynolds, from the Bikers for Christ motorcycle club.
After exchanging pleasantries, Reynolds asked if I would mind talking to a friend of his, Walt Riggins, from the Straight Shooters club. Riggins got on the phone and asked if I would mind coming by the clubhouse Thursday to do a story on a donation they were making to charity.
"Sure," I said. "Why not? Where are y'all located?"
Riggins provided directions to the clubhouse. Now, I'm not sure if the location of the clubhouse is a secret, but just know it's off the beaten path and you're not going to just happen upon it.
So, Thursday night, I grabbed the directions I had scribbled on a piece of paper and made my way to the Straight Shooters' lair. As I crept up to the location, I wondered if I was in the right place. When I turned one last corner and saw the row of motorcycles lined up out front, I knew I had found it.
The sign next to the door was plain: "NO ADMITTANCE." Nevertheless, I made my way inside.
Now, do you remember that scene in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" when Pee-Wee stumbled into the biker bar? That's how I felt Thursday night.
There I was, wearing a shirt and tie, with a camera bag slung over my shoulder.
And there they were, the Straight Shooters. Leather vests, tattoos, robust beards, bandanas, Confederate belt buckles, the whole bit. There were a few cold beers being enjoyed there in the clubhouse. One gentleman went by the name "Blade."
But, let me be clear: While they had the look of a badass motorcycle group, they soon showed their hearts were definitely in the right place.
SOON AFTER I ARRIVED, Riggins and the rest of the Straight Shooters got down to business. Gina Blohm, from Greenville Hospital Systems Children's Hospital, was invited and the group presented her a check for nearly $3,000. I'm sure some of you read about the donation in Saturday's paper.
The Straight Shooters collected the funds during a September benefit ride for Emily LaBounty. As has been widely reported, the 10-month-old LaBounty died in August after reportedly being mistreated by a baby sitter.
When the Straight Shooters heard about the tragedy, they put together a benefit ride to collect funds for the baby's funeral. After the child's mother was able to cover the costs of the funeral through other means, the Straight Shooters made the decision to donate all of the money to the Children's Hospital.
There are many who stereotype motorcycle riders and motorcycle groups, try to paint them in a box and make assumptions about the groups.
However, having covered these types of things through the years, I've found many motorcycle groups to be generous, kind-hearted, patriotic and more than willing to do their part to help.
Such was the case with the Straight Shooters. They saw a need and they stepped up. When the plan changed a little bit, they adjusted and made sure the money went to a very worthy cause.
While it would appear, on the surface, I was invited inside the Straight Shooters' clubhouse last week, the truth is I was invited to take a peek behind the curtain, where generosity and kindness are clad in leather vests and bandanas.
Ride on, my friends.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.